History of the United States Coast Guard

History of the United States Coast Guard

The history of the United States Coast Guard goes back to the Revenue Cutter Service, which was founded on August 4, 1790 as part of the Department of the Treasury. The Revenue Cutter Service and the United States Life-Saving Service were merged to become the Coast Guard per USC|14|1 which states: "The Coast Guard as established January 28, 1915, shall be a military service and a branch of the armed forces of the United States at all times." In 1939, the United States Lighthouse Service was merged into the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard itself was moved to the Department of Transportation in 1967, and on February 25, 2003 it became part of the Department of Homeland Security. However, under USC|14|3 as amended by section 211 of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2006, upon the declaration of war and when Congress so directs in the declaration, or when the President directs, the Coast Guard operates as a service in the Department of the Navy.

Early history

The Coast Guard's predecessor service, the Revenue Cutter Service, was founded on August 4, 1790, when the Tariff Act permitted construction of ten cutters and recruitment of 100 revenue officers. From 1790, when the Continental Navy was disbanded, to 1798, when the United States Navy was created, the Revenue Cutter Service provided the only armed American presence on the sea. Revenue Marine cutters were involved in the Quasi-War with France from 1798 to 1799, the War of 1812, and the Mexican-American War.

Another predecessor service, the U.S. Lighthouse Service, was organized by statute in 1911. The predecessor to the Lighthouse Service was the United States Lighthouse Board established in 1852.

In 1794, the Revenue Cutter Service was given the mission of preventing trading in slaves from Africa to the United States. Between 1794 and 1865, the Service captured approximately 500 slave ships. In 1808, the Service was responsible for enforcing President Thomas Jefferson's embargo closing U.S. ports to European trade.

The Coast Guard's [http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-cp/comrel/factfile/Factcards/Resources.html role] in environmental protection dates back more than 185 years to the 1822 Timber Act that tasked the Revenue Cutter Service with protecting government timber from poachers.

During the American Civil War, the Revenue Service cutter "Harriet Lane" fired the first shots of the war at sea at the steamer "Nashville" during the siege of Fort Sumter. A Confederate Revenue Marine was formed by crewmen who left the Revenue Cutter Service. Upon the order of President Lincoln to the Secretary of the Treasury on June 14, 1863, Federal cutters were assigned to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron.

In the 1880s through the 1890s, the Revenue Cutter Service was instrumental in the development of Alaska. Captain "Hell Roaring" Michael A. Healy, master of the USRC "Bear", greatly assisted a program that brought reindeer to Alaska to provide a steady food source. Healy had the reputation as a rough sailing master and was court-martialed several times, but was restored to rank again and again. In the winter of 1897-1898, the reindeer and lieutenants in the Revenue Cutter Service participated in the Overland Expedition to help starving trapped whalers. During the Snake River gold rush of 1900, the Revenue Cutter Service returned destitute miners to Seattle from Alaska.

The Coast Guard took its unofficial motto, "You have to go out, but you don't have to come back," from the 1899 regulations of the United States Life Saving Service, which stated:

:"In attempting a rescue the keeper will select either the boat, breeches buoy, or life car, as in his judgment is best suited to effectively cope with the existing conditions. If the device first selected fails after such trial as satisfies him that no further attempt with it is feasible, he will resort to one of the others, and if that fails, then to the remaining one, and he will not desist from his efforts until by actual trial the impossibility of effecting a rescue is demonstrated. The statement of the keeper that he did not try to use the boat because the sea or surf was too heavy will not be accepted unless attempts to launch it were actually made and failed [underlining added] , or unless the conformation of the coast—as bluffs, precipitous banks, etc.—is such as to unquestionably preclude the use of a boat."

These regulations were repeated in the 1934 Coast Guard regulations.

Birth of the modern Coast Guard

In 1915, the Revenue Cutter Service, the Life-saving Service were merged to form the Coast Guard. The Lighthouse Service was merged into the Coast Guard in 1939. On February 28, 1942, the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation was transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard [http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-cp/history/Steamboat_Inspection_Service_Overview.html] .


