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Coast Guard Commissions Cutter Emlen Tunnell, honoring WWII Hero, Pro Football Hall of Famer

USCGC Emlen Tunnell Crew with Statue of Emlen Tunnell
Ron labrec web v
by Ron LaBrec
October 25, 2021

The U.S. Coast Guard commissioned the USCGC Emlen Tunnell (WPC 1145) into service at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia Oct. 15, 2021.

The cutter's namesake is Pro Football Hall of Famer Emlen Tunnell. Tunnell played for the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers. He was the first African-American player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He also served as an assistant coach for the Giants.

Prior to playing pro football, Tunnel was a Steward's Mate 1st Class in the Coast Guard from 1943 to 1946. During his Coast Guard service, Tunnell valiantly rescued two shipmates. The Coast Guard posthumously awarded Tunnell the Silver Lifesaving Medal in 2011 for his heroism.

Ms. Yvonne Gilmore Jordan, the eldest first cousin to Tunnell, is the ship's sponsor.

"We are so thankful to the Coast Guard for this incredible honor," said Jordan. “I can't internalize the perils Emlen, and his shipmates endured. Emlen didn't want anyone calling him a hero, but the Coast Guard said yes, he is. As a relative, it is a privilege to be a participant in this commissioning as the Coast Guard Cutter Emlen Tunnell is placed into service.”

Adm. Karl Schultz, the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, presided over the commissioning ceremony.

"What really defined Emlen was his character, that selflessness. It was who he was as a human being," said Schultz. "When this cutter sailed unexpectedly to avoid Tropical Storm Elsa, Coast Guardsmen who are going to shape the future chapters of the Emlen Tunnell story stepped to the plate, as Emlen did years ago. Maybe not with as many heroics, but they did what Coasties do. They jumped into the breach."

Coast Guard Foundation board member Bob Montgomery with L3Harris Technologies served as the Commissioning Committee Chairman and the Foundation donated $10,000 to the crew’s morale fund.

Emlen Tunnell check

The Foundation and commissioning committee wish to thank those organizations that sponsored commissioning activities including the National Football League, the New York Giants, Bollinger Shipyards, L3Harris Technologies, Telephonics, and the Coast Guard Academy Alumni Association. Additional sponsors included First Command, the Sports Legends of Delaware County Museum, Thunderbolt Solutions, Global SFC, and Visit Delco, PA.

The Emlen Tunnell is the 45th Sentinel Class fast response cutter. Fast response cutters are named for Coast Guard enlisted heroes and the Coast Guard Foundation has provided a donation to start the morale funds for all 45 vessels put in service to date.

The ship will work out of Manama, Bahrain, as part of U.S. Coast Guard Patrol Forces Southwest Asia. Established in 2002 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, PATFORSWA conducts maritime security and infrastructure protection operations. PATFORSWA provides the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet with combat-ready crews to conduct vessel boarding capabilities at sea and partner country engagement onshore.

Emlen Tunnell salute

Cover photo: Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz, the crew of the USCGC Emlen Tunnell and member's of Emlen Tunnell’s extended family pose for a photo with the Emlen Tunnell statue at the Sports Legends of Delaware County Museum in Wayne, Pa., Oct. 14, 2021. Also pictured are Cmdr. William McKinstry and Master Chief Petty Officer George Williamson. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Breanna Centeno)

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