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August 4 – Coast Guard Birthday

August 4, 1790

Happy birthday to the United States Coast Guard. Here’s to many more years of being Always Ready!

Coast Guard Day is celebrated every August 4 to commemorate the branch’s founding as the Revenue Marine on August 4, 1790. On that date, U.S. Congress, guided by then-Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, authorized the building of a fleet of the first ten Revenue Service Cutters, whose responsibility would be to enforce tariff laws enacted by Congress.

The Coast Guard received its present name through an act of Congress signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on January 28, 1915 that merged the Revenue Cutter Service with the United States Life-Saving Service and provided the nation with a single maritime service dedicated to enforcing their maritime laws and saving life at sea.

In 1939, the Coast Guard began to maintain the United States’ maritime navigation aids, including operating U.S. lighthouses. Then in 1946, Congress permanently transferred the Department of Commerce Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation to the Coast Guard, placing merchant marine licensing and vessel safety under Coast Guard regulation.

In April 1967, after 177 years under the Treasury Department, the Coast Guard was transferred to the newly formed Department of Transportation and then transferred to the Department of Defense in 2003 as a result of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Today, the Coast Guard operates under the Department of Homeland Security during peacetime and can be transferred to the Department of the Navy during times of war.