Tag: Revenue Cutter Service

The Long Blue Line: Early African American service—first to serve and first to sacrifice

Very rare and faded photograph showing the original Pea Island Life-Saving Station crew and keeper, Richard Etheridge, on the left side. (U.S. Coast Guard)

African Americans comprise the longest serving minority in the United States Coast Guard. They were the first to serve and, in many ways, were the first to sacrifice, pioneering the way ahead for all minorities in the Coast Guard, U.S. military, and the nation.

The Long Blue Line: Coast Guard Cutter Bear and NOAA hunt for the Bear

Painting depicting USCGC Bear (WMEC-901) and namesake USRC Bear together in one illustration. (Coast Guard Collection)

Last summer, after several months of preparation, the Coast Guard Cutter Bear received a mission objective for 14 days of its 72-day patrol off the coast of New England. CGC Bear was tasked with serving as a research vessel, facilitating a search for the wreck of the original United States Revenue Cutter Bear.

The Long Blue Line: Combat Cutter Pickering—lost 220 years ago, now an OPC namesake

Historians believe this to be a rendering of the cutter Pickering. If so, it is the earliest known rendering of a U.S. revenue cutter. Illustration courtesy of Coast Guard Historian’s Office.

During the Quasi War, U.S. naval authorities considered the Pickering one of their finest combat cutters. Today, 220 years later, Pickering will be recognized and remembered as one of the Coast Guard’s newest class of cutters. The cuttermen of Pickering and their heroic cutter will always remain a part of the long blue line.

The Long Blue Line: “Siempre Preparado” – operations of Revenue Cutter Algonquin

Revenue Cutter Algonquin, commissioned in 1898, was a re-assuring sight on San Juan’s waterfront for 13 years. It was known as “Siempre Preparado” for always being ready to resond to the needs of Puerto Rico and its citizens. The cutter and its crew participated in several medical and humanitarian missions, transported local dignitaries and government officials and fought fires along the harbor. Algonquin was later reassigned to Oregon, to the Navy during WWI and later to Alaska, never returning to the Caribbean but always “Siempre Preparados.”

A little piece of Kimball’s legacy of standardization

First "standard" version pulling surfboat adopted by the Life-Saving Service in the early 1870s, with design based on square-stern surf fishing boats then in common use along the coast of New Jersey. Photo courtesy of life-savingservice.org.

Lt. Brendan Rogers was researching a figure in Coast Guard history for a presentation on organizational change when he came across a letter written by the Honorable Sumner Kimball. Kimball was an administrator whose work was pivotal in standardizing and organizing the U.S. Life-Saving Service that soon merged with the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service to form what we know today as the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Long Blue Line: Civil War operations of the Revenue Cutter Service

Painting of Revenue Cutter Miami covering troop landings at Ocean View Beach near Norfolk, Va., by Charles Mazoujian. (Coast Guard Collection)

The U.S. Revenue Cutter Service cemented the role of the service in such missions as convoy duty, blockade operations, port security, coastal patrol and brown-water combat operations – missions that remain core competencies of the Coast Guard in future combat operations. The service’s operations during the Civil War also reinforced the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service’s reputation as a legitimate branch of the armed forces.

The Long Blue Line: Revenue cutter operations in the Mexican-American War

) Illustration of the Tabasco River Fleet in 1846. (Source unknown)

On May 13, 1846, President James Polk signed the declaration of war with Mexico. Revenue cutter captain John Webster formed an 11-cutter squadron to blockade and patrol along the coast of Mexico. Until the end of the war in 1848, the crews of the squadron convoyed merchant vessels, transported troops and supplies, blockaded enemy ports, delivered important dispatches to naval commanders and played a vital role in shallow water combat and amphibious operations.

The Long Blue Line: Rogue cutter James Madison and first Coast Guard POWs

In a high stakes gamble against the Royal Navy, revenue cutter James Madison’s captain George Books beat the odds for a time, but his luck eventually ran out. He sacrificed the freedom of his enlisted crewmembers, one of whom paid the ultimate price in England’s ghastly prison-ship system. Brooks and his men were members of the long blue line, who went down in history as the service’s first prisoners-of-war.