This Day in Coast Guard History – June 18

Friday, June 18, 2010

1812- The United States declared war against Great Britain.

1838- The steamboat Pulaski, a passenger vessel traveling between Baltimore and Charleston, suffered a boiler explosion while at sea, killing over 100 passengers and crew.  This was one of three fatal steamboat boiler explosions within as many months that forced the Federal Government to begin regulating merchant steam vessels.

1878- On 18 June 1878 Congress established the U.S. Life-Saving Service as a separate agency under the control of the Treasury Department (20 Stat. L., 163).

1878- The 45th Congress enacted a rider on an Army appropriations bill that became known as the Posse Comitatus Act [Chapter 263, Section 15, U.S. Statutes, Vol. 20.]  This act limited military involvement in civil law enforcement leaving the Revenue Cutter Service as the only military force consistently charged with federal law enforcement on the high seas and in U.S. waters.  The rider prohibited the use of the Army in domestic civilian law enforcement without Constitutional or Congressional authority.  The use of the Navy was prohibited by regulation and the rider was amended in 1976 outlawing the use of the Air Force.  In 1981, however, new legislation allowed the Secretary of Defense to bring Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps support to civilian authorities in intelligence, equipment, base and research facilities, and related training. 

1903- Alaska’s first coastal lighthouse, Scotch Cap Lighthouse, was first lit.  It was located near the west end of Unimak Island on the Pacific side of Unimak Pass, the main passage through the Aleutian Islands into the Bering Sea.

1930- An Act of Congress provided "for the transfer of the old lighthouse at Cape Henry, Virginia, to the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities."

1938- The first low power, unattended "secondary" radio aid to navigation was established at St. Ignace, Michigan.

1995- The 736-foot cruise ship Celebration suffered an engine-room fire and lost power while off the coast of San Salvador, Bahamas.  CGC Forward responded and was designated as the on-scene commander.  CGC Vigorous was also diverted to lend assistance.  The cruise ship's Halon system put out the fire but she was drifting dangerously close to shore.  The Forward then towed her throughout the night away from shore until the arrival of commercial tugs the next day.  A Coast Guard helicopter medevaced one passenger.  On 20 June the crew of the Forward and MSO Miami team members stood by while the 1,735 passengers still aboard were transferred from the Celebration to the cruise ship Ecstasy, which had arrived in the area.  The Ecstasy then sailed for Miami and the Celebration, with one engine then on-line, sailed to Freeport for repairs.

1999- The CGC Midgett departed its homeport of Seattle for a six-month deployment to the Persian Gulf.  Midgett was attached to a Navy carrier battle group.  The Midgett's crew brought the Coast Guard's expertise in boarding ships to the battle group.  Once in the Gulf, the cutter's primary mission was to enforce United Nations' sanctions against illegal Iraq petroleum shipments and conduct SAR operations.

(Source: USCG Historian’s Office)

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