Coast Guard Presents and Dedicates the first Captain Domenic A. Calicchio Award

Portsmouth, Va. – The Coast Guard will dedicate and present its first Captain Domenic A. Calicchio Award at noon, Friday at the Coast Guard Training Center, Yorktown, Va. The award will be presented to the Investigating Officer Course graduate who, as elected by fellow classmates, most exemplifies the personal and professional qualities exhibited by Calicchio.

Captain Domenic A. Calicchio, for whom the Calicchio Award is named, was one of the Coast Guard’s unsung heroes whose service embodied the Coast Guard’s core values of honor, respect and devotion to duty. He was born in 1926 in Boston to a seafaring family and knew well the hazards of working on board ocean-going vessels. Calicchio began his career in World War II at 16, served 23 years in the merchant marine and ended his merchant marine career as master on board ships of the United States Lines.

During his merchant marine years, Calicchio served as a member of the Coast Guard Reserve and in 1968 he accepted a commission as an active duty lieutenant commander. Calicchio’s adherence to strict safety requirements, regardless of their cost to the shipping industry, sometimes put him at odds with the shipping lines whose safety he regulated.

Calicchio’s greatest achievement was the investigation into the marine casualty of the Marine Electric. The Marine Electric was a T-2 bulk cargo carrier built during World War II and intended to fill Allied war-time needs for bulk cargo and fuel shipments. Numerous T-2s found employment in shipping lines after the war, even though they had been designed only to serve the duration of the hostilities. The T-2s proved so brittle that during the war, several produced stress fractures or split in two before they set sail on their maiden voyage.

Like many of its T-2 sister ships, the Marine Electric saw service well beyond its life expectancy and on a stormy evening in February 1983 the tanker sank off the coast of Delaware. Of the 34 crew members who went into the frigid ocean waters only three survived. The Coast Guard convened a formal Marine Board of Inquiry, which included Calicchio and two other Coast Guard marine safety officers, to investigate the disaster. However, it was Calicchio’s determination to uncover the causes of the wreck that led to a criminal indictment of the Marine Electric’s owners.

The case was a landmark event in U. S. marine safety because it led to greater safety standards for older vessels, such as the T-2s, and led indirectly to the scrapping of about 70 vessels no longer able to meet safety regulations. It also led to regulations requiring the adoption of survival suits on board vessels navigating in cold water environments. Lastly, the tremendous loss of life in the Marine Electric disaster focused attention on the Coast Guard’s rescue swimmer program and spurred support for the fledgling program.

Captain Calicchio retired from the Coast Guard in 1985, not long after the Marine Electric board of inquiry released its report. He set up a successful practice as a cruise ship safety expert in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Calicchio passed away in March 2003, but his honor and integrity, devotion to duty and high regard for those who go to sea in ships have set the standard for all Coast Guard personnel tasked with overseeing marine safety.

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