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U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary

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Just by the very nature of what we do, the Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary and our local communities need each other. Our local community is the place where we grab a bite of lunch, watch the Independence Day parade, send our children to school — the place where we live and work.

In the Coast Guard Auxiliary, we believe we should reach beyond simply carrying out our missions. We strive to cultivate productive relationships within our communities. We want to get to know you, our neighbors, and encourage you to get to know us as well.

Beyond our local involvement, many national Coast Guard Auxiliary programs give you the opportunity to learn more about who we are and offer us the opportunity to listen to your concerns. Our community relations and outreach efforts help introduce you to our role as America’s Volunteer Lifesavers and explain our relevance in your daily lives.

It’s our community, but we’re your Coast Guard Auxiliary. Get to know us!


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Below are questions that are often asked by members and/or address areas of confusion and interest.  For specific dates on major activities, refer to our milestones page.  If you have a question, or need further clarification about a particular aspect of Auxiliary history, please contact us.


  1. Who founded the Coast Guard Auxiliary?
  2. How did the World War II Temporary Reserve differ from today's Coast Guard Reserve?
  3. Did temporary Reservists receive recognition for their World War II service?
  4. How can I receive a record of my deceased relative's Auxiliary record of service?
  5. When did the Navigator begin publication?  Was there a published record of Auxiliary activities before then?
  6. Could Auxiliarists always help support the Coast Guard in so many ways?
  7. Were Coast Guard Auxiliarists always very active in search and rescue?
  8. When were women allowed to join the Coast Guard Auxiliary and what could they do?
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Question 1

Q: Who founded the Coast Guard Auxiliary?

A: As explained in "The Coast Guard Auxiliary Past and Present," the idea of a civilian component of the Coast Guard had many supporters, but the officer most responsible for the Auxiliary's establishment wasAdm. Russell Waesche, the Coast Guard commandant during World War II.  Working flotilla docmariners and pleasure boaters have always had a close relationship with our sea services.  During the American Revolution and War of 1812, hundreds of commissioned privateers wreaked havoc on British shipping.  At first surfmen at lifesaving stations were part-timers. During the Civil War, the government was loaned or purchased private vessels, often with their captains in tow.  The Navy supervised harbor patrols during World War I.  And from the beginning of the twentieth century yacht club members urged the formation of a civilian auxiliary. Malcolm Stuart Boylan who lobbied in Washington for the establishment of the Auxiliary was influential.  However, without the backing of Admiral Waesche, the 1939 Auxiliary legislation would never have been passed.

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Question 2

Q: How did the World War II Temporary Reserve differ from today's Coast Guard Reserve?

A: First it must be understood that during World War II, virtually all men and women who enrolled in all the military services were active duty temporary Reservists.  In other words, if one became an active duty Coast Guard officer as a result of, being a Reservist who was activated, enrolling, or being drafted, one's billet during the war did not guarantee one a permanent place in the regular active duty Coast Guard after cessation of hostilities.  One was temporary for the duration.

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However, those who became known in the Coast Guard as Temporary Reservists or TRs were volunteer part-time temporary Reservists who normally were on active duty 24 to 48 hours per week.  During this time, they heldall the powers of a full-time active duty Reservist and were credited with active duty hours.  In June 1942, when the law was changed to allow part-time assignments, due to the German submarine threat, temporary Reservists were initially enrolled with or without pay on a full-time or part-time basis.  Then in December, the regulations were changed. Reservists who could meet the age and physical requirements were put on full-time active duty with pay.  Those who could not were required to perform their duties on a volunteer basis for a certain number of hours a week.  These part-time volunteer assignments were unique to the Coast Guard and a brilliant solution to the service's manpower problems. But, there was never a separate "Temporary Reserve."

It must also be noted that these arrangements put much strain on these volunteers.  The 24 hour duty requirement meant that some did not work a full week at their jobs, as volunteers had to man stations 24/7.  Thus, Reservists made financial sacrifices.  Moreover, many filled their 24 hours by conducting night patrols two nights a week then reporting to their 48-hour per week (or more) day defense jobs.

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Question 3

Q: Did temporary Reservists receive recognition for their World War II service?

A: Reservists served in the American Theater of war and, thus, were eligible to wear the American Theater Ribbon.  For their wartime service they were also eligible to receive the Victory Medal.  Reservists and/oraux award their descendants may still apply to the Department of Defense to have these awards conferred, including posthumously.  But first, a copy of their Reserve record must be obtained from the National Dept. of Personnel Records.  Go to the main page of the website of the National Archives and Records Administration (www.archives.gov) and click on Military Service Records to read instructions on how to apply.  Once  a verification of service is obtained, contact your Coast Guard Public Affairs Office to inquire as to how to apply for service medals.  The Victory Medal can be awarded for Reservists who served up till December 31, 1946, which is the official end of World War II.

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Question 4

Q: How can I receive a record of my deceased relative's Auxiliary record of service?

A: After a member is deceased or disenrolled from the Coast Guard Auxiliary, his or her official record is transferred to the regional National Archives and Records Administration office (the national site is (www.archives.gov). Contact this office to make the request.

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Question 5

Q: When did the Navigator begin publication?  Was there a published record of Auxiliary activities before then?

