So Others May Live is the story of the U.S. Coast Guard's quiet but resolute rescue swimmers. The heroic stories, told through the eyes of the heroes, reveal an understanding of how and why the rescuer risks his or her life to save a stranger.
Author Martha J. LaGuardia-Kotite is a graduate of the US Coast Guard Academy. Her affection for the service is evident in the massive amount of research that went into creating this book. On top of providing students and researchers with Coast Guard history, Ms. Kotite presents a series of action-packed stories that move and intrigue the reader. Packaged so that they can be appreciated in approximately hour long sessions, she shares the adventures, mishaps, mistakes, and successes of the various rescues the Coast Guard has attempted -- from the victim trapped in an Oregon cave as the water rises to the drama of people struggling to survive in an oil slick. The latter part of the book is about the thousands of rescues in Katrina. The author discusses the emotional trauma suffered by the rescuers when rescue wasn't possible.
She also explores the evolution of rescue techniques over time. The Coast Guard trained with the Navy at first, then built their own school for the specialized jobs they needed. For example, at first they used the standard air-sea helicopter technique of dropping lines or baskets to men flailing about in water. Then they realized that many are too weak or scared to be plucked from their tenuous situations by those methods. They developed an approach that involved dropping a swimmer to tether the victims to the hoisting devices. They also tried dragging the harnessed rescuer through the waves from person to person. All these techniques have problems associated with them, but all have been used when situations allow.
The sad reality is, of course, that while everyone wants to save those in danger, there is a cost to such endeavors. The goal for those who deal in the tragedies of others is to not make things worse. It does no good to jump into boiling seas when the chances of recovery are low and the risk of losing the rescuer is high. Bodies, equipment, helicopters have limited capacities. The author introduces the real people behind these dilemmas -- they have lives and significant others and kids. This fact is sobering and makes the work of these everyday folks all the more impressive.
The publication is slick and professional. The cover shows a helicopter lowering a figure into heavy seas at night. Moody in hues of gray and blue, it attracts the reader and the book delivers its promise. This book is appropriate for military historians and those who are interested in the Coast Guard and the Navy.
Reviewed by: Buddy Cox (2010)
So Others May Live is the untold story of the U.S. Coast Guard's quiet but resolute rescue swimmers, pilots and flight mechanics. From deep ocean caves on the Oregon coast to the panicked and chaotic streets of post-Katrina New Orleans, here are their stunningly heroic stories, some the greatest maritime rescues attempted since the program began in 1985. These feats, told through the eyes of the heroes, reveal an understanding of how and why the rescuer, with flight crew assistance, risks his or her own life to reach out to save a stranger.