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U.S. Coast Guard: A Timeline

1790 Congress authorized construction of 10 cutters for a Revenue Marine Service. From then until 1798, when the Navy was reorganized, the Revenue Marine served as the nation's only naval force.

1798-1800 The Revenue Marine Service cooperated with the Navy in fighting French privateers.

1808 The Revenue Marine Service was made responsible for enforcing President Thomas Jefferson's embargo closing U.S. ports to European trade.

1819 Congress authorized revenue cutters to protect United States merchant vessels against piracy, and to seize vessels engaged in slave trading.

1831 The Revenue Marine began its first winter cruising to aid seafarers and ships in distress.

1837 Congress authorized the use of public vessels to cruise the coast in rough weather and help navigators in distress.

1861 The cutter Harriet Lane fired the first shot from any vessel in the Civil War.

Revenue Cutter Service emblem

1863 The Revenue Marine Service was renamed the Revenue Cutter Service.

1871 The Lifesaving Service was established as a branch of the Revenue Cutter Service.

1876 The School of Instruction of the Revenue Cutter Service was established near New Bedford, Massachusetts. (It became the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1915.)

1878 The Lifesaving Service became an independent bureau of the Department of the Treasury.

1898 The cutter McCulloch sent the first news of the U.S. victory over the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay.

United States Coast Guard emblem

1915 The Revenue Cutter Service and Lifesaving Service were combined as the United States Coast Guard.

World War I
1917, April 6 The Coast Guard was ordered to serve as part of the United States Navy. During the war, the Coast Guard was responsible for convoying cargo ships and screening transports.
1917, September 26 The cutter Tampa, bound for England from Gibraltar, disappeared with a great explosion believed to have been caused by a torpedo. The entire crew of 111 coastguardsmen and 4 navy men was lost.
In proportion to its strength, the Coast Guard suffered greater losses in the war than any of the other United States armed forces.

1939 The Lighthouse Department of the Department of Commerce was transferred to the Coast Guard.
1939 The Coast Guard Auxiliary was formed.

World War II
The Coast Guard served as a specialized branch of the U.S. Navy and was responsible for handling and stowing explosives and other dangerous cargoes, and for protecting vessels and port facilities from fire, negligence, or damage. The Coast Guard also furnished weather reports, provided cutters for convoy duty, manned its own vessels as well as many of the Army and Navy, took part in Pacific operations, and developed beach-landing methods for the Allied invasion of Europe in 1944.

1941 The Coast Guard Reserve was established.

1942 The Bureau of Marine Inspection was transferred from the Department of Commerce to the Coast Guard.
1942 The Coast Guard Women's Reserve, also known as the SPARS, was created.

1945 The icebreaker Mackinaw made the first winter trip through the Soo Locks.

1957 The cutters Storis, Bramble, and Spar became the first U.S. ships to complete a trip through the Northwest Passage.

Vietnam War
From 1965 to 1972, 52 Coast Guard cutters patrolled the coastal waters of South Vietnam to prevent the flow of Communist troops and equipment from North Vietnam to South Vietnam.

1967 The Coast Guard was transferred from the Treasury Department to the Department of Transportation.

1972 Congress passed the Ports and Waterways Act, directing the Coast Guard to establih and enforce regulations governing the construction of oil tankers and other ships carrying polluting substances in U.S. waters. The act also authorized the Coast Guard to develop vessel traffic control systems to help prevent accidents in crowded harbors and waterways.

1976 The Coast Guard Academy admitted women for the first time.

2003 The Coast Guard was transferred from the Department of Transportation to the Department of Homeland Security.

See Also

President Thomas Jefferson
Civil War
World War I
Department of Commerce
World War II
Soo Locks
Northwest Passage
Department of Transportation

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This page was last updated on 01/28/2019.