A Dictionary of American History

Author: Thomas L. Purvis  | Date: 1995

Coast Guard

Coast Guard This service originated on 4 August 1790, when Congress established the Revenue Marine (later Revenue Cutter Service) consisting of 10 vessels to enforce customs laws. In 1799 the service’s ships were assigned to cooperate with the navy, which has jurisdiction over the service in wartime. On 28 January 1915, the Revenue Cutter and Life-saving Services merged into the modern Coast Guard. The guard took over the Light House Service in 1939 and it received control of the Bureau of Navigation and Steamboat Inspection in 1942. It helped escort merchant convoys in World War I and lost 574 killed and 432 wounded. The Department of the Treasury financed the Coast Guard until 1967, when it was assigned to the Department of Transportation.

In World War II, Coast Guard cutters protected convoys during the battle of the Atlantic, and the service lost 1,919 men dead. By 1967, the Coast Guard had sent two squadrons (52 ships) for the Vietnam War. The guard performed over 6,000 missions and boarded 250,000 small craft before turning over their cutters to Vietnamese crews in 1972. Besides protecting coastal and inland waterways, the Coast Guard interdicts smugglers, oversees harbor construction, certifies ships for launching, performs ice-breaking missions, enforces pollution and maritime-conservation laws; in peace, it maintains about 38,000 military and 6,000 civilian personnel.


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Chicago: Thomas L. Purvis, "Coast Guard," A Dictionary of American History in A Dictionary of American History (Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell Reference, 1995), Original Sources, accessed March 25, 2019, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DKXGSHJB8NP4K3F.

MLA: Purvis, Thomas L. "Coast Guard." A Dictionary of American History, in A Dictionary of American History, Cambridge, Mass., Blackwell Reference, 1995, Original Sources. 25 Mar. 2019. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DKXGSHJB8NP4K3F.

Harvard: Purvis, TL, 'Coast Guard' in A Dictionary of American History. cited in 1995, A Dictionary of American History, Blackwell Reference, Cambridge, Mass.. Original Sources, retrieved 25 March 2019, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=DKXGSHJB8NP4K3F.