A: The Navigator commenced publication in 1961.  Beginning in World War II, the Auxiliary had monthly columns in Yachting and Motor Boat & Sailing magazines, finally terminating in the early 1970s.  Both magazines also featured periodic feature articles on the Auxiliary.  Many articles on Auxiliary activities were also published in the Coast Guard Bulletin of the 1950s and '60s.  And, of course, Districts had always published their newsletters and magazines.

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Question 6

Q: Could Auxiliarists always help support the Coast Guard in so many ways?

A: Previous to 1996, Auxiliary membership was limited to boat owners or those with special qualifications, usually meaning teachers and others with technical skills that could help support a flotilla's operation.  However, there could be no more than 3 nonboat-owning members per boat-owner in a flotilla.

During the 1990's, an active effort to integrate Auxiliarists into more of the Coast Guard's day-to-day operations was begun by the Chief DIRAUX office at headquarters.  Auxiliarists began assisting in public

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 affairs offices, qualifying as Coast Guard boat and air crew members, qualifying as officers of the day at local stations, becoming Coast Guard recruiters, etc.  This coincided with increased demands being put on the Coast Guard due to a considerable number of disasters that occurred during the 1990s: Hurricane Andrew, the '93 Mississippi Floods, the Cuban-Haitian boatlift, etc.

Due to their outstanding records and the need, in 1996, the law was changed to allow Auxiliarists to support any Coast Guard mission, except direct law enforcement and military operations, as directed by the Commandant of the Coast Guard.  Boat ownership as a qualification was dropped.

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Question 7

Q: Were Coast Guard Auxiliarists always very active in search and rescue?

A: By 1950 the Auxiliary's four cornerstone programs had been established: vessel examinations, public education, safety patrols, and fellowship.  During the 1950s, the main focus was on public education, vessel examination, and regatta patrols and membership remained at about 13,000.  From the late 1950s on, several social and economic factors produced a tremendous boom in the Auxiliary's search and rescue work, along with its membership.  During the postwar years, millions of Americans, large numbers of whom were Navy and Coast Guard veterans, moved to the suburbs.  Families then had room to park a trailered boat.  The federal government built hundreds of inland dam and reservoir lakes which produced a pleasure boating boom in the West.  The introduction of fiberglass as a major construction material lowered prices, making a boat more affordable.  The baby boom had teenagers begging dads to buy boats so they could water ski.  Boating was also a family activity in which all could happily engage.  Finally, the proliferation of marine VHF radios produced an increased volume of search and rescue calls to the Coast Guard.cgaux sar cg

To give an idea of the Auxiliary's increased role in search in rescue, in 1960 with approximately 15,000 members*, the Auxiliary performed 2,400 operational assists.  In 1968, the 28,958 members performed 8,938 assists.  A change in federal boating laws in 1971, for the first time, allowed Auxiliary facilities to operate on sole state waters, producing another spike in search and rescue statistics.  In one Long Island Sound flotilla, during the 1970s, approximately 150 tows per year were conducted (based on one coxswain's estimate).  However, due to complaints of commercial towers and the federal government's privatization policy, during the 1980s, salvers took over much of the towing operations that previously had fallen on the shoulders of the Coast Guard and the Auxiliary.  As a result, search and rescue statistics dropped (also World War II veterans began to retire).

* Denotes this is an estimate based on the November 1955 member statistic of 12,859. Statistics are taken from the "With the Coast Guard Auxiliary" columns published in Yachting magazine, 1942-1970.

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Question 8

Q: When were women allowed to join the Coast Guard Auxiliary and what could they do?

A: Women were always allowed to join the Auxiliary, as the 1939 enabling legislation stated that U. S.citizenship was a requirement.  In early 1943, there were approximately 100 women members, mostly located in the Great Lakes region.  Many owned their own boats and were active in public education and training.  An unknown number of women Auxiliarists enrolled as temporary Reservists during World War II; 

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a total of 2,000 women part-time Reservists served, largely as volunteers in port security units.  Betty McNabb is the earliest known Auxiliary member, having joined originally in 1940.  Her parents Maj. Frank and Florence Wood of Panama City, Florida ran their local flotilla.  Betty and her mother crewed on the family boat.  Betty and her husband, Harold, then enrolled as temporary Reservists.  He assumed the rank of lieutenant commander and became the executive officer of the port security unit at Jacksonville.  The couple conducted antisubmarine and antisaboteur patrols in their 56-foot live-aboard, off the mouth of the St. John's River.  Betty later became a renowned Auxiliary and Civil Air Patrol pilot.  Women pilots were first assigned in the 7th CG District in 1947.

There seemingly was no national policy that restricted women's duties.  However, local restrictions were imposed.  Beginning in World War II, all-female flotillas were formed, most likely, in part due to 

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discrimination.  Approximately one dozen were activated over the next two decades.  Anecdotal evidenceindicates that women conducted patrols as early as the 1960s.  Statistical and photographic evidence shows that they were most active in the public education and vessel examination programs.  In December 1969, there were 2,415 women members, 75 percent of whom held more than one staff position in their flotillas.  This was approximately 10 percent of the membership.  The women's movement of the 1970s spurred increased enrollment of women and today they account for 25-30 percent of the membership.  Bolling Douglas of Georgia was elected the first District Commodore in 1979.  Women hold high level awards, including a number of Plaques of Merit and Awards of Administrative Merit.  Jean Colby of Michigan has been awarded a Gold Life Saving Medal and two Plaques of Merit.  Women were also awarded the Department of Transportation's 9/11 Award.