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History of the Coast Guard Reserve

1950s


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Upon the massive demobilization at the end of World War II, all the regular and Temporary Reservists returned to their civilian status. Though some reservists continued to hold informal meetings, no organized Coast Guard Reserve program existed, nor were there congressional appropriations for maintaining or training a Coast Guard Reserve force. Though the other services were receiving money to maintain Reserve components, the Coast Guard Reserve was an uncertain entity for several years following war’s end. 

However, many who had served in the Temporary Reserve were enthusiastic about continuing their association with the Coast Guard. They cited idle ships, closed stations, and the long hours and lack of leave of the regulars, all due to a lack of manpower, as evidence that an organized Coast Guard Reserve was necessary. Even without “official” organization, many officers were maintained on inactive status as their names were on file at Headquarters and they could be reached if necessary. Headquarters sought to provide both training for those officers still on the rolls and create an enlisted force. Together, they would serve as the nucleus in fulfilling the Coast Guard’s role in the event of another national emergency. In July 1947, the authority to maintain the Women’s Reserve (SPARs) was terminated, due to a repeal of wartime legislation. Furthermore, although the funds requested by the Coast Guard to set up a Reserve were less than one percent of those requested by the other four services combined, they were continually turned down.

In 1948, however, two motions set the stage for the reemergence of an official Coast Guard Reserve. The first was Public Law 810, approved July 29, 1948, which provided that if a reservist’s active and inactive duty in the Reserve totaled 20 years, and the reservist spent a given amount of each year in training, then at age 60 the reservist would be eligible to receive retirement pay. A few months later, on Oct. 15, 1948, President Truman issued Executive Order 10007, which ordered all five services to take strides to stimulate, enlarge, and train their respective Reserve components. In March of 1949, the Navy assigned the Coast Guard certain responsibilities for mobilization and national emergencies. In the wake of Executive Order 10007, the Coast Guard called a small group of Reserve officers to active duty at Headquarters, and one officer was installed in each district as the Director of Reserve. Recruiting and enlistment procedures began, the districts set up files, and began the necessary administrative work. First attempts were made at organized Reserve training, and in some cities, reservists were formed into active training units. Those reservists living away from metropolitan centers were encouraged to enroll in correspondence courses and attend the Reserve training of other armed services. In November of 1949, the Women’s Reserve was reinstated. 

Finally, in 1950, the needed money was received when one million dollars of the Coast Guard budget was designated for Reserve training. Two years hence, the Armed Forces Reserve Act of 1952 placed increased emphasis on the Reserve, by defining their missions, numbers, and composition. The first Chief of the Reserve Division, under the Office of Personnel at Headquarters, was CAPT John L. Steinmetz from 1950-52. In November of 1953, the first issue of The Coast Guard Reservist was published with the purpose stated as “the dissemination of up-to-date information of interest to all Coast Guard Reservists, on active and inactive duty.” Throughout the 1950s, the Coast Guard Reserve program grew rapidly. In October 1950, the first Organized Reserve Training Unit Port Security (ORTUPS) was established in Boston. Also, Coast Guard Reservists were active in the Korean War, with 675 volunteering for Active Duty in the first year of the conflict alone. The Reserve Forces Act of 1955 established the National Ready Reserve Manpower Pool, to fulfill the needs of the armed forces.

The Coast Guard Ready Reserve ceiling was set at 39,600. The Reserve Forces Act of 1955 also authorized the “2 x 6” and “6 x 8” Reserve enlistment programs. The “2 x 6” recruited personnel for a six-year commitment, with the first two years served on Active Duty. The “6 x 8” program called for an eight-year commitment with the first six months on Active Duty. When not on Active Duty, reservists drilled intermittently and performed ADT for short stretches. From 1951 until the end of the decade, the size of the Selected Reserve rose from 2,257 to 11,498. The first Reserve Program Administrator designation board was held in the late 1950s.


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Reservists undergo a uniform inspection