In the 1920s, the Coast Guard was given several former U.S. Navy four-stack destroyers to help enforce Prohibition. The effort was not entirely successful, due to the slowness of the destroyers. However, the mission provided many Coast Guard officers and petty officers with operational experience which proved invaluable in World War II. The Navy's epithet of "Hooligan Navy" dates from this era, due to the Coast Guard's flexibility in enlisting men discharged from other services to rapidly expand; it has endured due to the high proportion of prior-other-service enlisteds, and become a term of pride within the service.

The 1930s

Increasing regulation of merchant shipping

In June 1932, the Steamboat Inspection Service was merged with the Bureau of Navigation, itself created in 1884 to oversee the regulation of merchant seamen, on June 30, 1932.

In 1934, the passenger vessel "SS Morro Castle" suffered a serious fire off the coast of New Jersey, which ultimately claimed the lives of 124 passenger and crew. The casualty prompted new fire protection standards for vessels and paved the way for the Act of May 27, 1936, which reorganized and changed the name of the Bureau of Navigation and Steamboat Inspection Service to the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation.

Marine inspection and navigation duties under the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation were temporarily transferred to the Coast Guard by executive order on February 28, 1942. This transfer of duties fit well with the Coast Guard's port safety and security missions, and was made permanent in 1946. [Statement of Admiral Thad w. Allen on the Challenges facing the Coast Guard's Marine Safety Program, Delivered before the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. August 2, 2007. https://www.piersystem.com/go/doc/786/166737/ Work of the United States government (public domain)]

Carl von Paulsen rescue

Lieutenant Commander Carl von Paulsen set the seaplane "Arcturus" in a heavy sea in January 1933 off Cape Canaveral and rescued a boy adrift in a skiff. The aircraft sustained so much damage during the open water landing that it could not take off. Ultimately, "Arcturus" washed onto the beach and all including the boy were saved. Commander Paulsen was awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal for this rescue. [ “Top Ten Coast Guard Rescues.”, op. cit. ]

1937 Mississippi River flood

During the disastrous 1937 Mississippi River flood, the Coast Guard rescued a total of 43,853 persons who they “removed from perilous positions to places of safety". Additionally, they saved 11,313 head of livestock and furnished transportation for 72 persons in need of hospitalization. In all 674 Coast Guardsmen and 128 Coast Guard vessels and boats served in the relief operations. The immense scope of the operations actually eclipsed the number of persons that the Coast Guard rescued during the Hurricane Katrina operations. [ “Top Ten Coast Guard Rescues.”, op. cit. ]

The 1940s

World War II

Before the American entry into World War II, cutters of the Coast Guard patrolled the North Atlantic. In January 1940 President Roosevelt directed the establishment of the Atlantic Weather Observation Service using Coast Guard cutters and U.S. Weather Bureau observers. [Ocean Weather Ships 1940-1980, Capt. R. P. Dinsmore, USCG (Ret.) http://www.uscg.mil/History/webcutters/rpdinsmore_oceanstations.html]

After the invasion of Denmark by Germany in April, 1940, President Roosevelt ordered the International Ice Patrol to continue as a legal pretext to patrol Greenland, whose cryolite mines were vital to refining aluminum and whose geographic location allowed accurate weather forecasts to be made for Europe. The Greenland patrol was maintained by the Coast Guard for the duration of the war.

The USCGC Modoc (WPG-46), was peripherally involved in the chase and sinking of the German battleship "Bismarck".

Shortly after Germany declared war on the United States, German submarines began Operation Drumbeat "("Paukenschlag")," sinking ships off the American coast. Many Coast Guard cutters were involved in rescue operations following German attacks on American shipping. The USCGC "Icarus", a 165-foot (50 m) cutter that previously had been a rumrunner chaser during Prohibition, sank "U-352" on May 9, 1942, off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, and took 33 prisoners, the first Germans taken in combat by any U.S. force.

