Master Chief Petty Officer, USCG
As Officer in Charge of Station Chetco River, Master Chief Jim Clemens led his unit’s response as tsunami waves hit the Oregon coast following the 8.9-magnitude earthquake that struck Japan in March 2011.
The night before the quake struck, as the tsunami wave traveled from Japan across the Pacific, Master Chief Clemens ordered Station Chetco River to make preparations and safeguard the crew, boats and Coast Guard property.
When the crew deployed its motor lifeboats out to sea, they noticed dozens of boat owners attempting to secure their boats directly in the path of the giant wave. As docks broke free, Master Chief Clemens and his team remained in the path of the wave to evacuate dozens of mariners to higher ground, saving several people moments before a 200-ton fishing vessel crashed into the dock the crew was standing on.
Ultimately, four vessels sank in the harbor and another four were swept out to sea, but thanks in large part to Master Chief Clemens’ quick actions, there were no fatalities.
A master chief boatswain’s mate with 26 years of service, Master Chief Clemens is currently the Officer in Charge of Station Umpqua River, where he is responsible for the safety and operations of a 42-person unit that executes search and rescue, maritime law enforcement, marine safety, and security missions along the Oregon coast.
For more than 220 years, the Coast Guard has safeguarded America’s maritime interests and natural resources on our rivers and ports, in the coastal regions, on the high seas, and around the world. The Coast Guard saves those in peril and protects the nation’s maritime border, marine transportation system, natural resources, and the environment.