U.S. Coast Guard Day
Also known as
Coast Guard Day
annually on August 4th
U.S. Coast Guard Day honors the United States Coast Guard, the military branch that protects the waters and shorelines of the United States. It is celebrated on the anniversary of the founding of the Revenue Marine, the forerunner of the Coast Guard. On August 4, 1790, the United States Congress created the Revenue Marine and authorized the construction of 10 revenue cutters to be used to enforce U.S. tariff laws—to stop illegal smuggling and collect revenue on incoming goods. The Revenue Marine was housed in the Department of Treasury and thus directed by Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton.
The Revenue Marine's name was later changed to the Revenue Cutter Service. Then, in 1915, the Revenue Cutter Service was combined with the United States Life-Saving Service to form the United States Coast Guard. This created a single maritime service, bringing together one devoted to enforcing maritime laws and one dedicated to saving lives. The United States Lighthouse Service became part of the Coast Guard in 1939, and the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation became part of it in 1946. In 1967, the Coast Guard was transferred from the Department of Treasury to the newly-created Department of Transportation. Similarly, it was transferred to the Department of Homeland Security in 2003.
U.S. Coast Guard Day has been marked in some form since at least 1928. Presidents have proclaimed August 4th as "Coast Guard Day." Harry Truman did so in 1948, and Ronald Reagan did so in 1984 after being requested to do so by Congress. In large part, U.S. Coast Guard Day is an internal celebration by Coast Guard personnel and their families, but others join in honoring Coast Guard members as well. Coast Guard units often organize picnics and informal sports competitions, where they celebrate with family and friends. The American flag is typically flown on the day, particularly by those who have family members in the Coast Guard. Grand Haven, Michigan, known as Coast Guard City, USA, holds the annual Coast Guard Festival each year around August 4th.
The Coast Guard defines itself as "the principal Federal agency responsible for maritime safety, security, and environmental stewardship in U.S. ports and inland waterways, along more than 95,000 miles of U.S. coastline, throughout the 4.5 million square miles of U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and on the high seas." It has active duty, reserve, and civilian employees, and there also is a Coast Guard Auxiliary. It is divided into two area commands, the Pacific Area and the Atlantic Area, and these are divided into nine district commands. Many Coast Guard stations are located in the districts. The Coast Guard fleet consists of cutters, boats, and fixed and rotary-wing aircraft. Today this branch of the military and its members are honored with U.S. Coast Guard Day!
How to Observe U.S. Coast Guard Day
Some ways you could observe the day include:
- Make plans to attend New Haven's Coast Guard Festival, Petaluma's Coast Guard Day, or another public event in honor of the Coast Guard's founding. If you are a member of the Coast Guard, or if you have a relative in the Coast Guard, see if there are any private events being held in honor of the day that you can attend.
- Stop at a Coast Guard station.
- Fly the American flag.
- Learn more about the responsibilities and functions of the Coast Guard. You could do so by reading a book such as The Coast Guard or The United States Coast Guard and National Defense: A History from World War I to the Present, or by exploring the official United States Coast Guard website.
- Watch a film that features the Coast Guard.
- Join the Coast Guard.