1900 8 September. A hurricane strikes Galveston, Texas. (Later estimated as a Category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson scale) It is considered to be the deadliest hurricane in American history with death toll estimated between 6,000 and 12,000. RCS and LSS personnel search for survivors and offer humanitarian aid.
1901 To evaluate its use in lighthouse work, radio equipment was installed experimentally on Nantucket Lightship in August of 1901.
1902 17 March. All but one of the crewmembers of the Monomoy Life-Saving Station perished during the attempted rescue of the wrecked coal barge Wadena during a terrible winter gale. The dead included the keeper of the station, Marshall N. Eldridge; six of his surfmen; and the crew of five from the barge. Eldridge told his men before they departed on the rescue that: "We must go, there is a distress flag in the rigging." The sole survivor, Seth L. Ellis, was the number one surfman of the Monomoy station. He was awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal as was the man who rescued him, Captain Elmer Mayo of the barge Fitzpatrick.
1903 17 December. Crewmen from the Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina Life-Saving Station assisted Orville and Wilbur Wright during their flight experiments. Surfman J.T. Daniels took the photograph proving the first flight of a powered “heavier-than-air” machine. The crew helped carry the plane to its starting point for each of the three subsequent flights on that day
USRC Grant was the first cutter to use wireless telegraph.
1904 USRC Grant was the first cutter to use radio for tactical purposes.
1905 3 March. Congress authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to acquire a suitable site in the state of Maryland upon which to establish a depot for the Revenue Cutter Service; this site eventually became the Coast Guard Yard.
10 December. Light Vessel No. 58 was the first U.S. vessel of any type to transmit a distress call by radio when, during a heavy gale, while relieving Nantucket LV 66, a serious leak developed in fire-room compartment; suction pumps clogged repeatedly; distress messages sent by radio were handled by Newport Naval Station in Rhode Island. Rising water eventually extinguished the boiler furnaces and the ship was then bailed by hand for 24 hours. Tender Azalea responded, arriving at 0400 on 11 December and started towing about 1100. Heavy cross-seas hindered the operation and about 4 hours later, the lightship signaled "must abandon". Her crew was safely taken aboard Azalea and 10 minutes later LV 58, listing heavily to starboard, went down by the stern in 25 fathoms of water about 18 miles northwest of the station.
1906 18 April. Four cutters converged on San Francisco, California after the earthquake. Their crews join the search for survivors, aid refugees, and fight fires in the aftermath.
22 November. Attendees of the second International Radio Telegraphic Convention, held in Berlin, agreed to adopt the wireless signal "SOS" as the internationally recognized signal for distress at sea.
1908 Revenue cutters are charged with the enforcement of all Alaskan game laws.
1909 Peak of operational Lightship Stations
1910 Motorboat Act increases RCS responsibility to monitor boating safety requirements.
Revenue Cutter School of Instruction moves from Curtis Bay, Maryland to Fort Trumbull in New London, Connecticut.
1911 7 July. Convention signed between United States, Great Britain, Japan and Russia prohibiting the hunting of fur seals and sea otters in the north Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea, north of 300 latitude, except for food and clothing.
1912 2 March. The cutter Hartley seized the vessel Morning Star in Oakland Creek and arrested her crew for carrying 21 "contraband" Chinese migrants.
4 April. President Taft recommended abolishing Revenue Cutter Service to cut expenses. His actions led to the eventual creation of the Coast Guard three years later by merging the Revenue Cutter Service and the Life-Saving Service on 28 January 1915.
14 April. RMS Titanic collided with an iceberg off Newfoundland while sailing on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York. She sank a little over two hours later. There were 1,517 lost including 103 women and 53 children out of total passenger and crew of 2,207. The tragedy led to the creation of the International Ice Patrol.
1913 RCS assumed the responsibility of monitoring iceberg activity from the U.S. Navy. Cutters Seneca and Miami conducted patrols of North Atlantic shipping lanes.
1914 7 February. Following the Convention for Safety at Sea in London, President Woodrow Wilson directed the Revenue Cutter Service assume responsibility for the International Ice Patrol, a mission the Coast Guard performs to this day.
24 June. Congress authorized the Secretary of Treasury to "detail for duty on revenue cutters such surgeons and other persons of the Public Health Service as…necessary" and for cutters with medical personnel on board to extend medical aid to crews of American vessels. This Act regularized assignment of Public Health Service personnel to revenue cutters, launching a partnership between the two services that survives to this day.
1915 28 January. President Woodrow Wilson signs the bill merging the Life-Saving Service and the Revenue Cutter Service to establish the U.S. Coast Guard.
1916 Third Lieutenants Elmer Stone and Norman Hall, serving on Onondaga, fly the first Coast Guard air reconnaissance with a plane borrowed from the Navy.
President Woodrow Wilson creates the Interdepartmental Board on International Service of Ice Observation, Ice Patrol, and Ocean Derelict Destruction. The Board was directed to prepare a systematic program of scientific observations to be carried out by the cutters serving on the International Ice Patrol, inaugurating the practice of oceanography with the Coast Guard.
1 April. The first Coast Guardsmen, Elmer Stone and Charles E. Sugden, reported for flight training at the naval air station in Pensacola, Florida.
29 August. The Secretary of Treasury is authorized to procure three light craft river steamboats, including lifeboats and other necessary lifesaving appliances and equipment for rescuing lives and property and distributing food and clothing to marooned people during Mississippi and Ohio River flood
1917 6 April. U. S. declared war on Germany. Navy wireless station broadcasted “Plan One Acknowledge” to all Coast Guard bases and stations, transferring control of Coast Guard districts, assets and personnel to the Navy. Six ocean-going cutters dispatched to Europe on convoy duty. Smaller cutters patrol home waters.
10 April. Lieutenant Elmer Stone completed flight training at Pensacola. As the Coast Guard as yet has no air wing, Stone is registered as Naval Aviator No. 38.
15 June. Espionage Act. With passage of the act the job of enforcing the rules and regulations of port security passed from the War Department to the Coast Guard. The Supervisor of the Anchorage was a Coast Guard Captain, reporting to the Treasury Department. In early 1918 this position was renamed to Captain of the Port, with Coast Guard officers designated as Captains of the Port in New York, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Norfolk, Virginia; Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. The New York unit became the largest Coast Guard command during World War I, and for good reason. Over the course of 18 months the New York Captain of the Port managed the handling and shipping of over 345,000 tons of munitions.
1918 16 August. Keeper John Allen Midgett and the crew of Station No. 179 at Chicamacomico, North Carolina rescued the crew of the British tanker SS Mirlo. All but one of the crew were named Midgett and each received the Gold Lifesaving Medal for their actions in saving the crew amid burning oil and wreckage.
18 September. USCGC Seneca’s crew attempt to bring the torpedoed British collier Wellington into Brest, France. Eleven of Seneca‘s crew, sent as a boarding party on board the collier, were lost when Wellington foundered in a gale. Seneca received the largest number of Navy Crosses in history for a single action.
26 September. A single torpedo from the German submarine UB- 91 sank USCGC Tampa while on convoy duty. The dead included 111 Coast Guardsmen, four U.S. Navy men, a captain of the British Army, ten seamen of the Royal Navy, and five civilian employee dockworkers. The sinking of Tampa was the single largest U.S. naval combat loss of the war.
4 October. Munitions at a rail yard in Morgan, New Jersey, exploded and fire spreads to other buildings storing ammunition. A Coast Guard detachment from Perth Amboy, New Jersey, reached the scene first. First Lieutenant Joseph E. Stika, with five enlisted Coast Guardsmen and two soldiers as volunteers, laid down rails and directed the move of nine train cars loaded with high explosives to safety. Stika earned the Navy Cross for his actions. This, along with other incidents of possible sabotage by German agents, reinforced the nation’s need for a strong port security presence at each of the nation’s major ports.
6 December. L.E. Ashton, a surfman from Station No. 305 in Nome, Alaska, departed with a dog sled team loaded with medical supplies on a 160-mile trek to assist natives suffering from the influenza epidemic. They arrived at Cape Prince of Wales seven days later, where they found 122 sick and 157 dead of the illness. Ashton converted the schoolhouse into a hospital, the post office into a dispensary and began burying the dead. By 20 February, when "the epidemic had spent its force," he returned to his station in Nome.
1919 27 May. First Lieutenant Elmer Stone serves as pilot and navigator of the first successful trans-Atlantic flight. Stone flew the NC-4, one of three commissioned U.S. Navy aircraft on the expedition. The NC-4 departed Rockaway, New York on 8 May and landed in Lisbon, Portugal on 27 May.
Coast Guard Communication Division founded; 3671 miles of cable connects 282 stations, 44 units, and 139 lighthouses.
1920 16 January. The Volstead Act, better known as Prohibition, goes into effect. Enforcement of the Act fell to the Treasury Department; the “Rum War” dominates Coast Guard’s missions until the Act is repealed in 1933.
