The Long Blue Line: Merle Smith – the first African American graduate of the Coast Guard Academy

During his time in the service, Merle Smith did not consider himself a pioneer of ethnic diversity at the Academy or in the U.S. military. His primary concern was to serve his country and apply his military training like any other Coast Guardsman. Smith proved a great credit to his service and country and many minority men and women have followed in his path. He paved the way for numerous African American officers and served as a member of the long blue line.


Image of Coast Guard cutter Comanche, of the Greenland Patrol, shown in wartime camouflage paint scheme. Coast Guard Collection.

The Long Blue Line: An African-American Hero Serving in a Segregated Service

For many individuals it takes a lifetime to learn the skills of leadership, while others come to it naturally. African-American Charles Walter David, Jr., namesake of Fast Response Cutter David, knew instinctively how to lead others despite barriers imposed by the segregated society of mid-20th century America. David served in the United States Coast Guard early in World War II, when the military services barred African Americans from the officer ranks and limited them largely to non-senior enlisted ratings.


Charles David Jr.

Coast Guard Heroes: Charles Walter David Jr.

This Compass series chronicles the first 14 heroes the Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters have been named for. These men and women, who stood the watch before us, lived extraordinary lives as they lit the way for sailors in times past, […]


Living the American dream: VADM Manson Brown

“My experience is that the Coast Guard is one of the best places in America for motivated individuals to succeed and achieve the American dream.” – Vice Admiral Manson K. Brown Earlier this week, Vice Admiral Manson Brown assumed his […]


Guardian of the Week: LTjg La’Shanda Holmes

This week’s Guardian of the Week post comes to us from Naval Air Station Whiting Field where history was made as Lieutenant (junior grade) La’Shanda Holmes had her wings pinned on and became the first African American female helicopter pilot […]


Guardian of the Week – LT Felicia Thomas

Congratulations to Lieutenant Felicia S. Thomas for becoming the first female African American to command a Coast Guard cutter! During a change of command ceremony today at 9 a.m., she took command of the 110-foot CGC PEA ISLAND homeported in […]