While not a member of the service, Howell Cobb’s life reminds us of the divisions in American life, culture and politics in the early 1800s that resulted in the Civil War. He was once a popular political leader and service vessel namesake, but would later be resented and reviled by many of his countrymen.
In the modern history of the United States Coast Guard, there has been a rapid shift from mistaken identity to a brand identity. Thanks to a visionary president, talented industrial designers and Coast Guard leaders who saw the importance of a service brand identity; the assets of the Coast Guard are now easily identified with the distinctive red Racing Stripe.
On April 6, 1917, the U.S. declared war on Germany. With the code words “Plan One, Acknowledge” transmitted to Coast Guard cutters and units, the
service was transferred from the Treasury Department to the Navy and placed on a wartime footing. WWI was the first true test of the Coast Guard’s combat capability and cemented the service as a military agency, preparing the service for the challenges it would face in WWII.
During Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Coast Guard was instrumental in providing port security and demonstrated the Coast Guard units could serve in areas lacking any Coast Guard infrastructure. The units who served in these areas added an important chapter to the history of the service and lived up to the Coast Guard’s motto of Semper Paratus.
Ida Lewis, also referred to as “The Bravest Woman in America,” dedicated her life saving dozens of lives as the keeper of Lime Rock Lighthouse. Her dedication to the safety of others serves as a role model for both men and women of the long blue line.
Like a true Coast Guardsman, all Vivien Crea wanted was a fair shake. Throughout her career, Crea earned the respect not only of women in the Coast Guard, but all service members who came to know her. She was a humble member of the long blue line who led the way for women int he Coast Guard and America’s armed services.
The Long Blue Line: Coast Guard Officers Jenkins and Russell—Trailblazers of Ethnic Diversity in the American Sea services
African-Americans have served in the United States Coast Guard throughout its nearly 230-year history, but their participation in the service has been largely overlooked. So it is only fitting that we should document some of their participation by starting with the Coast Guard Academy, which pioneered the role of African-American officers in the U.S. sea services.
Bobby Charles Wilks, was an African-American who led the Coast Guard toward greater diversity in the post-World War II era by breaking color barriers for African-American Coast Guard officers and blazing a trail for all minorities in the service.
In the second part of the history of African-Americans serving in the U.S. Coast Guard, we recognize several members who have made an impact on the Coast Guard and the many firsts they have accomplished.
The history of African-American participation in the Coast Guard and its predecessor services dates back to the very founding of the service in 1790. In over 225 years of Coast Guard history, African-Americans have been the first minority group to serve, first to fight and the first to sacrifice.