martin citation



"For exceptionally meritorious conduct in the face of almost insurmountable odds in attending to the survivors of the crash of Sabena Airlines Douglas DC-4 airliner ‘Charlie Bravo George’ on September 18, 1946 approximately twenty-two miles south-south-west of Gander Airport,Newfoundland. Doctor MARTIN, Captain, U.S. Army Medical Corps, was the leader of the rescue team of over fifty persons and the only medical doctor in the party. Due to the extremely remote location of the crash, MARTIN and his portion of the initial rescue party had to be flown by a Coast Guard PBY aircraft to a small lake some five miles from the crash site where they transferred to rubber dinghies, then paddling and shooting rapids down a small river to a point abreast the crash site where they traversed the remaining distance through almost impenetrable brush and forest. After reaching the crash site some thirty nine hours after the crash and having ascertained that 18 persons had survived, Doctor MARTIN directed the drop of needed medical supplies, food, water, blankets and other survival equipment as almost all of the supplies they tried to bring to the site had been lost in the rapids when their dinghy’s were overturned. The first assessment was staggering. All but two of the survivors, two young men, were severely injured and in shock due to loss of blood and trauma. In making the assessment of priorities for treatment Doctor MARTIN found patients with great shreds of burned skin hanging from their bodies and extremities, the bones sticking out through broken skin, sent shocks of despair through his heart. The weather was cold, never higher than fifty degrees Fahrenheit in the daytime and going down to the forties at night in almost continuous rain and mist. Doctor MARTIN faced the fight of his life to save these people from infection, shock and loss of blood. To get the survivors out of the remote area when coupled with their immobilizing injuries demanded that the rescue be accomplished by helicopter. While Doctor MARTIN tended his patients day and night, comforting and treating them while directing efforts at the crash site, two Coast Guard helicopters were disassembled, loaded aboard military transports and flown to Gander where they were reassembled and readied for flight. Eventually, the last survivor was transported to Gander Hospital on Sunday, September 22, 1946 and Doctor MARTIN was brought out of the bush after three and a half days of continuous, all consuming effort. Doctor MARTIN, by his courage, exceptional professional competence, untiring and unfailing devotion to his duty, coupled with his indomitable spirit performed what has been titled a miracle in the woods. The survivors and those whom he led have titled the crash site St. Martin - In - The - Woods where a monument so attesting now stands. Doctor MARTIN's actions, medical skills and valor were instrumental in the rescue and recovery of the survivors who would have otherwise perished. His courage, judgment, and devotion to duty are most heartily commended and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the Armed Forces of the United States of America."


The Ancient Order of Pterodactyls established a Coast Guard Aviation History Committee to assist in actively contributing to the enlargement and perpetuation of Coast Guard Aviation history. One of the initial projects was the establishment of the USCG Aviation History Web Site http://uscgaviationhistory.aoptero.org .

During the course of collecting and researching information, we obtained the records of Captain Frank Erickson, received a document from Commander Stewart Ross Graham and found a SAR summary report about the crash of the Belgian Sabena Airliner in Newfoundland near Gander. The story evoked interest. Most significant was that two USCG early helicopters were torn down and transported to Newfoundland by USAF C-54 aircraft where they were restored to flying condition and utilized to rescue 18 survivors of the crash. Since the reports and official records were focused on the mission there was little to tweak any additional interest – except, one statement by LT August Kleisch, USCG helicopter pilot. He made a rather matter of fact statement that an Army doctor named Martin had been at the site giving medical aid.

This spawned an inquiry about Dr. Martin. Who was he? Where did he come from? What had he accomplished there at the site? Was he still alive in 2005? What happened to him after the rescue?

An internet search for information about him returned an unofficial obituary that is attached as Attachment 1. We learned that he was a special man and doctor. He was respected in every way as a doctor, a teacher, a citizen and a human being. He had died in Gainesville, Florida at age 80 of lymphoma. He had three children, Dr. Samuel Preston Martin IV, Dr. William Barry Martin, and Dr. Celia Martin.

Dr. William Martin was found practicing as an Orthodontist along with his sister, Celia in Gainesville, Florida while the other son is a surgeon, practicing in Orlando. Interesting to note that Dr. Samuel P. Martin III’s father and grandfather were doctors and that on his mother’s side of the family 15 of 17 children were doctors in Tennessee. The apple does not fall far from the tree.

