One of the five service branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, the Coast Guard plays a vital role in patrolling the country's coasts and waterways. Now more than two centuries old, the Coast Guard has a storied and rich history in the American military. And while it is the smallest of the five branches, it has an outsized role in advancing and protecting U.S. public, environmental and economic maritime interests.
In recognition of the service the Coast Guard and its members have rendered, every August 4 is celebrated as the Coast Guard's birthday. Now turning 229, one could hardly notice its age, as the Coast Guard continues to become more technologically advanced and responsive to the call of its country.
So on Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019 remember all the Coast Guard has given, and celebrate its continued achievement as the oldest continuous sea-going service in the United States.
10 ships started it all
The Coast Guard's age puts it on par with the Army, which was established even before the Declaration of Independence was signed. The Revenue-Marine were commissioned on Aug. 4, 1790 under the Tariff Act, which was signed by President George Washington. This unit, which would go on to become the Coast Guard, was initially made of 10 ships, and was brought into being with the support of the nation's first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton.
Ten cutters, a type of sea vessel, were created and its crews were tasked with the enforcement of tariff laws, prevention of smuggling and protection of federal tax collectors. Added responsibilities were taken on in short order, including combating piracy, conducting rescue operations and ice-breaking missions, to name a few. These varied law enforcement, military and humanitarian duties serve as the basis for the three mandates of the Coast Guard:
In time, the Revenue-Marine would expand and grow into the Revenue Cutter Service, and in 1915 was merged with the U.S. Life-Saving Service. The resulting entity was renamed the Coast Guard, and it continued to acquire new responsibilities, like oversight of the country's lighthouses and marine inspection and navigation. Now, the Coast Guard seizes a drug-smuggling boat every five days, saves thousands of lives every year, and assists 193,938 tons of shipping daily during Great Lakes ice season.
More facts about the Coast Guard
There's a lot to be accomplished in 229 years, and the Coast Guard has done quite a bit, including:
- Serving in 17 wars and conflicts in U.S. history. During wartime the Coast Guard can operate independent mission or serve as part of the Navy.
- Being the only of the five branches to be placed under the Department of Homeland Security.
- Patrolling more than 4.5 million square miles of Exclusive Economic Zones, as well as providing services in international waters.
- Operating its own anti-terror team, The Maritime Safety and Security Team. According to the USO, it is the only special operations force that can arrest submerged SCUBA divers.
- Having Sinbad, a dog that served aboard the USCGC George W. Campbell in World War II, as its mascot. Sinbad provided company to troops, while also being onboard for anti-submarine confict.
How you can celebrate the Coast Guard's birthday
In lieu of trying to send a Happy Birthday card to the Coast Guard itself, take time to recognize and celebrate the service of its members:
- Participate in or organize a local event that can help educate children on the Coast Guard history or hear active duty members or veterans speak.
- Offer a special discount on Aug. 4 if you run a business for Coast Guard members and veterans.
- Visit memorials or other locations to pay respects for the fallen and recognize their sacrifice.
The Coast Guard is turning 229 on Aug. 4, 2019 — and will continue to be in the future an integral and capable branch of our armed forces.