24 Things You Should Know About the Coast Guard for Its 224th Birthday

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Today marks the 224th birthday of the United States Coast Guard. To celebrate, here’s 24 facts about one of the federal government’s oldest organizations.

  1. The Coast Guard was founded on August 4, 1790, after Congress commissioned the construction of ten ships to help enforce federal tariffs and prevent smuggling.
  2. The Coast Guard has two official flags: The Coast Guard standard and the Coast Guard ensign.
  3. Walt Disney created a special logo for the Coast Guard’s Corsair Fleet during World War II, featuring Donald Duck.

    Donald Duck photo via US Coast Guard.

    Donald Duck photo via U.S. Coast Guard.

  4. Members of the Coast Guard have served in 17 wars and conflicts throughout U.S. history.
  5. Anthony Christy was the oldest active serving Coast Guard member. The keeper of the Christiana Lighthouse in Delaware, Christy died on duty in September 1862 at the age of 105.
  6. Since 2003, the Coast Guard has been operating as part of the Department of Homeland Security.
  7. In 1791, the Coast Guard launched its first cutter Vigilant.
  8. The first permanent Coast Guard Air Station was in Cape May, New Jersey, in 1926.
  9. In 1967, the Coast Guard adopted the trademark red slash design – or racing stripe – that appears on its vessels.
  10. In 1941, the Coast Guard hired its first civilian women to serve in secretarial and clerical positions.
  11. 241,093 Coast Guard members served during World War II.
  12. “Semper Paratus” is the Coast Guard motto.
  13. While many animals have served as mascots aboard Coast Guard vessels, Sinbad, a dog, is one of the service’s most famous. He served on board the cutter Campbell during World War II, keeping troops company during their voyages.
  14. The Coast Guard was referred to as the Revenue Marine and the Revenue Cutter Service throughout the late 18th and the 19th centuries.
  15. The Coast Guard has authorized a total of 43 battle streamers, which are attached to the Coast Guard standard, replacing cords and tassels.  They are carried in all ceremonies representing heroic actions in all naval encounters from 1798 to today.  Any Coast Guard unit may display the battle streamers.
  16. The Coast Guard refers to a vessel as a “cutter” if it’s over 65-feet long.
  17. From 1942-1944, the Coast Guard had a championship hockey team called the Cutters that played in the Eastern Amateur Hockey League, considered to be one of the most competitive leagues of its time.

    Team photo via via US Coast Guard.

    Team photo via via U.S. Coast Guard.

  18. Until the Navy was re-established in 1797, the Coast Guard was the only naval service in the country.
  19. In 1918, sisters Genevieve and Lucille Baker were the first uniformed women to serve in the Coast Guard.
  20. President George Washington commissioned the first Coast Guard officer, Captain Hopley Yeaton, on March 21, 1791.
  21. The Coast Guard was featured in the 1996 featured film “White Squall” starring Jeff Bridges.
  22. The oldest Coast Guard boat station is in Sandy Hook, New Jersey.
  23. In 1967, the Coast Guard icebreaker Eastwind became the first cutter to ever sail around Antarctica. Eastwind was also the first ship to circumnavigate Antarctica since 1843.
  24. The Coast Guard core values are honor, respect and devotion to duty.

–Information from uscg.mil and other sources.

Black History Month and the USO

Black History Month traces its roots to the work of Carter G. Woodson, who – in 1926 designated a week in February to reflect on the contributions of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass to the lives of African Americans.  Nearly a century later we observe “Black History Month.”

The US Military has a long tradition of African Americans serving.  And although the military was not legally desegregated until 1948 by President Harry S Truman, the USO served the needs of Black service members from the outset.

African American soldiers relax at a USO Center in the early 1940s

In 1942, a USO Club opened in Hattiesburg, MS, specifically for African American soldiers; it is the only extant USO Center built for that purpose.  In 2003 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places and is home to Hattiesburg’s African American Military Museum.

From the beginning, USO policy expressly forbade discrimination on the basis of race or creed, but as Gretchen Knapp explained in “Experimental Social Policymaking During World War II: The United Service Organizations (USO) and American War-Community Services (AWCS),” it was not uncommon for separate USO Centers to spring up in the same town, “either because of local regulations or by the request of African Americans who deplored the tensions that arose when they entered the USO center.”

USO Centers designed exclusively for Black soldiers soon sprung up around the country, including Tacoma, WA; Tuscon, AZ; San Marcos, TX; and Portland, OR, just to name a few.  In fact, by 1943, “more than 180 of 1,326 USO operations were designated for African Americans.” (ibid)

African American serviceman, being greeted at the front desk of a USO Center, 1943.

As the military integrated, so did USO Centers, many of whom also opened their doors to female service members around the same time.  The impact of those early, segregated clubs was felt, however, in a lasting acknowledgement and respect for the service of Black Troops during World War II and the idea that a “home away from home” was available to anyone visiting a USO Center.

Today the USO and the US Military continue to recognize the contributions of African Americans from every branch of the military.  The Coast Guard has announced the soon-to-be released documentary “RESCUE MEN: The Story of the Pea Island Life Savers,” the story of the Pea Island Lifesaving Station surfmen.  The Marines are celebrating the legacy of African American Marines with a multi-media project entitled “The Line.”  One part of that project is this commercial:

Other branches are celebrating, too: the Navy’s remembers the “Golden 13″ and offers a series of events at the Navy Memorial; a number of Air Force Bases are holding celebrations, such as the Gospel Extravaganza at Offut AFB.  The Army has created a website, “African Americans in the U.S. Army,” chock full of unique content on the history of Black soldiers.  Likewise, Military.com is offering exclusive content on the history of African American service, from the Buffalo Soldiers to the Tuskegee Airman to current Troops.  Speaking of the Tuskegee Airman, George Lucas’ film Red Tails – the story of the Tuskegee Airman – will be released later in 2010.

As of June 2009 Black troops account for 239,661(17%) of total active duty (Total Pop 1,405,489) and minority women continue to join the military at a higher rate than their share in the civilian population.  We salute these service members – and all African Americans who have served in the US military – during Black History Month and every day of the year!