Thursday, August 12, 2010

THE COAST GUARD ACADEMY AND MUSEUM

The United States Coast Guard is the smallest of the five federal military services. It grew from combining various services that outgrew their function, mostly civilian. The Revenue Cutter Service was established in 1790. The Life Saving Service was established in 1878. These two merged in 1915.  The Light House Service established in 1789 was added in 1939. The Steamboat Inspection Service established in 1838 had combined with the Bureau of Navigation established in 1884. They were added to the final complex of organizations in 1946 in what is now a multi-missioned maritime and military service accommodating diverse duties. We visited the museum, (above) in New London, CT.
Its history, therefore isn't only military. The Lighthouse Service was the first non-clerical positions allowed to women, who served as keepers and lifesavers with great heroism.   
The Life Saving Service used these tags to keep their surfmen honest. The posts were spread along the coast within walking distance of each other. A man from each post met halfway and exchanged his tag with one from the neighboring posts on either side, thus proving he had walked his shift, which was often in untenable weather, cold and wet and often dangerous.
With much of the work about rescuing people and ships in danger, there are many heroic stories in this museum among the artifacts. Plus many good paintings since few pictures were taken of daring at sea rescues.
This figurehead from The Bear, one of the most  famous ships in Coast Guard lore. A three masted rigged barkentine rigged steamship patrolled the Bering Straits for the Revenue Cutter Service and the Coast Guard for over 30 years. From its deck, the officers were the law. They issued verdicts for crimes at sea and land. The crews brought medicine and food to natives and fortune hunters when in trouble. They transported stranded gold miners and unfortunates out of the frozen wastes. They regulated the sealing and whaling industry during marine disasters and defended Native Alaskans from modern encroachments along with the U.S. Army, demonstrating the diverse nature of the Guard.
  There are some great old photos here of adventure and camaraderie to enjoy.
And war.

 The museum contains this colorful history of the Coast Guard, but this site is also the home of the Coast Guard Academy with young men and women in uniform visible over the campus. Visitors are welcome to go into the exchange, and any building on the campus except one, where classes and field training and meetings are held. It sits next to the Thames river on 100 acres of rolling hills here in New London, and is often home to the Eagle, a barque captured from the Germans during WWII. The barque still sails as a training vessel for seaman from the Coast Guard and provides education and joy to people in ports all over the U.S. It was out during our visit.

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