The Fighting Coast Guard: In America's Maritime Wars


Published Feb 18, 2023 3:51 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Fighting Coast Guard: America's Maritime Guardians at War in the Twentieth Century

Edited by Mark A. Snell   /   Foreword by Thad Allen

This collection of essays, written by some of the foremost historians in the field of Coast Guard history, highlights the wartime roles played by the United States’ oldest federal maritime service, from its inception through the last decade of the twentieth century. The Fighting Coast Guard features three distinct sections: “Beginnings,” which includes a short overview of the US Revenue Cutter Service (the USCG’s primary forerunner, established in 1790) and two chapters on World War I; “Conflagration,” the role of the USCG during the World War II era; and “The Cold War and Beyond,” an assessment of the Coast Guard’s participation in the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf War of 1991. The Fighting Coast Guard is a significant contribution to the limited historiography of the Coast Guard and a critical analysis of various wartime roles undertaken by the Coast Guard during America’s twentieth-century conflicts.

Because the Coast Guard operated as part of the Department of the Navy during the two world wars, its service and history is often overlooked or enveloped by the larger service, while the USCG’s limited participation in cold and hot wars since 1945 is often ignored altogether. This anthology provides readers with a solid overview while highlighting some of the service’s most important contributions as a combatant force.

This definitive study of the role of the US Coast Guard in wartime, from its modern inception in 1915 through the end of the twentieth century, is long overdue and will shed new light on America’s smallest military service.

Mark A. Snell, retired US Army, is a retired professor of history and founding director of the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War, Shepherd University, in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. He has served as the national chief historian of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary since 2018. Snell is the author of many works on Civil War history, including West Virginia and the Civil War: Mountaineers Are Always Free and coauthor of The Seventh West Virginia Infantry.

Thad Allen, retired USCG, was 23rd Commandant of the US Coast Guard (2006–2010).

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