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The U. S. Coast Guard & the War On Terror
RHIB, probably of Activities New York, watches on as second struck Tower burns.
On the morning of 11 September 2001, nineteen terrorists took control of 4 cross-country commercial aircraft, weaponizing the planes -- steering them into each of the World Trade Center Towers in New York, and the Pentagon in Washington DC. On the fourth plane – while heading toward the US Capitol or the White House -- a brave band of passengers and crew attempting to regain flight control, downed the plane near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, in the struggle.
Living up to our motto of Semper Paratus, Coast Guard personnel immediately sprang into action to save lives and ensure security for survivors of the events of that day and all Americans and Allies in the decades to come.
Almost immediately following the attacks - all bridges and tunnels in Manhattan were closed - leaving hundreds of thousands of people stranded, with no way to return safely home. Coast Guard personnel, taking charge of the situation, directed the safe evacuation of more than 500,000 people off the island using hundreds of local ferries, and commercial and private craft. This, the largest maritime evacuation in recorded history, was conducted in less than 8 hours, with no loss of life.
At and around Ground Zero, the Coast Guard’s Atlantic Strike Team worked in close cooperation with the Environmental Protection Agency monitoring air quality and enhancing safety and security of first responders in rescue and recovery operations within hours of the collapse of the World Trade Center.
At the Pentagon, the Navy Command Center, under the oversight of CG RADM Jeffrey Hathaway, sustained a direct hit of the crash of Flight #77, with complete loss of the 42 personnel of the Command Center watch on duty that morning. From a secondary office at CG HQ, ADM Hathaway established personal security detachments protecting Senior Navy Leadership in the aftermath of the attack, as well as supported the planning and policies of the coming war on terrorism.
By October 2001, US Military forces were deployed to Afghanistan to execute Operation Enduring Freedom, and Coast Guard personnel served in support of that mission through the nimble establishment of new units such as the Redeployment Assistance and Inspection Detachment (RAID), inspecting shipments of hazardous material and facilitating containerization movements in support of the War on Terror.
In support of Operation Noble Eagle, thousands of Coast Guard men and women Reservists and Auxiliarists were mobilized to support the largest homeland defense and port security operations since World War II, ensuring the safety of maritime commerce, continued operation of port facilities, search and rescue and other vital operations.
On that fateful day, nearly 3000 innocent civilians lost their lives. Every day since, the service members, contractors and civilians of the Coast Guard have been ever-vigilant and successful in ensuring a repeat attack did not and does not occur, and continues to secure the smooth execution of our many missions fundamental to the security of our Nation.