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Coast Guard History

Frequently Asked Questions


 

"Semper Paratus" (Always Ready)

The Official Coast Guard Marching Song

Words and Music
by Captain Francis Saltus Van Boskerck, USCG

Words and Music Copyright by Sam Fox Publishing Co, Inc.

Current Version:

First Verse:

From Aztec Shore to Arctic Zone,
To Europe and Far East,
The Flag is carried by our ships
In times of war and peace;
And never have we struck it yet
In spite of foemen's might,
Who cheered our crews and cheered again
For showing how to fight.

Chorus:

We're always ready for the call,
We place our trust in Thee.
Through surf and storm and howling gale,
High shall our purpose be.
"Semper Paratus" is our guide,
Our fame, our glory too.
To fight to save or fight and die,
Aye! Coast Guard we are for you!

Second Verse:

SURVEYOR and NARCISSUS,
The EAGLE and DISPATCH,
The HUDSON and TAMPA,
These names are hard to match;
From Barrow's shores to Paraguay,
Great Lakes or ocean's wave,
The Coast Guard fights through storms and winds,
To punish or to save.

Third Verse:

Aye! We've been always ready!
To do, to fight, or die
Write glory to the shield we wear
In letters to the sky.
To sink the foe or save the maimed,
Our mission and our pride.
We'll carry on 'til Kingdom Come,
Ideals for which we've died.

Previous Versions (see below)


Captain Francis Saltus Van Boskerck & Semper Paratus

No one seems to know exactly how Semper Paratus was chosen as the Coast Guard’s motto. But there is no doubt as to who put the famous motto to words and music.  Captain Francis Saltus Van Boskerck wrote the words in the cabin of the cutter Yamacraw in Savannah, Ga., in 1922. He wrote the music five years later on a "beat-up old piano" in Unalaska, Alaska. At that time it was probably the only piano in the whole long chain of Aleutian Islands.  Van Boskerck received his commission in the Revenue Cutter Service May 20, 1891. 

A photo of Francis Saltus Van BoskerckRight: First Lieutenant Francis Saltus Van Boskerck, USRCS, circa 1907.

In 1917 he was Captain of the Port in Philadelphia and an aide for the fourth naval district at the American routing office in Philadelphia. He was also censor for the district, and was the first Coast Guard officer to report a German submarine on the Atlantic coast. After the war, Van Boskerck transferred to the Puget Sound Navy Yard to supervise repairs on the famous cutter Bear. He commanded Bear on the 1920 summer cruise to the Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean.

In 1922, as commander of Yamacraw, Van Boskerck was stationed at Savannah and chased rum-runners off the coast of the Carolinas and Florida. In 1923 he went to the Naval War College at Newport, R.I., and in 1924 became District Commander of the Great Lakes District. Van Boskerck was commissioned Captain in 1925.

"Captain Van," as he was known to his many friends, was next ordered to Seattle as Assistant Inspector of the Northwest District. In 1925 and 1926 he was Commander of the Bering Sea Forces, headquartered at the remote port of Unalaska. It was here that he found time to fit the words of his song to music with the help of two Public Health dentists, Alf E. Nannestad and Joseph O. Fournier.  Mrs. Albert C. Clara Goss, the wife of a fur trader, let them use the beat-up piano on which the song was written. For probably as long as Captain Van Boskerck could remember, Semper Paratus had been a Revenue Cutter and Coast Guard watchword. The words themselves, "always ready" or "ever ready," date back to ancient times.

No official recognition was given to the Coast Guard motto until it appeared on the Captain-Commandant's official stationery* in 1910 on the ensign. Captain Van Boskerck hoped to give it as much recognition as "Semper Fidelis" of the Marines and "Anchors Aweigh" of the Navy.


Original Version (circa 1927):

First Verse:

From Aztec Shore to Arctic Zone,
To Europe and Far East,
The Flag is carried by our ships
In times of war and peace;
And never have we struck it yet,
In spite of foemen's might,
Who cheered our crews and cheered again,
For showing how to fight.

Chorus:

So here's the Coast Guard marching song,
We sing on land or sea.
Through surf and storm and howling glae,
High shall our purpose be.
"Semper Paratus" is our guide,
Our fame, our glory, too,
To fight to save or fight and die!
Aye! Coast Guard, we're for you.

Second Verse:

SURVEYOR and NARCISSUS,
The EAGLE and DISPATCH,
The HUDSON and TAMPA,
These names are hard to match;
From Barrow's shores to Paraguay,
Great Lakes or ocean's wave,
The Coast Guard fights through storms and winds,
To punish or to save.

Third Verse:

Aye! We've been "Always Ready"
To do, to fight, or die
Write glory to the shield we wear
In letters to the sky.
To sink the foe or save the maimed,
Our mission and our pride.
We'll carry on 'til Kingdom Come,
Ideals for which we've died.



Second Version (circa 1943):

First Verse:

From North and South and East and West
The Coast Guard's in the fight.
Busting subs and landing troops
The Axis feels our might.
For we're the first invaders
On every fighting field.
From Arctic zone to tropic shore
You'll find our Silver Shield.

Chorus:

So here's the Coast Guard battle song,
We fight on land or sea.
Through howling gale and shot and shell
To win our victory.
Semper Paratus is our guide,
Our pledge, our motto, too.
We're "always ready", do or die
Aye, Coast Guard we fight for you!

Second Verse:

SURVEYOR and NARCISSUS,
The EAGLE and DISPATCH,
The HUDSON and TAMPA,
These names are hard to match;
From Barrow's shores to Paraguay,
Great Lakes or ocean's wave,
The Coast Guard fights through storms and winds,
To punish or to save.

Third Verse:

Aye! We've been "Always Ready"
To do, to fight, or die
Write glory to the shield we wear
In letters to the sky.
To sink the foe or save the maimed,
Our mission and our pride.
We'll carry on 'til Kingdom Come,
Ideals for which we've died.


Chorus Rewrites
(The first line of each chorus was changed in 1969):

Chorus for 1927 version:

We're always ready for the call,
We place our trust in Thee
Through surf and storm and howling gale,
High shall our purpose be.
"Semper Paratus" is our guide,
Our fame, our glory too,
To fight to save or fight and die! Aye!
Coast Guard we are for you.

Chorus for 1943 version:

We're always ready for the call,
We place our trust in Thee.
Through howling gale and shot and shell
To win our victory.
"Semper Paratus" is our guide,
Our pledge, our motto, too.
We're "always ready", do or die!
Aye! Coast Guard we fight for you.


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Last Modified 11/17/2014