William Flores

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William Ray Flores
USCG Seaman apprentice William R. Flores had a Sentinel class cutter named after him in 2011.jpg
Seaman Apprentice William R. Flores, USCG
Nickname(s) "Billy" Flores
Born November 6, 1961[1]
Carlsbad, New Mexico
Died January 28, 1980(1980-01-28) (aged 18)
USCGC Blackthorn, Tampa Bay, Florida
Buried at Benbrook Cemetery, Tarrant County, Texas[1]
Service/branch United States Coast Guard
Years of service 1979-1980
Rank Seaman Apprentice
Awards Coast Guard Medal
Namesake of USCGC William Flores

William Ray Flores was a Seaman Apprentice in the United States Coast Guard. SA Flores was posthumously honored for heroic behavior during a 1980 ship collision.[2] In November 2011, the Coast Guard selected Flores as the namesake of the third of its Sentinel class cutters.[3][4]


Flores was born and raised in Carlsbad, New Mexico, and, with his parents' permission, left Western Hills High School in Benbrook, Texas early in order to enlist in his country's service.[4]

On January 28, 1980, 18-year-old Flores stayed aboard the USCGC Blackthorn as it was sinking following a collision with a tanker, Capricorn, and helped save twenty-three (23) of his crewmates, at the cost of his own life.[3][4][5] Flores and a colleague threw their life jackets to seamen struggling in the water without life jackets. He strapped the life jacket locker open, so remaining life jackets would be released as the vessel sank. He then tried to aid wounded seamen who were still aboard. The collision has been described as the worst peacetime disaster in the Coast Guard's history.[6]


In 2000, twenty years after the collision, Flores was formally honored for his bravery. Flores was posthumously awarded the Coast Guard Medal.[4][6] The Coast Guard Medal is the highest non-combat bravery award of the United States Coast Guard.[7]

Seaman Apprentice FLORES is cited for heroism on the evening of 28 January 1980 while serving onboard U.S. Coast Guard Cutter BLACKTHORN. Immediately after the collision between SS CAPRICORN and USCGC BLACKTHORN near the entrance to Tampa Bay, Florida, BLACKTHORN rolled to port and capsized before the ship's personnel could prepare for an orderly abandon ship. Exhibiting composure beyond his shipboard experience, Seaman Apprentice FLORES joined another BLACKTHORN crewmember in making their way to the starboard lifejacket locker and commenced throwing lifejackets over the side to fellow crewmembers in the water. Later, as the BLACKTHORN began to submerge and his companion abandoned ship, Seaman Apprentice FLORES remained behind to strap the lifejacket locker door open with his own belt thereby contributing to the survival of struggling shipmates who retrieved lifejackets as they floated to the surface. Even after most of the crewmembers abandoned ship, Seaman Apprentice FLORES, with complete disregard for his own safety, remained on the inverted hull to assist trapped shipmates and provide aid and comfort to injured and disoriented shipmates. His exceptional fortitude, remarkable initiative and courage throughout this tragic incident were instrumental in saving many lives and resulted in the sacrifice of his own life. Seaman Apprentice FLORES' courage, selflessness and devotion to duty are most heartily commended and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard.[8]

In November 2011, the Coast Guard named its third Sentinel class cutter USCGC William Flores. All the vessels in this class are to be named after heroic members of the Coast Guard.[3]


  1. ^ a b "William Ray Flores (1961 - 1980) - Find A Grave Memorial". Findagrave.com. Retrieved 2012-06-01. 
  2. ^ Patrick McMahon (1980-02-07). "'Hard right rudder': 'Blackthorn' skipper gave command too late, crewman testifies". Petersburg Times. pp. 1, 8. Retrieved 2011-12-02. Twenty-three Coast Guard crewmen died in the accident. Still to come are autopsy results of other crewmen, some of whose bodies are being still recovered from the bay. The body of William R. Flores was found Tuesday. 
  3. ^ a b c Monika Diaz (2011-11-28). "Coast Guard remembers former crewman's actions, 31 years later". WFAA. Retrieved 2011-12-02. In January of 1980, Flores was on a Coast Guard cutter when it collided with a tanker near Tampa Bay, Florida. While some of the crew abandoned ship, Flores stayed behind. He helped trapped and injured shipmates. mirror
  4. ^ a b c d Chris Vaughn (2011-11-29). "New CG Cutter Named for Local Hero". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Retrieved 2011-12-02. Two decades after Flores' actions, somehow overlooked in the aftermath of the Coast Guard's worst peacetime disaster, he was posthumously awarded the Coast Guard Medal, the highest decoration that service can bestow. The Coast Guard chose to name its latest fast-response cutter after Flores. mirror
  5. ^ Reinhardt, Mary (March 2014). "Courage in Adversity: The Story of WIlliam Flores, the New Mexico Son who became a Coast Guard Hero". Two Toots -- an official publication of DIV2, D8CR (issue 1, volume 5). USCGAUX 081-02. U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. 
  6. ^ a b "Getting his due Coast Guard hero receives honor posthumously". Fort Worth Star Telegram. 2000-09-17. Retrieved 2011-12-02. The actions of Seaman Apprentice William Ray "Billy" Flores were somehow overlooked as officials investigated the worst peacetime disaster in Coast Guard history. But a few officers didn't forget. 
  7. ^ "Coast Guard Medal". U.S. Coast Guard Awards History. United States Coast Guard. Retrieved 1 June 2012.  External link in |work= (help)
  8. ^ "Coast Guard Medal Award Citations, D-F". http://www.uscg.mil/history/. United States Coast Guard. Retrieved 1 June 2012.  External link in |work= (help)