SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The Coast Guard commissioned into service the latest Fast Response Cutter, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Tezanos, during a ceremony at U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan Friday morning.
The Joseph Tezanos is the sixth fast response cutter to be homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico and the 18th to be commissioned into the Coast Guard fleet, all of which serve within the Coast Guard 7th District.
Prior to her formal commissioning ceremony, the cutter Tezanos responded to the Caribbean Fantasy incident Aug. 17 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. With 511 passengers and crew rescued, the case of the ferry Caribbean Fantasy stands as the largest maritime evacuation in US waters in recent history.
“I am very excited about the commissioning of the Coast Guard Cutter Tezanos,” said Rear Adm. Scott A. Buschman, commander of the Coast Guard 7th District. “Our Fast Response Cutters have proven to be an invaluable asset for the Coast Guard and the cutter Tezanos will undoubtedly be a vital instrument in supporting critical Coast Guard missions.”
“The crew and I are humbled and honored for the tremendous opportunity to be plankowners of the Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Tezanos,” said Lt. Nicholas Herndon, Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Tezanos commanding officer. “We will continually strive to emulate our namesake’s legacy as we work together with our local, federal and international partners to strengthen the Eastern Caribbean’s regional security and protect our citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.”
“As the daughter of Joseph Tezanos I am honored to have the privilege to serve as the ship’s sponsor,” said Susanne Tezanos Landis. “I feel a tremendous sense of pride and respect for the crew who serve to ensure the maritime safety and security of our great Nation. The whole Tezanos family is deeply touched by this incredible honor.”
The FRC’s belong to the Sentinel-class of cutters named after an enlisted Coast Guard hero who distinguished him or herself in the line of duty. This cutter is named after Ensign Joseph Tezanos, who initially served as an enlisted Coast Guardsman and later became one of the first Hispanic American officers to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard. Tezanos was highly decorated for his bravery and leadership during War World II.
Ensign Tezanos fought bravely in amphibious assaults throughout the Pacific and Alaskan Theater. While serving as an enlisted gunner’s mate second class, Tezanos was recognized for distinguished heroism for his actions on a volunteer boat crew engaged in rescue operations during a major accident in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. His courage and quick thinking assisted in saving approximately 42 injured and exhausted survivors from the water and burning ships.
Born in 1920 in Santander, Spain, Tezanos immigrated to the United States as a child and grew up in upstate New York.
Tezanos began his Coast Guard career on LST 20, a tank landing ship that supported the war effort in the Alaskan Theater. He held the especially dangerous position of gunner’s mate. Tezanos participated in bloody amphibious assaults on enemy-held islands in Kiska, Alaska; at Tarawa Atoll in the Gilbert Islands; and at Kinajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. At Tarawa, the Marines encountered some of the fiercest fighting of the Pacific campaign, and support from vessels like LST 20 was critical to the American victory.
LST 20 was moored in West Loch, Pearl Harbor, in 1944, when one of the deadliest accidents of War World II occurred. Another LST exploded, causing a chain reaction of fire and explosions throughout the vessels in port. The disaster left more than 600 sailors dead or injured. Tezanos suffered multiple burns leading a crew of volunteers in a search and rescue mission that recovered injured sailors.
“For his bravery and leadership, Tezanos received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, accompanied by a citation signed for the President, by James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, along with a Coast Guard commendation letter from Commandant Russell Waesche.” Following the incident, Tezanos received orders to undertake reserve officer training at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Upon earning his commission in 1945, he became one of the first Hispanic-American officers in the Coast Guard. He died in 1985 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
The 154-foot long Joseph Tezanos has a beam of 25 feet and a maximum sustained speed of more than 28 knots. It is armed with a stabilized 25mm machine-gun mount and four crew-served .50-caliber machine guns and is equipped with a highly capable small boat and advanced communications suite.
The FRCs are designed to conduct maritime drug interdiction, alien migrant interdiction, search and rescue, national defense, homeland security, living marine resource protection and other Coast Guard missions. This class of patrol boat is capable of deploying independently to execute Coast Guard missions and prevent potential threats from approaching our shores. The FRC is part of the Coast Guard’s layered approach to maritime security that includes the National Security Cutter and the future Offshore Patrol Cutter.