The United States Coast Guard and National Defense

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The Coast Guard (CG) is the nation’s smallest armed service and most misunderstood armed service. Most Americans know the Coast Guard is the nation’s premiere lifesaving service. Some may even know that the Coast Guard is the nation’s oldest continuing sea going service. While the Coast Guard falls under the UCMJ just like the other four branches, and often works side by side with them especially the Navy; The Coast Guard is usually trained for a very different mission than their DOD counterparts in times of peace. This paper will shed light on the Coast Guard’s accomplishments and its sacrifices in its National Defense mission.

The legal basis for the Coast Guard to operate as a military force is Title 14 of the United States Code, which states: "The Coast Guard as established January 28, 1915, shall be a military service and a branch of the armed forces of the United States at all times." Upon the declaration of war or when the President directs, the Coast Guard operates under the authority of the Department of the Navy.” The Coast Guard can trace its beginnings back August 4th 1790. On this date president George Washington, at the urging of Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, ordered the building of ten ships. Those ten ships would be called the Revenue Cutter Service (RCS). The purpose of these ships was to enforce tariff regulations and bolster the coffers of the newly formed United States. It is the nation’s oldest continuing sea going service. These ships would be used to “cut off” smuggling in and out of the U.S. The term “cutter” is still used today to describe any Coast Guard vessel 65’ or longer.

The RCS was first pressed into service during the undeclared Quasi War with France in 1798-99. In 17...

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...less and when it is called upon to fight it will transform from a law enforcement and humanitarian service to a fighting force to be reckoned with.

Works Cited

Cutler, Thomas J. Brown water, black berets: Coastal and riverine warfare in Vietnam. Naval Institute Press, 2000

Demographics of Active Duty U.S. Military military

Kroll, C. Douglas. A Coast Guardsman’s History of the U.S. Coast Guard. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press 2010

Lagan, Christopher

Puller, Lewis B. Fortunate Son: The Autobiography of Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Grove Press, 2000

U.S. Army Center of Military History

U.S. Coast Guard’s Historian’s Office

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