Prohibition began on January 17, 1920, under President Herbert Hoover’s administration. To enforce the new laws, a Prohibition Bureau was established and was almost immediately overwhelmed. Despite having a marine division, alcohol smuggling was too lucrative, and therefore too prevalent for the Bureau. The Coast Guard became the go-to resource for enforcement, but there were issues with this solution.
In 1925 during the height of Prohibition, Coast Guard Ensign Charles L. Duke make the most famous single-handed seizure in Coast Guard history. Duke gave no quarter to the crew of the SS Greypoint who were bound for Nassau with 1,400 50-gallon drums of alcohol worth an estimated half a million dollars.
Coast Guard Cutter Seneca (WMEC-906) is part of the U.S. Coast Guard’s “Famous”-Class of medium-endurance cutters. Many may wonder why the modern Seneca’s namesake became “famous” until they learn of the original Seneca’s heroic 28-year career. Destroying derelict ships, saving lives in World War I, initiating the International Ice Patrol, and capturing rumrunners during Prohibition – these missions were a part of the first Seneca’s story.
From its beginning as the Revenue Cutter Service in 1790, the Coast Guard’s unique authorities and organizational culture of adaptability have allowed it to make great contributions to intelligence and to important military successes in our nation’s history.
Capt. Quentin Walsh experienced one of the most colorful careers in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard. From chasing rumrunners, to enforcing whale treaties, planning D-Day operations and liberating a port during World War II, Walsh made his mark on our service.
The CG-100, one of the 203 75-foot patrol boats built specifically for Prohibition enforcement duties. They were known as the "six-bitters" and entered service between 1924 and 1925. U.S. Coast Guard photo. It was April 2, 1925, and Chief Petty Officer Karl Gustafson was patrolling the waters of Block Island Sound for illicit cargo; he
Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton requested and received 10 revenue cutters to be used to patrol the coast to identify smugglers and ensure tariffs were paid. Portrait courtesy of the National Archives. Written by Lisa Novak, Coast Guard Public Affairs. How long does it take to get to a 10-year anniversary? About 221 years.
Post written by Chris Havern, Staff Historian On January 17, 1920, “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes” was declared illegal by Constitutional amendment. The era generally known as Prohibition
For a great historical account of the Coast Guard’s role during the Prohibition Era, read this blog post over at EagleSpeak. Our duties then were not much different than our duties now protecting our borders from the smuggling of illegal drugs, people and contraband.