The Story Of The Coast Guard (Sep 1987)

The Story Of The Coast Guard(U.S. Coast Guard Bicentennial: 1790-1990)

The Coast Guard is the United States’ oldest continuous seagoing military service, founded in 1790 by Alexander Hamilton. In wartime, the Coast Guard functions as a specialized part of the Navy; in peacetime, it performs essential humanitarian missions vital to the safety of lives at sea and the environment. Under the auspices of the Department of Transportation, the Coast Guard establishes and coordinates search and rescue operations by ships and planes, maintains advanced electronic and other aids to navigation around the globe, operates ice-breakers for polar expeditions and keeping domestic waterways open, enforces marine laws and Merchant Marine Safety, and maintains military readiness to fulfill its naval wartime commitment.

The Proud Bird Of The Sea – The U.S. Coast Guard Barque Eagle

Eagle serves as a seagoing classroom for approximately 175 cadets and instructors from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, located in New London, CT. It is on the decks and in the rigging of Eagle that the young men and women of the Coast Guard Academy get their first taste of salt air and life at sea. From this experience they develop a respect for the elements that will be with them throughout their lifetimes, The training the cadets receive under sail has proven to be an invaluable asset during their subsequent Coast Guard careers.

LCDR Lewis J. Buckley wrote The Tall Ship Eagle in 1987, dedicating the new march to this proud ship and all the men and women who have sailed her. If is an especially appropriate musical symbol of Eagle’s odyssey to Australia in 1987-1988 as the United States’ “Ambassador of Friendship” for that country’s Bicentennial celebration.

An American Hero: Douglas Albert Munro, Signalman First Class, USCG

Coast Guardsman Douglas Munro was responsible for leading a small landing party that evacuated a group of 500 Marines pinned down under heavy enemy shelling on Guadalcanal on September 27, 1942. In order to protect the Marines, he valiantly turned his own boat into the heavy fire and shielded the retreat. As he lay mortally wounded from enemy fire, his last words were a question, “Did they get off?” Munro died as the perilous task of evacuation was nearly completed, but his crew, two of whom were wounded, carried on until the last boat had loaded and cleared the Marines from the beach. By his outstanding leadership, expert planning and dauntless devotion to duty, he and his courageous comrades saved the lives of many who otherwise would have perished. This 22-year-old Coast Guardsman gallantly gave up his life in defense of his country and was posthumously given America’s highest award, the Medal of Honor. LCDR Buckley’s march, Douglas A. Munro, is dedicated to this American hero.

The United States Coast Guard Band

The United States Coast Guard Band was organized in March of 1925, with the assistance of Lieutenant Charles Benter, leader of the United States Navy Band; Water Damrosch, conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra; and “American March King” John Philip Sousa, former director of the United States Marine Band.

When he signed a special Act of Congress on September 17, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed this organization the permanent, official musical representative of the nation’s oldest continuous seagoing service, Since 1925 when it was founded to fulfill the musical requirements of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, the Coast Guard Band has developed an international reputation as one of the finest professional concert bands in the world, offering music of great variety and appeal. The Band has released fifteen record albums and furnishes programs to National Public Radio for broadcast in over 150 cities in 42 states. Concerts are also broadcast in Australia, Japan and Europe.

Alex Haley

Alex Haley was born in Ithaca, New York, August 11, 1921, and was reared in Henning, Tennessee, He enlisted as a Steward in the U.S. Coast Guard in 1939 and, while at sea during World War II, began his career as a writer, working late into the nights writing stories. In 1952 the Coast Guard created a new rating for Haley—Chief Journalist. While assisting the handling of U.S. Coast Guard public relations, he continued his self-taught efforts to improve his writing. In 1959 Haley retired after 20 years in the Coast Guard.

Alex Haley has won the National Book Award, America’s most prestigious writing award, and the Pulitzer Prize. Colleges and universities have awarded him 17 honorary academic doctorate degrees, while from other sources he has received over 300 special recognitions. Time magazine has labeled Alex Haley “A Folk Hero,” and his book Roots “A Cultural Landmark.”

His appearance as narrator with the Coast Guard Band during its send-off concert for Eagle’s journey to Australia in September 1987 is recaptured here in LCDR Buckley’s Story of The Coast Guard.

The Story Of The Coast Guard

The United States Coast Guard is unique among nations. No other military organization in the world is called upon to perform such a wide variety of tasks or so many varied services. Certainly, the Coast Guard has played a role in history, which greatly exceeds its standing as the smallest of our armed forces. If the many duties of the Coast Guard can be condensed into three categories they are: the preservation of life and property at sea; the enforcement of maritime law; and the maintenance of military readiness. In fulfilling these charges for almost 200 years, Coast Guard people have shown great talent, perseverance, and heroism. The deeds of these men and women are recorded in a long history of great achievement and proud tradition—a history that began that when 13 small colonies rebelled against a domineering monarch to form a new nation.

In the first decade following the revolution, the young country found itself deep in a post-war economic depression. Facing heavy debts incurred during the war, the new congress passed a tariff law in 1789—taxing imported goods. Almost immediately, large-scale smuggling sprang up, and America’s largest single source of desperately needed income was threatened.

Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of Treasury, requested that Congress authorize the purchase of ten small boats—properly manned and armed to fight the smuggling. Congress responded, providing funding for the boats, and at Hamilton’s insistence, authorizing that their officers and crews be given full military standing. The name of the tiny new force was the “Revenue Marine.”

