Have been on the ocean lately doing some salmon fishing and I am once again impressed by the Coast Guard. They were out there as well, but were assisting mariners especially the dumber ones among us (and the drunken ones). The Coasties I see up here in Washington State put their lives on the line every day and night and not just in time of war. This goes not only for the helo pilots with their famous rescue swimmers, but also the crews on the little 25 and 40 foot boats that ply the heavy surf along the rocky shores and treacherous river bars. It seems like once a week or more there is a press article in northwest newspapers chronicling another rescue especially during fierce winter storms in Washington, Oregon and Alaska. Looking back on my 22 years in the military, the majority of that service was safe and sane. Even during two and a half tours in a combat zone I can count the times I was in serious danger on the fingers of one hand. Not so with the Coasties.
And there were tens of thousands of CG involved in wartime also. Book below is a great read:
In WW2 without enough destroyers to go around the CG was taken from the treasury department and went to war with the Navy. Their cutters ran north Atlantic convoy duty, their cutters and aircraft patrolled the shipping lanes for U-boats and made some kills. They organized and commanded the Coastal Pickets (aka the Hooligan Navy) of trawlers and yachtsmen. They crewed many of the LSTs in the Pacific as well as the landings in North Africa and Europe. And notably they crewed many of the small LCVPs (aka Higgins Boats) against defended beaches. The Navy had a lot of trouble teaching their seaman how to operate small boats in heavy surf and strong inshore rip currents. Coast Guard coxswains had been doing it for years, it was a natural for them. Douglas Munro won the Medal of Honor for his action at the 2nd battle of Matanikau on Guadalcanal where he helped rescue a hundred or more Marines and Chesty Pullers crusty old a$$.
They are going to name the new CG Headquarters building after him. Too bad though that they have to give up their current HQ on Buzzard's Point. But a tenth rated pro soccer team, DC United, has big eyes for that area for their new stadium. Hmmm, has Congress again shown their venal side? Or is the move solely to get them closer to their new Homeland Security bosses?
Today, August 4th, was the Coast Guard anniversary. They started as a revenue service in 1790. Most American shipmasters and owners of that era had learned the trade of smuggling against the British crown and were loath to pay the new duties imposed by Congress.