24 March. The Coast Guard established its first air station at Morehead City, North Carolina. The station was closed on 1 July 1921 due to a lack of funding.
30 March. The Coast Guard officially appoints Elmer F. Stone Coast Guard Aviator No. 1.
18 May. Congress authorized the Coast Guard to equate all ranks and ratings to those of the Navy.
1921 Captain Quincy B. Newman, Engineer-in-Chief of the Coast Guard, introduced the first synchro-turbo electric drive on ships in any of the U.S. services. They were to be used in his Tampa-class cutters. He designed both the Tampa-class cutters and their revolutionary drive systems.
1922 The Coast Guard saved 2,954 lives and property worth $35,346,095.00
1923 To combat “bootlegging,” Congress authorizes increasing the Coast Guard to 149 commissioned officers, 418 Warrant Officers, and 3,789 men.
The Coast Guard establishes an oceanographic unit at Harvard University charged with providing support and conducting research for the International Ice Patrol.
1924 31 Destroyers, 203 cabin cruisers and 100 smaller boats are “leant” to the Coast Guard for the Rum War. With appropriate personnel, the cost was approximately $14 million becoming the largest single increase in the history of the Coast Guard.
7 June. The Oil Pollution Act of 1924 prohibited the intentional release of fuel oil into U.S. navigable coastal waters, defined as an area within three-miles offshore. Congress passed the Act with the primary goal of protecting aquatic life
1925 20 June. A Coast Guard aircraft chased a "rum-runner," marking the first use of service aviation in the law enforcement and maritime interdiction missions.
1926 Coast Guard’s first permanent air station established at Cape May, New Jersey
The Service boarded and examined over 53,000 vessels for violation of safety laws.
1927 3 July. Ensign Charles L. Duke boards and captures the smuggler Greypoint, running her aground on Robbins Reef and holding the crew at gunpoint for nine hours until reinforcements arrived. Resulted in the capture of 22 men and 3,000 50-gallon drums of alcohol valued "on the street" at $50,000.
128 Coast Guard boats transported food and medical supplies, including 12,000 units of Typhoid serum, to interstate flood areas. Rescued 43,843 people, distributed 750 tons of clothing, 400 tons of fuel, and 2500 tents.
1928 Cutter Marion performs oceanographic survey of the Davis Strait between Labrador and Greenland.
30 June. The active personnel of the Coast Guard includes: 305 regular commissioned officers, 65 temporary commissioned officers, 63 chief warrant officers, 425 warrant officers, 415 temporary warrant officers, 73 cadets, 10,392 enlisted, 39 civilian employees in the field, 150 civilian employees at headquarters.
1929 20 March. The schooner I’m Alone of Nova Scotia, a vessel built for the rum trade appeared off the Texas coast and was picketed by the cutter Wolcott. Boatswain Frank Paul marked her at 10.8 miles from shore and signaled her to heave to, fired several blanks and brought the vessel to a stop. The Captain of the schooner allowed Paul on board, but when he returned, I’m Alone continued on her way. Wolcott resumed chase and fired shots into her rigging. The next morning, some two hundred miles south of the U.S., the cutter Dexter arrived to assist and fired into I’m Alone, sinking the vessel and drowning one of her crew. The action caused an international incident with complaints from Canada, Britain, and France. The key issues in the case were the position of the schooner and its speed, as the speed of a suspect vessel is a factor in how far out it might be seized. Her captain maintained I’m Alone was only a 7-knot vessel and was anchored about 15 miles out in safe waters. However, I’m Alone managed to stay ahead of Wolcott, a nearly new cutter capable of at least 11 knots, for over 24 hours. Diplomatic negotiations continued until 1935 when the United States conceded and paid compensation to the crew of the schooner
17 August. Horace Alderman was executed at Coast Guard Base 10, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Alderman was tried and convicted for killing two Coast Guardsmen when they stopped Alderman’s vessel for smuggling liquor.
1932 Bureau of Navigation and the Steamboat Inspection Service merge to form the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation
Whaling Convention Act. The Coast Guard was assigned the responsibility for enforcing the Act.
2 May. Northern Pacific Halibut Act, after Convention with Canada, made it unlawful to catch halibut between 1st November and 15th February each year in territorial waters of United States and Canada and on high seas, extending westerly from them, including the Bering Sea. Coast Guard enforced this Act.
1933 The 21st Amendment repeals prohibition; The Coast Guard re-focuses on other missions.
The Coast Guard Academy moves from Fort Trumbull to its present campus.
Severe icing blocked navigation in the nation’s northeast rivers. Coast Guard cutters were pressed into service to clear channels for oil barges initiating the first icebreaking attempts by the service
1934 13 May. Lightship Nantucket (LV-117) struck and sunk by the RMS Olympic
4 September. Surfboats and lifeboats from Coast Guard stations Shark River, Squan Beach, Sandy Hook and others responded to a deadly fire aboard the liner Morro Castle, rescuing 129 survivors. Cutters Tampa and Cahoone also responded. After failing to get the Morro Castle under tow due to the worsening weather, they recovered as many victims from the water as they could. Over 250 Coast Guardsmen participated in the rescue and recovery effort. This disaster led to a Senate investigation and subsequent changes in maritime safety regulations.
The Coast Guard breaks the world’s speed record for amphibious planes at Hampton Roads, Virginia.
1935 Coast Guard operates forty aircraft from eight air stations
18 January. Charles T. Thrun, Coast Guard Aviator No. 3, died when his Grumman JF-2 Duck crashed at Cape May, New Jersey. Thrun was the first Coast Guard aviator killed in the line of duty.
1936 1 May. Congress passed the Whaling Treaty Act, which made it unlawful to take Right whales or calves of any whale. The Coast Guard enforced the act.
24 July. USCGC Cayuga, on a cadet cruise through European waters, received orders to San Sebastian, Spain to evacuate U.S. citizens at the start of the Spanish Civil War. As the U.S. ambassador to Spain and his staff was on board, the cutter then served as a U.S. embassy.
1937 January. Coast Guard units began flood relief operations in the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys. These operations lasted until 11 March and resulted in the rescue of hundreds of victims and thousands of farm animals.
2 July. USCGC Itasca, while conducting re-supply operations in the Central Pacific, was assigned to serve as a radio beacon for Amelia Earhart and her co-pilot Fred Noonan. Itasca made the last-known radio contact with the famous flyer and later joined the Navy-directed search for the aircraft. The search was finally called off on 17 July with no trace of the aircraft or its occupants having been found.
1938 22 September. A hurricane hit the northeast coast, wreaking havoc among the area lighthouses. First assistant keeper Walter B. Eberle of the Whale Rock light was killed when his lighthouse was swept into the sea. The wife of head keeper Arthur A. Small died when she was swept away from the Palmer Island Light Station. The keeper of the Prudence Island Light Station's wife and son drowned when that light station was swept into the sea. Many more stations and depots were severely damaged as well.
1939 1 July. U.S. Lighthouse Service is consolidated with the Coast Guard. Made in the interest of efficiency and economy, the plan integrated approximately 30,000 aids to navigation (including light vessels and lighthouses), 5,200 employees, 64 buoy tenders, 30 depots, and 17 district offices.
7 August. 150th Anniversary of the U.S. Lighthouse Service.
5 September. U.S. declares its neutrality and President Franklin D. Roosevelt orders the Coast Guard to carry out neutrality patrols.
Igor Sikorsky constructs the first functioning helicopter
1940 January. The Ocean Station program was established under orders from President Franklin Roosevelt. The Coast Guard, in cooperation with the U. S. Weather Service, was given responsibility for its establishment and operation. The program was first known as the Atlantic Weather Observation Service and later as the "Ocean Station" program. Cutters were dispatched for 30-day patrols to transmit weather observations and serve as a SAR standby for transoceanic aircraft. The program ended in the 1970s.
February. Cutters Bibb and Duane became the first vessels to make radio transmissions as "weather stations.”
June. Dangerous Cargo Act. The Coast Guard undertakes Port Security responsibilities. The service governs anchorage and movement of all vessels in U.S. waters and protects vessels, harbors, inland and coastal waterways of the U.S. The Act also gave the Coast Guard jurisdiction over ships with high explosives and dangerous cargoes.
Motorboat Act. The act covered safety requirements for every vessel propelled by machinery under 65-feet in length, with the exception of tugboats and towboats. In addition to covering safety equipment, running lights, and reckless or negligent operations, this law gave the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation the authority to examine the operators of these boats and issue licenses provided they carried passengers for hire.
1941 Coast Guard Reserve becomes the Auxiliary.
First civilian women hired to serve in secretarial and clerical positions.
January. Successful test of the Sikorsky VS-300 (HNS-1) helicopter.
March. Lend-Lease Act enabled the United States to provide Allied nations with war materiel while the U.S. was still officially a neutral country. It is the first step away from American isolationism since the end of World War I.