The USCGC "Thetis" sank "U-157" on June 10, 1942. During the war, Coast Guard units sank 12 German and two Japanese submarines and captured two German surface vessels.

Coast Guardsmen also patrolled the shores of the United States during the war. On June 13, 1942, Seaman Second Class John Cullen, patrolling the beach in Amagansett New York, discovered the first landing of German saboteurs in Operation Pastorius. Cullen was the first American who actually came in contact with the enemy on the shores of the United States during the war and his report led to the capture of the German sabotage team. For this, Cullen received the Legion of Merit. [http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-cp/cb/PDFs/Sept_2005.pdf] .

In addition to antisubmarine operations, the Coast Guard worked closely with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. Many of the coxswains of American landing craft, such as the Higgins boat (LCVP), used in amphibious invasions were Coast Guardsmen who had received amphibious training with the cooperation of the U.S. Marine Corps. Coast Guard cutters and ships partially manned by Coast Guardsmen were used in the North African invasion of November 1942 (Operation Torch) and the invasion of Sicily in 1943 (Operation Husky).

In November 1942, legislation was passed creating the Coast Guard Women's Reserve, also known as the SPARS. Led by Captain Dorothy C. Stratton, around 11,000 women served in various stateside positions, freeing men for overseas duty.

On February 3, 1943 the torpedoing of the transport "Dorchester" off the coast of Greenland saw cutters "Comanche" and "Escanaba" respond. The frigid water gave the survivors only minutes to live in the cold North Atlantic. With this in mind, the crew of Escanaba used a new rescue technique when pulling survivors from the water. This "retriever" technique used swimmers clad in wet suits to swim to victims in the water and secure a line to them so they could be hauled onto the ship. Escanaba saved 133 men (one died later) and Comanche saved 97. [Office of Public Affairs, U.S. Coast Guard. “Top Ten Coast Guard Rescues.” July 31, 2007, http://www.piersystem.com/go/doc/786/166402/]

During the Normandy invasion of June 6, 1944, a 60-cutter flotilla of wooden 83-foot (25 m) Coast Guard cutters, nicknamed the "Matchbox Fleet", cruised off all five landing beaches as combat search-and-rescue boats, saving 400 Allied airmen and sailors. Division O-1, including the Coast Guard-manned USS "Samuel Chase", landed the U.S. Army's 1st Infantry Division on Omaha Beach. Off Utah Beach, the Coast Guard manned the command ship USS "Bayfield". Several Coast Guard-manned landing craft were lost during D-Day to enemy fire and heavy seas. In addition, a cutter was beached during the storms off the Normandy coast which destroyed the U.S.-operated artificial harbor.

The USCGC "Taney", a notable World War II era High Endurance Cutter, is the only warship still afloat today that was present for the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, although she was actually stationed in nearby Honolulu.

On August 27, 1944, the all Coast Guard-manned USS LST-327 struck a mine or was torpedoed while crossing the English Channel. 22 Coast Guardsmen were killed.

On September 12, 1944, the Liberty ship "George Ade" was torpedoed by a German U-boat off Cape Hatteras, N.C. CGC Jackson and CGC Bedloe, heading to assist the survivors of the Ade, were caught in the Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944 the day after, sinking both cutters and killing 48 Coast Guardsmen. A U.S. Navy seaplane rescued the survivors. (PA2 Judy Silverstein, "Adrift: A CGC Jackson survivor recounts his harrowing survival at sea", Coast Guard Magazine 2/2006, pp. 28-31. [http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-cp/cb/PDFs/Issue_2_2006.pdf pdf] [https://www.piersystem.com/go/doc/586/89781/?printerfriendly=1 html] )

On January 29, 1945, the "USS Serpens (AK-97)", a Coast Guard manned Liberty ship, exploded off Guadalcanal, Solomons Islands, while loading depth charges. 193 Coast Guardsmen, 56 Army stevedores, and one U.S. Public Health Service member were killed in the explosion. This was the biggest single disaster to befall the Coast Guard during WW2. [http://www.uss-serpens.org/ USS Serpens home page]

As was common during this period, many of Hollywood's able-bodied screen stars became enlistees and left their film careers on hiatus in order to support the national defense. Specifically, actors Gig Young, Cesar Romero, and Richard Cromwell all served admirably in various capacities in the USCG in the Pacific for several years.

