History of Armed Forces Songs...U.S. Coast Guard

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May 9, 2022 by Cathy W. Parrish - Views: 21

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History of Armed Forces Songs...U.S. Coast Guard

S325-1.jpgThe story how the official march of the United States Coast Guard was created is full of the adventures and duties of the Coast Guard protecting our coastline, as well as the wild and rugged times of the 1920’s when it was written.

The author and principal composer of the Semper Paratus (Always Faithful) is Francis Saltus Van Boskerck, a Coast Guard commander who travelled the coast of the United States from the Carolinas and Florida all the way to the Aleutian Islands of Alaska.  Van Boskerck was born in New York state, served as commander of several Coast Guard cutters, and was District Commander of the Great Lakes district and the Norfolk, Virginia district, where he died in 1927.

He began writing the inspirational lyrics for the Coast Guard song in 1922, while commander of the USCGC Yamacraw.  Their duties during these times of prohibition included chasing smugglers in their boats full of illegal alcohol along the coastal waters of Florida and North and South Carolina.

Years later in 1927, with his song lyrics completed, Van Boskerck was stationed in the wild and rugged Aleutian Islands.  

He began composing the music for his song with the help of two other amateur musicians, using the only known piano in the entire chain of islands.  The two other musicians were both dentists, one actually went by the name of “The Singing Dentist,” and the piano was in fairly poor condition, but together they completed composing the music.  

Later in that year of 1927, the official march and words for Semper Paratus was ready for publication.  While attending a dance held by the League of Coast Guard Women in Norfolk, Van Boskerck asked the nine-piece orchestra to play it in public for the first time. The tune was met with thundering ovations and multiple calls for encores.

In November of 1927 Van Boskerck met with Colonel Harvey Miller to discuss his retirement. At the conclusion of this meeting, he presented the lyrics and sheet music to the Colonel who agreed to publish the song. Soon after on November 26, 1927 while on a steamboat headed back to Norfolk, he abruptly died of a heart attack. Semper Paratus was published in 1928 by the Sam Fox Publishing Company.


Semper Paratus 

(“Always Ready”)

First chorus (original version, 1927)

So here’s the Coast Guard marching song,

We sing on land or sea.

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 to die,

Aye! Coast guard, 

we are for You!


Second Chorus 

(added 1943) 

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 are for you!

Written by Homer Smith, 3rd Naval District Coast Guard quartet Chief Cole, others and LT Walton Butterfield USCGR.■


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