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U.S. Coast Guard Aviation History

The Coast Guard Aviation History Timeline



The Coast Guard Aviation Timeline is a testimony to the evolution and achievements of Coast guard Aviation as it prepares to complete its first 100 years of service. This work is designed to actively contribute to the enlargement and perpetuation of the history of Coast Guard Aviation and the recognition thereof, both internally and in areas external to the service. It highlights the significant events and developments that shaped Coast Guard Aviation from 1915 to 2008.

The presentation is a chronological digest. It is designed to fully facilitate an interactive kiosk presentation and/or electronic reproduction. Although not a detailed treatise of all aspects of Coast Guard Aviation activities, technical developments and administrative changes, it is a definitive history. The work prints out to 474 pages and contains 508 photo images. The aim is to make this a first-source document that people use when they are looking for basic information on Coast Guard Aviation.

The chronology of events is presented in five sections encompassing roughly twenty years and representative of the changes and growth that has taken place. Each section has a summary of the events and a listing of content by date. The sections are as follows:

The Early Years: 1915-1938

The Growth Years: 1939-1956

Coming of Age: 1957-1975

The Modern Era: 1976-1994

The Present Era: 1994- 2008

Coast Guard Aviation has undergone immense change since 1915. Once an adjunct to the service it now fully integrated and plays a defining role in the activities and structure of the Coast Guard. The past developments, as chronicled in the Timeline, serve as a prologue to future developments in Coast Guard Aviation and the Coast Guard as a whole.

The History Timeline project was undertaken by the Order of Pterodactyl History Committee which was formed in January of 2003. The Order is now known as the Coast Guard Aviation Association. The mission of the committee was to give impetus to the gathering, preserving, storing and providing ready access to the past and unfolding of Coast Guard Aviation. The Coast Guard, in constant budget crisis, had never adequately funded the gathering, preservation, and promulgation of its history. Time was of an essence as it was realized that a good portion of the history would soon pass away with those who had made it.

Pterodactyl and committee member John “Bear” Moseley, aviator number 743, volunteered for and was assigned the Timeline project. He was permitted considerable leeway in defining the elements to be included in the Timeline. Accuracy and definitive coverage of events and developments were paramount. In the beginning of the project it was recognized that a drawback of chronologies as a form of exposition stems from the fact that they record, or chronicle, events with no attempt at explanation. This chronology departed from that form, particularly for specific events and periods which are instrumental in the development of Coast Guard Aviation.

During the rapid growth of Coast Guard Aviation, from 1943 through the 1960s, Search and Rescue was the catalyst that made it happen.  This is addressed, but due to the vastness of the subject matter, specific SAR cases are included only when they illustrate procedures in effect or changes that took place. The SAR exploits of the U. S. Coast Guard are absolutely amazing and at times unbelievable. To do the subject justice a book dedicated solely to these exploits would be required.

Compiling this reference work encompassed over 5000 hours of research and editing. One of the most difficult tasks was to condense a vast amount of information from multiple sources to fit the format, remain definitive, and be written so as to be comprehended by those not affiliated with Coast Guard Aviation.  It could not have been done without the help of others. People who had lived and made this history, 196 in number, provided their experiences and photographs and gave vital assistance in the development of the Timeline. It was learned early that for major events the experiences of those in command melded with those performing the mission gave a most complete rendition. I convey a sincere thank you and recognition to all.  I could not have done it without you!

I wish to give special thanks to Bob Workman whose research and assistance made possible a definitive presentation of the beginnings of Coast Guard Aviation. And to Tom Beard, an accomplished historian and author, whose assistance, suggestions and patience better equipped me for this undertaking. 

When putting together a reference work with such an extensive range of data, it is almost impossible to prevent errors. An exhaustive effort was made to check the accuracy of information presented. When different sets of records or sources provided conflicting data, I selected what I believed to be the most accurate information based on reviewing all the possible sources. As the primary compiler for this chronological history, I accept full responsibility for any mistakes or errors of fact or misinterpretations that may have occurred.  I welcome any corrections.


John “Bear” Moseley
Aviator Number 743

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Last Modified 11/17/2014