In the conversation with Dr, Martin’s son, William, we found that Dr. Martin had received no recognition for what he had done at the crash site except from the Belgium Government and that is receiving the Order of Leopold. His medal was of higher rank and came with a retirement annuity that he was forced to reject in order to receive the medal. The rejection was forwarded over the signatures of President Truman and General Eisenhower. As Dr. William Martin put it, “He did get some recognition from the Girl Scouts.” He received no recognition from the Army, the Coast Guard or the Canadian Government.

The committee investigated further and found there had been a definitive book written about the events surrounding the crash and the rescue of the survivors titled “Charlie Baker George: The Story of Sabena OO-CBG” by Mr. Frank Tibbo. We tried to obtain a copy but it is out of print; however, after contacting the publisher and telling them that we wanted to try to gain some recognition for Dr. Martin, they volunteered an advanced copy of the text of the book that describes the entire event. Pertinent excerpts from the text is attached as Attachment 2.

Contained in the attachment are detailed observations about Dr. Martin’s performance as a leader, a doctor and caring human being. Rather than reiterate them, we will let the attachment speak for itself.

Dr. Martin was a quiet hero and a very modest individual. He never said anything to his children about the crash or his part in it. Here follows is a statement from an e-mail sent by Dr. William Martin, his son; “It is interesting that growing up my father never discussed the Sabena crash and I learned the details from one of the survivors when I worked in Switzerland during college.”

He was not recognized officially for his contributions and we ask that the oversight be corrected.


It is recommended that a Legion of Merit Medal be posthumously awarded to Dr. Samuel P. Martin III for his actions through the period September 17 – 22, 1946. A recommended citation is included at the beginning of this document. Attachment 3 is a statement of appropriateness and justification for the award of the Legion of Merit. It is suggested that the Commandant present the award.

It is further recommended that an appropriate ceremony be conducted at Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, Florida. This location is very convenient for his children and their  families, his colleagues and friends (University of Florida Medical Center).

It is further recommended that representatives of the U.S. Army, DOD and the Canadian Government be afforded an opportunity to attend as guests of the Coast Guard. As the Commandant stated in his State of the Coast Guard speech that he is a history scholar and former teacher; here is certainly an opportunity to enhance our history, right an oversight and show the true colors of the Coast Guard.

ATTACHMENT 1 – Unofficial Obituary of Dr. Samuel Preston Martin III

Death of Dr. Samuel P. Martin

Dr. Samuel Preston Martin, III, an innovator in the field of medical education and management, died of lymphoma in Gainesville, Florida, on May 2. He was 80 years of age.

Dr. Martin was professor emeritus of medicine and health care systems at Penn. During his quarter century here he was professor of medicine, executive director of the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, chairman of the Health Care Systems Unit of the Wharton School, master of Ware College Health and Society House, founding Director of the Robert Wood Clinical Scholars Program, for fellowship training in the social, behavioral and management sciences for board certified physicians.

A leader in developing the M.B.A. Program in Health Care Management at the Wharton School, he taught in it for some two decades. Since 1970, the program has graduated more than 100 physicians with an M.B.A. degree.

He was born May 2, 1916, in East Prairie, Missouri, a community of 600 where his father was a general practitioner. After receiving his medical education at Washington University of St. Louis, he pursued his house officer training at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis.

In September 1946, as a captain in the United States Army Medical Corps, Dr. Martina veteran Arctic explorer and woodsman led the team that rescued the survivors of a Sabena transatlantic airliner that crashed in a dense forest southwest of Gander, Newfoundland. For his heroic efforts he was awarded the Belgian Order of Leopold.

Dr. Martin was a Markle Scholar from 1950 to 1955 and began his academic career at the Duke University Medical Center as an assistant professor in medicine. He was recruited in 1956 to the newly organized School of Medicine at the University of Florida in Gainesville, as professor and head of the Department of Medicine.

Subsequently he was appointed Provost for Health Affairs of the J. Hillis Miller Health Center the teaching medical complex for the University of Florida, comprising schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, and the University teaching hospital.

In 1970 he spent a sabbatical year at the Harvard Medical School and the London School of Economics pursuing his interests in health services research. It was at this time that he was recruited to a newly organized Department of Community Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and at age 54 began his remarkable career at Penn.

