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U.S. Lifesaving Service (Page 10)

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The law which created the U.S. Coast Guard, on 28 January 1915, by combining the two services, also provided for the retirement of Kimball and many of the older keepers and surfmen. The U.S. Life-Saving Service performed nobly over its forty-four years of existence. During this period, "28,121 vessels and 178,741 persons became involved with its services." Only "1,455 individuals lost their lives while exposed within the scope of Life-Saving Service operations.

Golden GateThe legacy of the U.S. Life Saving Service is great. The organization Kimball formed provided the basis for the new U.S. Coast Guard's search and rescue organization for years to come. Indeed, one can find little fault with the drills and organization of Kimball's routine. As late as 1959, U.S. Coast Guard Lifeboat Stations on the Great Lakes were still following a modified version of the old Life-Saving Service's schedule for drills. For example, beach apparatus drills were still being held weekly to provide first aid and signaling practice. Further, lookout tower watches were also still in effect. The constant attention to practice with rescue equipment and inspections is still in use today. In short, the good practices of the Life-Saving Service remained in effect.

Kimball's organization also allowed a small crew to perform a large mission. The perception of a small service doing a big job is as true for today's Coast Guard as it was for yesterday's Life-Saving Service. For instance, the average size of many U.S. Coast Guard stations in 1959 was no more than fifteen. Technology, however, has helped the U.S. Coast Guard to perform its mission more efficiently. Better motor lifeboats have increased the range of rescue efforts. Helicopters have greatly increased the ability to help those in distress. In fact, the combination of better boats and helicopters eventually caused the closure of many stations. In 1915, for example, there were twenty-nine life-saving stations on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Today, because of the impact of technology, there are now eight stations in the same area.

The United States Coast Guard, building upon the strong foundation established by the U.S. Life-Saving Service, and adding its own efforts, has become the recognized expert in search and rescue over the water. The development of the 36 and 44 foot motor lifeboats, the establishment of a search and rescue school, and the use of the helicopters have increased the U.S. Coast Guard's reputation as the leading agency for those "in peril upon the seas."

Today, the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard carry on the traditions of service to others established by the crews of the U.S. Life-Saving Service; but with more sophisticated equipment, they are able to surpass the records of their illustrious predecessor.

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Last Modified 1/12/2016