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U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary 

US Coast Guard Auxiliary Celebrates 73 Years Helping Keep America Safe


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)

The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary celebrated its 73rd anniversary of service to America June 23. 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.

In The ‘30s

In the 1930s, 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.

In 1941: Pearl Harbor Day

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.

Name Change In ‘42

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.

After WWII

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 1950s. Vessel Safety Checks and public education became key activities performed by Auxiliary members as the organization shifted its focus to promoting recreational boating safety.

Famous Members

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.

Safety Every Day Of The Year

In the 1940s, 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)

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!

"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."

Joining The Auxiliary

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


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