The Gold and silver Lifesaving
Heroic deeds and daring
rescues at sea have always been a part of the Coast Guard tradition. But
it was not until Congress passed the Life-Saving Act of June 20, 1874 that
First and Second Class Medals were established and medals were awarded.
The first medal was reserved for rescues of extreme and heroic daring, the
second for those slightly less outstanding.
Congress changed these
designations in 1882, renaming the First Class medal the Gold Lifesaving
Medal, and the Second Class Medal the Silver Lifesaving Medal.
These medals are awarded to
people who endanger their own lives while saving or attempting to save
another from drowning, a shipwreck or other perils of the water.
The first gold medals were
awarded to three brothers who rescued two people from a shipwreck on Lake
Erie in 1875. In November of the same year, two men received silver medals
after they rescued two people from a shipwreck off the Maine coast.
York Man Presented with Nations highest Civilian Award for Valor
October 18, 2000 Francis
O'Brien, 37, received the Gold Lifesaving Medal from Admiral
James Loy, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, for heroic action
August 23, 1998, in the rescue of Helen Gurvitch on the Hudson River
just north of the Tappen Zee Bridge near Nyack, NY.
O'Brien and his family were aboard
the Conservator water taxi when the pontoon vessel began taking
on water. Before the vessel capsized, O'Brien calmly and quickly
placed life preservers on those in his party. When his mother felt
someone at her feet, O'Brien, a certified diver, used his skills
to dive for the victim. The dives involved going well below five
feet under water, with less than two feet of visibility, to clear
the railing of the overturned vessel. On his third attempt, searching
through debris, loose webbing and canvas, he located Gurvitch. At
great risk to his own life, O'Brien untangled her from the netting,
swam with her farther below the surface to clear the railing and
brought her to the surface.
can nominate someone
for a lifesaving medal
if they qualify...
The Gold Lifesaving Medal or
the Silver Lifesaving Medal is awarded by the Commandant, U.S.
Coast Guard, to any person who rescues or endeavors to rescue
any other person from drowning, shipwreck, or other perils of
If such rescue is made
at the risk of one’s own life, and evidences extreme and heroic
daring, the medal is GOLD.
If such rescue or attempted
rescue is not sufficiently distinguished to deserve the medal
of gold, but evidences such extraordinary effort as to merit recognition,
the medal shall be SILVER.
The rescue or attempted rescue
must either take place in waters within the United States or subject
to the jurisdiction thereof, or one or the other parties must
be a citizen of the United States or from a vessel or aircraft
owned or operated by citizens of the United States.
If, in the opinion of the Commandant,
neither the Gold or Silver Lifesaving Medal is appropriate, then
an appropriate Coast Guard Public Service Award will be considered.