The destruction and subsequent sinking of the USS Serpens was the single largest loss of life for the U.S. Coast Guard during the Second World War. A total of 250 servicemen lost their lives when the ammunition ship exploded off Guadalcanal in January 1945, including 193 Coast Guardsmen. The military initially attributed the incident to enemy action, but it was later determined to have been a tragic accident. The vessel exploded while the crew was loading depth charges. The remains of those who died were originally buried in the military cemetery on Guadalcanal. They were repatriated in 1949.
The remains were interred in Arlington on June 15, 1949 near MacArthur Circle. They were enclosed in 52 caskets and buried in 28 gravesites. A Gold Star Mother placed a white carnation on each casket. Two additional gravesites in the center of the grouping were reserved for a monument bearing the names of those who perished in the explosion. This octagonal granite monument was erected in 1950. The top of the monument has an inscription that honors the fallen servicemen. Each panel is inscribed in turn with an alphabetical listing of the names of those who died along with their rank and branch of service. The gravesite is the second largest mass burial site in Arlington National Cemetery.