Loy, James M., Adm., USCG (Ret.)

Loy, James M., Adm., USCG (Ret.)

(1942–)

This memoir traces the life of Admiral Loy from his boyhood in Altoona, Pennsylvania, to the culmination of his service career, as Commandant of the Coast Guard from 1998 to 2002. The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 occurred on his watch, and he was responsible for leading his service’s reaction to them. Loy was a Coast Guard Academy cadet, 1960-64, and played on the basketball team. As a junior officer he served in the high-endurance cutter USCGC Absecon (WAVP-374) in 1964-65, commanded the patrol boat USCGC Cape Falcon (WPB-95330) in 1965-66, and commanded the patrol boat USCGC Point Lomas (WPB-82321) in Vietnam in 1966-67. He was on the long-range planning staff at Coast Guard Headquarters in 1967-68, a postgraduate student at Wesleyan University in 1969-70, and on the faculty of the Coast Guard Academy from 1970 to 1974. He served 1974-76 as executive officer of the medium-endurance cutter USCGC Courageous (WMEC-622) and from 1976 to 1979 at the Coast Guard Officer Candidate School, Yorktown, Virginia.

From 1979 to 1981 he commanded the medium-endurance cutter USCGC Valiant (WMEC-621) and in 1981-84 served in the Officer Personnel Division of Coast Guard Headquarters. Loy commanded the high-endurance cutter USCGC Midgett (WHEC-726) in 1985-86 before serving from 1986 to 1989 as executive assistant to the Commandant, Admiral Paul Yost. Loy’s final billet as a captain was in 1989-90 as chief of the operations division, Coast Guard Atlantic Area. From 1990 to 1992 he commanded the Eighth Coast Guard District in New Orleans, then headed the Personnel and Training Division in Coast Guard Headquarters from 1992 to 1994. In 1994-96 was he was Commander Coast Guard Atlantic Area and from 1996-98 served as Coast Guard Chief of Staff at headquarters in Washington before becoming Commandant. After retiring from active military duty, he served 2002-03 as Deputy and Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration and 2003-05 as Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security.

Transcripts of this oral history are available in many formats including bound volumes, and digital copies.

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The Coast Guard in Vietnam

In this clip from his fifth interview with Paul Stillwell at the Transportation Security Administration, Washington, D.C., on 19 June 2003, Admiral Loy recounts the most memorable incident from his time in Vietnam.

Paul Stillwell: Is there any one incident you would pick out as the most difficult or the most terrifying or most memorable?

Admiral Loy: Yes. It may surprise you, because it was a little taste of almost stateside-type Coast Guard humanitarian SAR in the middle of the year in Vietnam. I remember it was the only time that I was recalled from patrol because of weather. It was just a hellacious storm that was going by. This was while we were up north. I was in Area Two-Echo, which was as far to the south as you could get and still be controlled by Danang. All the boats were recalled because of this horrific weather. So we just beat the hell out of ourselves going from as far away as we could get into Danang Harbor. And literally just as we were putting the lines over, there was this report that a Jolly Green Giant full of Marines had gone down in the Danang Harbor entrance in the middle of this storm. It went down near Spanish Beach. When you were entering east to west into Danang Harbor, then you came around the corner to the south, and there was a beach called Spanish Beach. That was a piece of no-man’s land turf inside the massive Danang Harbor complex. And that’s where the Jolly Green had gone down. They had been supporting an air traffic control contingent of Marines on top of Monkey Mountain.

We were sortied immediately to come to the aid of these Marines. As I remember the numbers, there were about 30 Marines on this bird. We got about 15 of them out of the water and aboard Point Lomas. The other half of the crew went to the beach instead of trying to stay with the Jolly Green, which had gone down but was still sticking out of the water. The guys that went the other way were now 15 or so Marines on Spanish Beach with no support, nowhere to go, and no means to protect themselves.

USCG Point Lomas (left) in Da Nang harbor, Viet Nam.
USCG Point Lomas (WPB-82321) (left) and USS White River (LSMR-536) (right) in Da Nang harbor, Viet Nam.

Our challenge for the rest of the evening was to make it a place where if there happened to be a bunch of VC, they would choose to avoid Spanish Beach. We actually had to call back and get another WPB to bring us more illumination ammunition, and we just tried to keep it looking like daylight through the course of the night. I think the helo went down about 2:00 in the morning, so we had about four hours of darkness that we wanted to keep light. In addition to getting about half these guys on board and taking good care of them, the other notion was to let the Marines who chose to go to the beach stay collected there and not become a target for the VC.

So we just sat there for four hours, getting the living hell beat out of us by this weather, and staying abreast of an adequate illumination activity set that kept those guys safe. At first light, a land-based Marine contingent from III MAF came in and got them out of there. But I’ll never forget that incident, both because it was the only time we were recalled from patrol, and then because we just got beat to smithereens getting back to Danang. Just after we got the lines over, we got this new deployment. And then to go back right out in the heart of this weather and take care of this case, that’s one of those nights I’ll never forget.

About this Volume

Based on 15 interviews conducted by Paul Stillwell from August 2002 to August 2006, this volume contains 621 pages of interview transcript plus appendices and a comprehensive index. The transcript is copyright 2014 by the U.S. Naval Institute; the interviewee placed no restrictions on its use.