The 5,340 troops and crew were ordered to abandon ship. Given the shallow waters surrounding the Coolidge, many of the men on board simply walked ashore in a very calm manner, believing the ship was safely grounded. However, the Coolidge didn’t end up where Captain Nelson intended and was stuck fast on a coral reef. While the troops made it ashore, the Coolidge was still in grave danger of being lost. Not long after she ran aground, the Coolidge listed heavily before slipping down into the shipping channel.
There were just two casualties of the sinking of the Coolidge. Fireman Robert Reid, who was in the engine room at the time the ship struck the first mine. And Captain Elwood J Euart, the namesake of the association bringing the Museum to life.
A Hero Is Made
Captain Euart of the 103rd Field Artillery Regiment, was one of the 5,340 who made it ashore after the Coolidge ran aground. But on hearing there were men still trapped below decks, Euart returned to the ship and successfully rescued the men. However, the sheer effort of pulling the men up and out of the ship on a rope had left Euart exhausted. By the time it was his turn to get out, he didn’t have the strength in his arms to pull himself out and he went down with the ship.
A World Heritage Site
The Coolidge is now regarded as the most accessible shipwreck in the world for divers, for a ship of its size and type. In fact due to its location, depth, accessibility and the visibility of the water it lies in, it was named one of the top ten dive spots in the world.