What is Coast Guard Day?
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What is Coast Guard Day?

August 02, 2019 | 2 min. read

August 4th is Coast Guard Day. Here’s what that means, and why it matters.

Semper Paratus. It means “Always Ready,” and for the last 229 years the United States Coast Guard has been ready –for smugglers, war, accidents, and the uncertainties of weather and water. August 4th is Coast Guard Day, and Coast Guard Day should matter to all of us.

What’s so special about August 4th? That’s the date in 1790 that Congress approved Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton’s proposal to build ten cutters– or light, fast patrol boats – for the Revenue-Marine. The mission of the Revenue-Marine was to patrol U.S. waterways to enforce trade and tariff law and prevent smuggling. This ten-boat fleet evolved into the modern Coast Guard.

 Here’s an extremely brief, all-too-incomplete overview of the Coast Guard’s contribution to our country.

  • 1793 – The cutter Diligence runs a pirate vessel ashore in Chesapeake Bay. It’s the Revenue-Marine’s first anti-piracy action. It won’t be the last.
  • 1820 – The Dallas captures the ten-gun slave ship General Ramirez in the waters off Saint Augustine, Florida. By 1865, revenue cutters would arrest multiple slavers and free over 500 slaves.
  • 1867 – Two revenue cutters, Lincoln and Wayanda, begin surveying the newly purchased Alaska territories. The Revenue-Marine would prove instrumental in exploring and protecting America’s northernmost frontier throughout the nineteenth century.
  • 1903 – Crewmen from the Kill Devil Hills Life-Saving Station assist the Wright Brothers with their flying experiments. The first photo of an airplane in flight is taken by Surfman J.T. Daniels.
  • 1915 – President Woodrow Wilson signs a bill merging the Life-Saving Service and the Revenue Cutter Service. The modern Coast Guard is born.
  • 1942 – Signalman First Class Douglas A. Munro takes charge of the effort to extract besieged Marines at Matanikau River, Guadalcanal. After the last Marine is evacuated, Munro is shot and killed by enemy fire. He is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
  • 1952 – An oil tanker splits in half during a severe nor’easter. Four Coast Guardsmen brave 60-foot waves and freezing New England waters in a small wooden motorboat to get 32 survivors to safety. They are awarded the Coast Guard’s highest honor for “extreme and heroic daring.”
  • 1989 – The USCGC Rush serves as a floating air traffic control center at the Exxon Valdez spill site, one of the worst environmental disasters on record. The Rush directs 3,000 planes in and out of Prince William Sound daily.
  • 2005 - A USCG crew from Air Station New Orleans rescues two adults and a four-year-old baby from a rooftop in Port Sulphur, Louisiana. By the end of September 2005, the Coast Guard will have saved 33,735 people in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Today, the USCG manages six operational programs and, on an average day, will board 144 vessels, conduct 109 search and rescue missions, and save 10 lives. And even though the cutters, the air stations and the lighthouses are separated by thousands of miles, on August 4th the Coast Guard comes together and celebrates as one. Many coasts, one Coast Guard.

Because it is funded by the Department of Homeland Security rather than the Department of Defense, the United States Coast Guard was disproportionally affected by the 2019 government shutdown. In response, First Command demonstrated its commitment to Coast Guard members and their families by offering a comprehensive financial relief package. And on August 4th, we will join proud Coastguardsmen everywhere in celebrating 229 years of dedicated service to our country.

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