U.S. Coast Guard History

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U.S. Coast Guard History

U.S Coast Guard History
The United States Coast Guard (USCG), one of the country's five armed services, is a unique agency of the federal government. We trace our history back to 4 August 1790, when the first Congress authorized the construction of ten vessels to enforce tariff and trade laws, prevent smuggling, and protect the collection of the federal revenue. Known variously as the U.S. Revenue Marine (USRM) and the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service (USRCS), we expanded in size and responsibilities as the nation grew.  

The service received its present name in 1915 under an act of Congress when the Revenue Cutter Service merged with the Life-Saving Service. The nation then had a single maritime service dedicated to saving life at sea and enforcing the nation's maritime laws. The Coast Guard began to maintain the country's aids to maritime navigation, including operating the nation's lighthouses, when President Franklin Roosevelt authorized the transfer the Lighthouse Service to the Coast Guard in 1939. Later, in 1946, Congress permanently transferred the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation to the Coast Guard, thereby placing merchant marine licensing and merchant vessel safety under our purview.

The Coast Guard is one of the oldest organizations of the federal government and, until the Navy Department was established in 1798, it served as the nation's only armed force afloat.  The Coast Guard has continued to protect the nation throughout history and has served proudly in every one of the nation's conflicts. The national defense responsibilities remain one of its most important functions.

In times of peace it operates as part of the Department of Homeland Security, serving as the nation's front-line agency for enforcing the laws at sea, protecting the coastline and ports, and saving life. In times of war, or on direction of the President, it serves under the Navy Department.

Source: uscg.mil

Recommended Reading: The Coast Guardsman's Manual. Description: This manual sums up the Coast Guard better than any other book published, and it gives a glimpse into the oldest military force in this nation’s history. Only the Coast Guard has been around since the days of Washington and Jefferson. The Coast Guardsman's manual is a book about survival and the sailor life. It covers the Coast Guard’s history, terminology, careers, objectives, duties, responsibilities, and jobs. Along with these subjects, this manual is a sailor’s survival guide to being a “Coastie.” It also includes detailed and informative facts on how to survive in the sea, and how to rescue, recover, and keep alive an injured civilian. The Coast Guard has changed in many ways in the past 200 plus years and this manual describes these changes. Continued below...

For anyone who has either been curious about, or has had family in, the Coast Guard, you shall not find a more complete guide to this component of our armed forces. Whether at war or in times of peace, our Coast Guard shall forever be "SEMPER PARATUS" ----“Always Ready.”

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The United States Coast Guard and the American Civil War: The Revenue Cutter Service

American Civil War: The United States Coast Guard

United States Revenue Cutter Harriet Lane

American Civil War: Union and Confederate Navies


Recommended Viewing: The Guardian, starring Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher (The U.S. Coast Guard version of "Top Gun" with a blend of "An Officer and A Gentleman"). Description: The Guardian offers satisfying entertainment with a no-nonsense combination of Hollywood formula and good old-fashioned star power. While honoring the men and women who serve as rescue swimmers for the U.S. Coast Guard, this predictable yet appealing drama is a well-crafted showcase for Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher, who bring welcome depth and dimension to their formulaic roles. Continued below...

It's basically Top Gun for the Coast Guard, with Costner playing a legendary rescuer haunted by recent tragedy and the impending break-up of his marriage, and Kutcher as the hot-shot recruit whose bravado is tested when Costner takes over a grueling 18-week basic training course, where a 50% attrition rate ensures that only the best will make the grade. There's nothing particularly inventive about Ron L. Brinkerhoff's screenplay, but it's intelligently written and well-directed (by The Fugitive helmer Andrew Davis) as it shows how seasoned veteran and troubled but talented trainee build mutual respect while sorting through the trauma of accidents that left each of them as sole survivors, tormented by self-doubt and guilt.

Recommended Reading: Coast Guard (Hardcover). Description: Written by an outstanding team of historians and officers, the definitive story of the U.S. Coast Guard is recorded for the first time in this magnificently illustrated, large-format book published with the Foundation for Coast Guard History. Stories of the "Coastie" experience as well as essays on history, lighthouses, search and rescue, aviation, the drug war, and the war on terrorism all share one common focus: the highly trained and motivated people who make it all work.


Recommended Viewing: The Great Ships - The Coast Guard Ships (History Channel) (2005). Description: The United States Coast Guard has policed the nation's waters since the 1790s. From the first official vessels of the U.S. Government to today's specialized lifesaving craft, the ships of the Guard have played a vital role in maritime history. This in-depth program goes aboard some of the many craft employed by the Coast Guard, from the small boats used for shoreline rescue operations to the deep-sea patrol ships that form the vanguard in America's war against drugs. Continued below…

See dramatic footage of real-life search and rescue operations, and hear incredible stories of life-and-death missions from Coast Guard sailors and officers. And trace the evolution of the Guards' ships from the earliest Revenue Cutters to the myriad vessels of the modern force.


Recommended Reading: The United States Coast Guard: 1790 to the Present (Revised). Description: The United States Coast Guard traces its origins to 1790, but was not officially named until 1915. At last there is one definitive volume describing its history from inception to the present. The author, Thomas P. Ostrom, served in the USCGR from 1961-69, and had basic and advanced training at the USCG Base, Alameda, California. Continued below…

He served subsequently in the Port Security Reserve Unit in Duluth, Minnesota, and participated in monthly and active duty assignments each summer, earning petty officer rank.


Recommended Reading: U.S. Coast Guard and Revenue Cutters, 1790-1935 (Hardcover). Description: From 250-foot Lake-class cruising cutters to 36-foot picket boats, more than 1,000 vessels are included in this the first complete and systematic listing of U.S. Revenue Service and Coast Guard vessels through 1935. Each entry gives dimensions, rig, propulsion, complement, service dates, and a brief service history. Based on a decade of research by an author who has been collecting historic data for the USCG since 1984, the book offers a substantial amount of new information along with many previously unpublished illustrations.


Recommended Viewing: Coast Guard at War, Starring: Susan O'Connor Fraser Director: Tam O'Connor. Description: The U.S. Coast Guard took on a little-known, but highly significant combat role in the Vietnam War. Trained for domestic life-saving and port protection, they were repurposed into a fighting force and sent 10,000 miles from American shores. In Vietnam, the Coast Guard proved an effective tool for every branch of the U.S. military, on water, land and in the air. This program features the most dangerous untold stories of the USCG with rare footage and personal accounts from Coast Guard veterans who were there.

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