Douglas Munro

Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro (1919–1942), the only Coast Guardsman to receive the Medal of Honor, earned the decoration during World War II as a small boat coxswain during the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942. A Navy destroyer escort, USS Douglas A. Munro (DE-422), was named in his honor in 1944. The cutter USCGC Munro (WHEC-724) was commissioned in 1971, and is still on active service.

Bermuda Sky Queen rescue

On October 14, 1947, the American-owned flying boat Bermuda Sky Queen, carrying sixty-nine passengers was flying from Foynes, Ireland to Gander, Newfoundland. Gale force winds had slowed her progress and she was running low on fuel. Too far from Newfoundland and unable to make it back to Ireland, the captain, Charles Martin, twenty-six-year-old ex-Navy pilot, decided to fly toward the cutter "Bibb" which was on Ocean Station Charlie in the North Atlantic. The plane’s captain decided to ditch and have his passengers and crew picked up by "Bibb". In 30-foot (10 m) seas, the transfer was both difficult and dangerous. Initially the "Bibb’s" captain, Capt. Paul B. Cronk, tried to pass a line to the plane which taxied to the lee side of the cutter. A collision with the cutter ended this attempt to save the passengers. With worsening weather, a fifteen man rubber raft and a small boat were deployed from the ship. The raft was guided to the escape door of the aircraft. Passengers jumped into the raft which was then pulled to the boat. After rescuing 47 of the crew, worsening conditions and the approach of darkness forced the rescue’s suspension. By dawn, improved weather allowed the rescue to resume and the remaining passengers and crew were transferred to the "Bibb". The rescue made headlines throughout the country and upon their arrival in Boston, "Bibb" and her crew received a hero’s welcome for having saved all those aboard the ditched Bermuda Sky Queen. [ Office of Public Affairs, U.S. Coast Guard. "Top Ten Coast Guard Rescues". http://www.piersystem.com/go/doc/786/166402/, accessed 2007-08-02]

This event spurred ratification of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) treaty establishing a network of ocean weather stations in 1947. A second conference in 1949 reduced the number of Atlantic stations to ten but provided for three Pacific stations. [Disnmore, Ocean Weather Ships 1940-1980, op. cit.]

Enlisted training center

An enlisted training center was established in Cape May in 1948 and all recruit training functions were consolidated in this facility in 1982, when the West Coast recruit center at Government Island (Alameda), California was closed, the facility repurposed and the island renamed. (See Coast Guard Island).

