Though they may not have the size or notoriety of some other branches, the Coast Guard has been hard at work defending the shores of the United States for over 200 years.
And that’s not the only facet of Coast Guard history that’s under-appreciated. Here’s your chance to learn a little bit more about the “coasties,” one of the oldest branches of the military.
History and Smugglers
Think the Navy is old? The Coast Guard is almost as old.
1790’s Tariff Act, which was signed into law by our first president, George Washington, started the branch, and they’ve been in service ever since.
The original Tariff Act called for 10 vessels to be built to patrol the waters of New England and prevent smuggling of goods. Needless to say their fleet has grown over the years as their duties and coastline grew.
The ships the Coast Guard used were dubbed “cutters,” a term that refers to cutting the revenue of the smugglers, a high priority for the service.
Today, smuggling is less of a problem, but drugs have emerged as a troubling issue. The statistics on an average day for the Coast Guard are staggering.
According to the Boating Safety Resource Center, the Coast Guard saves 10 lives a day through 109 search and rescue missions. Additionally, they seize 169 pounds of marijuana and 306 pounds of cocaine worth nearly 9.6 million dollars.
Almost everyone knows about the Marine motto “Semper Fidelis,” which means “always faithful.”
The Coast Guard’s motto, “Semper Paratus,” means “always ready,” and represents the mindset of the Coast Guard to be ready to defend the nation and our laws at a moment’s notice.
And the “coasties” are always ready, but are unique in how they change command. Under control of the Department of Transportation until 2003, the Coast Guard now divides its time between the Department of Homeland Security during peacetime and the direct control of the president during times of war.
Medal of Honor
Only one member of the US Coast Guard has ever received the Medal of Honor. Signalman First Class Douglas Munro died serving as an officer-in-charge of a group of landing craft during the Naval Campaign of Guadalcanal in 1942. He was only 23 at the time. He since has had a cutter named after him.
One of the most impressive things about the Coast Guard is how much they do, but it’s even more impressive once you realize they’re patrolling thousands of miles of coastline with a force smaller than the New York Police Department.
Hopefully these interesting facts have opened your mind to the incredible job the Coast Guard has done every day for over 200 years, a truly commendable effort to keep us safe and our laws enforced on the sea.
Images courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard