The United States Coast Guard’s birthday is August 4th.
Established in 1790, the U.S. Coast Guard is one of the oldest maritime defenders. The Coast Guard is a unique branch of the military. It can often be overlooked or even unknown that it is a separate branch of the military. Coast Guard is also one of the smallest branches of the military, comprised of nearly 42,000 men and women. The Coast Guard celebrates its birthday on August 4th but has an interesting history of why the Coast Guard was originally created and how it has transformed into what it is today.
Let’s look at the history and purpose of the Coast Guard, and how you can celebrate this branch of the armed forces on its special day.
When Was the Coast Guard Founded?
The Coast Guard, like many branches of the military, has a history that starts back when the United States was the Republic. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton lobbied Congress to create and authorize the use of a small fleet of vessels to enforce tariffs, which was an important source of revenue at the time since the new nation was in debt and needed to find ways to support the nation. In 1790, President George Washington signed the Tariff Act, which would help the new nation pay off their debt by taxing and raising taxes on imported foreign goods. These ideas are still being discussed and argued to this day, taxing imported foreign goods to encourage more manufacturing on U.S. soil.
To enforce the tariff laws, there needed to be people hired to enforce them. Enter the United States Revenue Cutters Service on August 4, 1790. This group was established by an act of Congress, at the persuasion of Alexander Hamilton, to serve as an armed customs enforcement on the sea. This crew slowly began to take on other military-like missions and was often called the Revenue-Marine until July 31, 1894, when it was officially named the Revenue Cutter Service.
“Cutters” or cutter vessels were small or medium-sized boats and sailing ships that were built for speed. Ten vessels were originally ordered and constructed to collect and enforce tariffs along parts of the East Coast. Between 1790 and 1798, the Revenue-Marine’s were the only maritime armed forces protecting the water, as the Navy at the time had been disbanded after the Revolutionary War. During the War of 1812, the service was placed under the Department of the Navy instead of the Department of the Treasury. Eventually, the U.S. Coast Guard was part of the Department of Homeland Security, but through Acts of Congress or the orders the President, the Coast Guard can be assigned to the Department of the Navy to assist during wartimes.
It was after the War of 1812 when the Revenue Cutters began life-saving efforts that the Coast Guard is most famous for today. After the war, the British and Spanish powers in the Caribbean and Gulf were weakened, which opened up greater opportunities for piracy. After several battles involving the Revenue Cutters, and claiming several pirate ships, it was ordered by the Secretary of the Treasury and eventually established into the regulations by Congress in 1837, that the cutters would conduct winter maritime cruises to protect and assist mariners in need. It wasn’t until January 28, 1915, that the Revenue Cutter Service merged with the United States Life-Saving service by an Act of Congress, and became the United States Coast Guard.
President Woodrow Wilson signed the Coast Guard Act into law on January 28, 1915. This act combined the United States Life-Saving Service with the United States Cutter Service, forming the new United States Coast Guard. In 1939, the Coast Guard absorbed the responsibilities of the United States Lighthouse Service, followed by the responsibilities of the Navigation and Steamboat Inspection Service in 1942.
What Is the Purpose of the Coast Guard?
The United States Coast Guard has many responsibilities. It is the mission of the Coast Guard to protect the United States’ economic interests, the public, and the environment in America’s waterways, along the coast, and in international waters, as well as any other duties required of them during wartimes and when the President of the United States assigns them to the Department of the Navy.
The U.S. Coast Guard has 11 official missions:
- Search & Rescue
- Marine Environmental Protection
- Drug Interdiction
- Aids to Navigation
- Living Marine Resources
- Defense Readiness
- Port & Waterway Security
- Migrant Interdiction
- Marine Safety
- Ice Operations
- Law Enforcement
The Coast Guard also has a Maritime Safety and Security Team (MSST) that was created in 2002 in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. This is a quick-response team that is dedicated to shoreline anti-terrorism. There is also a Maritime Safety and Response Team (MSRT), which is the only Coast Guard team with anti-terrorism capabilities. They train with Navy SEALs and are a deployable assault force that is first on the scene when responding to terrorism threats.
Celebrate the Coast Guard’s Birthday
To celebrate the Coast Guard’s birthday on August 4, last year they posted a video commemorating 229 years in service. Other branches of the military also sent out well wishes to celebrate the men and women who have contributed and sacrificed their lives to uphold the values of the Coast Guard. Recognizing the Coast Guard’s birthday is a small way to bring awareness to this unique branch of the military. The more people aim to learn about the branches of government, the work that they do, and their history, the more that they build a more positive, transparent relationship with the United States Armed Forces.
Ways that you can celebrate the Coast Guard’s birthday are:
- Send birthday cards to Coast Guard members. If you don’t know anyone in your life who is part of the Coast Guard, you can contact local veteran’s offices or make a general inquiry at your local Coast Guard office to find out how you can contribute towards the men and women who have and are serving in the Coast Guard.
- Look up events in your area to see if there are any celebrations that you can attend. Sometimes this could be as simple as going to the Lego store and building or purchasing the Coast Guard Lego set and using that as a playful tool to open up conversations with your kids about the responsibilities and history of the U.S. Coast Guard.
- Regardless of the branch of the military you might be in or associated with, taking time to celebrate other branches can build inter-branch unity by building bridges between branches. When branches of the military show support of the others publicly, it builds trust for civilians who are witnessing the camaraderie and commitment to all aspects of the military.
It’s likely that the Coast Guard has its own ways of celebrating their birthday. Many branches of the military hold birthday balls, and other ways to commemorate the occasion. The Coast Guard is an integral part of the safety and function of the United States.
An average day in the Coast Guard might consist of 100+ search and rescue missions, protecting millions of dollars in property, launching hundreds of small boat missions, boarding 100+ vessels, seizing millions of dollars in illegal narcotics, assisting those in need on waterways, and intercepting those immigrating illegally. The Coast Guard has many jobs, responsibilities, and are committed to protecting the American people, soil, waterways, and interests within and around the United States and globally.