Although the United States Coast Guard did lose five combat cutters: The USS Hamilton, USS Escanaba, USS Muskeget, USS Natset, and The USS Acacia, most people do not know of the heroic deeds of the United States Coast Guard during World War Two, for most of them have never been recorded at all. It is not a little "fly by night" outfit, but a large complex organization. It was started by Congress way back in 1790, with its own fleet of Coast Guard Cutters. It maintains an academy at New London, Connecticut, just like the United States Navy Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. The uniforms are the same, and the pay is also the same. It has performed various duties, especially during our amphibious invasions in the Pacific Islands. When our Army and Marine troops were landed, most of the boats were piloted by the Coast Guard. When ammunition, food, or other supplies were unloaded, most was done by the Coast Guard. When our wounded were evacuated, most was done by the Coast Guard. Sometimes, when an infantry unit was hard pressed, the Coast Guard fought in the trenches with them. Many pilots shot down in the ocean were rescued by the Coast Guard.
Perhaps the reason the services of the Coast Guard have not been recognized, is because it is ordinarily a peacetime force under the Treasury Department. It maintains light houses, buoys, fog signals, radio beacons, and rescues strays stranded in the water. It also watches for smugglers, whether they are smuggling booze or humans. But in time of war, the Coast Guard acts as part of the Navy, under the Secretary of the Navy.
Our Navy is traditionally a "blue-water" Navy, trained to meet and defeat our enemies on the high seas. It didn't have a "white-water" Navy, trained to handle small boats, and land them on the beaches. So, one of the first things the Navy did after Pearl Harbor, was to call on the Coast Guard. They needed sailors that could pilot the invasion landing crafts. Boats like the 36 foot Higgins Landing Craft, for landing troops, to the 370 ft LST (Landing Ship, Tank). The Navy developed twenty different types of these invasion craft that would run up on a beach, unload, and back off again. The Coast Guard supplied several thousand sailors to pilot these craft. They were called surf-men or invaders.
There was one sailor onboard a Coast Guard Cutter on the Greenland Ice Patrol that I always admired. His name was Boatswain Mate First Class Victor Mature, the Hollywood movie star. He was ordered to Washington, D.C. to participate in a war-bond selling campaign. When he arrived at the airport, an officer was there to meet him. As Victor got off the plane, the officer noticed that he was bareheaded. "Where is your hat?" the officer asked. "You cannot go around Washington without a hat, because that makes you out of uniform!" "You know what, Jack?" said Victor, calling the officer by his first name. (An enlisted sailor cannot call an officer by his first name.) "I cannot keep a hat to save my soul. The dames keep snatching them wherever I go! I have already lost thirty-seven hats that way!" "I don't care how you lost them," snapped the officer, "get a hat -- but quick!" "Now look," protested Victor, "I have been traveling for the last six or eight hours with "Russ" and he has not objected yet, so why should you?" The officer's jaw dropped as he looked in the direction of Mature's gesture toward "Russ." For "Russ" was Vice Admiral Russell Randolph Waesche, Commandant of the United States Coast Guard.
Victor Mature was 26 years old when he enlisted in July, 1942. He was discharged in November 1945, as a Chief Boatswain's Mate.
Just like all other branches of the service, the United States Coast Guard had a woman's auxiliary called "The Spars," derived from the Coast Guard's motto, "Semper paratus." Always ready!
The Book of Knowledge: The Children's Encyclopedia by The Grolier Society, Inc. Volume Nine
First Fleet by Reg Ingraham
WW II 4,139 Strange and Fascinating Facts by Don McCombs and Fred L. Worth
They also served: American Women in WW II by Olga Gruhzit-Hoyt