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The history of Hispanic Americans in the U.S. Coast Guard may be traced as far back as early 1800s. Hispanic Americans performed duties at light house stations as keepers and assistant keepers, such as Keeper José A. Ramirez, who was the Head Keeper of the Windward Point Light Station in Cuba, prior to World War II. Others served on board Revenue Service cutters and as surfmen at Life-Saving Service stations along the coast. Many gave their lives in the performance of their duties and others were decorated for their heroism.
In 1914, Hispanics sailed on the Revenue Cutter Algonquin. The cutter was stationed in the Caribbean and assisted the city of San Juan twice. In 1920, after the formation of the Coast Guard, two Hispanic crewman of the cutter Acushnet, Mess Attendant First Class Arthur J. Flores and SN John E. Gomez, volunteered to save survivors of the schooner Isaiah K. Stetsen, which sank off the coast of Massachusetts during a storm. The Treasury Department awarded both of them the Silver Lifesaving Medal for their heroism.
Many served with distinction during World War II as well. The Sanjuan family, including the father, Vivencio, and two of his sons served in the Coast Guard. Vivencio Sanjuan served on board the Coast Guard-manned attack transport USS Samuel Chase during the invasions of North Africa and then Salerno, Italy. His son, Pedro, was stationed on board the attack transport USS Bayfield and saw service during the Normandy invasion and the invasion of Southern France as well. Another son, Ramon, served on board four Coast Guard cutters during his career and retired from the service in 1969. Another son, William, served in the Coast Guard in the Vietnam conflict. He was awarded the Purple Heart for a combat injury received while under a Viet Cong mortar attack.
Seattle (Nov. 1) --- Environmental portrait of Petty Officer 1st Class Juan Rivera (Station Seattle). USCG photo by PA2 Sarah Foster-Snell