TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — More than 100 years after the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Tampa was sunk in World War I, family members of two men on board the ship were awarded the Purple Heart for their sacrifice.
The sinking of the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa was the largest loss of life for the Coast Guard in that war.
The Tampa had just finished escorting a convoy through the British Channel when it was torpedoed by the German submarine UB-91, according to the Coast Guard.
In the aftermath, 135 were left dead, including 111 Coast Guardsmen, four Navy Personnel, and 16 from the British Navy.
Among those lost on the ship was First Lieutenant James frost, the Uncle of Janet Erwin who traveled to Tampa to accept his Purple Heart.
“It was kind of unbelievable because of the time, you know it’s over 100 years,” said Erwin.
The family donated some of Frost’s personal effects to the Coast Guard to allow his memory to live on.
“As I look through the items, it’s kind of reflective of that time and they are very well preserved, so we are pretty excited,” said Scott Erwin.
Melody Hoelle is a cousin of Angus MacLean who was also lost when the ship went down.
Hoelle has been researching his history for years. MacLean was a Tampa native and a firefighter before serving on the Tampa.
“I feel like a lot of our history is lost throughout the years and it is understandable with war-time, it is difficult to speak about, but I think it’s important, especially for those we do lose, to keep their memory alive,” Hoelle said.
The Tampa was originally launched as the “Miami” in 1912 and went immediately on to ice patrol in the Atlantic after the sinking of the Titanic.
She was renamed the Tampa after coming to take part in the Gasparilla celebration of the city several years later.