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Coast Guard Reserve

This month we celebrate the 83rd birthday of the United States Coast Guard Reserve, established on February 19, 1941. We also honor the long and distinguished history of the entire Coast Guard, originally formed as the Revenue Cutter Service in 1790 by Alexander Hamilton, and later merged with the Life-Saving Service in 1915 to form the modern Coast Guard.

Coast Guard Reserve

Notable Events in Coast Guard History

The Coast Guard has a remarkable history of protecting America's coastlines, waterways, maritime economy, and national security. Some key events include:

  • The 20 cutters of the Revenue Cutter Service enforced early tariff and trade laws. They also rescued over 200 victims of shipwrecks from 1894-1915, establishing an enduring lifesaving role.

  • During World War II, the Coast Guard manned landing craft for many amphibious invasions. Over 24,000 Coast Guardsmen served in the Navy; hundreds died in combat. Coast Guard vessels escorted merchant convoys and captured or destroyed 63 enemy submarines.

  • In 1967, the Coast Guard icebreaker Northwind made the first circumnavigation of North America, demonstrating the importance of polar operations. Coast Guard icebreakers remain critical to asserting sovereignty in the Arctic.

  • During the Vietnam War, Coast Guard Squadron One provided gunfire support for U.S. Army and Navy forces ashore. Two Coast Guard aviators died during a heroic 1968 rescue mission of a downed aircraft crew.

  • In 1989, the Coast Guard saved over 30,000 lives when Hurricane Hugo devastated Puerto Rico and the Carolina coast. Coast Guard first responders saved thousands more after Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.

Essential National Security Roles

While most visible as lifesavers during disasters, the Coast Guard plays vital national security roles:


Maritime Security – Coast Guard vessels, aircraft and personnel secure America's 95,000 miles of coastline and inland waterways. Special Deployable Operations Group forces provide counterterrorism, anti-piracy, and other specialized security capabilities globally.  


Defense Operations – The Coast Guard defends regional maritime interests by deploying worldwide for combat and peacekeeping operations. As part of the Intelligence Community, the Coast Guard provides unique expertise and capabilities to joint military operations.


Maritime Interdiction – Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachments deploy worldwide to combat illegal narcotics, migrant trafficking, and illegal fishing. Their expertise, authorities and capabilities fill critical gaps at sea and ashore.


Cybersecurity – The Coast Guard defends vital port and logistics networks against rising cyber threats from state and non-state actors. As both an armed force and regulatory agency, the Coast Guard brings unique authorities to cyber defense.


Nation Building – Through partnerships with over 60 maritime nations, the Coast Guard helps build capacity and resilience against regional threats like piracy, illegal fishing, natural disasters, and irregular migration.


Always Ready


Thanks to its multi-mission nature and close ties with local communities, the Coast Guard is always ready to serve America's national security and economic prosperity. We salute the Coast Guard Reserve on its 83rd birthday, and the active duty Coast Guard which has protected our nation for over 233 years. Semper Paratus!

Interested? Read more about this topic: [1] U.S. Coast Guard History Program

[2] United States Coast Guard - Responsive

[3] February 19 - Coast Guard Reserve Birthday

[4] United States Coast Guard (USCG) Historian's Office

[5] Chronology of Coast Guard History


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