One of the missions of the United States Coast Guard is search and rescue, and lifesaving services for those who are aboard ship during bad weather, or who are lost at sea. The United States Coast Guard Search and Rescue service mission had its start with the United States Lifesaving Service, which was a precursor to the modern Coast Guard. The Life Saving Service was first funded by the government in 1854 and was ran by the US Revenue Cutter Service, which was what the Coast Guard was first known as. Then, in 1878 the United States Lifesaving Service was chartered by Congress to protect the citizens of the United States. The service, at its zenith, had nearly 270 Coastal Life Saving stations long the shores of both oceans, the Gulf of Mexico, and on the Great Lakes of North America.
In the year 1915 the service was reorganized again and placed back under the direction and control of the newly reorganized and renamed United States Coast Guard. The Coast Guard lifesavings service was very active in trying to effect sea rescues, and many of the efforts would appear silly by the judge of current methods, but at the time it was a deadly serious business. If a ship were apparently foundering on rocks near shore, the use of a cannon or gun-fired projectile, taking a thin line would be fired over the ship. By the use of a heavier and heavier line, a cable or heavy stout rope would be affixed to the ship, and drawn tight on shore. Then using a breeches buoy chair, people would be carried by the line off the shipwreck to the shore.
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The Coast Guard near the turn of the century had a motto unofficially: “You have to attempt to go out, but you don’t necessarily have to come back.” The Lifesaving Service would attempt to use the breeches buoy chair, if that didn’t work they would try something else, up to and including the possible launching of a small boat. While not only dangerous the actions of the lifesaving service were very brave. Even after the merger of the United States Lifesavings Service and the US Lighthouse Service to form the modern Coast Guard, the tendency for the Coast Guard to put life and limb at risk in service to assist others continues.