Today, the U.S. Coast Guard celebrates 219 years of service as America’s Guardians in charge of the safety and security of U.S. coasts, ports, inland waterways or any maritime region, both domestic and international, in which the interests of the United States might be at risk.
On this date in 1790, Congress authorized a proposal by Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton to build a “system of cutters” to generate revenue through the enforcment of tariff and trade laws and to prevent smuggling. Alternately known as the system of cutters, Revenue Service, and Revenue-Marine this service would officially be named the Revenue Cutter Service (12 Stat. L., 639) in 1863.
From its formation in 1790, the Coast Guard can trace its roots back to four other distinct federal services including the U.S. Lighthouse Service, the Steamboat Inspection Service, the U.S. Life-Saving Service and the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation. While the service received its present name in 1915 under an act of Congress when the Revenue Cutter Service merged with the Life-Saving Service., August 4, 1970 is officially recognized as the birthdate of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Today. the Coast Guard performs 11 vital missions around the world, including:
- Ports, waterways and coastal security
- Drug interdiction
- Aids to navigation
- Search and rescue
- Living marine resources
- Marine safety
- Defense readiness
- Migrant interdiction
- Marine environmental protection
- Ice operations
- Other law enforcement
In keeping with the service’s history of evolving to best serve America’s interests and needs, today’s Coast Guard is, according to Commandant Adm. Thad Allen, modernizing its organization, structure and processes to, “create a Coast Guard that can effectively meet the mission demands of the 21st century and hardware and human-ware that is flexible, agile and adaptable, a Coast Guard that is more sensitive and responsive to changes in mission demand signals, a Coast Guard that is structured internally to focus on mission execution and the support required to execute that mission.”
Nearly 42,000 active-duty, 7,484 reserve, 7,659 civilian and 29,000 auxiliary personnel use 247 cutters, 1,850 boats and 204 aircraft to save lives, protect property, ensure the prosperity of our nation in all maritime affairs, while facilitating maritime commerce and protect our nation against all hazards and all threats.
Video: History of the United States Coast Guard
To learn more about the history of the U.S. Coast Guard check out some of the links below: