U.S. Coast Guard: A history

Mural in former Coast Guard building in Bandon, painted by K.L. Jones in 1971 depicting a 36-foot motor lifeboat.

SOUTH COAST — The U.S. Coast Guard is the oldest continuous seagoing service in the United States.

Coast Guard Day is celebrated on Aug. 4 because that is when the service was established back in 1790.

“(That is) when George Washington signed the Tariff Act,” said Commander Michael Baird of Sector North Bend. “… That authorized the construction of 10 revenue cutters and the personnel to man them. The whole point was the fledgling nation needed an influx of money, so the revenue cutters were there to prevent smuggling and other illegal activities to make sure the country was getting what it was owed.”

The U.S. Coast Guard, as it is known today, wasn’t created until 1915 when the Revenue Cutter Service and the U.S. Lifesaving Service merged.

“The merge created the U.S. Coast Guard,” Baird said, adding that the Coast Guard was then merged with the Lighthouse Service in 1939 and the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Marine Navigation in 1946.

Because the Coast Guard comprises so many other services, Baird said it is the reason for the Coast Guard’s 11 statutory missions.

“We don’t do just one thing,” he said.

Those 11 missions are: Port and Waterway Security, Drug Interdiction, Aids to Navigation, Search and Rescue, Living-Marine Resources, Marine Safety, Defense Readiness, Migrant Interdiction, Marine Environmental Protection, Ice Operations, and Law Enforcement.

In addition, Baird said the Coast Guard has been part of every major conflict that the U.S. has fought.

“We’ve had people serve in every major war,” he said. “We’re at all times a military service. We’re part of the Department of Homeland Security to help us maintain our law enforcement aspects.”

Specific to the Oregon Coast, Sector North Bend was officially established in 2013. Prior to that it was Group North Bend, established in 1968.

“(But) when you look at North Bend’s Area of Operation, you can trace Coast Guard roots to 1870 with the Cape Blanco Lighthouse and 1878 with the first life boat station (which) was established in Coos Bay,” Baird said. “We changed to a sector because in order to better conduct our missions, we transitioned from groups to air sectors. A lot of titles changed over the years, but our presence and primary mission hasn’t changed too much.”


View the online version of our 2021 Salute to the U.S. Coast Guard publication here!

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