The 1950s

Pendleton rescue

On February 18, 1952, during a severe "nor’easter" off the New England coast, the T2 tankers SS Fort Mercer and SS Pendleton broke in half. The Pendleton was unable to make any distress call; it was discovered on the unusual shore radar with which the Chatham, Massachusetts, Lifeboat Station was equipped during the search for the Fort Mercer. ["The Pendleton Rescue" by Captain W. Russell Webster, USCG, December 2001 Naval Institute Proceedings (Vol 127, pp. 66-69) http://www.uscg.mil/history/Pendleton_Webster.html] BM1 Bernard C. Webber, coxswain of motor lifeboat CG-36500 from Station Chatham and his crew, consisting of; Andrew Fitzgerald, Richard Livesey, and Ervin Maske, rescued the crew of the stricken tanker Pendleton, which had broken in half. Webber maneuvered the 36-footer under the Pendleton's stern with expert skill as the tanker's crew, trapped in the stern section, abandoned the remains of their ship on a Jacob's ladder. One by one, the men jumped into the water and then were pulled into the lifeboat. Webber and his crew saved 33 of the 34 Pendleton crewmen. Webber, Fitzgerald, Livesey and Maske were awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal for their heroic actions. In all, U .S. Coast Guard vessels, aircraft, and lifeboat stations, working under severe winter conditions, rescued and removed 62 persons from the foundering ships or from the water with a loss of only five lives. Five Coast Guardsmen earned the Gold Lifesaving Medal, four earned the Silver Lifesaving Medal, and 15 earned the Coast Guard Commendation Medal. [Office of Public Affairs, U.S. Coast Guard. “Top Ten Coast Guard Rescues.” July 31, 2007, http://www.piersystem.com/go/doc/786/166402/] The rescue of men from the bow of the Fort Mercer was nearly as spectacular as the Pendleton rescue,but is often over-shadowed by the Pendleton rescue. Eight officers and crew were trapped on the bow of the Fort Mercer and four were rescued using rafts and a Monomoy surfboat. By contrast, all aboard the bow of the Pendleton perished.

Korean War

During the Korean War, Coast Guard officers helped arrange the evacuation of the Korean Peninsula during the initial North Korean attack. On August 9, 1950, Congress enacted Public Law 679, known as the Magnuson Act. This act charged the Coast Guard with ensuring the security of the United States' ports and harbors on a permanent basis. In addition, the Coast Guard established a series of weather ships in the north Pacific Ocean and assisted civilian and military aircraft and ships in distress, and established a string of LORAN stations in Japan and Korea that assisted the United Nations forces.

The 1960s

The Coast Guard was active in the Vietnam War. Coast Guard Detachments 11, 12, and 13, under operational control of the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet, assisted in interdicting supply by sea of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces. Seven Coast Guardsmen were killed during the war in combat and search and rescue operations. In addition, several Coast Guard aviators served with the U.S. Air Force Aerospace Rescue and Recovery forces in Southeast Asia from 1968 to 1972.

In 1967, the Coast Guard adopted the red and blue "racing stripe" as part of the regular insignia for cutters, boats, and aircraft. It was recommended by the industrial design firm of Raymond Loewy/William Snaith, Inc. (who redesigned the exterior and interior of Air Force One during the Kennedy administration) to give Coast Guard units and vessels a distinctive appearance, as well as clearer recognition from a distance. [ [http://www.uscg.mil/history/Traditions.html Traditions of the U.S. Coast Guard ] ] This "racing stripe" was in turn adopted (in modified forms) by several other coast guards, in particular the Canadian Coast Guard.

The 1970s

(The "New Guard")

In the mid-70s the Coast Guard adopted the blue uniforms seen today, replacing Navy-style uniforms worn prior to the Vietnam War [http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-cp/history/Uniforms_CPO_Photos.html] . Known jocularly as "Bender's Blues," they were implemented as part of the postwar transition to an all-volunteer force. It is noteworthy that the enlisted's and officer's uniforms differed "only" in rank insignia and cap devices, reflecting the value the service placed on its enlisted members (although it caused saluting confusion among members of other services). The stylish new women's uniform was created by Hollywood costume designer Edith Head, upon the request of Capt. Eleanor L'Ecuyer. [http://www.sptimes.com/News/062700/Seniority/She_made_her_mark_on_.shtml]

Women were integrated into the Coast Guard during the 1970s, beginning with the end of the separate Women's Reserve (SPARS) in 1973, the modification of 378's for mixed-gender crews beginning in 1977, and the opening of all ratings to women in 1978. [http://www.uscg.mil/history/Women%20Chronology.html] These stages of integration preceded the DOD military by roughly a year or so, as separate legislation restricted their deployment of women.

