Rostron's Congressional Medal


Status
Not open for further replies.

Mark Baber

Moderator
Member
Jul 4, 2000
6,367
390
433
In "Home from the Sea", Capt. Rostron writes that on 2 March 1913 he was in Washington to receive "the Congressional Medal of Honour" from President Taft, and his ET biography says "he was presented by President Taft with the Congressional Medal of Honour, the highest compliment the United States could confer upon him".

What Rostron actually recieved from President Taft, though, is not the military decoration officially called the "Medal of Honor", and popularly referred to as the "Congressional Medal of Honor". Instead, what Capt. Rostrom received was a Congressionally-authorized gold medal bearing his profile, with the words "THE THANKS OF THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES" on either side of the likeness, and the words "FOR THE RESCUE OF THE SURVIVORS OF THE TITANIC" and "TO ARTHUR HENRY ROSTRON" encircling the profile. (A picture of the medal appears in the 2 March 1913 issue of The New York Times, but thus far I haven't found a roll of microfilm and a microfilm printer which together produce a good enough copy to scan and post.)

He also got the date wrong; he visited the White House and received the medal on 1 (not 2) March 1913.

Sources: The New York Times, 1 and 2 March 1913; Rostron's Home from the Sea.
 

Dave Gittins

Member
Mar 16, 2000
5,055
339
433
The medal is actually called a Congressional Gold Medal.

Readers may get the impression that Rostron's medal was a one-off case, because it was the subject of a vote in Congress. That's not the case. The medal has been awarded since the foundation of the United States. George Washington was the first recipient. Every medal is awarded by a special Act of Congress and money is allotted for it. The current cost is about $30,000, as the medal is solid gold.

In early times, the medal was mostly given for military service, especially before the institution of the Congressional Medal of Honor. In 1912 the medal was awarded for acts of bravery or out standing inventions and the like. The last to get one before Rostron were the Wright brothers. Today it is given for lifetime achievement. Recent recipients include Mother Teresa, Colin Powell, Frank Sinatra, Charles Schultz and the Reagans.

The medal has a portrait of the recipient on one side and a picture of something associated with the achievement on the other. Rostron's shows a swimmer being hauled from the sea. Schultz's shows some of the Peanuts gang! Good pictures of some recent medals are on the Internet.

There's a rather poor picture of Rostron's medal in Triumph and Tragedy The big question is where the thing is now. Surely such a valuable item has been kept by somebody in the family.

For those who are wondering how President Taft could present the medal on March 1st 1913, after losing the 1912 election, in those days the outgoing President held office until March 4th of the following year.
 

Mark Baber

Moderator
Member
Jul 4, 2000
6,367
390
433
Rostron's shows a swimmer being hauled from the sea.

So that's what it is; from the microfilm, it was tough to make out what was being shown on the reverse of the medal except the date. Thanks, Dave.
 

Mark Baber

Moderator
Member
Jul 4, 2000
6,367
390
433
After further digging, I've located this page on the U.S. Mint's web site which lists all Congressional Gold Medal recipients.
 

Dave Gittins

Member
Mar 16, 2000
5,055
339
433
Looking at it again, it's meant to be a man in a boat reaching out to a person appealing for help. It's all rather stylised. The boat looks like a little dinghy.
 

Inger Sheil

Member
Feb 9, 1999
5,343
67
398
I don't have it in front of me, but didn't the figures on the reverse of the medal appear nude? Or is that an overactive imagination on my part...
 

Dave Gittins

Member
Mar 16, 2000
5,055
339
433
Inger, you are quite right. As I said, the thing is very stylised and rather rugged in its execution.
 

Inger Sheil

Member
Feb 9, 1999
5,343
67
398
Good to see I wasn't imaging things on that score, Dave. I thought it was one of the less successful examples of neo-classical undraped figures I'd seen. Obviously not meant to be taken as in any way a literal representation, the image of nekkid blokes in cockleshell boats pulling other nekkid blokes out of the North Atlantic is a hard one to shake. Still, one can't really fault the intention, even if the realisation of it is perhaps not entirely successful. It obviously meant a lot to Rostron, and that's what counts.
 

Martin Pirrie

Member
Jun 28, 2000
141
3
263
About 2 or 3 months ago on British television there was a 30 minute documentary programme about the search for wreck of the Carpathia. The first 15 minutes or so was taken up with finding another wreck, a German ship which sank in the same area in about 1930. The wreck of Carpathia was finally found and confirmed by some of the deck machinery and, if I remember correctly, part of the anchor. The explorers did not enter the wreck. The commentary, which had mentioned the part played by Carpathia in the Titanic saga, went on to state that Rostron had left his medals and other artifacts about Titanic in a cabinet on the bridge, after he had left the ship to go on to higher things with Cunard. So, perhaps the gold medal is there?
 
Mar 13, 2000
160
6
263
i think its so neat to see that captin rosrton to be honored with a prestigous award such as the congressional medal of honor for his rescue of the titanic survivors if it wasnt for him all of the survivors could have all died and i think its good that he recived the award and i hope that there are others who agree with me jennifer mueller
 

Dave Gittins

Member
Mar 16, 2000
5,055
339
433
Martin, I saw something similar somewhere but I find it a bit strange. I can understand him leaving the various letters, cups and so forth, especially those meant to honour the whole crew. That figures, but would he have left 15 ounces of solid gold?

I've got a rather poor copy of the medal from The New York Times. I'll see if I can post it in reasonable shape.
 

Dave Gittins

Member
Mar 16, 2000
5,055
339
433
Jennifer, the point of this thread is that Rostron didn't get a Congressional Medal of Honor. He received a Congressional Gold Medal, a very different thing.

Rostron was not eligible for a Congressional Medal of Honor and had done nothing worthy of one.
To win one, you must be a member of the US armed forces and display conspicuous bravery in the presence of the enemy. The Americans take this award very seriously. It is a serious federal offence to falsely claim to to have been awarded one. I'm surprised that Rostron's inaccurate information is repeated in American books. It's probably copied from his own book, which is inaccurate in this and other matters.

Today, Rostron would not be likely to get a Congressional Gold Medal. It's now generally awarded for lifetime achievement. It's probably about time for a new one to be awarded. They seem to come up almost annually lately.
 
Mar 13, 2000
160
6
263
dave i appolgize for the misunderstanding on what type of medal it was but still it was nice to know he was honored for his rescue of the passengers of the titanic and i still think that it was heroic what he did because what if no ship responded to the sos that the ship sent they would have been all dead before a ship finaly along came along and rescued them it was a very good thing that the carpathia came along when it did even if it took four hours for them to come and if i was one of the passengers i would certainly call captin rostron a hero for saving my life jennifer mueller
 

Dave Gittins

Member
Mar 16, 2000
5,055
339
433
Jennifer, you would not be alone in not knowing the CGM. I fear that it's not widely known, even in the US.

The latest CGM has gone to General Harry H Shelton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Like other recent medals, it recognises a long and distinguished career. It was presented in September 2002.

For American citizens, there is currently a petition asking Congress to award a CGM to the passengers and crew of United Flight 93. I'm sure we all know what they did. Though their deeds are not of the kind envisaged by the current medal rules, it's possible that Congress may think an award is fitting. See

http://www.petitiononline.com/Flight93/petition.html
 
Status
Not open for further replies.

Similar threads

Similar threads