U.S. Coast Guard Celebrates 229 Years

The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Forrest Rednour mans the rail during the cutter’s commissioning ceremony, Nov. 8, 2018, in San Pedro, California. The Forrest Rednour is the 29th Fast Response Cutter to be commissioned by the Coast Guard.
file photo: The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Forrest Rednour mans the rail during the cutter’s commissioning ceremony, Nov. 8, 2018, in San Pedro, California. The Forrest Rednour is the 29th Fast Response Cutter to be commissioned by the Coast Guard.

By The Maritime Executive 08-04-2019 07:26:17

Each August 4 the U.S. Coast Guard celebrates its birthday.

Its history dates back to the United States Revenue Cutter Service, which was founded on August 4, 1790 as part of the Department of the Treasury. The Revenue Cutter Service and the United States Life-Saving Service were merged to become the Coast Guard in 1915. The United States Lighthouse Service was absorbed by the Coast Guard in 1939, and in February 1942, the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation was transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Just a few of the Coast Guard heroes include: 

Ida Lewis - Lewis was a famed lighthouse keeper and is credited with saving 18 lives earning this Coast Guard hero the Gold Lifesaving Medal.

Oliver F. Berry - Chief Machinist’s Mate Berry became one of the world’s first helicopter maintenance specialists. A distinguished expert mechanic on original Coast Guard aircraft including landplanes and seaplanes as well as helicopters, he was lead instructor at the very first U.S. military helicopter training unit, the Rotary Wing Development Unit.

Joseph O. Doyle - Doyle was appointed keeper of the Charlotte, New York Life Saving Station on July 11, 1878. As keeper, he secured the appointment of a paid crew and became known as one of the most distinguished surfmen attached to the U.S. Life-Saving Service.

Robert G. Ward - Ward served as coxswain of a landing craft in the first wave, in the landing operations against the enemy on Cotentin Peninsula in World War II. Ward successfully landed his troop personnel despite heavy enemy opposition. Upon retracting from the beach, he observed the stranded crews from two other landing craft whose boats had been destroyed by enemy mortar fire. Ward returned to the beach, took off both crews despite continued shelling, and returned safely with them to his ship.

Correa Notes Contributions of those from Under-Represented Communities

This year, politician J. Luis Correa of California, recognized a few of the contributions of men and women from diverse and under-represented communities in the house of representatives on July 26:

Correa notes James Leftwich, a member of the Chickasaw nation. In 1943, Leftwich enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard. He was 14 years of age and the youngest enlistee. Two years later, he was wounded at the Battle of Eniwetok. Letwich recovered and continued to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard until 1964.

Master Chief Melvin Kealoha Bell, a native Hawaiian, joined the Coast Guard in 1938. Stationed at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Bell transmitted the first radio message warning vessels and military institutions of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He then served as a member of the Navy's Fleet Radio Unit Pacific and helped break the secret Japanese Imperial Navy code that led to U.S. Navy victories in the Pacific.

 Myrtle Rae Holthaus Hazard Gambrill was the first woman to serve on active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard. She joined on January 7, 1918, before women could vote. Gambrill served as an electrician at Coast Guard headquarters and was honorably discharged in November 1919.

Olivia Hooker, Dorothy Winifred Byrd, Julia Watson Mosley Shields, Aileen Anita Cooke Moore, and Yvonne Cumberbatch were the first five African-American women to serve as Coast Guard service members during World War II, as part of the Semper Paratus, Always Ready' (SPARs) program. Dr. Hooker was the first one in this group to enlist in the U.S. Guard in February 1945, and she was one of the last known survivors of the Tulsa race riots of 1921 .

Their sister SPARs included other trailblazers: Cuban-American Mary Rivero and Filipina-American Florence Finch Smith. Smith joined the SPARs after surviving torture and incarceration at the hands of the Japanese during the occupation of the Philippines.

Admiral Vivian Crea, former Vice Commandant, is the highest-ranking woman in Coast Guard history. Crea joined the service in 1973, and in 2000, she became the first female Admiral in the U.S. Coast Guard. Crea was selected as Vice Commandant in 2006.

Master Chief Vince Patton became the highest ranking African-American Coast Guard enlisted member when he was selected in 1998 to be the Eighth Master Chief Petty Officer of the U.S. Coast Guard. He was the senior enlisted advisor on workforce and personnel issues.

Henry Garcia, born in Puerto Rico, became the first underrepresented minority to receive an officer's commission in 1928. 10 years later in 1938, he took command of the Coast Guard Cutter Morris and became the first Hispanic-American to command a Coast Guard cutter.

In 1991, Katherine Faverey took command of Coast Guard Cutter Bainbridge Island, becoming the first Hispanic-American woman to command a cutter.