THE COAST GUARD IS 224 YEARS OLD TODAY:
The Organization that would become known as the the U.S.
The Early "Cutter" Massachusetts 1791
" The "system of cutters," the Revenue Marine, and the Revenue Cutter Service, as it was known variously throughout the nineteenth century, referred to its vessels as cutters. The term, English in origin, refers to a specific type of sailing vessel, namely, "a small, decked ship with one mast and bowsprit, with a gaff mainsail on a boom, a square yard and topsail, and two jibs or a jib and a staysail." (Peter Kemp, editor, The Oxford Companion to Ships & the Sea; London: Oxford University Press, 1976; pp. 221-222.) By general usage, however, that term came to define any vessel of Great Britain's Royal Customs Service. The U.S. Treasury Department adopted that term at the creation of its "system of cutters." Since that time, no matter what the vessel type, the Coast Guard and its illustrious predecessor have referred to their largest vessels as cutters (today a cutter is any Coast Guard vessel over 65 feet in length)."
Today the service that has come to be known as the U.S. Coast Guard, the military arm of the modern day Department of Home Land security refers to most of its named vessels over 65 feet in length as "cutters" while the public generally applies the term to any Coast Guard vessel regardless of size. Over the years Coast Guard vessels changed with the available technology. Coast Guard missions also changed and grew. Originally meant as a small fleet of militarily trained and disciplined armed vessels meant to enforce our customs laws, with permissive authority to make "winter patrols" to aid mariners in distress; the service was formed at a time when the Continental Navy of the revolution had been disbanded and the New U.S. Navy had not yet been funded. For a time the Revenue Cutters were our only armed public vessels and so were designated a naval auxiliary with their officers and crews assigned naval ranks and legal authority was vested in the President to use the service in naval operations. Today the Coast Guard remains a naval auxiliary, from which the President may authorize the detachment and service under naval control of particular personnel or elements, or the entire service may be absorbed as a separate and distinct service within the Navy Department in time of war or national emergency as was done last in WWII. The Coast Guard or elements of the Coast Guard has fought in every war of the United States since the war of 1812. Some of the original Revenue Cutter Service Officers were veterans of the Revolution's Continental Navy. To the left elements of the Coast Guard "Match Box Fleet At the Invasion of Normandy. An organization well known and much respected by U.S. military families is USAA (United States Automobile Association), an insurance and financial services business created by and for military members and veterans and their families. USAA recently wished the Coast Guard a happy birthday combining well wishes with a some highly condensed yet accurate history. Frankly we couldn't have said it better , we'll let USAA pick up the historical thread from here:
Frustrating Terror and Disrupting Crime
"The United States has one of the largest coastlines in the world. It stretches more than 12,000 miles, and protecting it is vital to the security of our nation. This is no small task.
The Coast Guard is our nation's front-line defense against a host of threats, both domestic and foreign. Drug trafficking, smuggling, illegal immigration and terrorism — the Coast Guard is there.
Demonstrating professionalism and a high caliber of training, the Coast Guard saves thousands of lives and millions of dollars in property annually.
Daily, the Coast Guard can boast of impressive numbers. On an average day, Coast Guardsmen seize more than $9.5 million of drugs. They fly more than 160 air missions. They board hundreds of vessels. They save an average of 10 lives and assist nearly 200 others who find themselves in distress.
A Call to Arms: The Coast Guard Abroad
In addition to the work at home, the Coast Guard remains ready to take the fight abroad. Since its creation, the Coast Guard has participated in vital roles in every major U.S. conflict.
During World War II, halting the threat of the German and Japanese naval forces was crucial. The Coast Guard adapted to combat in an efficient and deadly manner. The Navy credited the Coast Guard with sinking 13 German U-boats and one Japanese submarine, though the Coast Guard says the number was probably 11 German and two Japanese subs.
Military operations in Vietnam once again highlighted the worth of Coast Guardsmen in combat. They directly engaged the enemy, destroyed dozens of enemy watercraft, and captured more than 100 tons of enemy weapons and supplies.
Fighting the War on Terrorism
In recent times, the Coast Guard played a prominent role in the war on terror. It seized mine-laying vessels in the Persian Gulf. It secured essential gas and oil platforms. Coast Guardsmen trained Iraqi naval forces. Even in land-locked Afghanistan, Coast Guard units were there to fight. They were responsible for the safe transport of weapons and supplies between coalition forces.
We at USAA are proud of the men and women who have served in the U.S. Coast Guard. Happy 223rd birthday!"
Many of us here at American Admiralty Books (AAB) and American Admiralty Information systems (AAIS) are veterans of the U.S. Coast Guard or while serving with the Navy worked with Coast Guard personnel or units. While we often take positions opposed to some Coast Guard policies in print, we hope that we are constructive critics of the service that we very much respect and admire despite our occasional differences in polices mostly over the superintendence of the U.S. Merchant Marine, a system that we also hold officer's licenses in. We join the USAA and the Coast Guard's many friends and admirers around the world in wishing the service a happy birthday.