ISS2 2018

Reservist Magazine is the award-winning official publication of the United States Coast Guard Reserve. Quarterly issues include news and feature articles about the men and women who comprise America's premier national maritime safety and security

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100 Years of port security: how the Espionage Act and the New York Division changed Coast Guard missions forever Story by William H. Thiesen, Ph.D., Historian, Coast Guard Atlantic Area Port security has been one of the longest-running missions of the Coast Guard. And, historical events, such as World War I, have brought greater attention to the importance of this service specialty. A result of the war effort, the Espionage Act of 1917 greatly increased the importance of the Coast Guard in safeguarding our ports for the past 100 years. Executing one of the most time-honored missions of the Coast Guard, revenue cutters had served as guardians of U.S. ports since 1790. Even after the re-establishment of the Navy in 1798, revenue cutters were the only federal vessels that secured American ports in peacetime and in war. In addition, customs collectors who oversaw cutters assigned to their respective ports served as unofficial captains-of-the-port. Over time, control over the cutters moved from customs collectors to the Revenue Marine Bureau in Washington, but all along, cutters remained the guardians commercial shipping and continued to protect anchorages and U.S. ports. During WWI, protecting American ports became a matter of national security. Never before had the threat of massive destruction from explosives stockpiles been so great. This was born out by an explosion that rocked New York City July 31, 1916. The munitions terminal on Black Tom Island, N.J., across the Hudson River from Manhattan, was a primary staging area for ordnance shipped to the war in Europe. Set off by German saboteurs, the blast shattered windows as far away as New York City, killed several people and caused property damage amounting to approximately $1 billion (in 2017 dollars). The explosion was thirty times more powerful than the 2001 World Trade Center collapse and ranks as the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil prior to 9/11. This disaster quickly focused attention on the dangers of storing, loading and trans-shipping volatile explosives near major population centers. In addition to focusing attention on the dangers posed to port cities, the Black Tom incident motivated Congress to enact legislation to protect the nation from sabotage. On June 15, 1917, Congress passed the Espionage Act, which gave the Treasury Secretary wartime power to make "rules and regulations governing the anchorage and movement of any Capt. Godfrey L. Carden, the first captain of the port for the Coast Guard's New York Division. Coast Guard Collection 28 RESERVIST � Issue 2 • 2018

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