Philip Merrill Hildebrandt, a retired career Coast Guard officer and pilot who spotted icebergs, died of stroke complications Wednesday at the Larkin Chase Center in Bowie. A resident of Sunderland in Southern Maryland, he was 81.
Born in Baltimore and raised in Waverly, he was a Polytechnic Institute graduate. He entered the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., where he won the McMillan Cup for sailing.
During World War II, Mr. Hildebrandt served on a cutter in the Philippines and off Japan. He was later assigned to the Atlantic Weather Patrol and the International Ice Patrol.
Family members said one of his duties as a Coast Guard pilot was dropping a wreath each April on the anniversary of the Titanic sinking, at the spot where the passenger liner sunk. He also worked on experiments aimed at melting or destroying icebergs that endangered shipping.
"He would talk about how they could never melt or blow up an iceberg," said his son, Philip M. Hildebrandt of Baltimore.
Mr. Hildebrandt also held posts in the Gulf of Mexico and on the Eastern seaboard before retiring in 1970. He later owned and operated a marine hardware business in Camp Springs.
In retirement, Mr. Hildebrandt was a volunteer water-quality tester for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. He also taught boating safety for the Coast Guard Auxiliary in Southern Maryland.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at All Saints Episcopal Church, 100 Lower Marlboro Road, Sunderland.
Survivors include his wife of 56 years, the former Margaret Gordon; another son, John S. Hildebrandt of Greenville, N.C.; two daughters, Margaret A. McClelland of St. Leonard and Grace B. Dowell of Sunderland; a brother, John B. Hildebrandt of Silver Spring; 11 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.