Tuesday, August 4th marks the 230th birthday of our nation’s oldest sea going service – the U.S. Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard was launched in 1790 as the U.S. Lighthouse Service when the first Congress gave orders to build 10 vessels to enforce tariff and trade laws under the newly formed Treasury Department.
At the time, that was the only source of revenue for the federal government.
The Coast Guard was called the Revenue Cutter Service until 1915 when it was merged with the Life-Saving Service and received its present name from Congress.
In the Coast Guard’s Top 10 list of most memorable missions, the response to Hurricane Katrina ranks as #1. The Coast Guard is credited with saving more than 33,000 people after it took charge during the Gulf coast disaster.
Two Alaska events made the list: the Coast Guard rescue of 520 people after a fire broke out and sank the cruise ship Prinsendam 130 miles off of Ketchikan in 1980.
In 1897, six Coast Guardsmen set off from a Cutter near Point Barrow to save the crews of eight whaling ships trapped in the ice.
Using dog sleds, the Coasties brought 400 reindeer to the whalers in a 1,500 mile journey that took more than two months.
The single largest rescue effort in Coast Guard history was in 1937, when a flood on the Mississippi River led to the rescue of 44,000 people — and more than 100,000 head of livestock.
Today, roughly 40,000 men and women serve in the US Coast Guard. They are credited for saving more than one million lives and counting.