Happy Anniversary to the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary
June 23, 2014 by Mark Dye
By the late 1930s, personal boating had taken off in popularity. Sure, the Great Depression was in full swing, but many people still had enough money to buy a new Chris Craft or other small vessel. During this time, the Coast Guard was just that—on the coasts. This meant there were large swaths of inland waterways without any type of patrols or even basic inspections to ensure peoples’ boats were safe to operate.
There simply wasn’t enough money or other resources to have the Coast Guard expand its reach inland to cover these needs. So on June 23, 1939, Congress passed the “The Coast Guard Reserve Act of 1939,” thus creating the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary. The idea was to have a group of ready reserves in place to serve when needed, much like the other branches already had. Unlike the other services, however, members of the Auxiliary would need to use their private boats for many of their activities and would not be official members of the military.
The move paid off in short order when World War II came to America. Thousands of Auxiliary members helped in the effort, keeping a watch on ports and shorelines and freeing up the regular Coast Guard for sea duty. In total, more than 60,000 men and women lent a hand, including famous actor Humphrey Bogart (who took his yacht on patrols off the shore of Los Angeles) and Arthur Fiedler, conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra (who helped patrol Boston Harbor 12 hours each week).
Ever since then the USCG Auxiliary has been instrumental in a number of efforts, including providing boat safety inspections and helping clean up after natural disasters, as well as in their traditional role of keeping an eye on our ports and waterways. It just does so now under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security.
Happy anniversary to the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary! You truly have been “always ready.”
(If you’d like to join the more than 30,000 members or join a flotilla, visit the Auxiliary’s website.)