In her early years, the Revenue Marine began many traditions, which formed the foundation of the modern Coast Guard. In 1798, 8 cutters joined with the fledgling U.S. Navy in battle against French privateers. Today military readiness remains a primary Coast Guard mission. The greatest Coast Guard tradition began in 1831 when 7 cutters were assigned to winter patrol duty aiding ships in distress. Thus began the work for which the Coast Guard would become famous—the saving of life and property at sea. Also during the early 1800s, the mission of the Revenue Marine expanded with the acquisition of California in the Mexican War, and with the passage of many new laws.

One of the new laws, whose enforcement failed to the Revenue Marine, prohibited the import of slaves. The issue of slavery, bitterly debated since the Philadelphia conventions before the Revolution, had never been settled. In April 1861, the southern states succeeded from the Union, and America burst into a terrible bloody civil war.

Following the Civil War, the Alaska patrol was added to the mission of the Revenue Marine. At about the same time, the Marine began to be known as the “Revenue Cutter Service.” During these years, Congress granted federal funds and formal recognition, to a century-old network of costal lifesaving stations creating the Life-Saving Service. Duty in the Life-Saving Service was difficult and hazardous—teaching men early the truth of the old saying—the rules say you have to go out, they don’t say you have to come back.

The sinking of the Titanic, in 1912, added ice patrol to the duties of the Revenue Cutter Service. Then, in 1915, Congress combined the Revenue Cutter Service and the Life-Saving Service naming the new organization “The United States Coast Guard.”

The newly named Coast Guard served with great distinction in World War I. In one action, a British naval vessel—the Cowslip—was torpedoed while traveling in convoy. Immediately a Coast Guard cutter—the Seneca—pulled alongside. Despite a concentration of enemy submarines, the Seneca stood by rescuing 81 British sailors from the Cowslip. This action, and one other, in which Seneca lost 11 men trying to save another British ship, drew the following official response from the British Admiralty: “Seldom in the atoms of the sea has there been exhibited such cool courage in the face of almost insurmountable difficulty. America is to be congratulated.”

Though the Coast Guard saved many lives during the war, she also sacrificed greatly. The Seneca gave up 11 men. And, in one of the worst disasters of the war, the entire crew of the Tampa—115 men—was lost when she was sunk by an enemy torpedo. During World War I, the Coast Guard suffered higher loses proportionally than any other armed service.

Peace there was following the war to end all wars. But, for far too short a time—lasting barely a generation. And soon, the Coast Guard found itself growing at an unprecedented rate to deal with the many new duties brought about by America’s entry into World War II. Coast Guard men at sea were involved in active duty combat, and convoy escort duty, while those at home supervised poor security and the handling of explosive cargoes. To help meet the new challenges—particularly the home port and harbor duties—the temporary, permanent, and Women’s Reserves were formed. These reservists, many of whom were essentially volunteers acting without pay, made it possible for the Coast Guard to fulfill a war time mission with award-winning success. At last, the war ended in 1945, and all America celebrated together.

Since World War II, the Coast Guard has rendered distinguished service in Korea and Vietnam while at the same time continuing to modernize. In 1967, the Coast Guard was transferred to the Department of Transportation—adopting distinctive new uniforms a few years later. Just a few of the 20th century responsibilities of the Coast Guard include: the protection of marine life, overseeing the 200 mile commercial fishing limit, carrying out oceanic graphic research, the interdiction of illegal drugs, and containing pollution spills. And the Coast Guard’s traditional responsibilities of maintaining military readiness and protecting property at sea, have grown every year in this century. At this point in her history, the Coast Guard has recovered over 400 billion dollars in cargoes.

But the real story of the Coast Guard is not written in collections of statistics, nor in the ledger books of insurance companies. To hear the real story, talk to the man who was plucked from a stormy sea by a Coast Guard helicopter, or talk to the family who was sighted by a Coast Guard plane after floating helplessly all night in their small boat, or to any others of the 350,000 people whose lives have been saved by the Coast Guard. These people all will tell you that the Coast Guard motto—”Semper Paratus”—is more than just a pair of words. For the men and the women who wear the Coast Guard blue, “Always Ready” is a way of life. ~ Alex Haley.

The Story Of The Coast Guard By Alex Haley

U.S. Coast Guard Bicentennial: 1790-1990
The Story Of The Coast Guard  Narrator: Alex Haley
The U.S. Coast Guard Band, © 1990. All Rights Reserved.

U.S. Coast Guard Bicentennial: 1790-1990 • U.S. Coast Guard Band

1. Semper Paratus / Captain Francis Saltus Van Boskerck, Sam Fox (1:59)

2. Liberty Fanfare / John Williams (4:24) 

3. Rocky Point Holiday / Ron Nelson (5:27)

4. The Bride Of The Waves / Herbert L. Clarke, David R. Werden, Euphonium (5:58)

5. Douglas A. Munro / Lewis J. Buckley (2:23)

6. Southwestern Sketches / Samuel Adler, Oxford University Press (11:48)

7. The Tall Ship Eagle / Lewis J. Buckley (2:05)

8. Ol’ Man River / Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein II, Michael P. Buckley (5:46)

9. Way Down Yonder In New Orleans / Henry Creamer, J. Turner Layton (3:15)

10. At The Jazz Band Ball / Nick LaRocca, Larry Shields (Dixieland Jazz Band) (3:49)

11. Symphonic Dance Music From West Side Story / Leonard Bernstein (8:02)

12. The Story Of The Coast Guard / Lewis J. Buckley, Alex Haley, Narrator (13:34)

(The Story Of The Coast Guard transcript and audio narration by Alex Haley is presented under the Creative Commons License. U.S. Coast Guard Bicentennial: 1790-1990. © 1990 by The United States Coast Guard Band. All Rights Reserved.)

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