The words of the United States Coast Guard are Semper Paratus — always ready.
Since Aug. 4, 1790, it’s been true. The Revenue Marines were created by Congress in 1790 and, in 1915, the modern Coast Guard we know and love and appreciate when we are lost at sea was formed.
“Coasties” serve in times of peace and in times of war and we are lucky to have them.
The Coast Guard song is named for its motto Semper Paratus and here are a few things you should know about it, if you want to call yourself a true (trivia- and/or Coast Guard-loving) American:
1. The song turned 90 years old last year
Written in 1927 by Captain Francis S. Van Boskerck, legend has it the song was penned whilst Van Boskerck was in the Aleutian Islands. He used an old piano that belonged to a fur trader’s wife. Two dentists, Alfred E. Nannestand and Joseph O. Fournier, also helped with the early lyrics.
2. Like the other services, the song was the result of a song-search contest*
Van Boskerck and his dentist buddies entered their version into the contest and won. In 1943, Homer Smith would revise the lyrics, and in 1969, the first line of each verse was changed, resulting in the current version of the song.
*For all the songwriters out there looking to make history, rumor has it our young country may soon have a new branch of the military, and with it, the need for an anthem of its own…
3. It contains a decent synopsis of pre-WWII Coast Guard history
“From Aztec shore to Arctic zone,” alludes to the U.S. landings on Mexico’s Gulf Coast during the Mexican War (1846-1848). “Surveyor and Narcissus” refers to the Cutter Surveyor who faced off against the British Narcissus during the War of 1812.
The U.S. Coast Guard patrols the waters around New York in the wake of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
The lyrics are full of Easter Eggs. See if you can identify each historical moment below:
From Aztec Shore to Arctic Zone,
To Europe and Far East,
The Flag is carried by our ships
In times of war and peace;
And never have we struck it yet,
In spite of foemen’s might,
Who cheered our crews and cheered again
For showing how to fight.
We’re always ready for the call,
We place our trust in Thee.
Through surf and storm and howling gale,
High shall our purpose be,
“Semper Paratus” is our guide,
Our fame, our glory, too.
To fight to save or fight and die!
Aye! Coast Guard, we are for you.
“Surveyor” and “Narcissus,”
The “Eagle” and “Dispatch,”
The “Hudson” and the “Tampa,”
These names are hard to match;
From Barrow’s shores to Paraguay,
Great Lakes or Ocean’s wave,
The Coast Guard fights through storms and winds
To punish or to save.
Aye! We’ve been “Always Ready”
To do, to fight, or die!
Write glory to the shield we wear
In letters to the sky.
To sink the foe or save the maimed
Our mission and our pride.
We’ll carry on ’til Kingdom Come
Ideals for which we’ve died.