SAULT STE. MARY — On September 26, the 104th anniversary of the death of American sailor Alfonso J. Busho, Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie received a Purple Heart in her honor.
Busho was awarded the Purple Heart posthumously for his service and sacrifice aboard the US Coast Guard Cutter Tampa during World War I. Due to difficulties in finding surviving family members, Coast Guard Area Sault Ste. Marie received and will display Busho’s Purple Heart on behalf of her family. The award will be displayed in the Coast Guard Dining Hall, which has been renamed in Busho’s honor.
Monday’s ceremony was the culmination of a years-long effort to identify and introduce the surviving family members of sailors aboard the Tampa with a Purple Heart.
Subscribe:Get unlimited access to our coverage
The US Coast Guard Cutter Tampa, otherwise known as USCGC Tampa, was a Miami-class cutter that served in the Coast Guard and Navy during World War I.
For five years, the Tampa (then called USCGC Miami) served in the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, locating dangerous icebergs and enforcing East Coast shipping and fishing laws.
On January 28, 1915, the Miami was renamed USCGC Tampa when the Gasparilla Pirate Festival kicked off in Tampa, Florida. On April 6, 1917, the United States officially entered World War I and the Tampa and other Coast Guard ships were transferred from Coast Guard control to Navy control, but remained equipped with guards -ribs.
Tampa’s wartime service lasted a total of 11 months. During this time, the ship escorted 18 convoys from Gibraltar to Britain, up to September 26, 1918.
On this day, almost exactly 104 years ago, the USCGC Tampa was passing through the Bristol Channel when it was spotted by a German submarine UB-91. The submarine moved into position and fired a torpedo into the water, hitting the Tampa.
The Tampa sank and all crew on board died, including 111 Coast Guardsmen and 20 passengers who were United States Navy personnel, British Navy personnel and civilians. The sinking of the Tampa was the greatest loss of life for the Coast Guard during World War I.
In an effort to recognize and commemorate the 131 people who lost their lives aboard the ship, the Coast Guard began retroactively awarding Purple Heart Medals to those who died on the ship while serving in the Guard. coastal.
“I want to thank the local team who worked tirelessly to find the right way to commemorate Alfonso Busho,” said Sault Chief Petty Officer Michael McCallum. “Dozens of people sought to find families and connections to ensure that every Purple Heart was awarded.”
In 1999, the Tampa Purple Heart Project began with a ceremony at the Coast Guard World War I Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, where the families of three crew members were awarded Purple Hearts. Through this project, the Coast Guard has awarded more than 60 Purple Hearts to descendants of the Tampa crew.
Of the 111 Coast Guard crew members aboard USCGC Tampa, three were from Michigan. One of them, sailor Alfonso Busho, was born and raised in Sault Ste. Married.
“Today we are reducing the number of the 40 outstanding awards that belong to Tampa by one,” McCallum said.
— Contact Brendan Wiesner: [email protected]