Richard Arnold Bauman, 80, a retired Coast Guard rear admiral and Merchant Marine officer who saw duty in World War II and in Vietnam, died Feb. 15 of cancer at his home in Annandale.
Adm. Bauman was born in Fitchburg, Mass., and graduated from what is now the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in 1943. He began his career in the Merchant Marine as third mate on the liberty ship Stephen C. Foster, which offloaded bombs on Omaha Beach at Normandy from shortly after D-Day in June 1944 until that September.
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He served in the Merchant Marine for 14 years, the last nine as "a coal boat stiff" on boats plying the Atlantic Coast. He remained a Merchant Marine officer until he joined the Coast Guard in 1957.
In the Coast Guard, he was commissioned a lieutenant, and in 1967 became commanding officer of a Coast Guard division operating out of Da Nang, Vietnam. He took part in the coastal patrol portion of Operation Market Time and was the inshore division commander on Feb. 29, 1968, when his squadron intercepted and destroyed a North Vietnamese steel-hulled trawler at Cape Mia in southern Vietnam. The munitions-laden trawler exploded after being fired on by Adm. Bauman's cutter, the Point Welcome.
"That's the closest I ever came to buying it," he told friends.
He retired as commander of the 1st Coast Guard District in Boston in 1983. His decorations included the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star with Combat "V" and two awards of the Meritorious Service Medal. He was a graduate of the National War College.
In retirement, he joined other volunteers in the effort to save the John W. Brown, a World War II liberty ship. For 36 years, the ship had been a floating vocational high school in New York City and then was on the James River for five years as part of the National Reserve Fleet. Adm. Bauman and his fellow volunteers restored it.
"He got down in the holds and cleaned out the muck right alongside everybody else," fellow volunteer Ernie Imhoff said. Berthed in Baltimore Harbor, where its keel had been laid in 1942, the Brown is one of only two liberty ships that are still operational.
Adm. Bauman was a noted lighthouse expert and had climbed 680 of the 740 lighthouses in the United States. The high point of his lighthouse research occurred in 1994, when he participated in the relighting of the U.S.-operated lighthouse on Navassa Island off the coast of Haiti.
He also collected the "Steve Canyon" comic strip and had every one of the daily and Sunday strips from 1948 to 1990. Responding to a request from Mrs. Bauman, cartoonist Milton Caniff researched the service ribbons for which his comic-strip creation Steve Canyon was eligible and included them, for the first time, in a drawing that he presented to Adm. Bauman as a welcome-home gift when he returned from Vietnam in 1968.
Adm. Bauman's wife, Dorothy H. Bauman, died in 1998.
Survivors include four children, Richard A. Bauman Jr. of Pikesville, Md., Robert A. Bauman of Arlington, William L. Bauman of Falls Church and Elizabeth Simpson of Longwood, Fla.; two sisters; a brother; and three grandchildren.