Two tragic episodes in U.S. Coast Guard history prompted the construction of this memorial, which sits atop a hill near the southern edge of the cemetery. On Sept. 16, 1918, 19 members of the crew of the cutter Seneca volunteered for a rescue party to help salvage the British steamer, Wellington, which had been torpedoed by a German submarine. Eleven of those volunteers were lost when the Wellington exploded and sank. Only 10 days later, on Sept. 26, 1918, the cutter Tampa was sunk by an enemy submarine in the British Channel, and all 131 on board that ship were lost.
The U.S. Coast Guard Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery was dedicated May 23, 1928. Architect George Howe and sculptor Gaston Lachaise captured the spirit of the Coast Guard's legendary steadfastness in the monument's rock foundation and pyramid design. Above the Coast Guard motto Semper Paratus (meaning 'Always Ready'), is a bronze seagull with its wings uplifted. The seagull symbolizes the tireless vigil that the U.S Coast Guard maintains over the nation's maritime territory. In addition, the names of the vessels Seneca and Tampa and their crewmen, as well as all Coast Guard personnel who lost their lives during the First World War, are inscribed on the sides of the monument.
The Coast Guard was formed as the successor to the Revenue Cutter Service and the Life Saving Service June 28, 1915. By law, the Tampa and the Seneca had been ordered to operate as part of the Navy when the United States entered World War I on April 6, 1918.
Portions of this write-up are summarized from the book, Arlington National Cemetery: Shrine to America's Heroes, by James Edward Peters, Woodbine House, 1986.