The US Coast Guard was established on August 4, 1790. Congress reached an agreement to build ten ships with the charge of protecting the country’s revenue and enforcing trade laws, and also to prevent smuggling. It is the longest seagoing service in the US. Originally known as Revenue-Marine, its formal name became the US Coast Guard in 1915.
Today, the US Coast Guard is responsible for protecting our coastlines and waterways, the environment, US economic interests, and national security. The US Coast Guard is considered first responders to terrorism threats to coastal waterways and seaports. In fact, their Safety and Response Teams train alongside Navy SEALS.
The US Coast Guard also has its own Anti-Terrorism Team. The team was formed in 2002 in response to 9/11 and is known as the Maritime Safety and Security Team. With over 100,000 miles of coastline, the Coast Guard stays busy. On an annual basis, they conduct around 15,000 search and rescue events.
Icebergs continue to be a danger to ships at sea. After the Titanic disaster, the International Ice Patrol was formed to patrol the waters.
Although considered one of the US military branches, the US Coast Guard is actually part of the Department of Homeland Security. In the past, they were part of the Treasury Department and the Department of Transportation. If needed, however, the Coast Guard can be transitioned to the US Navy, which occurred during World War I and II. Today, active-duty members number around 40,000, with about 1,200 deployed abroad. The smallest of the US military branches, the US Coast Guard is the 12th largest naval force in the world.
What’s an average day for the US Coast Guard? Consider this partial list of daily statistics from maritime-executive.com:
- 10 lives saved
- 45 search and rescues conducted
- $1.2 million in property saved
- 35 investigations of pollution
- 26 safety inspections on foreign vessels
- 360 merchant screenings for security threats before reaching US ports
- $8.7 billion in goods and commodities run through maritime transportation
- 14 environmental fishery inspections conducted
Dogs are also members of the Coast Guard, used to detect explosive devices. One dog, in particular, stands out in Coast Guard history – Sinbad. Sinbad served aboard the George W. Campbell for eleven years and was awarded six service medals for his actions.
During World War II, Douglas A. Munro, Signalman 1st Class of the Coast Guard team at Guadalcanal, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism and sacrifice during that battle. His final words, “Did they get off?” are legendary.
The Coast Guard has had many well-known figures serving in its ranks over the years. Alan Hale, Jr. served; he really was a skipper after all. Arnold Palmer, Blake Edwards, Humphrey Bogart (think his Coast Guard experience helped him on The African Queen?), and Walter Cronkite.
When considering service, the US Coast Guard offers a vast array of options and opportunities to consider.
Happy Birthday, Coast Guard! Thank you for your service and protection through the years!