ATLANTIC BEACH — Family members of late World War II and U.S. Coast Guard veteran Glen Harris of Stacy were on hand Friday to watch officials commission a 154-foot Sentinel-class cutter bearing his name.
During the ceremony, held at U.S. Coast Guard Sector Field Office Fort Macon in Atlantic Beach, the late Chief Petty Officer surfman Glen Livingston Harris’ granddaughter, Stacey Howley of Atlanta, Ga., said her family was “blown away by this honor and extraordinary recognition of my grandfather.”
Ms. Howley said her grandfather “was one of the most honorable men I’ve ever known. He was so proud to be an American and was very proud to have had the privilege to serve his country in the U.S. Coast Guard — so much so, that when his initial service term was over, he re-enlisted.”
Ms. Howley, who was invited to serve as the sponsor of the commissioning, continued, “He was an extremely humble man and rarely spoke about his time in World War II. But I believe if he were here with us today, he would most certainly say that his actions in the Tulagi Islands, as well as his crewmates that were by his side during the mission, were not heroic at all, but simply a reflection of the Coast Guard’s long tradition of life-saving missions and of putting others before oneself.”
As well as Ms. Howley, Chief Petty Officer surfman Harris’ great-granddaughter, Madison King, presented the traditional long glass.
Chief Petty Officer surfman Harris was born in Stacy and later resided in Beaufort with his wife, Aline Harris, and daughters, Barbara and Glenda.
He served as a landing craft coxswain during the landing at Tulagi Aug. 7-9, 1942, according to Lt. Reginald Reynolds, who assumed command of the USCGC Glen Harris Friday.
“Chief Harris landed the most elite Marines during that mission,” he said. “He did much of that while standing up and exposing himself to enemy fire.”
The Japanese invasion of Tulagi, part of the sovereign Solomon Islands, began May 3, 1942, as part of Operation Mo. Japanese forces then established naval resources and a reconnaissance base on Tulagi and nearby islands of Gavutu and Tanambogo. Along with Japanese attempts to establish a nearby airfield, the occupation led to the August 1942 Battle of Tulagi and Gavutu–Tanambogo, during which Allied forces landed on the Solomon Islands as part of a six-month campaign.
Chief Petty Officer surfman Harris, alongside three other coxswains, landed the first U.S. Marines on Tulagi and made several trips under heavy enemy fire to deliver ammunition and supplies, according to the Coast Guard.
“In September of the same year, he landed against forces at Taivu Point, Guadalcanal Island, thereby materially contributing to the enemy’s eventual defeat,” a release from the Coast Guard reads.
Chief Petty Officer surfman Harris was awarded the Silver Star Medal by Adm. Chester Nimitz Oct. 2, 1942.
“It’s fitting to honor him here today because he was raised only 20 miles from here,” Adm. Linda Fagan, vice commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, said of Chief Petty Officer surfman Harris during the ceremony.
Adm. Fagan commissioned Lt. Reynolds and exhorted him and his crew to follow in the heroic footsteps of the Carteret County-born hero.
“I know you will give light to the selfless service of Glen Harris,” she said.
Prior to and following the ceremony, several members of Chief Petty Officer surfman Harris said they were deeply touched by the homage paid to the beloved man, known as “Poppy.”
His sister, Allie Gaskill of Stacy, said, “It’s an honor, really. He was fortunate to make it through such a conflict.”
His nephew, Kevin Gaskill of Stacy, said, “It’s really amazing. There’s not too many people who have a ship named after them.”
Other family members attending the ceremony were granddaughters, Wendy King of Johns Creek, Ga., and Robin Teves of Sacramento, Calif. His great-grandchildren, David Teves of Hawaii and Luke Howley of Atlanta, also attended.
U.S. Coast Guard officials presented several gifts to the family, including a special poster with photos of Chief Petty Officer surfman Harris and a handcrafted, wooden replica of the ship.
The USCGC Glen Harris was delivered to the service in April in Key West, Fla., and as the Coast Guard’s 44th fast-response cutter will serve the southwest Asia region, with a homeport of Manama, Bahrain.
Reporter Jackie Starkey contributed to this article.
Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.