First Coast Guard vessel named after Citadel grad to be commissioned

First Coast Guard vessel named after Citadel grad to be commissioned
Chief Petty Officer Oliver Berry, from The Citadel Class of 1928. (Source: The Citadel)
Chief Petty Officer Oliver Berry, from The Citadel Class of 1928. (Source: The Citadel)

HONOLULU (WCSC) - For the first time, a Coast Guard ship will be named after a graduate of The Citadel and commissioned on Tuesday.

The USCGC Oliver Berry will be commissioned at Base Honolulu in Hawaii. The ship, the first of three 154-foot Coast Guard fast response cutters, will be named after Chief Petty Officer Oliver Fuller Berry, who graduated from the military college in 1928.

"I received an outpouring of support from local Citadel graduates with a desire to provide support and to attend the commissioning ceremony," retired Air Force Col. James L. Pasquino, Class of 1976, said. "The Hawaii Citadel Club is honored to represent The Citadel as the USCG cutter is named in honor of Oliver Berry, '28, and to establish a connection with the ship and crew as they perform their missions in Hawaii and the Pacific Islands."

Berry was born in Marion, South Carolina on March 2, 1908, and grew up in Florence, according to a release from The Citadel. After graduating, he received his commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve but a year later resigned his commission and enlisted as a seaman apprentice in the U.S. Coast Guard. He eventually became one of the world's first helicopter maintenance specialists. He also served as the lead instructor at the first U.S. military helicopter training unit, the Rotary Wing Development Unit.

He also played a prominent role in developing the first rescue hoist and was awarded the Silver Medal of the Order of Leopold II by Prince Charles, Royal Regent of Belgium for his part in a 1946 helicopter rescue in Newfoundland.

"Through his masterful technical expertise, Berry was able to quickly disassemble a helicopter in Brooklyn, New York, which was then flown in a cargo plane to Gander, Newfoundland, where he reassembled it in time to find and rescue 18 survivors of a crash aboard a Belgian Sabena DC-4 commercial airliner," the release states.

The ship will primarily serve the main Hawaiian Islands. The Berry will have a maximum speed of 28 knots and the new ships are designed to replace the current sentinel class cutters. The new ships feature advanced technology that includes communication, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment, including the ability to launch and recover standardized small boats from the stern, the release states.

"As I learn more about Chief Petty Officer Oliver Berry through this commissioning process, and learn about his resourcefulness and leadership in developing the specialty of aviation maintenance, I am constantly impressed," Lt. J.G. Peter Driscoll, executive officer of the Oliver Berry, said. "The cutter helps cement the strong bond between our aviation and afloat communities; it is a privilege to be a part of her plank owner crew and carry Oliver Berry's legacy forward into the 21st century."

Berry died on Sept. 13, 1991.

All three of the new cutters should be in place by the spring of 2019, Coast Guard officials say. These cutters, with their improved effectiveness in search and rescue, will make the waters around the main Hawaiian Islands a much safer place for recreational boaters and users of the waterways.

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