In a ceremony at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, retired Capt. James Hubbard was recognized for heroic service to the Coast Guard and the nation. Hubbard was recently inducted into the Hall of Heroes Wall of Gallantry memorial at the academy for his efforts during two helicopter rescue missions that he played an integral role in during his Coast Guard career.
He was awarded an Air Medal for his efforts on Nov. 11, 1986, during the rescue of two people after their single-engine Cessna crashed in Lake St. Clair, Ontario, Canada.
The weather was so bad on scene the rescue crew had to use the side windows of the aircraft to search for survivors as heavy ice accumulation completely obscured visibility from the helicopter’s windshield. The crash victims, a husband and wife, were both suffering from severe hypothermia. Once they were spotted, the crew worked to quickly get them onto the helicopter and back to safety.
After recovering the victims, the pilot left the cockpit to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation to the husband. Hubbard, who was serving as the co-pilot on the mission, was then left to both fly and navigate the helicopter to an unfamiliar hospital landing zone. Faced with some inoperative equipment and loss of radar assistance, Hubbard directed Coast Guard Air Station Detroit to calculate the hospital’s position relative to a nearby transmitter, while coordinating his arrival over the county emergency radio network.
The aircraft’s pilot, Lt. Mark Feldman, was inducted into the Hall of Heroes back in 2018 for his efforts during the same rescue. The HH-65 helicopter 1428 they both flew that day is now on display at the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, Connecticut.
Hubbard received a second Air Medal after rescuing five fishermen from the waters off the coast of Atlantic City, New Jersey, Jan. 16, 1992. As a cold front generated hurricane force winds, heavy seas, and low visibility in the area, a distress call came from a stricken fishing vessel out at sea.
Hubbard and a crew from Coast Guard Air Station Cape May, New Jersey, flew to the scene. According to the award citation, once he arrived Hubbard saw the vessel, “capsizing and sinking, casting one man into the frigid ocean as four others boarded a raft.”
“Lieutenant Hubbard skillfully recovered the man in the water and deployed his rescue swimmer to assist the others,” the citation reads. “The gusting winds capsized the raft, tossing the last three victims into the violent seas. Lieutenant Hubbard was fully aware that recovery of the remaining three men and the swimmer would severely overload his aircraft, but that to leave them to jettison fuel would mean loss of life, so he courageously continued the recovery.”
Hubbard rescued the three remaining survivors and the rescue swimmer and flew them to safety. He went on to have a 26-year career in the Coast Guard that culminated in his final assignment as commanding officer of Air Station Atlantic City.
Each year just before Veterans Day the academy community commemorates the actions of alumni like Hubbard who demonstrated courage in the face of extreme danger and serve as a model for those that follow in their footsteps.
Those who are included in the memorial have their qualifying award citations and their graduation photos prominently displayed in a busy hallway in the cadet barracks. Along with Hubbard, retired Capt. Norman Scurria and Lt. Cmdr. Travis Christy, who is still on active duty, were also inducted.
Friends and family members of the inductees were on hand for the Oct. 21 ceremony, which included cadet led tours of the academy grounds and a parade of the entire Corps of Cadets on the Washington Parade Field.
"It was special to be back at the Coast Guard Academy,” Hubbard said, “and a humbling and gratifying honor to be recognized. Coast Guard missions are all noble, in my view, but none more so than helping those in distress in a challenging environment.”