Coast Guard remembers 40th anniversary of cutter disaster

NEW LONDON -- October 20, 1978, the Coast Guard Cutter Cuyahoga, after being struck by an Argentine coal freighter, sunk in Chesapeake Bay with 29 men aboard.

11 died.

That incident has not been forgotten by the United States Coast Guard Academy.

"It was a cold, clear night, with nearly a full moon," said Dr. Peter Eident, who was the keynote speaker Friday morning during the 40th anniversary memorial service.

And, there's a good reason he was chosen.

Eidente, an officer candidate, just six weeks into his Coast Guard service, was aboard what was then the oldest ship in commission in the Coast Guard or Navy when it sunk.

"I remember at one point I said 'how long can I tread water.' And then, I just settled down and said 'as long as it takes,'" said Eident.

He said the Coast Guard changed, for the better, after that accident, which was determined to be the fault of Cuyahoga’s Captain, who was court-martialed.

"When the Cuyahoga happened, it was the worst accident in Coast Guard history," said Eident.

Four officer candidates died aboard the Cuyahoga. But, today's OC's said they are not forgotten.

"They were in my same shoes and I’m following in their footsteps and I have the pleasure to see and honor them every day," said Officer Candidate Danika Clesceri.

And that happens halfway across campus, inside the Officer Training School, where there is a memorial, which includes salvaged pieces of the Cuyahoa, which sunk in nearly 60 feet of water.

"Every time an officer candidate passes by this memorial, they stop and pay their respects," said Coast Guard Lt. Eric Romero.

The remains of the Cuyahoga are polished every evening and lighting shines on the display 24/7.