The Coast Guard is often overshadowed by the other four branches of the armed services. The Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force draw lots of attention on a regular basis, but today is the Coast Guard’s turn to step into the spotlight.
It is the service’s 227th birthday, after all.
The Coast Guard traces its history to Aug. 4, 1790 when then-President George Washington signed a law that authorized construction of 10 revenue cutters. Under the leadership of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton (yes, the same one popularized by the Broadway musical), the earliest fleet of cutters was established and the modern Coast Guard was born. After 227 years, the Coast Guard continues to meet the demands of a complex, diverse and rapidly changing world.
William H. Thiesen, the Coast Guard’s Atlantic Area historian, captured it best when he wrote the following passage last year:
“Whether equipped with civilian-manned sailing cutters of the 18th century or modern National Security Cutters manned by military personnel, the Coast Guard has always been prepared to fulfill its defense mission. Regardless of the maritime threats and challenges confronting America today and tomorrow — whether it’s rescuing mariners in distress, protecting our nation from illegal drugs, preventing and responding to oil spills, or safeguarding the nation against military threats – the Coast Guard continues to protect the nation from threats to its maritime interests at home and abroad and will always be Semper Paratus, or always ready, whenever and wherever needed.”
Here are 11 photos that illustrate the Coast Guard’s breadth of service from World War II to today.
Marines William A. McCoy and Ralph L. Plunkett hold a sign saluting Coast Guard forces in 1944 after the Japanese were defeated at Guam.
Just as a Coast Guard LCI noses into a French Invasion beach to debark it’s load of American troops, a Nazi mine explodes close off it’s port bow. Exposed to enemy fire in the beach dashes, Coast Guard Coxswain and Gun Crew felt the first fury of German shell and machine gun fire, as well as the blasts of hidden mines. 1944
Columns of Coast Guard LCIs, protected by barrage balloons against low-flying Nazi strafers, advance upon the beaches of France. A Coast Guard combat photographer, going into the invasion on an LCI, caught this picture of the advance guard of the Liberation Fleet in the English Channel. 1944
Commander Frank Erickson, the Coast Guard’s first helicopter pilot, poses with a Hoverfly helicopter around 1943.
Five steward’s mates stand at their battle stations as a gun crew aboard a Coast Guard-manned frigate in the southwest Pacific in 1944.
Two Ohio Coast Guardsmen, John R. Smith, left, and Daniel J. Kaczorowski stand at their gun aboard a Coast Guard-manned invasion transport on which they served during the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.
A gun crew aboard USCGC Point Comfort fires 81-mm mortars during bombardment of a suspected Viet Cong staging area one mile behind An Thoi in August 1965.
An HH-52A Pelican helicopter from the Coast Guard icebreaker Northwind airlifts a crated musk ox to its new habitat during a joint Denmark-U.S. relocation operation in 1986.
Members of the U.S. Coast Guard assist a survey team in plotting the wreckage from Flight 90, the Air Florida Boeing 737 that crashed into Washington’s 14th Street Bridge in 1982.
Coast Guard Cutter Stratton’s crew members aboard a small boat return to the Stratton after a humanitarian assistance/disaster relief event for Rim of Pacific Exercise 2016, the world’s largest international maritime exercise, in the Pacific Ocean.
Urban Search and Rescue task forces continue search operations into New Orleans neighborhoods impacted by Hurricane Katrina in Sept. 2005.