Coast Guard holds annual Blackthorn memorial service in Galveston

Coast Guard crew members place roses on a commemorative wreath during the 42nd-anniversary memorial service for the Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn on Base Galveston, Texas, Jan. 28, 2022. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Alejandro Rivera)

Coast Guard crew members place roses on a commemorative wreath during the 42nd-anniversary memorial service for the Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn on Base Galveston, Texas, Jan. 28, 2022. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Alejandro Rivera)

HOUSTON — The Coast Guard honored 23 fallen crew members Friday in Galveston, Texas, during a memorial service for the Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn collision.

The ceremony commemorated the 42nd anniversary of the incident, during which Cutter Blackthorn collided with a tanker vessel and sank in Tampa, Florida.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Chris Winters, commanding officer of Coast Guard Cutter Harry Claiborne, presided over the ceremony on Base Galveston. The ceremony included a reading of a letter penned by Master Chief Petty Officer Ronald Miller, officer-in-charge of the Coast Guard Cutter Vice at the time of the collision, a reading of the names of the lost Blackthorn crew members and the tolling of a ship’s bell.

During the ceremony, crew members from Sector Houston-Galveston, Base Galveston and cutters homeported in Galveston laid 23 roses to commemorate each of the fallen crew members.

“It is an honor to be part of the Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn memorial ceremony,” said Winters. “As cuttermen and aids to navigation professionals, we share a kinship with the crew of the Blackthorn. Gathering each year to remember our shipmates who lost their lives helps ensure we do not forget the lessons learned from their sacrifice.”

On Jan. 28, 1980, the Blackthorn sank after colliding with the tanker vessel Capricorn near Tampa’s Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The Blackthorn, which was homeported in Galveston, Texas, lost 23 of its 50 crew members in the Coast Guard’s worst peacetime disaster. Memorials inscribed with the names of the crew members who perished stand 2 miles north of the collision site and on Base Galveston.

The Blackthorn collision provided the impetus for the establishment of the Command and Operations School at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. The school offers courses to prepare command-level officers and senior enlisted members for command duty afloat. Additionally, the Coast Guard developed new training requirements, invested in more safety equipment and made changes to the navigational aids in and around Tampa Bay.

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