It is with great sadness that we report the passing of former NNOA president, Captain Harold R. (Bob) Wise on November 20, 2022.
During his 30 plus year career in both active and reserve duty assignments, he served in several leadership positions including Commanding Officer, Auxiliary Floating Drydock Medium 104, Trenton, NJ; Assistant Programs Officer, Naval Reserve Readiness Command Region Four, Philadelphia, PA.; Plans Officer, CINCEASTLANT 108, Atlanta, GA; Communications Officer, SACLANT Det. 205, Buffalo, NY; Director of Training, Naval Reserve Center, Buffalo, NY; Management Information and Retention Officer, Naval Reserve Readiness Command Region Eight, Jacksonville, FL.; Commanding Officer, Naval Reserve Voluntary Training Unit 0801, Atlanta, GA; Assistant Inspector General and Assistant Director of Plans for Readiness, Naval Reserve Readiness Command Region Eight, Jacksonville, FL.; Commanding Officer, Naval Reserve Readiness Unit “C”, Atlanta, GA; Director of Selected Reserve Training, Naval Reserve Readiness Center, Atlanta, GA; and Explosives Safety Inspector, Naval Ordnance Center, Indian Head Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, DC.
Captain Wise attended the Naval War College, served as a member of the Secretary of the Navy’s National Naval Reserve Policy Board for three years, served on the Naval Reserve Readiness Command Region Eight, Jacksonville, FL’s Reserve Policy Board for three years, completed the Reserve Components National Security Course presented by the National Defense University, attended the Armed Forces Staff College, attended the Naval War College War Gaming course and served on several Navy Reserve Officer line and staff selection boards.
Captain Wise was awarded the Navy Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy “E”, the National Defense Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with two stars, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal with hourglass, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, the Expert Rifle Medal, the Sharpshooter Pistol Ribbon, and Command Ashore Pin.
It is with great sadness that I let our NNOA Family know of the passing of Commander Merle Smith, the first African American to graduate from the United States Coast Guard Academy. More will be shared and I know your prayers and thoughts are welcomed by his family.
It is with great sadness that I inform you that CDR Merle James Smith, USCG (retired), passed away on June 16th, 2021 in New London, CT. As many of you know, CDR Smith is the namesake of the Eclipse Legacy Coalitions “Merle J. Smith Eclipse Legacy Endowment,” which was established in 2017. Merle J. Smith was the second African American to receive an appointment to the Academy and the first to graduate in June of 1966. He was characterized as an excellent CGA Cadet, excelling with hard work in the classroom, in the barracks and on the football field. CDR Smith Served as the Commanding Officer of a Patrol Boat during the Vietnam War and achieved his Juris Doctor, becoming a licensed attorney in 1974, all before being assigned to the Coast Guard Academy law faculty in 1975. It was then that LT Smith’s impact at CGA would become legendary as a teacher, mentor and coach. He served as the Class Advisor for the class of 1977, as an assistant football coach under the great Otto Graham and was an inspirational example for many of the young cadets to follow. Including the class of 1978’s VADM Manson Brown, USCG (ret), who would tout “LT Smith modeled for us what we could become in the Coast Guard. As such, he added to our motivation to stay and do the hard work necessary to thrive at the Academy.”
There is so much more to learn and remember about CDR Merle J. Smith, and the Eclipse Legacy Coalition will provide more details as time goes. However, for a couple of great reads on CDR Smith’s legacy please read:
The Long Blue Line: Merle Smith – the first African American graduate of the Coast Guard Academy « Coast Guard COAST GUARD COMPASS (dodlive.mil)
The Day – Coast Guard Academy renames officers club after first black graduate, retired Cmdr. Merle Smith – News from southeastern Connecticut