Altogether, the shift from Treasury to the DOT in 1967, the uniform change, the end of Ocean Station service, growth of the shore-side establishment by newly added missions, the steady if belated retirement of venerable but aging WWII cutters, and gender integration marked the oft-lamented end of the "Old Guard" ("wooden ships and men of steel").

The Ancient Order of the Pterodactyl was founded in 1977 in order to preserve the history of Coast Guard aviation, as the service's last amphibious seaplane, the Grumman Albatross or "Goat," was nearing retirement, as was also the service's last enlisted pilot, John P. Greathouse. [http://www.pbase.com/donboyd/image/59585407] [http://www.fredsplace.org/obit/obituary.shtml]

End of ocean stations, beginning of the 200-mile limit

One major mission of the service, maintaining Ocean Stations, came to an end as improvements in oceanic aviation (turbojet airliners and improved radionavigation) obviated the need. However, the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act of 1976 brought an increase in offshore fisheries patrols, to which the newer WHECs (the 378s) were redeployed, as the aging boiler-powered WWII-vintage wooden-deckers were gradually retired.

The Kudirka incident

On November 23, 1970, Simonas "Simas" Kudirka, a Soviet seaman of Lithuanian nationality, leapt from the 400-foot (120 m) mother ship "Sovetskaya Litva", anchored in American waters (near Aquinnah, Massachusetts on Martha's Vineyard Island), aboard the USCGC "Vigilant", sailing from New Bedford. The Soviets accused Kudirka of theft of 3,000 rubles from the ship's safe. Ten hours passed; communications difficulties contributed to the delay, as the ship was unfortunately in a "blind spot" of Boston Radio's (Marshfield) receivers, resulting in an awkward resort to using the public marine operator.

After attempts to get the U.S. State Department to provide guidance failed, Rear Admiral William B. Ellis, commander of the First Coast Guard District, ordered Commander Ralph E. Eustis to permit a KGB detachment to board the "Vigilant" to return Kudirka to the Soviet ship. This led to a change in asylum policy by the U.S. Coast Guard. Admiral Ellis and his chief of staff were given administrative punishment under Article 15 of the UCMJ. Commander Eustis was given a non-punitive letter of reprimand and assigned to shore duty.

Kudirka was tried for treason by the Soviet Union and given a ten-year sentence in the Gulag. Subsequent investigations revealed that Kudirka could claim American citizenship through his mother and was allowed to come to the United States in 1974.

The incident, known for several years as the Coast Guard's "Day of Shame," was portrayed in a 1978 television movie, "The Defection of Simas Kudirka" ( [http://imdb.com/title/tt0077418/ IMDB] ), with Alan Arkin playing Kudirka and Donald Pleasence playing the captain of the Soviet ship.

The 1980s

The Blackthorn Tragedy

On January 28, 1980, the 180-ft buoy tender "CGC Blackthorn (WLB-391)" collided with the 605-foot oil tanker "S.S. Capricorn" and capsized when the Capricorn's anchor entangled the cutter. 23 Coast Guardsmen were drowned. Coming close behind the loss of 11 men in the collision/sinking of the OCS training ship "CGC Cuyahoga" [http://www.uscg.mil/HQ/RTC/Info/cuyahoga.shtm] (built in 1927 as a Prohibition patrol boat [http://www.uscg.mil/history/WEBCUTTERS/Cuyahoga1927.html] ), the impact of this disaster upon morale in the close-knit service was magnified. [Coast Guard Reserve Magazine, March 2000. "The 20th Anniversary of the CGC Blackthorn Tragedy" http://www.uscg.mil/RESERVE/magazine/mag2000/mar2000/blackthorn.htm ]

Prinsendam rescue

On October 4, 1980, the Coast Guard and Canadian Coast Guard were involved in the rescue of the passengers and crew of the Dutch cruise vessel MS|Prinsendam|1973|6 in the Gulf of Alaska.