Over the years, Dr. Martin has served as a consultant to the U.S. Public Health Service, the U.S. Office of Education, the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. For more than a decade he served on the Board of Directors of SmithKline Beckman Corporation. He also served as a consultant to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Revered by his colleagues and students, Dr. Martin enjoyed their awe and affection. At 6'4" he was an imposing figure. His long and varied career provided a wealth of stories, some told with tongue in cheek. A father figure to many young women and men in the medical profession, he will be remembered for his astute counsel and warm and gentle demeanor so reminiscent of the beloved country doctor. Always an innovator, he probed boundaries and constraints of conventional wisdom in search of creative resolutions for seemingly insurmountable problems in the American health care enterprise.

A memorial service will be announced in the fall for Dr. Martin, who is survived by his first wife, Ruth Campbell Martin, three children; Dr. Samuel Preston Martin IV, Dr. William Barry Martin, and Dr. Celia Martin and by five grandchildren. His second wife, Dorothy Everett Martin died in February 1996.

ATTACHMENT 2 - New Text: Pertinent Excerpts from “Charlie Baker George: The Story of Sabena OOCBG” by Mr. Frank Tibbo

St. Martin-in-the-Woods
Frank F. Tibbo
37 Raynham Avenue
Gander, NL
A1V 2J2
tel. 709-256-8388
******* COPYRIGHT *******

This book is dedicated to Dr. Samuel P. Martin III

This book was always meant to be called “St. Martin-in-the-Woods” after Dr. Sam Martin. The first publisher convinced me to agree (reluctantly) with the name “Charlie Baker George”. The reason the publisher did not want to change the name on this book was because people were calling and asking for the “Charlie” book.

If a person is fortunate in this life they will encounter some one special - some one who they had no idea existed – but now has become real. It is analogous to an astronomer finding a new star.

I read of Capt. Sam Martin when I was researching the reason for the crash of OO-CBG. The more I researched the more I became intrigued by the actions of this man - what he done with regard to the rescue of survivors. I just had to find out more. Was he still alive? Did he stay in the military medical corps? Did he go into private practice?

When I did discover that he was indeed alive and what he was doing I wondered if I should be so bold as to contact him. After all, this man - since the crash of 1946 - had become a prominent professor of medicine with a litany of awards and published papers. Would he have time to bother with such a matter after all these years? I was in for quite a surprise.

The manner in which he first spoke to me reminded me of a gentle giant. I told him that I was researching the crash with the intent of writing a book. He immediately took away any trepidation I had and said he would help me in any way possible. During the next few weeks he sent me a chapter of a book he was writing. The chapter was entitled, “The Affair at Gander” and contained a wealth of information concerning the rescue of the survivors. He and his wife came to Gander for the launching of the book and we were delighted that he agreed to stay at our home.

Samuel P. Martin, III, M.D., was Professor Emeritus of Medicine and Health Care Systems at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Wharton School until his death in May, 1996. From 1974-1978 he served as Executive Director of the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics.

As founding director of Penn's Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program, a position he held from 1974-1988, and as Co-director of the Charles A. Dana Scholars Program from 1984-1990, Dr. Martin mentored over 100 physicians, guiding their postdoctoral studies at the University of Pennsylvania and their careers in medicine.

Before joining Penn in 1971, Dr. Martin's distinguished career as a medical educator included faculty appointments at Duke University School of Medicine and the University of Florida, where he served as Head of the Department of Medicine and Provost for Health Affairs. Dr. Martin was a member of the Board of Directors of SmithKline Beecham Corporation and served as special consultant to a number of national graduate medical education advisory groups, including the U.S. Office of Education, American Association of Medical Colleges, and National Committee for Quality Health Care. From
1989-1993, he also served as Special Consultant to the Los Angeles School Board.

 Dr. Sankey V. Williams, Professor of General Internal Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania Medical Centre wrote to me after Dr. Martin’s death and said, in part, “Not only a gifted physician, Sam had an unparalleled ability to challenge the existing order and to promote some of the dynamic strides which we now take for granted in the teaching and practice of medicine. Specific to the University of Pennsylvania, his vision led to his participation in the development of the MBA Program in Health Care Management at the Wharton School. As you know, Sam also founded and directed Penn’s Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program and served as the Director of the Leonard Davis Institute for several years at its outset.

“Perhaps most importantly, Sam served as an incredible source of knowledge and motivation for the many young men and women who looked to him as a mentor. In speaking with a number of his friends and colleagues, I found that all were alike in remembering his dedication to his students and trainees. One young woman stated, ‘{Sam} believed answers were found in yourself. He opened your eyes, your ears, your mind, your soul. His stature, his voice resonated. He inspired allegiance.’ I can think of few better measures of a successful life and career than the loyalty that Sam inspired in all whose lives he touched.”