April. Ten “Lake-Class” Coast Guard cutters were transferred to the Royal Navy as part of Lend-Lease Program
The Coast Guard assumed oversight of the Greenland Theater of operations. Responsibilities includes convoy duty, search and rescue, and defense against German infiltration
CDR Watson A. Burton, commanding officer of Air Station Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, New York, and CDR William J. Kossler, chief of the Aviation Engineering Division at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, travel to Stratford, Connecticut, to witness and evaluate a Sikorsky helicopter test
July. Atlantic Charter. President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met in Halifax, Nova Scotia. With this the United States declared itself an ally of Great Britain in the latter’s war against Hitler’s Germany.
September. After the Danish government in exile asked the U.S. to protect Greenland, the cutter Northland seized the Norwegian sealer Buskoe, with Nazi agents on board trying to establish radio and weather stations in Greenland, in MacKenzie Bay, Greenland. The capture of the Buskoe was the first U.S. naval capture of World War II.
November. Coast Guard ordered to operate as part of the Navy
December. Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. USCGC Taney served as an anti-aircraft vessel against enemy aircraft and performed harbor and anti-submarine patrols alongside the Navy.
1942 January. USCGC Alexander Hamilton was struck by a torpedo while on convoy duty and sank off the coast of Iceland. 26 members of her crew perished in the attack.
The Coast Guard-manned transport, USS Wakefield, came under fire while refueling after first disembarking her British Army passengers when the Japanese attacked Singapore. Despite a direct hit on her sick bay, Wakefield escaped with approximately 500 women and children refugees and struggled to Bombay for repairs.
February. Marine-inspection and navigation duties under the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation were temporarily transferred to the Coast Guard by executive order. The Coast Guard was now responsible for almost all aspects of merchant-marine personnel and ship safety. This transfer became permanent 16 July 1946.
March. The first 150 African American volunteers who enlisted after the Coast Guard opened all rates began training at the Coast Guard’s integrated training facility at Manhattan Beach, New York City.
A cooperative effort between scientists, the Navy, and the Coast Guard develops Long-Range Navigation (LORAN) system. Pulse transmission of radio waves permits LORAN to measure the time a signal travels. This allows an infinite number of lines of position to be placed over the Earth’s surface by radio. Using special charts and a simple receiver, a plane or ship could determine its general location within a few miles by longitude and latitude. LORAN is the first use of electronic navigation, precursor to Global Positioning System (GPS).
Chief of Naval Operations outlined a special-agent program for Captain of the Port (COTP) in order to uncover sabotage plots. Coast Guard Intelligence acted as a clearinghouse and repository for information. Investigators screened civilians, Coast Guard personnel and enemy aliens holding temporary ID cards.
May. The Coast Guard manned USS Icarus sank the U-352 off Moorehead City, North Carolina, taking 33 prisoners-of-war. They were the first German prisoners taken in combat by any U.S. force in World War II.
LT T. James Crotty, a mine recovery expert, served in the Philippines performing demolition work during the retreat of American and Filipino forces from Bataan to Corregidor and acting as executive officer of the USS Quail, a minesweeper. Captured after the surrender of Corregidor, Crotty contracted diphtheria and died in the fall of 1942. He is the only documented Coast Guard prisoner of war during the 20th century.
Chief of Naval Operations requested the Coast Guard Reserve organize the Coastal Picket Patrol. Known as the Corsair Fleet, the patrol was ordered to attack enemy submarines when armament permitted. It consisted primarily of private pleasure craft put into national service by their owners.
June. The President delegates port-security to the Coast Guard. Responsibilities included: Control of anchorage and movement of all vessels in port; Issuance of identification cards and the supervision of access to vessels and waterfront facilities; Fire-prevention measures including inspections, recommendations and enforcement; Firefighting activities, including use of fireboats, trailer pumps and other extinguishing agents; Supervision of the loading and stowage of explosives and military ammunition; Boarding and examination of vessels in port; Sealing of vessels' radios; Licensing of vessels for movement in local waters and for departure; Guarding of important facilities; Enforcement of all regulations governing vessels and waterfront security; Maintenance of water patrols; General enforcement of federal laws on navigable waters and other miscellaneous duties
August. The Coast Guard-manned transport USS Hunter Liggett rescued the survivors of the heavy cruisers USS Vincennes, Astoria, and Quincy and the Australian cruiser HMAS Canberra sunk the preceding night by Imperial Japanese Navy warships during the Battle of Savo Island. The night battle, also known as the First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, was one of the worst defeats ever suffered by the U.S. Navy.
September. Signalman First Class Douglas A. Munro was killed in action and
posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at the Matanikau River, Guadalcanal. As coxswain of a 36-foot Higgins boat, Munro took charge of the dozen craft which helped evacuate the surrounded elements of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller. After the last Marine was evacuated, Munro was shot and killed by enemy fire. He is the only Coast Guardsman to receive the Medal of Honor.
The Coast Guard-manned weather ship USS Muskeget disappeared without a trace while on patrol in the North Atlantic. Her entire crew of 120 men was lost. The Coast Guard learned after the war that she had been torpedoed and sunk by the U-755.
November. LT John A. Pritchard, a pilot assigned to the USCGC Northland on the Greenland Patrol, led a search party over the polar ice cap to rescue a downed Canadian aircraft crew. Later, as Pritchard and his radioman ferried a downed American B-17 crew to the Northland, their aircraft encountered poor weather and was lost in the ice. The plane remains missing to this day.
Operation Torch, the Allied landings in Vichy-French-held North Africa, Commenced.
Coast Guard-manned Navy vessels participated in the assault, including the attack transports USS Leonard Wood, Joseph T. Dickman, and Samuel Chase. Coast Guardsmen also manned the landing craft on the Navy's USS Arcturus, Charles Carroll, Joseph Hewes, William P. Biddle and Exceller.
Congress establishes the Women’s Coast Guard Reserves, known as SPARs—an acronym for “Semper Paratus – Always Ready.” LCDR Dorothy Stratton transferred from the Navy to serve as the director of the SPARs. More than 11,000 SPARs served during World War II. The program was largely demobilized after the war. YN3 Dorothy Tuttle became the first SPAR enlistee when she enlisted in the Coast Guard Women's Reserve on 7 December 1942.
December. The Coast Guard-manned USS Sea Cloud was the first deliberate test of shipboard desegregation. LCDR Carleton Skinner initiated the experiment with the support of CMDT Russell Waesche. This test predated the U.S. Navy’s first desegregated ship (USS Mason) by a year. Skinner also served as Navy’s advisor.
1943 February. Cutters Escanaba and Comanche aided the torpedoed Army transport, USS Dorchester. The crew of Escanaba utilized a new method to rescue survivors. The "retriever" technique used swimmers in wetsuits to reach victims in the water, secure a line, and haul them onto the ship. Although Escanaba saved 133 men and Comanche saved 97, over 600 men perished.
USCGC Campbell encountered the disabled U-606 while escorting a convoy through the North Atlantic. The Campbell engaged the submarine by ramming the vessel, releasing depth charges, and firing into the U-boat’s conning tower and hull, not stopping until the Germans surrendered. The Campbell then rescued five of the U-606's crew. Due to the collision, Campbell was damaged and towed to safety, where the cutter was repaired, and returned to service.
During a fierce battle near Greenland, USS Ingham (USCG) rescued 33 survivors from the torpedoed troopship SS Henry Mallory while USS Bibb (USCG) rescued 202. Bibb then rescued 33 from the torpedoed SS Kalliopi.
Admiral Ernest King, Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Navy, places responsibility for helicopter development with the Coast Guard. All the Navy's helicopters during World War II, except for those at naval test sites, were under Coast Guard control.
April. Joseph C. Jenkins graduated as ensign in the Coast Guard Reserve. Jenkins is the first officially recognized commissioned African-American officer in the Coast Guard.
Lieutenant Ross P. Bullard and Boatswain's Mate First Class C. S. "Mike" Hall boarded the U-175 at sea after their cutter, Spencer, blasted the U-boat to the surface with depth charges during an attack on the convoy escorted by Spencer. Bullard and Hall were part of a specially trained boarding party sent to the submarine to seize what documents and equipment they could. The damage to the U-boat was severe, however, and it sank after boarding. Both men ended up in the water as the U-boat submerged, but were rescued unharmed. They are the first American servicemen to board an enemy warship underway since the War of 1812. The cutter rescued 19 of the U-boat's crew and a sister cutter, Duane, rescued 22. One Spencer crewman was killed by friendly fire during the battle.
