This Day in Coast Guard History – April 21

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

1838- The passenger steamboat Oronoko suffered a catastrophic boiler explosion while tied up at Princeton, Mississippi that killed over 100 passengers.  This was one of three fatal steamboat boiler explosions within as many months that forced the Federal Government to begin regulating merchant steam vessels.

1910- U.S. Government took over the sealing operation of Pribiloff Islands from private lessees.

1924- In an effort to increase the number of cutters available for Prohibition enforcement, Navy destroyers were transferred to the Coast Guard for law enforcement purposes.  The Coast Guard was also authorized to commission temporary officers.

1980- Boats with Cuban migrants on board began departing Mariel, Cuba.  The first two boats arrived in Miami the same day, marking the beginning of the largest Cuban migration to the U.S. to date.  Cuban leader Fidel Castro declared the port of Mariel "open", increasing the number of boats involved in the exodus and giving the exodus its name.  This became the largest Coast Guard operation ever undertaken to date since World War II.  The Coast Guard coordinated a three-wave operation.  Coast Guard high endurance cutters operated closest to Cuba.  U.S. Navy ships operated in the inner-wave and Coast Guard small cutters, 95 and 82-footers, served the waters closest to Florida.  Over 660 Coast Guard Reservists were called to replace boat crews, and maintenance and repair teams.  The Coast Guard Auxiliary lent support in many areas, including radio communications.  Over 117,000 people in more than 5,000 boats were assisted by the Coast Guard and Navy forces during the Mariel Boatlift.

(Source: USCG Historian’s Office)

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