The United States Coast Guard

The history of the US Coast Guard is a little confusing. Hang in there and we’ll sort it out. Remember that “the Continental Navy”, America’s first real Navy, was established, as we saw last week, in 1775, to fight British naval vessels in our War for Independence. The “Continental Navy” was disbanded at the end of that war, “because there was no further need for a navy” HAHAHahaha … sorry. I lost control for a moment there.

After the “Continental Navy” was disbanded, and for years after it was re-established, the embryonic U.S. Coast Guard fought America’s naval battles, at first with civilian crews, then with Marines manning the ships, and then as a separate service, ultimately in conjunction with the newly re-established US Navy.

Whew! Got that?

Following material principally taken from Coast Guard Compass
“Written by William H. Thiesen, Coast Guard Atlantic Area Historian”
and Military Times Coast Guard History.

What became the Coast Guard, and ultimately a branch of America’s armed forces, was simply known as “the cutters” (a type of ship designed for speed). The cutter service was founded by America’s first Department of Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton. Starting out with civilian crews hired to enforce tariff laws, it soon changed character because of a tangled, ethically questionable diplomatic mess known as “the Quasi War”, which resulted in France preying on American shipping.

Marines were soon assigned to cutter duty, and they gained considerable experience, fighting in that “Quasi War” with France (1798-1800), the War of 1812 with (again) Britain, the Seminole Wars (1817-1818), the Mexican War (1846-1848), the War Between the States (1861-1865), and the Spanish-American War (April to December 1898).

Is that enough fighting to justify a Coast Guard? Yeah, I think so too. So did President Woodrow Wilson, in 1915. (Finally!)

Shore Patrol

Korean War Coast Guard Station
Cutter off coast of Vietnam

And over the years, like every other branch of the armed forces, came technological changes and an increase in strength:

Located within the Department of Homeland Security, the Coast Guard performs several critically important missions, from interdicting drug smugglers far out at sea to safeguarding the marine environment. However, the Coast Guard is also one of the nation’s five armed services, and has fought in every major American conflict since its founding in 1790.”

NORTH ARABIAN GULF (March 24, 2003)–A Coast Guardsman from Port Security Unit 313, from Tacoma, Wa., walks the catwalk at the Mina al Bakr oil terminal. Coast Guard Port Security Units are maintaining security on oil terminals. USCG photo by PA1 Tom Sperduto
UMM QUASR, Iraq (April 20, 2003)–Coast Guard Gunners Mate 2nd Class Randy K. VenSwencey, of Monterey, Ca., repairs a .50 caliber machinegun in the Port Security 311 Armory in Umm Quasr, Iraq April 20, 2003. USCG photo by PA1 Tom Sperduto

At the link above, there is a thumbnail sketch of the various Middle East actions of the Coast Guard. Did you know they fought in Desert Storm, Desert Shield, and Operation Iraqi Freedom?

The Coast Guard motto is “Semper Paratus” – “Always Ready”, and with a list of missions like the Coast Guard’s, that is one tough ideal to live up to. The Coast Guard is probably best known for responding to distressed vessels (in absolutely ANY kind of weather), a mission they added in 1915, when they absorbed “the Life-Saving Service”.
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In 1939, lighthouses were also assigned to the Coast Guard.

In 1946, Congress placed merchant marine licensing and merchant vessel safety under the jurisdiction of the Coast Guard.

We’ve all heard about Coast Guard captures of drugs. In this case, 35,000 pounds of cocaine. Notice the date of this capture: February 5th, 2019

And they have recently even done these things without pay, folks. Vice President Pence, God bless him, honored the Coast Guard for serving without pay during the government shutdown:
The Coast Guard was the only military branch to go without a paycheck during the shutdown…”

Honor to whom honor is due: Coast Guardsmen, we thank you fervently for your loyalty to your country!

Oh, yeah. Almost forgot. They also respond to oil spills and military threats in our coastal waters. The US Coast Guard may be the busiest bunch of warriors on land or sea!

And the future looks like significant expansion of duties and technology:
The Coast Guard’s role is “…primarily domestic and includes both regulatory and law enforcement responsibilities … With the release of the 2017 National Security Strategy, however, the Coast Guard has been presented with an opportunity to maximize its value … The [National Security Strategy] document starts with an emphasis on homeland security …by making a priority of enhanced border security and layered defenses, this NSS points to the importance of the Coast Guard’s role in conducting enforcement actions—drug and migrant interdiction—at sea … such activities in support of its homeland and border security goals will receive ‘advanced technology [and] the employment of additional personnel‘ …”

And that’s just the beginning. Of course, so far the National Security Strategy is just a document. But you can bet there will be strenuous efforts made by all services to “capture the money”. 

It is crystal clear that the US Coast Guard has fully earned the title of a branch of America’s armed forces.

Finally, for a detailed look back, here is the official history site of the US Coast Guard

Have a blessed and safe RED Friday all!

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