Midgett (WMSL 757)’s Namesake

GENERATIONS OF SERVICE

The eighth National Security Cutter Midgett (WMSL 757) is named to honor the hundreds of members of the Midgett family who have served in the United States Coast Guard and its predecessor services.

Rough seas produce daring people. The treacherous seas off North Carolina’s Outer Banks and the large number of shipwrecks that have occurred there have given these seas the nickname “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” So it is no coincidence that the Midgett family native to that area produced many heroic lifesavers.

At least ten members of the Midgett Family earned high honors from the Coast Guard for their heroic lifesaving deeds. Seven Midgett family members were awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal, the Coast Guard’s highest award for saving a life, and three were awarded the Silver Lifesaving Medal.

Gold Lifesaving Medal recipients in the Midgett family include John H. Midgett, Rasmus S. Midgett, John A. Midgett Jr., Zion S. Midgett, Arthur V. Midgett, Leroy S. Midgett and Clarence E. Midgett.

John H. Midgett was a part of the crew that helped save nine men from the barkentine Ephraim Williams in 1884 near Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

Rasmus S. Midgett was making a pre-dawn patrol of the beach near Gull Shoals Life-Saving Station in North Carolina in 1899 when he saw debris from the wreck of the Priscilla wash ashore. Knowing it could take hours to get help, he carried 10 men from the ship and tremendous surf one-at-a-time at great personal risk.

In 1915, the Revenue Cutter Service, the Life-Saving Service and the Lighthouse Service were joined to form the U.S. Coast Guard and immediately put to the test protecting American shores from German U-boats in World War I.

After a U-boat torpedoed British tanker Mirlo in August 1918, Chicamacomico Lifeboat Station keeper John Allen Midgett Jr. and his surfboat crew toiled through rough seas and fires from the tanker’s cargo of fuel near North Carolina’s perilous Outer Banks to rescue 42 crewmembers.

In 1920, following the Mirlo rescue, he received a Silver Cup from the British Board of Trade. He and his aforementioned surfmen, along with Prochorous Lee O’Neal, were also awarded the King George Medal for Bravery and the U.S. Gold Lifesaving Medal. Eventually, all received the highest award the U.S. Government issued at the time, the Grand Cross of the American Cross of Honor.

John A. Midgett Jr. continued his career in the Coast Guard, eventually earning the rank of chief warrant officer. He advised Congress about protecting America’s shores prior to World War II and worked to improve infrastructure for the Outer Banks. At the time he died in 1938 from car wreck injuries, he was set to retire after 42 years in the U.S. Coast Guard. He is also the grandfather of the ship’s sponsor, Jazania H. O’Neal.

In 1933 Chief Boatswain’s Mate Levene W. Midgett earned the Silver Lifesaving Medal for rescuing the crew of the trawler Anna May. Two other Midgett family members also earned this award.

Many others in the Midgett family have made careers in the Coast Guard including Vice Adm. Fred M. Midgette, who spells his name differently but is a relative. He assumed duties of Commander, Coast Guard Pacific Area in August 2016.