August 4 marks the 226th birthday of the United States Coast Guard. To celebrate, here’s 26 facts about one of America’s oldest institutions.

  1. Walt Disney created a special logo for the Coast Guard’s Corsair Fleet during World War II, featuring Donald Duck.
  2. Alexander Hamilton is known as the “father” of the Coast Guard. As Secretary of the Treasury he helped form the revenue marine service which would later become the Coast Guard.

    Photo credit U.S. Coast Guard

    Graduates from the Coast Guard Academy Celebrate.

  3. Unlike prospective attendees to the other academies, young men and women looking to attend the Coast Guard Academy don’t need to get a Congressional nomination.

  4. Juan Andreu was the first Hispanic-American in the Coast Guard, serving at the St. Augustine Lighthouse in Florida from 1824-1845.

  5. The active duty Coast Guard aircrew member with the earliest graduation date from an aviation technical school is known as the “Ancient Albatross.” When a new Ancient Albatross is named, the outgoing honoree passes down traditional aviation gear - helmet, goggles, and long white scarf - to the new honoree.

  6. In 1941, the Coast Guard hired its first civilian women to serve in secretarial and clerical positions.

  7. The Coast Guard is small but mighty. The smallest military branch is only slightly larger than the New York City Police Department.

    Photo credit NASA

    NASA astronaut Daniel Burbank, Expedition 30 commander, plays a guitar in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station.

  8. Two Coast Guardsmen, Bruce Melnick and Daniel Burbank, served as NASA astronauts.

  9. While many animals have served as mascots aboard Coast Guard vessels, Sinbad, a dog, is one of the service’s most famous. He served on board the cutter Campbell during World War II, keeping troops company during their voyages.

  10. Not all Coast Guard members serve on the coastline. The Eighth Coast Guard District runs from the ports of New Orleans and Houston north through 26 different inland states and helps protect inland waterways.

  11. Each year at the Coast Guard Academy, typically during February, the fourth class cadets are treated to a “day off” by the second class cadets, who complete their duties (square corners, brace-up, do orderlies, etc.) for them. This tradition is known as the 100th Day, as it takes place roughly 100 days before graduation.

    A curious Adelie penguin stands near the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star on McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. | Photo credit U.S. Coast Guard

  12. The smallest military branch operates the only U.S. vessels able to reach the poles year-round.

  13. In 1865, Abraham Lincoln commissioned the first African-American into the Revenue Service of the United States (a predecessor to the Coast Guard), Michael A. Healy.

  14. In 1918, sisters Genevieve and Lucille Baker were the first uniformed women to serve in the Coast Guard.

  15. The Coast Guard has two official flags: The Coast Guard standard and the Coast Guard ensign.

  16. Anthony Christy was the oldest active serving Coast Guard member. The keeper of the Christiana Lighthouse in Delaware, Christy died on duty in September 1862 at the age of 105.

  17. Coast Guard discovers more than half of all U.S. government seizures of cocaine each year.

  18. Joe Simon, the creator of “Captain America,” served in the Coast Guard.

    Photo credit U.S. Coast Guard

    Crew members of the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw begin unloading some of the more than 1,200 Christmas trees in Chicago.

  19. Every December in Chicago, the Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw acts as the “Christmas Tree Ship,” delivering free trees to needy families in the Windy City. The Christmas Tree Ship tradition started over 100 years ago with the vessel Rouse Simmons.

  20. The Coast Guard was founded on August 4, 1790, after Congress commissioned the construction of 10 ships to help enforce federal tariffs and prevent smuggling.

  21. In 1967, the Coast Guard icebreaker Eastwind became the first cutter to ever sail around Antarctica. Eastwind was also the first ship to circumnavigate Antarctica since 1843.

  22. From 1942-44, the Coast Guard had a championship hockey team called the Cutters that played in the Eastern Amateur Hockey League, considered to be one of the most competitive leagues of its time.

  23. The Coast Guard refers to a vessel as a cutter if it’s over 65-feet long.

    A Coast Guard swimmer prepares to take the plunge. | Photo credit U.S. Coast Guard

  24. The first permanent Coast Guard Air Station was in Cape May, New Jersey, in 1926.

  25. In 1967, the Coast Guard adopted the trademark red slash design - or racing stripe - that appears on its vessels.

  26. Becoming a Coast Guard rescue swimmer is extremely hard. More than half the people who try out fail.

You can send a message of support and thanks directly to service members via the USO’s Campaign to Connect. Your messages will appear on screens at USO locations around the world.