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Adm. John B. Hayes

Adm. John B. Hayes (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)
Adm. John B. Hayes (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

Adm. John B. (Jack) Hayes, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard from 1978 to 1982, will be laid to rest on Jan. 31, 2001, in Arlington National Cemetery. On top of a hill at that cemetery’s southern edge is the U.S. Coast Guard Memorial, commemorating the service’s steadfast service, tireless vigilance, and motto, "Semper Paratus" -- "always prepared." During his long Coast Guard career, Hayes exemplified these traits.

"Adm. Hayes was one of our most dynamic commandants, an icon in the legacy of the Coast Guard," said the current commandant, Adm. James M. Loy. "He was a personal mentor and role model to literally thousands of Coast Guard officers, including myself."

Hayes, who grew up in landlocked Bradford, Pa., may not have learned about the sea from an early age, but he did learn early about role models. His years in the Boy Scouts culminated in Eagle Scout status, and he remained active for years as a troop leader and member of the National Council.

Inspired by a midshipman neighbor, the young Hayes decided on a seafaring life. He later recalled that, when he entered the Coast Guard Academy, "influencing the way we felt about ourselves and what we were doing at that time was the fact there was a war going on, and a great majority of us merely wanted to be part of the action instead of being at a school." After graduating in 1946, Hayes spent most of his career years in command positions that included shore commands in Japan, Florida, Vietnam, and Alaska. He had sea commands of three Coast Guard cutters: the Ariadne, the Sagebrush, and the Vigilant.

Hayes completed many plum assignments, including a stint at the Naval War College and a posting as commandant of the Coast Guard Academy, before his 1978 promotion to the admiral. As 16th commandant of the Coast Guard, he led the service through many difficult bureaucratic battles and through several high-profile operations. These included the Prinsendam rescue off the Alaskan Coast, the crash of Air Florida Flight 90 in Washington, D.C., and the Mariel boatlift -- at the time the single largest search-and-rescue operation in Coast Guard history.

The recipient of numerous awards and benefactor of several organizations, in retirement Hayes lived with his wife Elizabeth in Boothby Harbor, Maine. During a hiking trip in the Florida Keys, he was killed Jan. 17 after being struck by a vehicle. "He is truly loved by [the Coast Guard] and will be greatly missed," Loy said.

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