Happy 222nd Birthday, U.S. Coast Guard! August 4th, 1790
“The Blue Book says we’ve got to go out and it doesn’t say a damn thing about having to come back.”
— Keeper Patrick Etheridge, Cape Hatteras Life-Saving Service, concerning a rescue off the coast of North Carolina
Such is the ethos and commitment of the United States Coast Guard even to this day. Founded on August 4th, 1790 by the Revenue Act and known as the Revenue Cutters for the next 125 years, the job of the these brave men was to enforce trade and tariff laws and to prevent smuggling. In 1915 Congress merged the Revenue Cutters with the United States Life-Saving Service and changed the name to the United States Coast Guard. In 1939 then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt merged the Lighthouse Services into the Coast Guard, rounding its mission to the maritime protection and enforcement service we know (and love!) today. It’s been under transferred to multiple governmental departments over time (Commerce and Navy among others) and argued over in Congress whether or not it should continue to exist. With all these trials and tribulations, the U. S. Coast Guard has always maintained and upheld its motto with the utmost integrity: Semper Paratus, Always Ready.
The U.S. Coast Guard has been integral in many innovations and historical events throughout the history of the United States. These include, but are not limited to:
- developing and testing laser-assisted light houses to improve modern maritime safety;
- allowing women to officially join the Lighthouse Service in the1830s;
- developing one of the world’s first effective desalinization processes; and
- providing radio assistance (through the U.S.C.G.C. Itasca) for Amelia Earhart’s ill-fated circumnavigation attempt.
More recently, the U.S. Coast Guard is featured in the reality television series Coast Guard Alaska on The Weather Channel. With the tag line “When weather is at its worst, they’re at their best,“ this series follows the men and women stationed in Kodiak, Alaska as they perform search and rescue missions in one of the harshest marine environments in the world.
Today, the U.S. Coast Guard serves under the Department of Homeland Security. It maintains the highest qualifications to enter of all the services (including ASVAB scores, physical fitness ability, and security history). Through all of its trials and tribulations, this service is continues to perform admirably. Its history and present are best summed up by Rear Admiral R.R. Waesche, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard from 1936-1945;
“The cat with nine lives is a piker compared to the Coast Guard. You can kick this old service around, tear it to pieces, scream from the house-tops that it is worthless, ought to be abolished or transferred to the Navy, have the people in it fighting among themselves and working at cross purposes and it bobs up serenely bigger and stronger than ever.”
Happy Birthday, US Coast Guard!