Note to readers

This is the second book which I have written about the crash of Sabena OOCBG. The first book was entitled Charlie Baker George and all copies of two printings were sold.

The reason I have written this book rather than reprint Charlie Baker George is because of additional information I have received. For instance one of the survivors, John King, with whom I had no contact prior to writing Charlie Baker George, contacted me and provided me with invaluable data.

October 7, 1992

Dear Mr. Tibbo,
The copy of your manuscript arrived.

I have had an opportunity to quickly read it. You have done an excellent job.

Thanks again for letting me see your manuscript. You have done a superb job. I think you have done so much to point out that there were many heroes or maybe everyone is a hero. I find in going through life, I am tired of the hero search we see so frequently and believe credit should be spread on a wider base. It doesn't sell news papers! The British Historian Trevelyan in his great book on English social history pointed out that heroes are the product of the work of many people, the socio-cultural process of society, and frequently have arrived at the right place at the right time.

If I can be of further help, please let me know. You have done a superb job!

Dr. Samuel P. Martin


January 9, 1994

Mr. Jean Libeert

Dear Jean
This last year brought a very interesting experience which I would like to share with you. Early in the year I received a phone call from a man named Frank Tibbo. He was a retired shift-manager of the Air Control Operation in Gander and a member of the town council in Gander. He asked if I was the Dr. Martin involved in the rescue of the passengers of Sabena Flight OO-CBG. He had been given my address by Jean Polak a survivor.

From this contact I found he was writing a book about the disaster. He sent me his material. After careful study, I was certain he was a serious scholar and had done an outstanding research job on the cause of the crash. I was very impressed by his work and felt he was the first to reach the real conclusions as to the nature of disaster. With this confidence in Mr. Tibbo, I sent him my collection of pictures and my own personal notes of the rescue. He incorporated some of this into his book, found a publisher and they went forward with a book. I am enclosing a copy of the book. I think it is very well done. I have shown it to a number of people and they also think he did a good job.

In August Dorothy and I went to Gander to meet Mr. Tibbo and his family. The visit was a confirmation of my views of him from a distance. He is devoted to aviation and improving this area of Newfoundland. He wants to be sure that Gander’s place in Aviation History is recorded and that there is a proper memorial to the pioneers of aviation.

While there we took a helicopter flight to the crash site. It was a very moving experience. I remembered that you and your mother had made a pilgrimage a number of years back. The site is very well maintained. The day we went there were about twenty people visiting the site on horse back. It is a beautiful and fitting way to memorialize both those lost and those who suffered but returned. For me it was a very moving experience. My mind was flooded with many memories, particularly the bravery of your mother.

Mr Tibbo and his fellow members of the City Government are planning a memorial in Gander to cover the History of Gander, its role in the War, and its place in aviation. Gander is probably the first town to grow from aviation. They are anxious to build a memorial for the passengers of this flight. I believe they are very dedicated people and will do a good job.

Sam (Samuel P. Martin, M.D.)

( Ed note: a more detailed account of the rescue is described in Frank Tibbo's book)

ATTACHMENT 3 – Justification for Award

In selecting the appropriate medal for Dr. Martin the following was considered:

His exemplary conduct during the period under consideration was of such to commend a level higher or at least equal to those that the rescue pilots had received.

Those medals (Air Medal and Distinguished Flying Cross) are for air crews only and Dr. Martin does not qualify. According to precedence, the Legion of Merit is one step above the DFC.

To look for a medal below the Legion of Merit one has to look at the Coast Guard medal (this does not apply as Dr. Martin was not a member of the CG); or the Gold Life Saving Medal (which is not appropriate as Dr. Martin was not a member of the CG nor was the event on or in the waters of the US or subject to US jurisdiction).

It is noted that from a search about the Legion of Merit, the first award of the Legion of Merit: Legionnaire's Degree was to LT Ann A. Bernatitus, USN (Nurse) for her heroic performance of duty at Bataan and Corregidor.

Currently, the award of a Legion of Merit is the award of choice for retirement and composes three quarters of all the medal’s presentations.

Your attention is invited to the criteria for award of medals as appropriate. Please note that the example of the Medal Citation that is page 2 of this presentation is the format the USCG Aviation History Website uses for the Roll of Valor in that the members service logo is upper left and the awarding service is upper right. We know this is not the true format, but wanted no confusion about what we are presenting to you.


Special thanks to the US Coast Guard Aviation Association for permission to reproduce this information


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