The U.S. Coast Guard… is the country’s oldest continuous seagoing service, yet not much is said about the incredible service of these defenders.
The Coast Guard was founded as the U.S. Revenue Cutters in 1790 by Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton to patrol the coasts to stop smuggling. Cutters were involved in the War of 1812, the Seminole Wars, the Civil War, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War and the Spanish-American War, including the Battle of Manila Bay in the Philippines.
In January 1915, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Act to Create the Coast Guard, combining the U.S. Life-Saving Service with the Revenue Cutter Service and designating U.S. Coast Guard as a branch of the U.S. military branch.
Coast Guard personnel have served during both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Desert Shield, Operation Iraqi Freedom and were in Afghanistan to inspect military supply containers going in and out of the country.
Some of the Coast Guard’s duties include ports, waterways, and coastal security, drug interdiction, aid to navigation, search and rescue, marine safety, defense readiness, migrant interdiction and other law enforcement.
Besides chasing smugglers and pirates, the Revenue Cutter Service was tasked with shutting down the slave trade from Africa. By the start of the Civil War in 1861, it had captured a number of slave traffickers and freed almost 500 slaves. Coast Guard cryptologists deciphered Unit 387 intercepted more than 10,000 encrypted messages from 65 German spy rings during WWII and cracked 8,500 of the coded messages. In 1957, as the Cold War with the Soviet Union heightened, three Coast Guard cutters — Storis, Spar and Bramble — and one Canadian ice-breaker, HMCS Labrador, charted a path through the Northwest Passage for vessels supplying construction of 50 Distant Early Warning stations.
Policing the April-to-October 1980 Mariel boatlift (a mass emigration of Cubans, who escaped from Cuba’s Mariel Harbor to the United States) was the Coast Guard’s largest peacetime operation. Approximately 125,000 undocumented Cuban refugees crossed the Straits of Florida to South Florida in 5,000 boats with just 27 lives lost at sea.
During Operation Iraqi Freedom, more than 1,000 Coast Guard personnel, a 378-foot high- endurance cutter, an oceangoing buoy tender, four 110-foot patrol boats, four port security units and two law enforcement detachments were deployed to the Arabian Gulf. In 2015 the Coast Guard in seized or disrupted a record 190 tons of cocaine and detained 700 smugglers.
Semper Paratus Always Ready
I will include more “Coasties” stories in the future for Warrior Wednesdays as I do other branches and individuals, and thank you to Alienmotives for the reminder that the U.S. Coast Guard is replete with their own share of heroes.
That said, I didn’t write the following, which is good, because some stories deserve to be told by those ‘who were there’. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.
REMEMBER THE FRIGATES
by Charles Isaacs
(Somewhere in the Pacific)
Excerpted from U.S. Coast Guard Magazine, October, 1944
Aboard a Coast Guard Frigate off New Guinea – You probably haven’t seen anything about them in the newspapers unless you read the small print and probably they were left out of that or referred to as Navy escort vessels. The crews really don’t care. Out here where a liberty “one in two months” means a few minutes to climb a tree and pick a coconut, newspapers and clippings are unimportant. The hundreds of Coast Guardsmen manning the frigates in the Southwest Pacific don’t mind being out of the headlines. They’re doing a lot of little jobs that add up to more than a few big ones.
Participating in the initial occupations of Hollandia and Aitape, pouring thousands of rounds of shells into Jap dumps and concentrations at Wadke, taking pot shots at Jap planes off the New Guinea coast, convoying tons of men and equipment to New Britain, Biak and Admiralty Islands and hundreds of thousand of miles of anti-submarine patrol and escort duty performed efficiently these past months in the combat areas doesn’t make headlines, but does bring wars to an end.
Sure, the people at home still write and ask if we’re doing beach patrol in Australia, and when a frigate ties up to a tanker for a drink a little sawed-off sub-chaser will putt by and gobs will yell, “Hooligans!” The Coast Guardsmen yell back, “which side of that thing does the cement come out of?” And civil war is on. The gun watches on the fantail eat smoke and curse the damn straight stack and, down below in berthing quarters, sweat doesn’t drip from your body; it runs.
These Coast Guardsmen don’t mind that too much. They used to be sand-pounders on beach patrol, truck drivers at shore stations, coxuns on picket boats and instructors at “boot” camps. But now they’re salty. They’ve grimly endured the monotonous days of New Guinea anti-sub patrol waiting for something that happened too seldom to relieve tense nerves and edgy dispositions. They’ve scanned the horizons anxiously and watched the skies determinedly as their ship’s nose poke into the exploding inlets and channels of Biak Island. To the raucous scream of the general alarm they’ve rushed to their guns eighteen times in twenty-four hours. They’ve sat quietly in the steaming rain, sweat and heat of the Schouten Islands waiting for Jap planes to pop over the mountain ridges. They’re frigate sailors now! As they sail their ships and man their guns along the stepping stones that used to be Japan’s they know they aren’t in the newspapers. But they don’t mind. There isn’t much time to read newspapers anyway, when you’re doing a lot of little jobs that don’t make headlines, but do bring wars to an end!
God bless our Troops and Veterans. Thank you all for your exceptional Service!