While loading a cargo of ammunition at a Bayonne, New Jersey, pier, the freighter El Estero caught fire, threatening downtown Manhattan with a catastrophic explosion. Coast Guardsmen commanded by LCDR John T. Stanley responded immediately and were soon reinforced by local firefighters. Two Coast Guard fireboats along with commercial and New York City firefighting tugs headed to the area. Stanley boarded the freighter, now burning out of control, with LCDR Arthur F. Pfister. After consulting the COTP of New York, RADM Stanley V. Parker, they decided to scuttle the ship. However, the seacocks were not accessible leaving filling her holds with water the only option. While firefighters battled the blaze on board the El Estero, tugs took the freighter under tow, heading to deeper water away from New York City. The tugs and firefighting vessels began spraying their water cannons on the freighter while residents of the city were warned to expect an imminent explosion. Fortunately, the vessel began listing to starboard and sank northwest of the Robbins Reef Light, extinguishing the fires. All of the men aboard the vessel escaped harm. The fire was later ruled as accidental.
June. USCGC Escanaba exploded and sank off Ivigtut, Greenland, with only two survivors. The cause of the explosion has never been confirmed.
July. Coast Guard commissions the Governor Cobb, a former coastal passenger steamer acquired by the service. The Cobb's superstructure was cut down and a 38-foot by 63-foot flight deck was added aft to accommodate a helicopter, becoming the nation’s first helicopter carrier
Coast Guard-manned ships land the first Allied troops in Sicily
September. The invasion of Salerno, Italy began. Coast Guard units, including LCI(L) Flotilla 4, participated.
1944 January. Captain Frank A. Erickson flew blood plasma in a blizzard from the Battery, New York to Sandy Hook, New Jersey to aid the survivors of the USS Turner. It is the first use of a Coast Guard helicopter in a rescue mission.
Lieutenant Stewart R. Graham is the first person to make a helicopter take-off and landing on board a ship underway when he piloted a Sikorsky HNS-1 off of and back on the SS Daghestan in the North Atlantic.
June. Coast Guard cutters, Coast Guard-manned warships and landing craft participated in the landings at Normandy, France. CAPT Miles Imlay commanded a Coast Guard-manned landing craft flotilla and was also the deputy commander of an assault group attacking Omaha Beach on D-Day. He directed the incoming landing craft and transports from the flotilla's flagship USS LCI(L)-87 off Omaha Beach all day on 6 June and took over command of the assault group that night. Four Coast Guard-manned LCI(L)s were lost at the Omaha Beach that day. Sixty cutters sailed in support of the invasion forces, acting as search and rescue craft for each of the landings. A Coast Guard manned assault transport, the USS Bayfield, served as the command and control vessel for the landings at Utah beach.
During the fight for Cherbourg, France, Lieutenant Commander Quentin R. Walsh (USCG) and Lieutenant Frank Lauer (USNR) coerced the surrender of Fort du Homet, a German stronghold, by convincing them that the city had already fallen. Believing the two Americans led a large force, the Germans held their fire. Walsh and Lauer then accepted the surrender of 300 German troops and liberated fifty American paratroopers who had been prisoners since D-Day.
July. LTJG Clarence Samuels became the first African-American to command a "major" Coast Guard vessel since Michael Healy and the first to achieve command of a Coast Guard vessel "during wartime" when he assumed command of the Light Vessel No. 115.
The attack and liberation of Guam began. Participating vessels included the Coast Guard tender CGC Tupelo and the Coast Guard-manned Navy warships Cor Caroli, Aquarius, Centaurus, Sterope, Arthur Middleton, LST-24, LST-70, LST-71 and LST-207.
September. USCGC Northland captured the crew of a scuttled Nazi supply trawler off Greenland. The crew had attempted to establish a weather station on the coast of Greenland.
The Great Atlantic Hurricane, a Category 3 hurricane, made landfall at Cape Hatteras, North Carolina; Long Island, New York; and Point Judith, Rhode Island. The disaster resulted in 46 civilian deaths and $100 million in damage. Cutters Jackson and Bedloe, and Lightship No. 73 on Vineyard Sound Station, foundered. All 12 of the lightship's crew and 48 of the 78 crewmen on board the two cutters perished. The USS Warrington, with 248 men, was also lost.
October. Cutters Eastwind and Southwind captured the Nazi weather and supply vessel Externsteine off the coast of Greenland after a brief fire-fight with no casualties. The Coast Guardsmen christened it USS Eastbreeze and placed a prize crew of 37 men on board. After sailing with the Greenland Patrol for three weeks, Eastbreeze proceeded to Boston where the Navy renamed her USS Callao. The Externsteine was the only enemy surface vessel captured at sea by U.S. naval forces during the war.
November. The Coast Guard-manned frigate USS Rockford, in concert with the Navy minesweeper USS Ardent, attacked and sank the Japanese Navy submarine I-12 mid-way between Hawaii and California. There were no survivors. In sinking I-12, Ardent and Rockford unwittingly avenged the atrocity I-12 had perpetrated on 30 October 1944 when, after sinking the Liberty Ship John A. Johnson, the submarine had rammed and sunk the lifeboats and rafts and its crew then machine-gunned the 70 survivors.
1945 First five African-American females entered the SPARs in 1945: Olivia Hooker, D. Winifred Byrd, Julia Mosley, Yvonne Cumberbatch, and Aileen Cooke.
January. The Coast Guard-manned attack cargo vessel USS Serpens exploded off Guadalcanal due to unknown causes. 198 Coast Guardsmen died, only two survived. This was the single greatest Coast Guard loss of life in history.
February. The invasion of Iwo Jima commenced. Coast Guard units participating in this campaign included the Coast Guard-manned USS Bayfield, Callaway, 14 LSTs and the PC-469. Three of the LSTs were struck by enemy shore fire: LST-792, LST-758, and LST-760.
March. The first all-Coast Guard hunter-killer group ever established during the war searched for a reported German U-boat near Sable Island off the coast of Nova Scotia. The group was made up of the Coast Guard-manned destroyer escorts USS Lowe, Menges, Mosley, and Pride, and was under the overall command of Commander R. H. French, USCG. The warships located, attacked and sank the U-866 with the loss of all hands
April. Invasion of Okinawa in the Ryukyu Islands began. Seven Coast Guard-manned transports, 29 LSTs, the cutters Bibb and Woodbine, and 12 Coast Guard-manned LCI(L)s participated in the bloodiest invasion ever undertaken by the U.S. Over 13,000 Americans were killed and another 36,000 were wounded during the conquest of this Japanese possession.
September. The Japanese sign the articles of surrender aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, ending the war.
The Coast Guard Cutter USCG 83525 was the first and only cutter to host an official surrender ceremony when Imperial Japanese Army Second Lieutenant Kinichi Yamada surrendered the garrison of Aguijan Island on board this vessel. Rear Admiral Marshall R. Greer, USN, accepted their surrender for the United States.
1946 January. Control of the Coast Guard is transferred back to the Department of the Treasury.
Staged jointly by the Coast Guard and the Navy, the first public demonstration of LORAN was held at Floyd Bennett Field in New York.
April. An earthquake-generated tsunami struck the Scotch Cap Lighthouse on Unimak Island, Alaska, completely destroying the station and killing the entire five-man crew.
U.S. Navy terminates its participation in Ocean Weather Stations. Coast Guard assumes responsibility and mans five open-ocean stations, providing meteorological, oceanographic, and search and rescue services.
May. Coast Guard commissions the former Horst Wessel as the Eagle. Prize crew sails her to the United States Coast Guard Academy where she presently serves as a sail-training vessel.
Commodore Edward M. Webster, USCG, headed the U.S. Delegation to the International Meeting on Radio Aids to Marine Navigation, held in London, England. As a result of this meeting, the principal maritime nations of the world agreed to study of radar, LORAN, radar beacons, and other navigational aids with a view to adapt them to peacetime use. This was the first time that the wartime technical secrets of radar and LORAN were disclosed to the public
June. The service returns to its tentatively authorized peacetime strength of 3,500 officers, 1,400 warrant officers, and 30,000 enlisted personnel.
August. The U. S. Army requests a contingent of active-duty Coast Guard officers to organize, supervise, and train a small Korean coast guard. CAPT George McCabe is the first to command the contingent. McCabe leads the nascent Korean Coast Guard until the Korean government appointed Lieutenant Commander Sohn Won Yil as its first native commanding officer.
1947 January. The Coast Guard icebreaker Northwind successfully completed the first major rescue mission involving a submarine. The USS Sennet (SS-408) and supply ships Yance and Merrick were stuck in ice floe at the Antarctic Circle.
October. USCGC Bibb rescued 62 passengers and 7 crew members of the transatlantic flying boat Bermuda Sky Queen in mid-Atlantic in one of the most dramatic rescues undertaken by the Coast Guard in the open ocean. (IMAGE: mural detail of rescue)
1948 January. Mrs. Fannie M. Salter, keeper of the Turkey Point Lighthouse in upper Chesapeake Bay since 1925 and the last woman keeper of a lighthouse in the United States retired from active service.
May. The Coast Guard assumed command of the former Navy base at Cape May, New Jersey, and formally established its east coast recruit training center.
