Semper Paratus (march)

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Semper Paratus
English: Always Ready
Sheet music cover, 1928

Organizational anthem of the  United States Coast Guard
LyricsHomer Smith and Walton Butterfield, 1943
MusicFrancis Saltus Van Boskerck, 1927
Adopted1928; 95 years ago (1928)[1]

"Semper Paratus" (Latin for "Always Ready") is a 1928 song and the official march of the United States Coast Guard, having been composed in 1927 by U.S. Coast Guard Captain Francis Saltus Van Boskerck.


Semper Paratus is the title of the song and is also the U.S. Coast Guard's official motto. The precise origin of the phrase is obscure, although the U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office notes the first use was by the New Orleans Bee newspaper in 1836, in reference to the actions of the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service during the Ingham incident.[2]



The original lyrics (seen below) were written by Captain Francis Saltus Van Boskerck in 1922, at the cabin of USCGC Yamacraw in Savannah, Georgia; he wrote the music in 1927, on a "beat-up old piano" in Unalaska, Alaska.[2][3][4]

Lyrical modifications[edit]

The current verse, as well as a second chorus, were written by Homer Smith, 3rd Naval District Coast Guard quartet; Chief Cole; and Lieutenant Walton Butterfield in 1943. In 1969, the first line of the chorus was changed from “So here's the Coast Guard marching song, We sing on land and sea.” to “We're always ready for the call, We place our trust in Thee.”[5]


"Semper Paratus" being performed in 1944 by the Boston Pops.
"Semper Paratus" being performed in the 1940s, during World War II.
"Semper Paratus" being played by the U.S. Navy Band in the 1990s.
"Semper Paratus" being played by the USCG Band at the 2009 U.S. presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C.
"Semper Paratus" being played by the USCG Band at a May 2010 parade in Torrance, California.

Verse 1

From Aztec Shore to Arctic Zone,
To Europe and Far East,
The Flag is carried by our ships
In times of war and peace;
And never have we struck it yet,
In spite of foemen's might,
Who cheered our crews and cheered again
For showing how to fight.


We're always ready for the call,
We place our trust in Thee.
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 and die!
Aye! Coast Guard, we are for you.

Verse 2

"Surveyor" and "Narcissus,"
The "Eagle" and "Dispatch,"
The "Hudson" and the "Tampa,"
These names are hard to match;
From Barrow's shores to Paraguay,
Great Lakes or Ocean's wave,
The Coast Guard fights through storms and winds
To punish or to save.

Verse 3

Aye! We've been "Always Ready"
To do, to fight, or die!
Write glory to the shield we wear
In letters to the sky.
To sink the foe or save the maimed
Our mission and our pride.
We'll carry on 'til Kingdom Come
Ideals for which we've died.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Semper paratus". Annotated Music. Library of Congress.
  2. ^ a b "History, Heritage & Traditions: Semper Paratus". Frequently Asked Questions. U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office.
  3. ^ Loy, James M. (1999). "The Curse of Semper Paratus" (PDF). Speech before the Military Order of the Carabao Luncheon. Archived from the original on 2016-09-17.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  4. ^ Kroll, p 144
  5. ^ "SEMPER PARATUS". Retrieved Aug 16, 2020.


External links[edit]