US Coast Guard Auxiliary celebrates 73 years helping keep America safe

Friday, June 22, 2012

In the 1940's, Coast Guard Reserve (Auxiliary) flotillas augmented U.S. WWII coastal defenses helping protect the homeland from possible enemy attack. U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Records Photo (Collection #559), Special Collections Department, J.Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary celebrates its 73rd anniversary of service to America June 23, 2012.  As the uniformed, volunteer component of the Coast Guard, Auxiliary members dedicate countless hours each year toward supporting the Coast Guard in nearly all of the service’s mission areas.

Article by Auxiliarist Chris Todd, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Public Affairs

A number of public figures have traditionally supported the efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. Here, Honorary Commodore Lloyd Bridges and his "helpers" promote boating safety course enrollment. U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Records Photo (Collection #559), Special Collections Department, J.Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University

In the 1930’s, rowing and yachting races were among the most popular spectator sports in America.  With WWII on the horizon and more than 300,000 boats operating in U.S. waters, Congress passed legislation on June 23, 1939 forming the Coast Guard Reserve — a civilian organization with the primary purpose of providing boats and support to the Coast Guard during times of need.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Lt. Cmdr. Frank D. Higbee ordered the Auxiliary to duty in the 11th Naval District (Calif.) and told them in effect: “Come back with your shield, or on it!”   Recruits flooded into Coast Guard Reserve (Auxiliary) flotillas in a burst of patriotic fever.  The organization’s membership soared to over 50,000 as these new members worked performing coastal defense and search and rescue duties — including firefighting and anti-submarine operations.

Congress officially changed the organization’s name from the Coast Guard Reserve to the Coast Guard Auxiliary on February 19, 1942.  A formal Coast Guard Reserve was then established in which enrollees were subject to military law and the Articles of War.

Following the war, the “four cornerstone” missions of the Coast Guard Auxiliary; member services, recreational boating safety, operations and marine safety, and fellowship, were formulated in the 1950’s.  Vessel Safety Checks and public educations became key activities performed by Auxiliary members as the organization shifted its focus to promoting recreational boating safety.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary has had its share of famous members.  Actor Lloyd Bridges and CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite were both honorary commodores, helping to promote the Coast Guard Auxiliary and its missions.  The tradition of celebrities working with the Coast Guard Auxiliary continues today with notable personalities such as Dan Marino, Don Shula, Arnold Palmer, David Hasselhoff, Charlie Daniels, Roy Clark, and many others.

LOS ANGELES - A Coast Guard Auxiliary boat crew member tends a trail line during helo-hoist training on Santa Monica Bay with an HH-65 "Dolphin" helicopter from Air Station Los Angeles. The Auxiliary provides valuable training platforms for Coast Guard aviation assets needing experience hoisting from a variety of vessel types. U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary photo by Stephen Lee.

Today, more than 30,000 Coast Guard Auxiliary members continue to provide support to Coast Guard units across the U.S. and its territories.  On average, the Coast Guard Auxiliary saves one life, assists 28 people, conducts over 50 safety patrols, performs more than 250 Vessel Safety Checks, educates over 270 people on boating safety, participates in over 100 Coast Guard operational support missions, and works with a wide variety of local partners and government entities every day.

CAPE MAY, N.J. - U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Vessel Examiner Richard Weiss inspects a life jacket during a Vessel Safety Check at Bree-Zee-Lee Yacht Basin. Each year, the Coast Guard Auxiliary conducts thousands of complementary Vessel Safety Check inspections for recreational boat owners across the nation. U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Lindberg.

“Our all-volunteer Auxiliary is an essential component of the U.S. Coast Guard,” said Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp.  “For 73 years, they have actively promoted boating safety through a variety of educational and inspection programs, and helped perform Coast Guard operations alongside their active, reserve, and civilian counterparts.  We could not meet the demands for our unique services without them.”

Membership in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is open to citizens age 17 and older who meet the prescribed requirements.

To learn how you can join the Coast Guard Auxiliary, visit

WEST MILFORD, N.J. - U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Aircraft Commander Eric Fields completes one of his many aerial patrols over New York, New Jersey, and Conn. Coast Guard Auxiliary aviators volunteer their time, expertise, and aircraft to fly Coast Guard aviation missions to help keep America safe. U.S. Coast Guard Photo by PAC Tom Sperduto.

For more information on Coast Guard Auxiliary history, please visit:

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  1. Linda walker Fox says:

    My family and I are trying to obtain the military records for John Bowman Walker, born 12/02/1910. He was in the Coast Guard or Coast Guard Auxiliary during WW11, serving off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We have photos of him in his Coast Guard uniform, when he and Mother married. We are especially interested in getting specific information about his service, dates, service number, etc. This information is vital for benefits for our Mother who is now 99 and in need of financial assistance for her health care needs. Thank you for your assistance.

  2. Robert Sherman says:

    I am trying to find the CG AUX records for my father, Milton Sherman who served in the CG AUX in the 1960’s in Long Island, New York. He was the 12-2 Flotilla Commander for either Manhassett, Glen Cove, or Port Washington. Any information will help me!

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