Format Web Pages
Contributors Library of Congress
Dates 2002
Location Washington
Washington D.C.
Subjects Article
Popular Songs of the Day
Songs and Music
Songs Collections
Semper Paratus
Created / Published
Library of Congress, Washington, DC, 2002.
Subject Headings
-  popular songs of the day
-  songs and music
-  songs collections
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We're always ready for the call,
We place our trust in Thee...

The United States Coast Guard is the world's oldest life-saving service and "Semper Paratus" ("Always Ready") is its theme song. The song's original words and music were composed by Captain Francis Saltus Van Boskerck, USCG.

Captain Van Boskerck was Commander of the Coast Guard's Bering Sea Forces when he composed "Semper Paratus" in 1927. Coast Guard lore developed that he composed the tune on a beat-up old piano belonging to a Mrs. Albert C. Gross, the wife of an Alaskan fur trader, who owned what was at that time the only piano in the Aleutian Islands. Two public health dentists, Alfred E. Nannestad and Joseph O. Fournier of Unalaska Island, also contributed to developing the song's early lyrics.

Under President Woodrow Wilson the Coast Guard was created as a separate military service unit in 1915 and by 1927 they were seeking an anthem. Van Boskerck and his friends entered their material into a song-search contest sponsored by the Coast Guard and won.

"Semper Paratus" was first published a 1928 issue of The Coast Guard Magazine. Its first commercial publication was in 1938 by Sam Fox Publishing. During WWII, Rudy Vallee, a popular singer and radio personality, enlisted and was appointed bandmaster of a Coast Guard band stationed in Long Beach, California, which played widely across the nation to raise funds for the war effort. In 1943 a second chorus was added to "Semper Paratus" (and the first chorus was rewritten in 1969). The tune has been recorded by a variety of different groups including the U.S. Coast Guard Band and The River City Brass Band.

The Wright Brothers and the Coast Guard

The work of the U.S. Coast Guard has always included a strong humanitarian emphasis. Orville and Wilbur Wright, for example, were able to engage members of the Coast Guard to assist in their historic first. Years later Orville Wright told this story:

During the night of December 16, 1903, a strong cold wind blew from the north. When we arose on the morning of the 17th, the puddles of water which had been standing about the camp since the recent rains, were covered with ice ... when 10:00 o'clock arrived and the wind was as brisk as ever, we decided we had better get the machine out and attempt a flight. We hung out the signal for the men of the life-saving stations [part of today's Coast Guard]. By the time all was ready, J. T. Daniels, W. S. Dough, and A. D. Etheridge, members of the Kill Devil Life-Saving Station, W. C. Brinkley of Manteo, and Johnny Moore, a boy from Nags Head, had arrived. One of the life-saving men snapped the camera for us, taking a picture just as the machine had reached the end of the track and had risen to a height of about 2 feet. This flight lasted only 12 seconds, but nevertheless it was the first in the history of the world in which a machine carrying a man had raised itself by its own power in the air in full flight, and sailed forward without reduction...
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Print Bibliography
  1. Ewen, David, ed. American popular songs from the Revolutionary War to the present. New York: Random House, 1966. Call number: ML128 .N3 E9