Coast Guard, Navy, Brazilian navy participate in WWII memorial ceremony

Coast Guard Cutter Charles Sexton file photo by Ensign Maya Gause

Coast Guard Cutter Charles Sexton crew participates in a wreath-laying ceremony Nov. 15, 2020, near the last known location of the R12 submarine (SS 89) accident. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ensign Maya Gause)

MIAMI — The Coast Guard Cutter Charles Sexton, the coastal patrol ship USS Zephyr and the Brazilian training ship Brasil held a memorial wreath-laying ceremony at sea Sunday, in honor of the Brazilian navy officers and U.S. Navy military members who died in the accident of the World War II submarine, USS R-12 (SS 89) off the coast of Key West.

The Charles Sexton crew and partners held the ceremony near the last known location of the R12 submarine accident. The ceremony included brief remarks, a minute of silence and the laying of two wreaths by the Basil, representing each country participating.

R12 departed Key West on June 12, 1943, for routine training operations with 45 U.S. Navy Sailors, and two Brazilian navy observers embarked. At 12:23 p.m. the collision alarm was sounded and it was reported that the forward battery compartment was flooding. In an estimated 15 seconds, R-12 sank, taking 42 officers and enlisted crew members with it, including the two embarked Brazilian officers. Only the bridge watch, which included the commanding officer, survived. The five surviving men were picked up by the submarine chaser SC-449 around 6 p.m. the same evening.

R12 was located on June 23, 1943 in 93 fathoms of water at 24°23’50″N, 81°38’30″W. The official cause of the sinking is still unknown.

On November 6, the training ship Brasil and crew moored at Station Mayport, Florida, and it’s commanding officer and crew met with Coast Guard crews from the Cutters Maria Bray, Hammer, Tarpon, and Heron.

This engagement allowed the Brazilian navy and Coast Guard crews to interact and develop deeper partnerships that offered relationship building for both countries. This was the first port call for the Brasil crew and it also allowed them to experience the U.S. culture and diversity Americans offer.

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