Around the Olympic Peninsula in 80 years

Story by Petty Officer 3rd Class Katelyn Shearer
Photos by Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Norcross

A vintage leather Coast Guard aviator helmet and news article clipping sit on display in a Museum at the Carnegie exhibit in Port Angeles, Wash., April 11, 2015. The new exhibit, “U.S. Coast Guard: An Era of History and Heroism,” contains nine glass cases, informational plaques and an array of other displays showcasing the history of the Coast Guard’s presence in Clallam County. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Norcross)

A vintage leather Coast Guard aviator helmet and news article clipping sit on display in a Museum at the Carnegie exhibit in Port Angeles, Wash., April 11, 2015.

Flying over the northern coast of the Olympic Peninsula, one can’t help but notice Ediz Hook, the three-mile-long sand spit extending into the clear waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

When the weather is nice, families can be spotted there enjoying a picnic lunch in the shadows of the Olympic Mountains. At the end of the Hook, often nestled in blankets of fleeting fog, sits Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles.

“Port Angeles and the Coast Guard share a rich and distinguished heritage,” said Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Lynch, MH-65 Dolphin helicopter pilot and public affairs officer at Air Station Port Angeles. “That heritage is full of often heroic characters and a rock solid relationship, which enables our community to thrive on the ruggedly beautiful and often unforgiving waters surrounding the Olympic Peninsula.”

Dedicated Coast Guard aircrews have been standing watch over the Olympic Peninsula and the Strait of Juan de Fuca for 80 years, protecting all those with a calling to the sea.

Commissioned in June of 1935, Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles was the first permanent Coast Guard air station on the West Coast. It is currently one of three in the Pacific Northwest, serving western Washington State and portions of British Columbia.

Photos of former Coast Guard members and models of various Coast Guard aircraft, including the Grumman HU-16E Albatross, sit on display in the service’s new exhibit in the Museum at the Carnegie in Port Angeles, Wash., April 11, 2015. Display items cover the various Coast Guard units that have been active within Clallam County since 1865. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Norcross)

Photos of former Coast Guard members and models of various Coast Guard aircraft, including the Grumman HU-16E Albatross, on display in the service’s new exhibit in the Museum at the Carnegie, Port Angeles, Wash., April 11, 2015.

“As a Coast Guard helicopter pilot, the pioneering spirit of aviators flying amphibious planes off Ediz Hook on rescue missions in 1935 is humbling to contemplate, give the harsh weather conditions and rudimentary flying equipment,” said Lynch. “Those Coast Guardsmen and the following generations forged a legacy of service, selflessness and sacrifice that is ever present in the minds of those standing the watch today.”

The air station was not the first Coast Guard presence in the Pacific Northwest, however. The crew of the Revenue Cutter Jefferson Davis sailed the straits in 1854, participating in the Puget Sound War the following year before all except the captain left to join the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush a few years later.

Twelve years after Jefferson Davis’ arrival, the Revenue Cutter Lincoln made Port Angeles a permanent home. Coast Guard men and women have been an integrated and unwavering part of the community since 1866.

“Nearly 300 Coast Guard members call Port Angeles home,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Jenkins, a boatswain’s mate assigned to Coast Guard Station Port Angeles, which has been co-located with the air station since 2003. “In addition to performing important missions such as search and rescue and law enforcement, we make a significant contribution to the local community.”

Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Jenkins, a boatswain’s mate at Coast Guard Station Port Angeles, prepares to cut the ceremonial ribbon for the new Museum at the Carnegie exhibit, while standing with members of the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors and Kathy Estes, executive director of the Clallam County historical society, in Port Angeles, Wash., April 11, 2015. Jenkins worked in conjunction with Historical Society members to propose and develop the exhibit, devoting his personal time toward the project. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Norcross)

Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Jenkins, a boatswain’s mate at Coast Guard Station Port Angeles, prepares to cut the ceremonial ribbon for the new Museum at the Carnegie exhibit, while standing with members of the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors and Kathy Estes, executive director of the Clallam County historical society, in Port Angeles, Wash., April 11, 2015.

In celebration of Air Station Port Angeles’ 80th anniversary and in honor of the long history between the Coast Guard and Clallam County that continues to this day, a special exhibit has opened for display at the Museum at the Carnegie Library in Port Angeles.

Jenkins partnered with the Clallam County Historical Society to display Coast Guard memorabilia ranging from news clippings, photos and uniform items to models and vintage equipment.

“The purpose of the exhibit is to educate the public about the long history between the Coast Guard, Port Angeles, and Clallam County,” said Jenkins. “We’re excited for locals and visitors alike to join us in celebrating this important anniversary.”

The exhibit is on display now and runs through end of September. For more information, please visit: www.clallamhistoricalsociety.com.

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