Veterans Day remembrances: Two local veterans tell their stories of war

Veterans Day remembrances: Two local veterans tell their stories of war

■ STAFF REPORT

United States Coast Guard Capt. Robert A. “Bob” Melvin III, (deceased), father of islanders Sandy and Bob Melvin, served his country honorably in the U.S Army and the U.S. Coast Guard. He risked his life time and again over his career to help others during his service.

Below is the official account of the mission where he was awarded the country’s highest military aviation honor, the Distinguished Flying Cross.

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross to Lieutenant Commander Robert A. Melvin, United States Coast Guard, for extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight on the afternoon of January 5, 1980 while serving as pilot and aircraft commander of Coast Guard HH-3F 1430 engaged in the perilous rescue of eight crewmen from the tug A.W.GUILL, which had suffered a complete loss of steering and collided with its barge during a severe winter storm 160 nautical miles northeast of Norfolk, Virginia. As the tug began to sink, the eight-man crew was forced to abandon ship into a life raft. Dispatched from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina, Lieutenant Commander Melvin piloted the helicopter to the scene. 

The flight was made at altitudes less than 100 feet due to a near blizzard and icing conditions. An inoperative radar and unreliable navigational signals due to low-altitude flight further complicated matters. Utilizing dead reckoning headings obtained via HF radio from Air Station Elizabeth City and DF vectors from a C-130 aircraft, Melvin finally located the life raft. Although the life raft was being violently tossed by 15-foot seas and 45 knot winds, Melvin maneuvered the helicopter into position for the eight arduous hoists. With the survivors safely aboard, Melvin piloted the helicopter at 50 feet above the ocean surface and returned to landfall at Virginia Beach to find the airports below instrument approach minimums and visibility down to 1/16 of a mile. 

Already fatigued by the demanding flight, he cautiously maneuvered his way to a safe landing at Norfolk International Airport with less than 30 minutes of fuel remaining. Melvin’s innovative actions, expert aeronautical skill and valor throughout this rescue mission resulted in the successful rescue of eight men. His courage, sound judgment and unwavering devotion to duty are most heartily commended and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard.


Richard Hugger remembers Vietnam aboard the Inchon

Signalman Third Class Resident of Boca Grande, owns Buyers Resource of Gasparilla Island, Inc. with his wife, Karen.

Petty Officer Richard Hugger served in the U.S. Navy from 1970 to 1974 as a signalman onboard the U.S.S. Inchon, LPH-12 (amphibious helicopter carrier). The ship carried approximately 300 to 600 marines.

The ship rescued downed pilots and B-52 bomber crews at the end of 1972.

Richard served in Vietnam from 1972 to 1973, and was part of Operation End Sweep in 1973 that swept for mines in Haiphong Harbor.

The task force had to pull out of Gulf of Tonkin to avoid a typhoon. The anemometer blew off the mast at 135 mph. Most of the sailors and marines on the ship were seasick during the storm.