Coast Guard DayUpdated: August 14, 2023
Coast Guard Day is held each year on Aug. 4th to recognize and honor the efforts of The United States Coast Guard. This celebration is considered an “internal” event for active and reserve Coast Guard members, plus their civilian employees and retirees and members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
Coast Guard Day will be celebrated on Sunday, Aug. 4, 2024.
The Coast Guard still participates in Armed Forces Day and Armed Forces Week, but unlike their other military counterparts, they still have their own individual day to celebrate the accomplishments of this branch of the United States Military. The other four branches had their days (Air Force Day, Army Day, Navy Day, and Marine Corps Day) consolidated into Armed Forces Day.
A Brief History Of The Coast Guard
The United States Coast Guard is much older than many Americans realize. It was founded on Aug. 4, 1790, by Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton and was known back then as the Revenue Marine.
Hamilton authorized the construction of ten vessels known as Revenue Service cutters, which were intended to enforce the earliest United States tariff laws.
The Coast Guard would go through a variety of changes along the way to becoming what we know today; President Woodrow Wilson signed an act of Congress into law that combined the Revenue Marine with another agency known as the United States Life-Saving Service with the intent of having a single entity responsible for maritime law enforcement and life-saving.
Mergers And Consolidation: The Coast Guard Grows Larger
The merger was accompanied by a change of name to the United States Coast Guard. This occurred in 1915, long before the advent of computers, GPS systems, or other electronic navigation aids, and one of the Coast Guard’s many duties was the maintenance of America’s navigation aids such as the operation of lighthouses along the coasts.
In 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt and Congress approved the transfer of operations of the United States Lighthouse Service to Coast Guard authority in 1939. A few years later, the Department of Commerce Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation was also transferred to the auspices of the Coast Guard, giving them the authority of merchant marine operations.
Big Changes For The Coast Guard Nearly Two Centuries Into Service
The United States Coast Guard operated for 177 years as a function of the U.S. Treasury Department, but in 1967 the Coast Guard was placed under the Department of Transportation, where it would remain until it was transferred yet again to the then newly-created Department of Homeland Security in 2003.
The Coast Guard Today
Today’s United States Coast Guard still operates under the Department of Homeland Security, with the understanding that control may be transferred to the United States Navy at any time it is needed, but especially during times of war.
The U.S. Coast Guard employs and trains active duty, reserve, and volunteer members alongside civilians and other non-Coast Guard individuals.
There are a variety of functions that uniformed and volunteer Coast Guard members serve, including safety and rescue operations, training, community involvement, and non-military/non-enforcement operations for volunteers and civilians.
An excellent example of the Coast Guard’s importance can be found in the response to Hurricane Katrina; the U.S. Coast Guard’s operations in the wake of that disaster saved more than thirty thousand people, with more than half of those rescued from extremely dangerous situations.
The Coast Guard was also a first responder to the tremendous damage done in the 2017 hurricane season including rescue efforts in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
Celebrating Coast Guard Day
Coast Guard Day is primarily an internal activity, so any activities held to commemorate the holiday are primarily organized and hosted by the individual commands or units.
One area of the country known as Coast Guard City USA, the city of Grand Haven, Michigan, presents a Coast Guard Festival annually during the week of Aug. 4.
There is actually more than one Coast Guard City; 21 exist all around the country, all designated by the Commandant of the Coast Guard at the city’s request. This is considered an honorary title that recognizes communities that have special value or importance to the Coast Guard.
Many of these communities celebrate the Coast Guard in some fashion, but not necessarily on Coast Guard Day. The City of Eureka, California, for example, hosts a Coast Guard Ball and a variety of other activities, but these are held on the day the city was given the title of Coast Guard City, USA.
Coast Guard Cities Around The United States
At the time of this writing, the officially designated Coast Guard Cities include the following:
- Grand Haven, Michigan
- Eureka, California
- Mobile, Alabama
- Wilmington, North Carolina
- Newport, Oregon
- Alameda, California
- Kodiak, Alaska
- Rockland, Maine
- Portsmouth, Virginia
- Traverse City, Michigan
- Astoria, Oregon
- Sitka, Alaska
- Clearwater, Florida
- Newburyport, Massachusetts
- Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
- Camden County, Georgia
- Cape May, New Jersey
- Hull, Massachusetts
- Ketchikan, Alaska
- Elizabeth City, North Carolina
- New London, Connecticut
- Carteret County, North Carolina
- San Diego, California
- Florence, Oregon
- New York, New York