Two disastrous maritime events during the First World War galvanized the nation to construct the Coast Guard Memorial. The first tragedy occurred on September 21, 1918 when eleven members of the crew aboard the Seneca were lost in the Bay of Biscay. The cutter sank as the crew attempted to salvage the Wellington, a British steamer. The second catastrophe transpired five days later. All hands aboard the Tampa died when a German submarine torpedoed and sank the cutter in the Bristol Channel. The crew had just successfully escorted a convoy from Gibraltar to the Irish Sea.
Sculptor Gaston Lachaise and architect George Howe created a pyramidal design atop a circular rock foundation. The names of all the Coast Guardsmen who lost their lives during World War I are inscribed on the northeast and south facets of the 12-foot high pyramid. The monument depicts a bronze seagull with uplifted wings on the northwest face. Inscribed beneath the image is the Coast Guard’s Latin maxim, “Semper Paratus”. The English translation is “Always Ready.” The rock foundation is emblematic of rocks along the seashore. The seagull represents the Coast Guard’s never-ending maritime vigil. The monument’s pyramid embodies the organization’s steadfastness.
The white marble monument is situated on a hill near the Arlington National Cemetery’s southern perimeter. The memorial was consecrated May 23, 1928.