William H. Thiesen

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Celebrating the U.S. Coast Guard's 228th Anniversary

By William H. Thiesen 2018-07-26 13:25:55

“You can kick this old service around, tear it to pieces, scream from the house-tops that it is worthless, ought to be abolished or transferred to the Navy, have the people in it fighting among themselves and working at cross purposes and it bobs up serenely bigger and stronger than ever.” - Cmdr. Russell R. Waesche, Sr. (left) As the quote by World War II Commandant Russell Waesche indicates, the evolution of...

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Members of LEDET 404 examine a semi-submersible drug-running craft they seized in 2008. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

LEDETs ? 35 Years of Law Enforcement Missions

By William H. Thiesen 2018-07-05 23:42:11

In the late 20th century, international environmental, economic and political developments created new missions for the Coast Guard. For example, during the 1970s, the rapid growth of illegal narcotics smuggling by sea drove the need for highly trained boarding teams known as Law Enforcement Detachments (LEDETs) to specialize in interdicting drug smuggling vessels. The Coast Guard formally established the Law Enforcement Detachment program in 1982. Originally, LEDETs operated directly under Coast Guard “groups,” local commands that operated under Coast Guard...

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The U.S. Coast Guard's Role in the Vietnam War

By William H. Thiesen 2018-06-22 11:11:50

The U.S. Coast Guard played a vital role in the Vietnam War, but the service’s combat operations in South East Asia remain unknown to most Americans. On April 29, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed a “Memorandum for the President” that required “U.S. Coast Guard operating forces assist U.S. Naval Forces in preventing sea infiltration by the communists into South Vietnam,” stating “that the U.S. Coast Guard has operating forces which are well-suited to the mission.” The same day Johnson signed...

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Cold-Water Rescues in the Battle of the Atlantic

By William H. Thiesen 2018-06-17 11:59:55

“By the way, Admiral [Edward “Iceberg”] Smith recently commended the Escanaba, its officers and men, for brilliant rescue work. The ship saved about 150 men who were cast into a very cold sea. Most of the men were helpless due to the cold, their hands and feet were frozen, many were unconscious, and only one group were in a boat.” - Lt. Robert Prause, Jr., to Mr. and Mrs. Robert Prause, April 16, 1943

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USS Serpens crew?s caskets arrive at Arlington National Cemetery from Guadalcanal in 1949. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

USS Serpens: The Coast Guard?s Greatest Loss

By William H. Thiesen 2018-01-27 17:39:25

“I felt and saw two flashes after which only the bow of the ship was visible. The rest had disintegrated and the bow sank soon afterwards.” – Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Perry Stinson, USS Serpens commanding officer The quote above refers to the Coast Guard-manned USS Serpens. Nearly 73 years ago on January 29, 1945, a catastrophic explosion destroyed the transport. In terms of lives lost, the destruction of the Serpens ranks as the single largest disaster ever recorded in...

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