USLSS in NC: Persistence is key

Published 1:32 pm Saturday, January 27, 2024

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By Jen Carlson

On November 25, 1875, high winds and heavy sea caused the boat of four fishermen to capsize near the Caffey’s Inlet station. Captain Malachi Corbell lead a crew of men into the rough water towards the men who were clinging to their overturned boat. Unfortunately, by the time they arrived, two of the men had been swept further out into the sea and drowned but the other two were pulled into the surf boat to safety.

When returning to shore, the surf boat was overturned by the rough breakers but by remaining calm, Captain Corbell was able to assist his crew and and the two fishermen in reaching the shore. On March 12, 1878, Secretary of Treasury John Sherman, notified now-Keeper Corbell that he had received the first Congressional Life-Saving Silver Medal for his actions that fateful day. Gold and Silver LifeSaving Medals were awarded to those who rescue or endeavor to rescue any other person from drowning, shipwreck, or other perils of the water at the risk of his own life.

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Today’s Coast Guard continues to award similar medals of honor for those who perform an act of heroism while in a leave or liberty status.

All in a Day’s Work

Often takes teamwork to succeed in a goal: On October 7, 1897, the schooner Marvin D. White had stranded itself on a shoal about four miles west of the Kitty Hawk Station and was flying a distress signal. The crew immediately went to her assistance but was unable to re-float her due to the low tide. Since the schooner was in no immediate danger, the surfmen returned to the station with a promise to return to the vessel the following day.

Keeper Samuel J. Payne and two other surfmen went out again the next day and discovered the high tide had floated the schooner. Keeper Payne learned the master of the vessel was not familiar with the waterway so he decided to pilot the vessel himself up the Currituck Sound to a safe anchorage. He then telephoned the keeper at Caffey’s Inlet, Thaddeus M. Snow, to request Keeper Snow pilot the vessel the rest of the way through the channel to prevent the vessel from being grounded again.

We hope you will join us October 11-13, 2024 in celebration as we recognize the #LegacyofLifeSaving and the lasting impact of these often-unsung heroes. Go to for details of the events.