A fire broke out on the Prinsendam off Ketchikan, Alaska on 4 October 1980. The Prinsendam was 130 miles from the nearest airstrip. The cruise ship’s captain ordered the ship abandoned and the passengers, many elderly, left the ship in the lifeboats. Coast Guard and Canadian helicopters and the cutters "Boutwell", "Mellon", and "Woodrush" responded in concert with other vessels in the area. The passenger vessel later capsized and sank. The rescue is particularly important because of the distance traveled by the rescuers, the coordination of independent organizations and the fact that all 520 passengers and crew were rescued without loss of life or serious injury. [ Public “Top Ten Coast Guard Rescues.”, op. cit]

The Mariel boatlift

In April, 1980, the government of Cuba began to allow any person who wanted to leave Cuba to assemble in Mariel Harbor and take their own transport. The U.S. Coast Guard, working out of Seventh District Headquarters in Miami, Florida, rescued boats in difficulty, inspected vessels for adequate safety equipment, and processed refugees. This task was made even more difficult by a hurricane which swamped many vessels in mid-ocean and by the lack of cooperation by Cuban Border Guard officials. By May, 600 reservists had been called up, the U.S. Navy provided assistance between Cuba and Key West, and the Auxiliary was heavily involved. 125,000 refugees were processed between April and May 1980. (See Mariel boatlift.)

The end of the lightships

The number of lightships steadily decreased during the 20th century, some replaced by "Texas Tower" type structures (e.g., Chesapeake, Buzzards Bay, both now automated) [http://www.uscg.mil/history/h_lightships.html] [http://www.uscg.mil/history/Lightship_Index.html] , and others by buoys. However, the Columbia River and Nantucket Shoals Lightships were not replaced by large navigational buoys (LNBs) until 1979 and 1983, respectively, due to the difficulty of anchoring buoys securely at their heavy-weather locations. [http://www.uscg.mil/history/h_lightships.html] [http://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=554] .

The technology of all aids to navigation evolved dramatically during this era, reducing manning and maintenance requirements. The Coast Guard also managed the worldwide VLF OMEGA Navigation System and operated two of its stations from the early 1970s until its termination in 1997 (having been superseded, though not truly obsoleted, by GPS).

The 1990s

In 1994, about 38,000 Cubans attempted to sail from Cuba to Florida, many on homemade rafts. The Coast Guard and Navy performed intensive search and rescue efforts to rescue rafters at sea. Sixteen 110 foot (34 m) cutters—half the complement of the Coast Guard—were involved in this operation, as well as buoy tenders not normally assigned to high seas duty. Due to a change in Presidential policy, rescued Cubans were sent to the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The 2000s

:"For details on the Coast Guard's response to the September 11, 2001 attacks, see Missions of the United States Coast Guard above."

In 2002, the Coast Guard sent several 110-foot (34 m) cutters to the Persian Gulf to enforce the U.N. embargo on goods to and from Iraq. Port Security Units and Naval Coastal Warfare units also accompanied the U.S. military buildup.

Also in 2002, the Coast Guard was transferred from the Transportation Department to the Homeland Security Department.

In September 2003, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld mooted transferring all military responsibilities of the Coast Guard to the Navy and assigning the Coast Guard purely homeland defense responsibilities.

On April 24, 2004, Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan B. Bruckenthal, 24, from the USS Firebolt (PC-10), became the first Coast Guard member to die in combat since the Vietnam War. He was killed in a suicide boat attack on a Basra oil terminal off the coast of Iraq. With his death, all branches of the military had seen at least one death in that war.

After Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, the Coast Guard dispatched a number of helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, small boats, and Auxiliary aircraft as well as 25 cutters to the Gulf Coast, rescuing 2,000 people in two days, and around 33,500 people in all. The crews also assessed storm damage to offshore oil platforms and refineries. More than 2,400 personnel from all districts conducted search, rescue, response, waterway reconstitution and environmental impact assessment operations. In total, the Coast Guard air and boat rescued more than 33,500 people and assisted with the joint-agency evacuation of an additional 9,400 patients and medical personnel from hospitals in the Gulf coast region.

