August 4, 2016 is the United States Coast Guard’s 226th birthday—also known as Coast Guard Day! You may already know the basics: The Coast Guard was officially founded on August 4, 1790 in an effort to enforce maritime law and prevent smuggling. Since then, it’s gone on to amass responsibility in many areas including—possibly the most important—the preservation of life at sea. In honor of this anniversary, we have compiled some facts you may not have heard about the Coast Guard, the Coast Guard Academy, and their history.
The mascot for the United States Coast Guard Academy (USCGA) is Objee the Bear. (“Objee” stands for Objectionable.) Originally, the academy would get a bear cub from a local petting zoo. The bear would then serve as the mascot for the football team and the rugby team would take care of it—oftentimes feeding it bottles of maple syrup. The practice of keeping a live bear was abandoned in 1984.
USCGA was the first US military academy to admit women to their program—by a hair. Each of the academies included women in the class of 1980, but the USCGA is the first to start school every year with Swab Summer. Swab Summer is a seven-week military indoctrination designed to help young civilian students transition into the lifestyle of Coast Guard.
Grand Haven, MI is also known as “Coast Guard City, USA”. Every year they hold a festival to celebrate and commemorate the Coast Guard and its history with parades, fireworks, dancing, ship tours, and more.
Would you know what you were eating if the menu said “golf balls, dog food, and battery acid?” A Coast Guard cadet would! The USCGA cadets have many bizarre nicknames for their chow. That particular meal would translate to hard boiled eggs, corned beef hash, and grapefruit juice. A couple other favorites are “elephant scabs” and “fish eggs”, which are veal parmesan and tapioca pudding respectively.
The Congressional Medal of Honor
To this day,Douglas A. Munro remains the only Coast Guardsman to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor, which he did by valiantly serving his country during World War II.
The USCG is the only branch of the military that is not part of the Department of Defense (DoD) because it is the only branch that enforces the law in addition to protecting it. In the United States, it is illegal for a military force to enforce the law. The USCG was originally a member of the Department of Transportation, but since the events of September 11, 2001 it is now a part of the Department of Homeland Security.
The fabled Coast Guard ship The Eagle is a beautiful sailing ship used for training at the USCGA. Like many Americans, The Eagle also has foreign roots. Originally known as The Horst Wessel, the ship was built in Germany and sailed during the Nazi Regime. In fact, Hitler himself once boarded this ship. During the war, the Americans seized the vessel, refitted her, and she now serves to assist in the training of Coast Guard cadets.