Of all the branches of the U.S. military that are recognized publicly and in history museums, the Coast Guard is often overlooked as actually being a military service.
Established in 1790, many may not realize until learning about it in a military history museum that the Coast Guard is America’s oldest maritime force, even older than the U.S. Navy established in 1798 by the Congress.
As the birth of this federal military service comes around on August 4th, Americans can learn more about it with a visit to a living history museum offering displays and information about the Coast Guard.
The Birth of the Revenue Cutter Service
One of the reasons why many people do not realize the Coast Guard is as old as it is relates to its original name, the Revenue Cutter Service also known as the Revenue Marine.
This was the name given to the fleet of ships authorized by Congress and signed into law by President George Washington on August 7, 1790 and given the mission of preventing smuggling and enforcing federal trade as well as tariff laws along America’s coastlines.
Congress initially ordered the construction of ten small, fast cutter vessels to patrol the eastern shores to enforce these laws, but the fleet quickly grew to include many more.
Official Renaming to the Coast Guard
From the days of Washington’s Revenue Cutter Service to modern times, the duties carried out by this service grew in leaps and bounds.
No longer just for patrolling for smugglers, the Service began taking on humanitarian missions along with a different maritime service, the U.S. Life-Saving Service, as well as providing additional military support up until its name was changed in 1915.
To bring both maritime services under the same order and give all vessels a mission of protecting both the law and the people, the two groups were merged and renamed the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard Grows
The Coast Guard has continuously grown in size and duties since its official naming in 1915.
Since then, the U.S. Lighthouse Service was put under Coast Guard control in 1939 as was the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation in 1946.
In 1967, the Coast Guard as a branch of the military was transferred to the Department of Transportation; however, in 2003 it was once again transferred back to more military control under the Department of Homeland Security where it is today.
Today’s Modern Day Coast Guard
Although the Coast Guard is currently considered a federal agency of the Department of Homeland Security, it still remains one of the five branches of the U.S. military service.
It serves as a protector of human and marine life as well as maritime law during peacetime and stands ready to guard America’s coastlines plus assist the Navy during times of conflict.
Celebrate the U.S. Coast Guard At A Military History Museum
As with all other branches of America’s military forces, the beginnings of the Coast Guard were humble and basic, growing to a military and federal agency that saves lives and protects our sea borders today.
The official birthday of the Coast Guard on August 4th presents another wonderful reason to visit a history museum to learn more about its beginnings or see memorabilia and other military displays at a living history museum like the Museum of the American G.I.
Happy Birthday to the U.S. Coast Guard!