Song-Collection Semper Paratus

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...
Learn More About It
Related Web Sites
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

About this Item

Semper Paratus
Created / Published
Library of Congress, Washington, DC, 2002.
Subject Headings
-  Popular Songs of the Day
-  Songs and Music
-  Songs Collections
Additional Metadata Formats

Rights & Access

Copyright and Restrictions

The Library of Congress is providing access to these materials for educational and research purposes and makes no warranty with regard to their use for other purposes. The written permission of the copyright owners and/or other rights holders (such as holders of publicity and/or privacy rights) is required for distribution, reproduction, or other use of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use or other statutory exemptions. There may be content that is protected as "works for hire" (copyright may be held by the party that commissioned the original work) and/or under the copyright or neighboring-rights laws of other nations.

Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of an item and securing any necessary permissions ultimately rests with persons desiring to use the item. Users should consult the bibliographic information that accompanies each item for specific information. This catalog data provides the details known to the Library of Congress regarding the corresponding items and may assist users in making independent assessments of the legal status of these items as related to their desired uses.

Items included here with the permission of the rights holders are indicated as such in the bibliographic record for each item.

Because of copyright laws, songs from the twentieth century may not be represented by very many items on the Web site. While every effort has been made to obtain permission to use these songs or portions of these songs, in some cases this has not been possible. Therefore there may be no recordings or paper items to illustrate those songs. In some instances, the rights' owner may have only granted permission to use a portion of the material online. In those cases, only 30-second excerpts of sound recordings are used, and only one or two pages of print or manuscript materials are used.

The use of U.S. Armed Forces sound recordings in no way indicates an endorsement of the Web site by any branch of the Armed Forces.

In some cases, the Library was unable to identify a possible rights holder and has elected to place some of those items online as an exercise of fair use for strictly non-commercial educational uses. The Library of Congress would like to learn more about these materials and would like to hear from individuals or institutions that have any additional information or know of their history. Please contact: Performing Arts Reading Room.

Suggested credit line: Library of Congress, Music Division

Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Semper Paratus. Library of Congress, Washington, DC, 2002. Web..

APA citation style:

(2002) Semper Paratus. Library of Congress, Washington, DC. [Web.] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Semper Paratus. Library of Congress, Washington, DC, 2002. Web.. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.

More Web Pages like this