Coast Guard ceremony to recognize the anniversary of heroic rescue attempt

Duluth, Minn – April 30, 1967, is a day many Minnesota residents refer to as “Black Sunday.”  A storm passed through the area causing waves as high as 20 feet on Lake Superior, with winds gusting up to 45 mph across the 36-degree water.

The Coast Guard rescue team of Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Edgar A. Culbertson, Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Richard Callahan, and Fireman Ron Prei were dispatched during the storm to search for three brothers who had been reported missing.  Eric, Arthur and Nathan Halverson had last been seen on the North Pier break wall of the Duluth Harbor entry.

Boatswains Mate First Class Edgar A. Culbertson lost his life during a rescue attempt in Duluth, Minnesota on April 30, 1967. For his heroism BM1 Culbertson was awarded the Coast Guard Medal, posthumously. U.S. Coast Guard Photo

Boatswains Mate First Class Edgar A. Culbertson lost his life during a rescue attempt in Duluth, Minnesota on April 30, 1967. For his heroism BM1 Culbertson was awarded the Coast Guard Medal, posthumously. U.S. Coast Guard Photo

The Coast Guardsmen tied themselves together, spaced 25 feet apart and struggled to the end of the pier but were unable to reach the boys before they were swept over the side. As they traversed back across the pier, a large wave crashed into the team and swept Culbertson over the side, taking his life.

A ceremony to recognize the anniversary of the Coast Guard rescue attempt is scheduled for Thursday, at 2 p.m., at the entry pier outside the Lake Superior Museum at Canal Park.

Cmdr. Michael P. Lebsack, Commanding Officer of Marine Safety Unit Duluth, will preside over the ceremony, during which family members of Culbertson will be presented with a replacement Coast Guard Medal, one of the highest awards the Coast Guard can bestow on its members. Culbertson’s award will be accepted by his son, Craig, and daughter, Cristin Alpert.  The citations for Callahan and Prei, who is scheduled to be in attendance, will be read at the ceremony.

“In his heroic attempt to rescue others in peril, Petty Officer Culbertson made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Lebsack. “He will forever be remembered as a lifesaver and guardian.”

Culbertson’s name has been submitted to the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial in Washington, D.C.  If accepted, his name will be added to the memorial in 2010.

The ceremony will also honor the memory of the Halverson brothers and a letter of appreciation will be presented to the ROMEO Group, a group of volunteers that clean and maintain an existing plaque dedicated to Culbertson.

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