Coast Guard Hero: Bailey T. Barco

Historical information provided by Christopher Havern; Photos provided by Coast Guard Cutter Bailey Barco

The FRC Bailey Barco (WPC 1122) and crew arrive to their new home port at the moorings of Coast Guard Base Ketchikan, Alaska. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The Coast Guard Cutter Bailey Barco (WPC 1122) will be commissioned in Juneau, June 14, but, long before its crew made their 7,130-mile transit from Key West, Florida, to reach their homeport of Ketchikan, Alaska, their vessel’s namesake, Bailey T. Barco, served courageously as a keeper at the Dam Neck Life-Saving Station in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

During a severe winter storm off the coast of Virginia Beach Dec. 21, 1900, Barco proceeded to the scene of the schooner Jennie Hall that had run aground. Realizing the use of the surfboat was dangerous, if not impossible, Barco directed the assembling of the beach apparatus and soon a breeches buoy had delivered all but one of the survivors to safety.

Realizing the use of the surfboat was dangerous, if not impossible, Barco directed the assembling of the beach apparatus and soon a breeches buoy had delivered all but one of the survivors to safety.

The last victim was so numbed by the cold that he could not help himself. After an unsuccessful effort by one of the members of the Dam Neck Hills Station to ride the breeches buoy out and help the man, Barco decided to take the surfboat out to the wreck and attempt to put two men aboard Jennie Hall. Following several ill-fated attempts, Barco, as boat coxswain, and his volunteer crew launched the surfboat and put two of the crew aboard the rapidly disintegrating ship.

A Life-Saving Service crewman conducts breeches buoy training. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Despite turbulent and freezing seas, he kept the surfboat under oars until one of his own crew was washed overboard. Quickly recovering the man, Barco guided the surfboat back to the beach. The helpless crewman of Jennie Hall and the two volunteers who had been put aboard the wreck were then brought safely to the beach by the breeches buoy.

Bailey Barco’s exemplary courage, fortitude and initiative in this valiant rescue reflected the highest honor upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Life-Saving Service. For extreme and heroic action, Barco was awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal Oct. 7, 1901.

The cutter named for Bailey Barco will be the second 154-foot Fast Response Cutter homeported in Ketchikan, alongside the CGC John McCormick (WPC 1121), and its crew will honor Barco’s memory by continuing his legacy of lifesaving.

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