Charles Walter David, Jr. was a Coast Guardsman who served on board the CGC Comanche on North Atlantic convoy duty during World War II. David was born in 1917 and lived in New York before joining the United States Coast Guard.
On February 3, 1943, the U.S. Army transport USS Dorchester was torpedoed by a U-boat off the coast of Greenland. When the Comanche came to the aid of the survivors of Dorchester in the frigid waters, David volunteered to dive overboard to rescue crew members in need by practicing the newly devised “rescue retriever” technique. The rescuer dived overboard and tied a line around a hypothermic survivor, who was then hoisted aboard the cutter. The water was frigidly cold, and many of those who dived overboard to aid others ended up needing to be rescued by David. During that night, out of the 227 survivors of the SS Dorchester, David helped rescue 93 of them.
Twenty-six-year-old Charles David Jr. gave his life for the stranded men, dying of hypothermia on March 29, 1943, 54 days later. The official cause of his death was pneumonia, which he contracted trying to save the crew members.
Charles David Jr. and several other crewmen were awarded the highest non-combat awards in the Navy, the Navy and Marine Corps Medals. David was also recognized by President Johnson through a certificate issued to his widow. Years later, the Immortal Chaplains Foundation awarded David their prestigious Prize for Humanity.