Governors Island Fun Fact: Who Was Samuel S. Coursen?
Aug 13, 2013 12:56 pm
Before Governors Island was transformed into a haven of culture and relaxation for New Yorkers to enjoy, it served as both an Army and Coast Guard base for over 200 years. All three of Governors Island’s incarnations are combined in the Lt. Samuel S. Coursen ferry, which shuttles thousands of visitors to and from the Island every weekend during the summer. Lieutenant Coursen, the namesake of the 860 ton ferry, served in the Army and demonstrated tremendous heroism during the Korean War. Given the Island’s military history, it is fitting that the ferry was named in honor of someone who fully embodied the ideals of the U.S. Army. Having graduated from West Point Military Academy in 1945, Coursen was deployed to Korea five years later. In a battle on October 12th, 1950, Coursen was killed in the act of saving a fellow wounded soldier. Though he did not survive the encounter, Coursen’s sacrifice did allow the wounded soldier to live. Tragically, Coursen was only 24 years old. Coursen’s valor earned him not only a Purple Heart, but also the Medal of Honor, the highest military honor given in recognition of “risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.” Awarded a year after his death, Coursen is one of only 627 personnel to receive the award posthumously. In 1956, a new passenger and vehicle ferry was christened the Lt. Samuel S. Coursen, which is the same boat that brings all of our visitors to the Island today and has reliably in use for almost sixty 60 years. Last week would have been Lt. Coursen’s birthday so as we wanted to take a moment to salute him and the ferry that bears his name.