The United States Coast Guard is one of the 5 branches of the military of the United States. It is a part of the United States Department of Homeland Security. The Coast Guard's purpose is to protect the people, environment, industry and security of the United States on seas, lakes and rivers. To do this, the Coast Guard uses boats, ships, helicopters and airplanes to stop smuggling and other crime and terrorism, and to rescue ships and boats in danger.
The Coast Guard traces its roots back to the United States Revenue Cutter Service, which was created by Congress on 4 August 1790. As such, the Coast Guard is the oldest continuous seagoing service of the United States.
The modern United States Coast Guard was started on January 28, 1915. This is when the U. S. Congress ordered the United States Revenue Cutter Service and the United States Life-Saving Service to merge into a single service. The Coast Guard can become part of the Department of the Navy during war, but it is not now. It became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2003.
The U.S. Revenue Cutter Service (USRCS) was set up in 1790 when President George Washington signed an act allowing the building of 10 boats called "cutters". The service was first suggested in a letter by Alexander Hamilton as a way to collect tariffs which were being lost to smuggling. They were also tasked with making sure shipments of goods from the United States were getting through to markets in other countries. The first Coast Guard station was in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Until the re-establishment of the Navy in 1798, the Revenue Cutter Service was the only naval force of the early United States.
The modern Coast Guard can be said to date to 1915, when the Revenue Cutter Service merged with the U.S. Life-Saving Service when Congress formalized the existence of the new organization. In 1939, the Lighthouse Service was brought under the Coast Guard's purview. In 1942, the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation was transferred to the Coast Guard. In 1967, the Coast Guard moved from the U.S. Department of the Treasury to the newly formed U.S. Department of Transportation, an arrangement that lasted until it was placed under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2003 as part of legislation designed to more efficiently protect American interests following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001.
In times of war, the Coast Guard or individual components of it can operate as a service of the Department of the Navy. This arrangement has a broad historical basis, as the Coast Guard has been involved in wars as diverse as the War of 1812, the Mexican–American War, and the American Civil War, in which the cutter Harriet Lane fired the first naval shots attempting to relieve besieged Fort Sumter. The last time the Coast Guard operated as a whole within the Navy was in World War II. More often, military and combat units within the Coast Guard will operate under Navy or joint operational control while other Coast Guard units will remain under the Department of Homeland Security.
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