In May 2006, at the Change of Command ceremony when Admiral Thad Allen took over as Commandant, President George W. Bush awarded the entire Coast Guard, including the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Presidential Unit Citation for its efforts after Hurricane Katrina.


The Integrated Deepwater System Program is designed to meet future threats to the U.S. from the sea. Although the program involves obtaining new ships and aircraft, Deepwater also involves upgraded information technology for command, control, communications and computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR).

A key part of the Deepwater system is the Maritime Security Cutter, Large (WMSL), which is designed to replace the 378-foot (115 m) high-endurance cutters currently on duty. This ship will have a length of 421 feet (128 m), be powered by a gas turbine engine with two auxiliary diesel engines, and be capable of 12,000 nautical mile (22,000 km) voyages lasting up to 60 days. The keel laying of the USCGC Bertholf (WMSL-750), the first ship in this class, took place in September 2004. The ship is scheduled to be delivered in 2007. The second keel, USCGC Waesche (WMSL-751), was laid in 2005.

Another key vessel is the Maritime Security Cutter, Medium (WMSM), which will be 341 ft (104 m) long, displace 2,921 tons (2968 tonnes), and be capable of 45-day patrols of up to 9,000 nautical miles (17,000 km). Both the WMSL and the WMSM cutters will be able to carry two helicopters or four VTOL Unmanned Air Vehicles (VUAVs), or a combination of these.

External links

* [http://www.uscg.mil/history/articles/h_USCGhistory.asp Official history]
* [http://www.uscg.mil/history/ Coast Guard Historian's Office Web site]
* [http://www.fredsplace.org Fred (Siegel)'s Place] Large reunion/buddy-search bulletin board, begun 1995
* [http://www.coastguardchannel.com/cgi-bin/content/trivia.pl Coast Guard Trivia] 125 historical questions at Coast Guard Channel
* [http://www.aug.edu/~libwrw/ Coast Guard Warriors - Part of the Mix] Historical vignettes by William R. Wells, II
**Plus [http://www.aug.edu/~libwrw/about_me.html#published articles]
* [http://www.semperparatus.com SemperParatus.com] Insignia collection, aviation images, miscellany, reading list
* [http://content.lib.washington.edu/cmpweb/exhibits/wwII/index.html World War II and the West End] Online exhibit of Lake Ozette, Washington facilities and personnel (U. of Wash. Libraries Digital Collections – Olympic Peninsula Community Museum)
*Joe Stevens' [http://www.kadiak.org/ Kadiak.org] Kodiak, Alaska military history site
*Oral Histories:
** [http://www.jacksjoint.com/ Jack's joint] Very extensive anecdotal collection by Jack Eckert
**Dozens of [http://www.uscg.mil/history/OralHistoryIndex.asp Oral Histories, Memoirs & Other First-Person Accounts] at the Coast Guard Historian's Office
**Ken Laesser's [http://www.laesser.org/ The Old Guard]
**Three memories at Rutgers School Department of History's [http://oralhistory.rutgers.edu/Interviews/indexes/unitsindex_coast_guard.html Oral History Archives]
** [http://www.vmi.edu/archives/Adams_Center/BurgerLC/BurgerLC_intro.asp Lloyd C. Berger] at the Virginia Military Institute
** [http://homepage.mac.com/seanmcphilamy/iblog/index.html Coast Guard history] section of Sean McPhilamy's Weblog


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  • Chaplain of the United States Coast Guard — Incumbent: CAPT Gary P. Weeden since: June 11, 2010 First Formation …   Wikipedia

  • United States Coast Guard — portal Active 4 August 1790–present …   Wikipedia

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  • United States Coast Guard Academy — USCGA redirects here. For other uses, see USCGA (disambiguation). United States Coast Guard Academy Motto Scientiæ cedit mare (The sea yields to knowledge) Established 1876/1915 …   Wikipedia