Degree Name

MA, Master of Arts

Degree Type

Thesis - Open Access


Program in American and Florida Studies

Advisory Committee

Committee Chair - Glen H. Doran

Committee Member - James P. Jones

Committee Member - Robin J. Sellers


Fall 11-10-2003


It was a quiet night as the crew of the Coast Guard cutter Blackthorn headed back to duty. After over three months of receiving new equipment and getting badly needed repairs, it was finally time to return her home to Galveston, Texas and regular duty. At approximately 2021 e.s.t. 28 January 1980, none of her new equipment or upgrades was enough to protect her from what lay ahead. For as fate would have it, unknowingly she had spent over three months preparing for nothing more than twenty-three men and her own burial. The dawning of 28 January 1980 was significant inasmuch as it marked the sixty-fifth anniversary of the United States Coast Guard. By nightfall, however, this date would take on an additional, more somber, meaning. For during the evening hours of 28 January 1980, Blackthorn collided with the tanker, Capricorn, resulting in death of twenty-three servicemen, and this date remains the worst peacetime loss of life in Coast Guard history. The accident became the catalyst for the creation of a new school intended to prevent the recurrence of any such events. But before the Command and Operations School at the Coast Guard Academy ever accepted its first student, a lot of soul searching had to happen and some tough questions had to be answered by both the agency that patrolled the sea and the men who navigated it.

What happened? Why did it happen? Could it have been avoided? Did any good result from this disaster? For some, these questions still linger.


Open Access