The United States Coast Guard has been in operation since August 4, 1790. At the request of Alexander Hamilton, the Revenue-Marine was created with a purpose of collecting customs duties at U.S. seaports. In 1915, the service became the Coast Guard and was administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury. Then, the mission went beyond customs duties, including maritime security, search and rescue, and law enforcement. In 1916, the operations usually conducted by boats, cutters and other vessels, started operating by aircraft as well.1
Serving on the Onondaga, Third Lieutenants Elmer Stone and Norman Hall flew the first Coast Guard air reconnaissance with a plane borrowed from the Navy. This was the beginnings of the aviation section of the Coast Guard. This was followed by proper training at the naval air station in Pensacola, Florida. The first Coast Guard air station was established at Morehead City, North Carolina.2 Below is a document explaining the addition of an “Aerial Coastal Patrol” to the Coast Guard in 1916 from box 474 of the records of the Manufacturers Aircraft Association housed at the AHC.
Around 1922, Lieutenant-Commander C.C. Van Paulsen began working on a “method of throwing out rescue lines by aircraft” to better aid the rescue missions.
After a few years, the Coast Guard needed better-equipped aircraft and the requirements were presented to the aircraft manufacturers:
An aerial “eye” capable of extended search, radio equipped to maintain constant contact with surface, thus saving hours and possibly days of search; an aerial ambulance capable of a speed of 100 miles per hour, able to land in a rough sea, equipped with hatches large enough to admit of stretcher cases and to be able to take off on rough water; a demolition outfit to effect the destruction of sea derelicts and obstructions to navigation within a few hours after the report of location; a high speed flying patrol for observation, landing and returning with rescued crews of distressed small craft and capable of taking aboard fifteen or more passengers from distressed craft and standing by for lengthy periods on the surface, maintaining in the meantime radio communication with surface craft until transfer can be made of its passengers.https://cgaviationhistory.org/1932-the-flying-life-boats/
The flying lifeboats were obtained in 1932.
The Coast Guard aviation fleet kept improving over the years and Igor Sikorsky played a big part. In 1939, he worked on the construction of the Sikorsky helicopter. In the following years, tests and demonstrations were done with the VS-300 and the XR-4 helicopters, and by 1943, the Coast Guard helicopter program was born.
The Sikorsky helicopters are still part of the 201 fixed and rotary aircraft of the US Coast guard today.
To learn more about the United States Coast Guard and its aircraft, see the Manufacturers Aircraft Association records at the American Heritage Center.
Post contributed by AHC Processing Archivist Alexandra Cardin.