July. President Harry Truman orders the integration of the armed forces of the United States. By this time the Coast Guard had already opened all rates to all qualified persons regardless of race. The Coast Guard noted "the importance of selecting men for what they are, for what they are capable of doing, and insisting on good conduct, good behavior, and good qualities of leadership for all hands. . .As a matter of policy Negro recruits receive the same consideration as all others." Evergreen is the first Coast Guard cutter strictly dedicated to oceanographic study.
1949 August. Public Law #207 provides a clear, concise statement of the duties and functions of the U.S. Coast Guard. It confirmed that the Coast Guard was a branch of the armed forces of the United States, confirmed it in its general functions of marine safety, maritime law enforcement, and military readiness to operate as a service in the Navy upon declaration of war or when the president directs.
1950 April. The Coast Guard announced that former enlisted women of the Coast Guard Reserve could apply for enlistment in the Women’s Volunteer Reserve (SPARs). Enlistments were to be for a three-year period with written agreement to serve on active duty in time of war or national emergency
June. Six North Korean infantry divisions invade South Korea. Coast Guard officers stationed on the peninsula assisting the Korean Coast Guard receive orders to evacuate to Pusan and from there return to the United States. There were no Coast Guard cutters in operation in the waters around Korea.
1952 Tankers SS Fort Mercer and SS Pendleton broke in half during a severe "nor’easter" off the New England coast. Coast Guard vessels, aircraft, and lifeboat stations, working under harsh winter conditions, rescued 70 persons from the foundering ships. Five Coast Guardsmen earned the Gold Lifesaving Medal, four earned the Silver Lifesaving Medal, and 15 earned the Coast Guard Commendation Medal.
7 April. The breakup of ice in the Missouri River and its tributaries at Bismarck, North Dakota, and above, and on the Big Sioux, created the worst flooding conditions in that area in thirty years. Coast Guard personnel rendered assistance utilizing small boats, mobile radio stations, automotive equipment, helicopters, and fixed wing aircraft. The Coast Guard evacuated stranded persons, transported critical relief supplies, evacuated livestock from low ground, transported personnel engaged in levee construction, and generally assisted the Red Cross, local, state, civil, and military authorities.
31 December. Sinbad, the canine mascot of the cutter Campbell during World War II, passed away at his last duty station, the Barnegat Lifeboat Station, at the ripe old age of 15. He served on board the cutter throughout World War II and earned his way into Coast Guard legend with his shipboard and liberty antics. To date Sinbad is the most decorated mascot to have ever served in the Coast Guard
1953 January. ELMO-4, the LORAN station at Pusan, begins transmitting its signal. Established to assist the air and sea traffic brought on by the Korean conflict, the station's crew is the only Coast Guard personnel serving under a Coast Guard command on the peninsula. In conjunction with the other eight Coast Guard-manned LORAN stations in the Far East, this outpost provided around-the-clock navigation assistance to all United Nations' maritime and air forces.
18 January. Five Coast Guard and four Navy crewmen perish in an attempted rescue after Chinese forces shoot down a Navy P2V Neptune in the Formosa Strait while the aircraft was conducting a covert patrol.
1955 12 March. All foreign and domestic ships were required to give 24-hour advance notice to the local Coast Guard Captain of the Port before entering U.S. ports. This order was designed to improve the Coast Guard's port security program without "material inconvenience" to shipping
24 December. A Coast Guard helicopter was the first rescue unit to reach a flood disaster scene in northern California. Its crew hoisted 138 persons to safety within 12 hours. A small handheld searchlight enabled the rescues because it showed the pilot dangers from chimneys, television antennas, and trees. In all, the Coast Guard assisted Federal, state, and local agencies in saving over 500 persons by helicopters and boats.
1956 10 May. Small Passenger Vessel Act. This Act, passed due to an increase in small boat accidents, required all vessels carrying more than six passengers for hire, regardless of size or propulsion, be inspected by a Marine Inspector of the Coast Guard and meet safety standards. These standards included life saving and fire-fighting equipment, machinery and electrical installations, hull strength and stability considerations. This law also required that the Coast Guard license operators.
25 July. The Swedish liner Stockholm collided with the Italian liner Andrea Doria off Nantucket. Coast Guard cutters and aircraft as well as other vessels responded. Andrea Doria sank 10 hours after the collision that resulted in 52 deaths
1957 1 July. Cutters Bramble, Spar and Storis depart. They are the first American ships to traverse the Northwest Passage.
1958 1 July. The new Atlantic Merchant Vessel Position Reporting program (AMVER) was established. It encouraged domestic and foreign merchant vessels to send voluntary position reports and navigational data to Coast Guard shore based radio stations and ocean station vessels. Relayed to a ships' plot center in New York and processed by machine, this data provided position information for Coast Guard rescue coordination centers. The centers then directed only those vessels most effective to aid the craft or persons in distress.
1961 Coast Guard established Cuban patrols to aid refugees and to enforce neutrality, interdicting the transportation of men and arms.
12 January. Two Coast Guard motor lifeboats, CG-40564 and CG-36454, from the Cape Disappointment Lifeboat Station (LBS), Washington, answered a distress call from Mermaid. The boat, with two crewmen on board, lost its rudder near Peacock Spit. CG-40564 located Mermaid and took her in tow, but rough seas led them to request help from CG-52301 "Triumph," stationed at Point Adams LBS, which took up the tow upon her arrival. Waves capsized CG-40564 and battered CG-36454 but she remained afloat. The crew of 36454 rescued the crew of 40564 and made for the Columbia River Lightship where they transferred safely on board before 36454 foundered. A heavy breaker hit Triumph, parting the towline, setting Mermaid adrift, and capsizing Triumph. Mermaid rescued one of the six crewmen on board Triumph. CG-36554 and CG-36535, also from Point Adams LBS, arrived on scene and 36535 took Mermaid in tow. Another wave snapped 36535's towline and sank Mermaid. The cutter Yocona and Coast Guard aircraft from Air Station Port Angeles arrived on scene to search for survivors. Foot patrols from the lifeboat stations searched the beaches and recovered one Coast Guard survivor. Ultimately five Coast Guard crewmen, all from Triumph, drowned, as did both of the Mermaid's crew
1964 27 March. A 9.2 earthquake and an ensuing tsunami struck Alaska, killing 125 people and causing $311 million in property damage. Coast Guard units responded in what was called Operation Helping Hand. Within two hours of the earthquake, which began at 1732 local time, cutters Storis, Minnetonka, and Sorrel reported to Prince William Sound; Bittersweet to Seward; and Sedge to Valdez. The following morning, three fixed-wing aircraft from Air Detachment Kodiak surveyed the damage while helicopters evacuated survivors. Approximately 360 civilians were evacuated from villages and isolated areas in Kodiak Island and Prince William Sound. A number of the Coast Guard stations in the area sustained damage, some of it severe. The only Coast Guard fatality occurred when the tsunami struck the light station at Cape St. Elias and one crewman, EN3 Frank O. Reed, was swept out to sea and perished
August. Tonkin Gulf Resolution. After a reported attack on the US Navy vessels Maddox and Turner Joy by North Vietnamese boats in the Gulf of Tonkin, a Joint Resolution issued by Congress escalated the United States’ presence in the Vietnam War.
Baltimore light becomes first fully automatic atomic powered lighthouse in the world. It was discontinued in 1965.
1965 Camarioca Boatlift is the first large-scale exodus of Cuban immigrants attempting to enter the United States. Migrant interdiction becomes a Coast Guard policy concern.
Hurricane Betsy inundates New Orleans, Louisiana. Coast Guard performs search and rescue.
March. The firm of Raymond Lowey/William Snaith, Inc., presented Coast Guard leadership with the design that would become known as the “racing stripe,” a narrow blue bar and wide orange-red bar canted 64 degrees running from lower left to upper right. After tests in the field and several modifications, Coast Guard Commandant Edwin Roland approved the design on 6 April 1967.
1966 11 August. A U.S. Air Force aircraft attacked the USCGC Point Welcome while on patrol in the waters near the mouth of the Cua Viet River. Her commanding officer, LTJG David Brostrom, along with one crewman, EN2 Jerry Phillips, died in this "friendly fire" incident. The Point Welcome's executive officer, two other crewmen, a Vietnamese liaison officer, and a freelance journalist were wounded. Crewman BMC Richard Patterson saved his cutter and the surviving crew at great risk to himself. He was later awarded a Bronze Star with the combat "V" device for his actions.
6 September. GM1 Lester K. Gates was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with a combat "V" device for "meritorious service and action against the enemy" while serving on board USCGC Point White in Vietnam. The Point White attacked and captured a Viet Cong junk while patrolling the Soi Rap River. GM1 Gates was the first enlisted Coast Guardsman to be awarded the Bronze Star since World War II.
1967 The transfer to Department of Transportation increases Coast Guard responsibility for economic traffic, migrant interdiction, and coping with hazardous cargo.
