A branch of the United States Armed Forces, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) was created by Congress on August 4, 1790 at the request of Alexander Hamilton as the Revenue Marine. As secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton headed the Revenue Marine. Its original purpose was to collect customs duties in the nation’s seaports. The term Revenue Marine gradually fell out of use and was replaced by the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service.
As is one of the country’s seven uniformed services, the USCG is a maritime, military, multi-mission service that is unique among U.S. Military branches. Having a maritime law enforcement mission, with jurisdiction in domestic and international waters, it also has a federal regulatory agency mission. Operating under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, during peacetime, it can be transferred to the U.S. Navy by the U.S. President at any time, and during war, can be transferred by U. S. Congress.
On January 28, 1915, the modern U.S. Coast Guard was formed by a merger of the Revenue Cutter Service and the U.S. Life-Saving Service under the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The U.S. Coast Guard, as one of the country’s five armed services, has been involved in every U.S. war from 1790 to the Iraq war and war in Afghanistan.
The Coast Guard’s legal authority differs from the other four armed services. It operates simultaneously under Title 10 of the U.S. Code and its other organic authorities, such as Titles 6, 14, 19, 33, and 46. Because of this legal authority, the U.S. Coast Guard can conduct military operations under the U.S. Department of Defense or directly for the President in accordance with Title 14 USC 1–3. Its roles are maritime safety, coastal security, search and rescue, maritime law enforcement and stewardship. It has 11 statutory missions which include enforcing U. S. law in the world’s largest exclusive economic zone of 3.4 million square miles.
Numerous celebrities have served in the Coast Guard including: golfer Arnold Palmer, tennis player Jack Kramer, boxer Jack Dempsey, All Star baseball player Sid Gordon, musicians Kai Winding, Rudy Vallee, Derroll Adams, and Tom Waits; actors Sid Caesar, Victor Mature, Buddy Ebsen, Richard Cromwell, Alan Hale, Jr., William Hopper, Beau Bridges, Jeff Bridges, Cesar Romero; author Alex Haley; and Senator Claiborne Pell.
In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, Vice Admiral Thad Allen was named Principal Federal Officer to oversee recovery efforts in the Gulf Region. After promotion to Admiral, on the eve of his retirement as Commandant, Allen again received national visibility after being named National Incident Commander overseeing the response efforts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Former Coast Guard officers have been appointed to numerous civilian government offices. Probably the most notable, after retiring as Commandant of the Coast Guard in 2002, Admiral James Loy went on to serve as administrator of the Transportation Security Administration and later as Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security..
As of 2014, the Coast Guard had over 36,000 men and women on active duty, 7,350 reservists, 29,620 auxiliarists, and 7,064 full-time civilian employees. U.S. Coast Guard by itself is the world’s 12th largest naval force
With a motto “Semper Paratus,” Latin for “Always Ready,” the U.S. Coast Guard serves on countless fronts to support the United States in war and peace time.