During World War I, German submarines would cross the Atlantic to carry the war to United States coasts. The British tanker, Mirlo was transporting gasoline from New Orleans to Norfolk when it hit a German Mine off the coast of the Outer Banks; putting the crew aboard the Mirlo in grave danger. On August 16th, 1918, one of the most dramatic operations in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard took place on the Outer Banks. The Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station saved 42 of the 52 men aboard the Mirlo.

trouble in the water

image and information via chicamacomico.org

After the Mirlo caught fire from the explosion, the crew boarded the 3 lifeboats that the Mirlo contained. One lifeboat capsized, losing 10 passengers. The second boat drifted into the flames of the burning ship. The third ship, carrying 16 men, headed to shore. At this time, Captain John Allen Midgett of the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station handpicked 6 surfmen to save the surviving members of the Mirlo.

A Brave Rescue

image and information via chicamacomico.org

The Lifesaving Crew took multiple trips from noon until dark to save the crew from the Mirlo. Exposure to the heat from the blazing fire and exhaustion, one of Midgett’s men collapsed, but the rescue continued. Midgett went back out into the ocean and the wreckage to save as many lives as possible. All in all, 42 men survived the deadly explosion with the brave help of the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Crew.

Commemorating The Brave Feat

For the bravery the Chicamacomico crew exhibited, they received the Gold Lifesaving Medal from the United States and the Victory Medal from the British government. Governor Roy Cooper proclaimed August 6th through the 16th, 2018 as the Centennial of WWI Along The North Carolina Coast to “recognize the generations of men and women who have braved the hardships of life on the Outer Banks and risked their personal safety to keep countless ships safe throughout the course of rich history of the North Carolina Coast…”

Learn More About The Lifesaving Crew

Every Thursday at 2 PM between Memorial Day and Labor Day, volunteers of the Chicamacomico Life Saving Station perform a breeches buoy apparatus drill; one of the many tactics of live saving the crews used. You can visit the Chicamacomico Life Saving Station for more information and learn more about how important the Lifesaving Service was to the United States, and the Outer Banks.