The Torrey Canyon grounds in the English Channel, spilling approximately 30 million gallons of oil. The disaster illuminated the environmental devastation that resulted, as well as the unsuccessful methods used by authorities to deal with the catastrophe.
1968 18 February. Engineman First Class Robert J. Yered was awarded the Silver Star while attached to Explosive Loading Detachment #1, Cat Lai, Republic of Vietnam. Yered was supervising the loading of explosives on board an ammunition ship when an enemy rocket struck a barge loaded with several tons of mortar ammunition moored alongside. His citation noted that "without regard for his personal safety, [he] exposed himself to the enemy fusillade as he helped extinguish the fire on the burning barge. . .His courageous act averted destruction of the ammunition ship and the Army Terminal."
June. LT Jack C. Rittichier, a Coast Guard aviator serving in Vietnam on exchange with the Air Force, attempted to rescue the pilot of a downed Marine A-4 Skyhawk. During the mission bullets struck Rittichier’s HH-3E “Jolly Green Giant” causing a fire. Rittichier attempted to set down in a nearby clearing, but, as he cleared a line of trees, witnesses saw the HH-3E lose altitude; It exploded as it hit the ground.
Cutters Androscoggin, Minnetonka, and Winona, along with 82-footers and Navy assets, thwarted a Communist attempt to run four trawlers through the Market Time blockade off the coast of South Vietnam. The cutters sank three of the trawlers and forced the fourth to return to Hainan Island without landing her cargo. The defeat of this attempted re-supply was hailed as "the most significant naval victory of the Vietnam campaign."
1969 21 January. USCGC Point Banks, while on patrol south of Cam Rahn Bay, received a call for help from a nine-man ARVN detachment trapped by two Vietcong platoons. Petty Officers Willis Goff and Larry Villareal took a 14-foot Boston whaler ashore to rescue the unit. Despite heavy fire, all nine men were evacuated in two trips. For their actions Goff and Villareal were each awarded the Silver Star.
1970 Water Quality Act increases Coast Guard jurisdiction over hazardous spills to include pollutants such as mercury, pesticides, and explosives.
1971 10 August. President Richard Nixon signed Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971, considered to be most significant legislation in the long history of federal action in this field. The new act repealed most of the Federal Boating Act of 1958 and amended the Motorboat Act of 1940.
1972 The Federal Water Pollution Control Act and the Ports and Waterways Safety Acts established cleanup and liability standards for spills and called for Coast Guard scrutiny of hazardous materials vessel construction and design. It also instituted a national emergency contingency plan for oil spills. The Coast Guard established Marine Environmental Response (MER) units concerned primarily with pollution response.
Coast Guard Research & Development Center (RDC) established at Avery Point in Groton, Connecticut. It is the only facility conducting research, testing and development of the tools necessary to allow the U.S. Coast Guard to fulfill its role to protect the United States and its coasts and waterways
1973 The first "Coast Guard-controlled drug seizure" of the modern era took place when the cutter Dauntless seized the sport fishing vessel Big L smuggling one ton of marijuana. This seizure heralded the beginnings of the Coast Guard’s important role in the nation’s relatively new and ever-growing “War on Drugs.”
17 November. The Coast Guard launches the USCGC Polar Star, considered the "Largest Icebreaker in the Western World."
1974 15 January. The first group of women ever enlisted as "regulars" in the U.S. Coast Guard began their 10-weeks of basic training at the Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May, New Jersey. Thirty-two women were in the initial group and formed Recruit Company Sierra-89.
1975 January. The Vigorous became the first cutter to seize a foreign fishing vessel on the high seas when she apprehended the Italian ship Tontini Pesca Cuarto illegally taking lobster. All of the other fishery seizures prior to this were of vessels that had violated territorial seas (TS) or Contiguous Fishing Zone (CFZ).
10 November. The Great Lakes ore-carrier Edmund Fitzgerald, caught in an unexpected storm on Lake Superior, sank with a loss of all 29 hands. Coast Guard units helped conduct a search for the ship and survivors although all efforts proved to be futile
1976 The Fishery Conservation and Management Act establishes a 200-mile zone, quadrupling the offshore fishing area controlled by the United States. The Coast Guard is responsible for enforcing this law.
December. The Liberian tanker Argo Merchant grounded off Nantucket carrying 7.3 million gallons of fuel oil. Cutters Sherman, Vigilant, Spar and Bittersweet were on scene, but deteriorating weather and heavy seas, prevented removal of its cargo before the hull began to buckle. The bow was wrenched from the hull causing the largest oil spill in American waters at that time. The Argo Merchant accident and 14 more tanker accidents in or near American waters over the next 10 weeks caused great concern about tanker construction, leading to a large tanker safety movement.
The first female cadets enter the Coast Guard Academy.
1977 The Coast Guard conducts an experiment integrating women in crews of sea-going vessels. The cutters Morgenthau and Gallatin received ten enlisted women and two female officers each. As when the Coast Guard set up its first racially integrated ships during World War II, the "mixed crews" settled into a working routine.
4 April. The Coast Guard designated its first female Coast Guard aviator, Janna Lambine. She was Coast Guard Aviator #1812.
1 September. Bobby C. Wilks became the first African American in the Coast
Guard to reach the rank of Captain. Wilks was also the first African American Coast Guard aviator (Aviator No. 735) and the first African American to command a Coast Guard air station.
1978 The cutter Cuyahoga sank after colliding with M/V Santa Cruz II near the mouth of the Potomac River. Eleven Coast Guard personnel perished.
1979 12 April. LTJG Beverly Kelley assumed command of the USCGC Cape Newagen, becoming the first woman to command a U.S. warship.
1980 January. The CGC Blackthorn sank in Tampa Bay after colliding with the tanker Capricorn. Twenty-three Coast Guard personnel died in the tragedy.
21 April. Cuban exodus at Mariel; Coast Guard aids approximately 125,000 Cuban refugees. It is the largest Coast Guard operation ever undertaken in peacetime to that date.
4 October. A fire forces the evacuation of the Dutch cruise vessel Prinsendam off Ketchikan, Alaska. Coast Guard helicopters and the cutters Boutwell, Mellon, and Woodrush respond in concert with the Canadian Coast Guard and other vessels in the area to rescue all of the passengers and crew without loss of life
1981 Active Coast Guard personnel consisted of 6,159 officers, 981 cadets, and 32,260 enlisted.
1982 7 January. LT Colleen A. Cain, the Coast Guard's first female helicopter pilot, died when the HH-52 CG-1420, on which she was co-pilot, crashed into a mountainside while on a rescue mission east of Honolulu, Hawaii. The pilot, LCDR H. W. Johnson and air crewman AD2 D.L. Thompson also perished.
August. The Department of Defense approves the use of Coast Guard law enforcement detachments (LEDETs) on board US Navy vessels during peacetime. The teams conducted law enforcement boardings from Navy vessels for the first time in U.S. history.
3 December. MSO St. Louis took charge of the response when the Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois rivers flooded their banks. In all over 100 Coast Guardsmen took part in the relief efforts that covered an eight-state area.
1983 12 February. The collier Marine Electric capsized and sank off Virginia during a gale. Coast Guard and Navy assets rescued three of the 34 crewmen on board. This sinking and consequent loss of life contributed to the establishment of a permanent rescue swimmer program for the Coast Guard
10 March. The Coast Guard retired the last operational HU-16E Albatross, ending the "era of seaplanes" for the service.
2 April. The State Department forwarded a request for assistance from the United Arab Emirates to help prepare for an oil spill cleanup in the Persian Gulf. The spill occurred after combat operations during the Iran/Iraq war had left many oil wells burning and leaking oil. Four Coast Guard pollution experts responded to the request.
17 June. National Narcotics Border Interdiction System (NNBIS) provided a coordinated national and international interagency network for prioritizing interdiction targets, identifying resources, recommending the most effective action, and coordinating joint special actions.
8 December. The cutters Cape Gull, Cape Fox, Cape Shoalwater, and Sagebrush arrived off of the island of Grenada to replace U.S. Navy surface forces conducting surveillance operations after the U.S. invasion of the island earlier that year.
1984 Coast Guard Authorization Act. The Commandant of the Coast Guard shall use such sums as are necessary, from amounts appropriated for the operational maintenance of the Coast Guard, to establish a helicopter rescue swimmer program for the purpose of training selected Coast Guard personnel in rescue swimming skills.
National Narcotics Act. The National Narcotics Act led to Coast Guard participation in the National Narcotics Border Interdiction System, under Attorney General policy guidelines.
5 October. ASM2 Steve Ober and ASM3 Kelly Gordon are the first Coast Guard personnel to complete U. S. Navy Rescue Swimmer School at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida. ASM2 Ober graduated as the Honor Graduate of his class, one of only four out of 282 graduates up to that time to be so honored.
