History of the Coast Guard Reserve 1940s


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1940s In its inception 75 years ago, the Coast Guard Reserve bore little resemblance to the organization that today augments its Active Duty counterpart in nearly all mission areas. To understand the origins of today’s Coast Guard Reserve, it is necessary to trace the history of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, since both organizations were one and the same between the years of 1939 and 1941.

The original Coast Guard Reserve Act was signed into law June 23, 1939, thus creating the Coast Guard Reserve. It was then a non-military service comprised of volunteer boat owners and yachtsmen tasked with promoting seamanship and boating safety — in essence, they were tasked with performing the missions of today’s Auxiliary.

With passage of the Auxiliary and Reserve Act of 1941, both organizations were given separate identities and have operated under basically the same guidelines since. This Act, signed on Feb. 19, is today recognized as the event that marks the birthday of the Coast Guard Reserve. It designated the Reserve as a military branch of the Active service, while the civilian volunteers, formerly referred to as the Coast Guard Reserve, became the Auxiliary. The Auxiliary recognizes the date of the original Reserve Act, signed on June 23, 1939, as their birthday.

The Auxiliary and Reserve Act of 1941 was timely. European hostilities had escalated and the ominous clouds of wartime activities drew nearer to the U.S. Atlantic coast. When President Roosevelt declared an Unlimited National Emergency May 27, 1941, the Coast Guard Reserve was already established, and the Coast Guard was ready for the imminent influx of needed wartime personnel.

The Coast Guard began operations under the Department of the Navy on Nov. 1, 1941. For the duration of the war, all personnel enlistments and commissions in the Reserve were for the duration of the war plus six months.

The regular Coast Guard consisted of Academy graduates and personnel who had enlisted prior to the outbreak of hostilities. The full-time, Active Duty “regular reservists” served side by side with their regular Coast Guard shipmates in all phases of wartime operations, from manning Coast Guard and Navy ships, to acting as coxswains on invasion landing craft. Their service and heroics were present from Iwo Jima and Guam, to Normandy and North Africa. 

By the end of the war, there were 6,800 Reserve Officers, 300 Reserve Warrant Officers, and over 135,200 Reserve enlisted. These totals outnumbered the regular Coast Guard by over five to one. Temporary Reservists To release the great numbers of regulars and regular reservists needed for sea and combat duty, the Auxiliary and Reserve Act was once again amended in June 1942. This amendment activated the “Temporary Reserve.

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SPAR march in formation src=

Troops move ashore from a CG manned assault transport.

A surf boat is ferried back to the life boat station

Beach patrol gather to receive orders

Reservists assist an exhausted and wounded troop onto a CG manned assault transport for rest and treatment

Reservists stand proudly on a port security boat