Coast Guard celebrates rescue milestone

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AUG. 8 — During a ceremony last weekend in Grand Haven, Mich., in honor of its 217th anniversary, the Coast Guard announced that 1,109,310 lives have been saved since its establishment in 1790.

“What began as America's only lifesaving service charged with the dangerous duty of saving sailors from shipwrecks along our coasts has evolved into a modern-day, multimission Coast Guard that demonstrates the same commitment to saving lives that it did more than 200 years ago," said Adm. Thad Allen, commandant of the Coast Guard. 

The Coast Guard is one of America's five armed forces — the smallest — and traces its founding to Aug. 4, 1790, when the first Congress authorized the construction of 10 vessels to enforce tariff and trade laws, prevent smuggling and protect the collection of the federal revenue.

Responsibilities have been added over the years, most notably humanitarian duties such as aiding mariners in distress. The service received its present name in 1915 when the Revenue Cutter Service merged with the U.S. Life-Saving Service to form a single maritime entity dedicated to saving lives at sea and enforcing the nation's maritime laws.

The number of lives saved was reportedly calculated by the Coast Guard historian's office through research of logs and records from the Coast Guard, the Revenue Cutter Service, the U.S. Life-Saving Service, the Lighthouse Service and other agencies that ultimately became the modern Coast Guard.