A fleet-footed legacy

Story by Lt. j.g. Amanda Faulkner, Coast Guard Sector San Francisco

“It takes an endless amount of history to make a little tradition,” wrote Henry James, a late 19th century American writer. The Coast Guard carried on a naval tradition this past October for San Francisco Fleet Week 2014. In mid-October the Coast Guard led the maritime safety and security efforts for San Francisco Fleet Week 2014.

The Coast Guard Cutter Hawksbill Hawksbill conducts safety zone enforcement for the San Francisco Fleet Week 2014 Air Show.  U.S Coast Guard photo by Lt. j.g. Evan Wilcox.

The Coast Guard Cutter Hawksbill conducts safety zone enforcement for the San Francisco Fleet Week 2014 Air Show.
U.S Coast Guard photo by Lt. j.g. Evan Wilcox.

The Coast Guard, along with 25 of its port partners, was responsible for ensuring the safety of more than 2,500 recreational boaters, two-dozen ferries, the air show participants and the security of three naval warships along the San Francisco Waterfront for four days. Although this effort was for a celebratory event in the Bay Area, the inter-agency coordination it required, hearken back to the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake response efforts of the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, the Coast Guard’s predecessor.

The Coast Guard’s story in the Bay Area began in the fall of 1849, when the U.S. Revenue Cutter Cornelius W. Lawrence arrived to provide customs enforcement and ensure maritime safety as over 500 merchant vessels came to benefit from the Gold Rush.

Seventeen years after our presence began in San Francisco, an 8.3-magnitude earthquake ruptured a 296-mile span of California. The Revenue Cutter Service responded in many ways to help the citizens of San Francisco. Officers coordinated with the Army to ensure supplies were gathered for refugees and service members. Some cuttermen were sent to fire departments to combat the fires erupting all over the city. Even the cuttermen not given official duties aided displaced persons in evacuating the city. Cutter Golden Gate conducted firefighting efforts at the Pacific Mail Docks where approximately 200 people were surrounded by three walls of fire. After controlling the fire, Cutter Golden Gate brought 60 people onboard to provide shelter and food. Their efforts at the docks saved approximately $3 million (in current value $75.8 million) in property.

Golden Gate

Undated photo of the Revenue Cutter Golden Gate.

Between April 19 and April 23, 1906, Cutter Golden Gate transported more than 800 hundred people to safety. Along with crewmembers from the Cutters Thetis, Bear and Golden Gate patrolled the San Francisco waterfront for five days. They assisted in firefighting, refugee transfer, protecting important documents and guarding treasure. The Revenue Cutter Service partnered with the San Francisco Fire Department, the U. S. Navy, the U. S. Army and other agencies to provide aid to the citizens of San Francisco.

Fast forward to today and those same partnerships continue. Sector San Francisco begins planning for Fleet Week safety and security enforcement six months in advance of the event. We submit requests for assistance from agencies all of over the Bay Area from Sonoma to Stanislaus. Our own units travel from Lake Tahoe and Monterey. This year, Coast Guard special security teams came from Los Angeles, Seattle and Honolulu.

The Coast Guard and its partners take every effort to ensure the safety of the San Francisco waterfront. The service’s efforts included providing escorts and fixed security zones to the visiting naval warships, establishing and enforcing the safety zone for the air show and its rehearsals over four days and directing the vessels participating in the Parade of Ships.

From gold rushes and earthquakes to naval festivals and fisheries boardings, Bay Area Coast Guardsmen continue 165 years of a fleet-footed legacy of vigilant and diligent service.

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