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Historian's Corner: About and Components of the Program

About the Historian's Office

mickeyauxThe history program (ASH) of the Division of Special Projects, National Department of Public Affairs is dedicated to the collection, preservation, and promulgation of information and materials that pertain to events and persons important to the history of the U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.  The national historian's staff collect and promulgate information that relates to national events, national officers, and members who have made historic contributions.  District Historians are tasked with collecting and preserving information on the histories of their units within the regions of the Coast Guard Districts.  All members can participate in collecting information, training members, and informing the public of our proud history and traditions.  Materials collected include documents, photographs, and significant artifacts, such as uniforms, flags, commemorative items, etc.  See Program Components and duties of District Historians on this website for more specific information on how members can participate.

Although long-time members had always been aware of the Auxiliary's record of service and historians had been appointed, efforts to maintain the Coast Guard Auxiliary's history had been inconsistent as 1990 approached.  The Auxiliary history program was formally established during the celebration of the fiftietholdaux boats anniversary of the Auxiliary in 1989.  Executive staff were aware that documents resided in members' basements, offices, garages, all over the country.  There had never been a focused attempt to collect them.  Thus, in 1989 O. W. "Sonny" Martin, Jr., of Madison, Wisconsin was appointed the National Historian.  Sonny was a decorated World War II veteran and a retired army colonel who had held the position of director of administration of the Wisconsin State Historical Society.  For years, Martin spent endless hours writing members all over the country, asking for records members or family members held and taking on special projects such as researching auxiliary regulations, conducting oral histories, compiling complete sets of Navigators and district publications, etc.  And a short history of the Auxiliary was written, largely due to the hard work of former DVC-AS Harriet Howard.

A contract was also entered into with the Joyner Library at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina to house the national records collection which would be presided over by a professional curator.  ECU is a leader in the field of maritime history and archaeology.  By 1999, ECU had compiled an impressive archive, thanks largely to the work of the District Historians.

The history staff went all out to celebrate the Auxiliary's 60th Anniversary in 1999.  In part they recognized this would be the last opportunity to honor the contributions of World War II Auxiliary members of which auxcrewthere were two remaining members at the time.  C. Kay Larson had been appointed branch chief for research and publication in 1994.  She spearheaded a 3-year research project, utilizing ECU and other sources, to develop an exhibit at the Coast Guard Academy and a history video.  The exhibit opened in April 1999, titled "The Rise of Pleasure Boating and the Coast Guard Auxiliary," that tracked the parallel trends in boating and Auxiliary history.  Much of the same material was utilized to produce a 24-minute video documentary, "A Proud Tradition, A Worthy Mission: The History of the Coast Guard Auxiliary 1939-1999," which should still be available through DSO-MAs.  During this same time Sonny and Kay worked with Prof. John A. Tilley of East Carolina University to publish the first complete history of the Auxiliary that came out in 2002.  It is available for sale through the U. S. Government Printing Office.

With Sonny's passing in 1999, he was posthumously awarded the Auxiliary's Distinguished Service Medal.  The torch was passed to Kay who is an independent scholar, specializing in the Civil War, World War II, political, maritime, and women's military history.  She has authored three books that include 'Til I Come Marching Home: A Brief History of American Women in World War II (Minerva Press, 1995).  This work is the only joint service, military history of women in World War II and the only one to feature women in the Coast Guard Auxiliary and temporary Reserve during the war.  Kay's two other World War II Auxiliary articles, "Bravo Zero," and "MacArthur's Navy," appear in the "Text Articles" section of this website; she has also written for the Navigator and Coast Guard magazine.  For twenty-five years, she held executive management staff positions, including in New York City and State governments.  John T.  "Jake" Lincoln, the assistant for archives, is also the 5th NR historian.  Jake has collected an impressive amount of Auxiliary documents in general and on the 5th Northern specifically.  He is well known for displays he has set up at district conferences and in public venues.  Jake is a former Coast Guard Reservist and mayor of North Cape May, New Jersey; he has been very active in operations and the VSC program.  He also teaches new recruits at the Cape May training center.  Gerry Counihan, our other assistant, volunteers with Dr. Robert Browning, the Coast Guard Historian, at Headquarters in Washington, and is the 5th Southern historian, as well.

Since 2000, the history program has concentrated on developing its webpage which has entailed muchauxladies research and writing.  A historian's guide has been produced and posted for the use of District Historians and members as well.  A footnoted milestone dateline is available.  The online Auxiliary bibliography, which is part of the Coast Guard's, has been updated (as of ca. 2005).  A complete honor roll of Auxiliary Gold and Silver Lifesaving Medalists and Plaque of Merit awardees is available for viewing. Complete text articles have been posted.  The Coast Guard Art Program is publicized by the history program.  And more.  Meantime, history staff have been compiling oral histories, statistics, and reports on 9/11 and Hurricanes Katrina.  History staff are also working with Turner Publishing of Paducah, Kentucky to produce an illustrated history of the Auxiliary.