Death of a Coast Guard Hero

US Coast Guard All Hands Messge
From Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard

I am sad to report the passing of a Coast Guard hero. Captain Neils P. Thomsen died on 2 January at the age of 99.

CAPT Thomsen was one of the greatest generation. He was a courageous adventurer who left behind a tremendous legacy and remains an inspiration tod. Born in Denmark, the Great-Grandson of a count, he grew up in Fresno, California.

His dream was to sail around the world, and so he saved up his earnings selling the local Fresno newspaper on main street. At the age of 15, with 13 dollars in his pocket, he ran away from home and jumped a Pacific freighter headed up the Northwest coast. There he joined a commercial sailing ship, The Forest Dream.

Following a 14 month journey from Puget Sound to the Island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, the five masted barkentine was destroyed in a gale, leaving Thomsen as the sole survivor. Thomsen persevered, and over the course of the next ten years, he became an officer in the Merchant Marine.

In World War II, he entered the Coast Guard and served four years in harms way in the Pacific. Thomsen commanded a 95 foot wooden halibut fishing boat converted to a US Navy Patrol Vessel (USS YP-251) in Southeastern Alaska. He and his young Coast Guard crew rammed and sank the Japanese combatant submarine RO-32, earning a Legion of Merit and a battlefield promotion.

Two weeks later he transferred to the South Pacific as navigator of the USS Hunter LIggett (APA-14), where he took part in the invasion of Guadalcanal and Bougainville in the pivotal role of Staff Navigator and Chief Pilot to the US Navy Commander of the Third Amphibious Force. He later commanded the USS Menkar (AK-123) and was a pioneer in what was then the secret LORAN program.

Thomsen was also an inventor, and was credited with developing the chain stopper, which is used by Coast Guard Buoy Tenders to secure and safely release the chain and sinker for swiveling anchors. The Coast Guard’s innovation awards program was named for him.

He retired as a Captain in 1952, but continued his life of service to the country and duty at sea. He operated the USPS mail boat in the Aleutian Islands and founded the Aleutian King Crab Processing Plant in Alaska.

At the age of 80, he retired again, this time from the Department of Defense, where he piloted a dredge off the coasts of Washington and Oregon.

Captain Thomsens heroism, devotion to duty and innovative thinking advanced the Coast Guard and lives of our men and women, as well as that of all Americans. He was a true patriot.

Adm. Thad W. Allen Sends


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