19 November. The Coast Guard accepted the new HH-65A Dolphin helicopter for service
1985 5 March. The first five Coast Guard rescue swimmers report operational at Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
29 March. The last lightship in service with the Coast Guard, the USCGC Nantucket I, was decommissioned. This ended 164 years of continuous lightship service by the Federal Government.
1986 28 January. The space shuttle Challenger exploded after lift-off, killing the entire crew. Coast Guard units, including the cutters Dallas, Dauntless, Harriet Lane, Bear, Tampa, Cherokee, Sweetgum, and Point Roberts, conducted the initial search and rescue operations and later assisted in the recovery of much of the shuttle's wreckage. The Dallas served as the on-scene commander for what became a joint Coast Guard, NASA, Navy and Air Force search and recovery operation.
15 April. The Libyan military, on orders from dictator Moammar Gadhafi, fired a missile at Coast Guard LORAN Station Lampedusa off the coast of Italy. The missile fell harmlessly in the Mediterranean with no casualties.
26 May. ASM3 Kelly M. Mogk became the first woman to graduate from Navy Rescue Swimmer School and the first female Coast Guard rescue swimmer.
8 October. Coast Guard units evacuated flood victims from the St. Louis area using punts, helicopters and trucks after the Mississippi and Missouri rivers flooded. In all, 150 Coast Guardsmen from MSO St. Louis; Base St. Louis; CGCs Sumac, Cheyenne and Cimarron. ATON Facility Leavenworth, Kansas; 2nd District office; and AIRSTAs New Orleans and Traverse City participated in the emergency flood relief efforts.
1987 May. Coast Guard units, including the cutter Ocracoke, made the largest seizure of cocaine by the Coast Guard to this date, 1.9 tons.
10 December. ASM1 Jeffrey Tunks became the first rescue swimmer to earn the Distinguished Flying Cross. Tunks deployed from his helo to assist a father and son in the waters off Sitka, Alaska and was injured during the rescue.
1988 7 December. The Coast Guard hosted an international summit between Soviet President
Mikhail Gorbachev, President Ronald Reagan, and President-elect and then-Vice President George H. W. Bush on Governors Island after Gorbachev had addressed the United Nations. The White House selected the Coast Guard base at Governors Island because it was a secure military installation in the middle of New York harbor and just minutes away from the United Nations. The summit was characterized as "just a luncheon" and the meeting was the last time President Reagan and Gorbachev would meet during Reagan's remaining term.
1989 24 March. The Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska, is believed to be the worst environmental disaster to have occurred at sea. Over 4,000 birds and 500 sea otters died as a result of the spill. At the height of the cleanup USCGC Rush served as a floating air traffic control tower, directing more than 300 aircraft daily in and around the spill site.
14 September. Sikorsky Aircraft unveiled the replacement for the Sikorsky HH-3F
Pelican helicopter: the HH-60J. The Coast Guard planned to purchase 33 of the new helicopters and gave it the moniker "Jayhawk."
21 September. Hurricane Hugo made landfall on the continental United States at Charleston, South Carolina. Despite significant damage to their stations, Coast Guard units immediately began relief operations. They conducted search and rescue, performed medical evacuations, provided emergency communications, and transported relief personnel and equipment.
1990 March. The Oil Pollution Act is passed by Congress. The Coast Guard is tasked to assemble teams capable of swift response to oil spills and other disasters. The Act is the single largest law enforcement undertaking of the service since the passage of Prohibition.
August. At the request of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Transportation and the Commandant commit 10 four-person Coast Guard law enforcement boarding teams (LEDET) to Operation Desert Shield. Approximately 60 percent of the 600 boardings carried out by U.S. forces were either led or supported by Coast Guard LEDETs.
1991 11 January. Coast Guard units respond to a distress call from the fishing trawler Sea King in danger of sinking off Peacock Spit near the mouth of the Columbia River. The Coast Guard units included a prototype 47-foot Motor Life Boat (MLB), two 44-foot MLBs, the 52-foot MLB CG-52314 Triumph II, and a Coast Guard helicopter. Four Coast Guardsmen went on board the Sea King to assist. Despite valiant efforts to save the vessel, it capsized and sank. Three Coast Guardsmen were safely rescued from the water. The fourth, MK1 Charles Sexton, an emergency medical technician, was pulled from the water but died 50 minutes after his arrival at a local hospital. The trawler's captain and two crewmen survived. MK1 Sexton was posthumously awarded the Coast Guard Medal.
February. In response to oil spills caused by Iraqi burning wells and pumping stations, two HU-25A Falcon jets from Air Station Cape Cod deploy to Saudi Arabia as part of the Inter-agency oil spill assessment team (USIAT). The jets carried Aireye technology, which locates and records oil as it floats on water. The Falcons mapped over 40,000 square miles in theatre and located "every drop of oil on the water…to produce a daily updated surface analysis of the location, condition, and drift projections of the oil.”
6 October. NASA astronaut and Coast Guard CDR Bruce Melnick made his first space flight when he served as a Mission Specialist aboard the space shuttle Discovery on Space Shuttle Mission STS-41, which flew from 6 to 10 October 1990. Discovery deployed the Ulysses spacecraft for its five-year mission to explore the polar regions of the sun. CDR Melnick was the first Coast Guardsman selected by NASA for astronaut training
24 October. All twenty-four Coast Guard helicopter air stations and two air facilities are now staffed with rescue swimmers.
28 October. Thousands fled Haiti after the overthrow of President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide, prompting one of the largest search and rescue operations in Coast Guard history. In the first month Coast Guard forces rescued more than 6,300 men, women, and children. Seventy-five Coast Guard units ultimately took part in the operation and rescued over 40,000 Haitian migrants by the end of the year.
31 October. During an extremely severe winter storm USCGC Tamaroa rescued four of five Air National Guard crewmen from an ANG H-60 that had ditched south of Long Island due to fuel exhaustion (the fifth crewman, a pararescue jumper, was never found). Tamaroa had been attempting to rescue the crew of the sailing vessel Satori the previous day when the cutter was diverted to assist the Air National Guard aircrew. Tamaroa was awarded the Coast Guard Unit Commendation and the events were chronicled in the book and movie The Perfect Storm.
1992 7 May. Astronaut and Coast Guard CDR Bruce Melnick made his second space flight when he served as a Mission Specialist aboard the space shuttle Endeavour on her maiden flight. During this mission, astronauts rescued and repaired the Intelsat VI satellite. Melnick, by this point, had logged more than 300 hours in space.
1993 The Coast Guard formally acknowledged that a long-term strategy to recapitalize its inventory of 93 cutters, 206 aircraft, and supporting systems was needed.
15 January. A massive increase of Haitians fleeing their country by sea initiated Operation Able Manner, the largest search and rescue operation undertaken by the Coast Guard to this point. This mission involved 17 cutters, 9 aircraft and five Navy vessels. By the end of the operation in November 1994 the Service had interdicted over 27,000 Haitian migrants.
6 June. The tramp steamer Golden Venture ran aground on Rockaway beach in New York with 300 illegal Chinese migrants on board. Ten drowned or died of hypothermia, six vanished and the Coast Guard and local agencies rescued the rest.
22 November. NATO began enforcing United Nations' resolutions 713 and 757 establishing an embargo against the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro). Four Coast Guard LEDETs deployed to Southern Europe to support the operation and placed aboard 11 NATO warships.
1994 6 May. The last HH-3F Pelican helicopter in Coast Guard service was retired. This ended the Coast Guard's "amphibious era," as no aviation asset left in service was capable of making water landings
4 July. In one day cutters assigned to Operation Able Manner rescued 3,247 Haitian migrants from 70 grossly overloaded sailboats in the Windward Passage.
17 July. The Polar Sea departed from Victoria, British Columbia on operation Arctic Ocean Section becoming the first U.S. surface vessel to reach the North Pole. She then transited the Arctic Ocean back to her homeport in Seattle, Washington.
19 August. Operation Able Vigil began during a massive influx of Cuban migrants fleeing Cuba.
1995 19 April. An explosion destroyed half of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Coast Guardsmen from the Coast Guard Institute and a Coast Guard reservist responded soon after the incident and helped set up security zones, directed traffic, searched for survivors, and whatever else was needed. They also took over a church kitchen and opened what later became nicknamed "Cafe Coast Guard." A rotating 9-person team worked around the clock to provide meals for the volunteer workers
Dauntless rescues 578 migrants from a grossly overloaded 75-foot coastal freighter, the largest number of migrants rescued from a single vessel in Coast Guard history
1996 9 April. Dedication of Coast Guard Advanced Rescue Swimmer School at Tongue Point, Astoria, Oregon. The school provides advanced training in hazard awareness and new procedures, techniques and equipment that rescue swimmers do not receive in Rescue Swimmer School or normally encounter during operations at their air stations.
