Adm. Owen W. Siler, 85, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard from 1974 to 1978, died from heart failure July 17 at St. Joseph's hospital in Atlanta.
A World War II veteran, Siler served in combat duty aboard two ships in the Pacific and participated in the occupation of Northern Honshu, Japan, following Japan's surrender. His Coast Guard career highlights included serving as a deck officer afloat, as an aviator performing search and rescue patrols, and ashore in the law enforcement, marine safety and environmental protection fields. Other assignments included chief of the search and rescue branch in Juneau, Alaska, deputy chief of staff in Washington, and commanding officer at Air Station Miami, where the station received a Coast Guard unit commendation for Cuban exodus operations during October and November of 1965.
During Siler's his tenure as commandant he instituted a minority recruiting program and was instrumental in having women admitted to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy
, making it the first of the military service academy to do so. He also oversaw the expansion of the Coast Guard's marine environmental protection program, with the passage of the Fisheries Conservation and Management Act of 1976, to include an increase of the service's jurisdiction along the nation's coastline to more than two million square miles.
Under Siler's leadership the Coast Guard transformed from a humanitarian service to an organization that was recognized as a leader in marine environmental protection, a highly effective law enforcement agency and a conservation-conscious protector of marine resources
After retiring from the Coast Guard with 35 years of service, Siler moved with his wife to The Landings on Skidaway Island in Savannah, Ga., where he was an active member of St. John's Episcopal Church, the Rotary Club of Savannah South, the Propeller Club, the Navy League
and the World Affairs Council.
Born in Seattle, Wash., Siler graduated from Santa Maria High School in 1938 and from the Coast Guard Academy in 1943. He received a Master of Science degree in International Affairs from George Washington University
Surviving are his wife, Betty W. Siler of Savannah; son Gregory John and his wife Terri Siler of Columbia, Md; daughter Marsha and her husband James V. Antista of Tallahassee, Fla.; grandchildren David Wesley and wife Karen, Wesley Howard and wife Nessie, Christopher Justin Antista and Lauren Elizabeth Antista; and great-grandchildren Alexandria Siler and Nicholas Owen Siler.
Flowers can be sent to Fox and Weeks Funeral Home in Savannah, and remembrances may be made to the Coast Guard Academy, the American Heart Association, or St. John's Episcopal Church.