1 October. Operation Frontier Shield becomes the largest counter-narcotics operation in Coast Guard history.
1997 Active Coast Guard personnel consisted of 7,100 officers, 845 cadets, and 26,945 enlisted.
1998 28 September. The Coast Guard traced an oil spill along the northern coast of California to the Liberian tanker Command. A boarding team took samples of her cargo and matched it to oil found along the coast. This is the first time the Coast Guard has pursued an oil spill investigation into the international arena, stopping and boarding a vessel on the high seas, with permission of the vessel's flag state.
1999 20 May. The USCGC Bear deployed to the Adriatic Sea in support of Operation Allied Force and Operation Noble Anvil, NATO's military campaign against the former Republic of Yugoslavia. Bear provided surface surveillance and search and rescue response for the Sea Combat Commander and force protection for the Amphibious Ready Group operating near Albania. Bear also served as combat escort for U.S. Army vessels transporting military cargo between Italy and Albania, a task that took her well within enemy missile range.
21 July. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., agreed to pay a record $18 million criminal fine and pled guilty to 21 felony counts for dumping oil and hazardous chemicals in U.S. waters and then lying to the Coast Guard. The investigation began in1994 after Coast Guard officials noticed an oil slick behind the ship Sovereign of the Seas as it approached San Juan, Puerto Rico. Between the day Coast Guard officials first boarded the ship and when they boarded it four days later, crewmen had removed a bypass pipe which they used to dump hazardous material from the ship.
6 December. The cutter Munro intercepted the Wing Fung Lung, loaded with more than 250 Chinese migrants, headed for the Guatemala/El Salvador border. After being denied permission to board, the Munro tracked the vessel for three days until the watch spotted flares over the ship. When the Munro's small boat approached, panicked migrants began jumping into the water. They were pulled to safety and returned to the Wing Fun Lung while boarding parties went aboard the crowded vessel. An attempt had been made to scuttle the vessel, but the boarding teams were able to stop the flooding and drain the engine room. The migrants had no food or water for more than a day and were at the point of total rebellion, endangering the Munro's boarding team members. However, boarding teams from the USCGC Hamilton arrived and helped to control the situation. The vessel was finally taken into Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, where INS agents took the migrants into custody. The master of the vessel was arrested.
2000 13 March. The Coast Guard announced the successful completion of Operation New Frontier. New Frontier evaluated the use of armed helicopters and high-speed small boats to stop small, high-speed vessels, referred to as "go-fasts," which smuggled narcotics to the U.S. Of the six go-fasts detected, all six were captured. CGCs Gallatin and Seneca took part in the evaluations.
8 September. LCDR Daniel C. Burbank is the second Coast Guard astronaut to fly on a Shuttle mission. Burbank served as a mission specialist on NASA flight STS-106 aboard the space shuttle Atlantis
2001 23 March. Two Coast Guardsmen, BM2 Scott Chism and SN Christopher Ferreby, gave their lives in the line of duty when their small boat CG-214341 capsized on Lake Ontario. Their loss led to important changes in the Coast Guard Boat Forces training, equipment and operations.
11 September. Al Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial U.S. aircraft, crashing two into the World Trade Center in New York City and one into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. The fourth aircraft crashed around Shanksville, Pennsylvania, when passengers on board tried to regain control of the aircraft. The attacks killed over 3,000 civilians. Coast Guard units, including Reservists and Auxiliarists, were among the first military units to respond; they provided communications, security, evacuation by water and assistance to those in need. Coast Guardsmen assisted in the search and rescue efforts as well as the cleanup operations after the attacks.
5 November. Six U.S. Navy Cyclone-class patrol coastal warships were assigned to Operation Noble Eagle. This was the first time that U.S. Navy ships were employed jointly under Coast Guard command.
2002 25 June. The Coast Guard awards the Integrated Deepwater System Program, a 25-year program to replace all or much of the Service’s equipment, to Integrated Coast Guard Systems LLC, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. The $24 billion program includes equipment that will be used across all missions.
July. The Coast Guard established Maritime Safety and Security Teams (MSSTs). MSSTs, created in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11th, are mobile units with special training and capabilities for port safety and security operations. They offered operational commanders a quick response capability to meet changing threats in the nation's harbors, ports, and internal waterways and to enforce moving and fixed security zones to protect commercial high interest vessels, U.S. Navy high value assets, and critical waterside infrastructure.
November. President George W. Bush signed HR 5005 establishing the Department of Homeland Security. This was the single largest re-organization of the federal government since the creation of the Department of Defense in 1947.
2003 February. Transportation Secretary, Norman Mineta, transfers leadership of the US Coast Guard to the Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, formally recognizing the change in civilian leadership over the Coast Guard and ending the Coast Guard's almost 36-year term as a member of the Department of Transportation.
March. Coast Guard’s role in Operation Iraqi Freedom included: maritime interdiction and boarding support; security to ports in Bahrain, Kuwait and Iraq; security to Iraqi oil terminals; maritime environmental response expertise; surveyed and marked the Khor Abd Allah River channel up to the port of Umm Qasr, Iraq. 1,250 Coast Guard personnel deployed to Iraq including two high endurance cutters, an ocean-going buoy tender, eight 110-foot patrol boats, four port security units, two law enforcement detachments and associated support staff.
2004 24 April. DC3 Nathan Bruckenthal and two Navy sailors died when suicide bombers detonated the explosives on board a boat they intercepted off the coast of Iraq. DC3 Bruckenthal is the first Coast Guard combat fatality since the Vietnam War.
17 September. The Coast Guard made the largest cocaine seizure in its history (to date) when Coast Guard and Navy forces located and seized 30,000 pounds of cocaine aboard the fishing vessel Lina Maria approximately 300 miles southwest of the Galapagos Islands. LEDET 108, embarked aboard the USS Curts, made the seizure. A second Coast Guard and Navy team intercepted the Lina Maria's sister ship, the fishing vessel San Jose, 500 miles west of the Galapagos, and discovered and seized 26,250 pounds of cocaine.
26 December. A massive tsunami struck Indonesia and southern Thailand, killing over 104,000 people in Indonesia and over 5,000 in Thailand. The USCGC Munro, deployed as part of Expeditionary Strike Group 5 (ESG-5), responded along with the other units in the Group. The cutter shuttled more than 80 tons of humanitarian relief supplies from Singapore to the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6), also part of ESG-5, for distribution to the victims of the tsunami.
2005 August. Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. A crew from Air Station New Orleans made the first Coast Guard rescue in the wake of the hurricane when they saved two adults and one 4-month-old infant from a rooftop in Port Sulphur, Louisiana. In all the Coast Guard response included: 62 Aircraft, 42 cutters, 131 small boats, and over 5,000 Coast Guard personnel. By 27 September 2005 the Coast Guard had rescued 33,735 people including 138 for Hurricane Rita.
2006 11 November. The first Legend-class National Security Cutter, USCGC Bertholf, was christened. The new NSCs, built to replace the 378-ft Hamilton-class cutters, will have a length of 418 feet, be powered by a gas turbine engine with two auxiliary diesel engines, and be capable of 12,000 nautical voyages lasting up to 60 days
2007 1 August. MSD St. Paul responded when the I-35W Bridge collapsed in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Coast Guard established a security zone around the collapsed bridge and maintained a presence for 20 days. Boat crews from St. Louis, Milwaukee; Two Rivers, Wisconsin; Duluth, Minnesota; Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan; MSST 91106 (New York); Sector Lower Mississippi River; Sector New Orleans; Station Gulfport and Station Arkansas assisted during the three weeks following the disaster.
2008 27 May. USCGC Dallas departed Charleston, South Carolina, on a mission to conduct maritime safety and security exchanges with countries along the central and west coasts of Africa, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. The voyage included delivering relief supplies to Georgia after that country was attacked by Russia. Dallas was the second U.S. military ship to deliver relief supplies to Georgia.
26 July. The second Legend-class National Security Cutter, USCGC Waesche, was christened.
2009 January. USCGC Boutwell departed Alameda, California, on an around-the-world cruise as part of the USS Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group.
August. The Coast Guard had approximately 42,000 men and women on active duty, 7,500 Reservists, 30,000 Auxiliarists, and 7,700 full-time civilian employees
2010 12 January. A catastrophic 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti 16 miles west of Port-au-Prince. The death toll was estimated between 42,000 and 220,000 with over one million people left homeless. The USCGC Forward was the first U.S. asset on the scene to render aid.
February. Coast Guard ends Loran program. LORSTA Station ATTU, one of the most remote military shore installations in the world, is decommissioned.
20 April. The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drill resulted in the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. Approximately 210 million gallons of crude oil poured into the Gulf of Mexico, contaminating the coastlines of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana before the well was capped on 15 July. Coast Guard units rescued the survivors and oversaw the cleanup efforts. The Commandant, Thad Allen, was appointed by the President as the National Incident Commander, a position he held even after he retired after his four-year term as Commandant.
19 July. The Coast Guard christened the third of eight Legend-class National Security Cutters, USCGC Stratton.