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The United States Lighthouse Service played an active role in what eventually came to be known as the First World War. The possible war time uses of the facilities, vessels, and personnel of that civilian service had been under serious consideration since the Spanish American War. As the conflict among European nations grew, the United States government began to search for ways to improve communications and efficient operation of the military, the Life-Saving Service, and the Lighthouse Service. In 1915, the Coast Guard was formed from the Life-Saving Service and the Revenue Cutter Service, but the Lighthouse Service continued as a separate entity. When the US entered the Great War, the Lighthouse Service came under the control of both the War Department and the Navy. Lighthouses became crucial lookout stations for spotting the German U-boats that were attacking coastal shipping. Lighthouse Service vessels were used to patrol the coasts, set anti-submarine nets and other defenses along US shores, and lighthouse personnel had to work with members of the Navy, Coast Guard, and Army. These collaborations led to the development of technological advances in communications that included methods ranging from carrier pigeons to telephones, telegraph, and radio. The efforts of the various services to work together to aid in winning the war makes a fascinating and little-known story.
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Ellen Henry is the Curator of the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse, a National Historic Landmark and museum located in Ponce Inlet, Florida. Ms. Henry holds an MFA degree from Old Dominion University/Norfolk State University and has been a museum professional for over 28 years.Review:
The Great War at the beginning of the twentieth century affected every aspect of American life including the personnel of the Lighthouse Service. It was even proposed that the Lighthouse Service become a part of the U.S. Navy during the Great War. This would become a reality and the operation of the Lighthouse Service and the lives of the personnel were greatly affected. But many questions would arise. What orders would lighthouse personnel obey? What would they be paid? Could the keepers' families remain at the light stations as they had for years? How would the operation of the lighthouses change in this new age of submarine warfare? What additional duties would be required of lighthouse personnel? These and many other questions are discussed in some detail in the author s most interesting and readable account. Author Ellen Henry is the Curator at the Ponce de Leon Inlet Light Station Museum in Florida and is an expert on the subject of the US Lighthouse Service. Her well researched account is filled with little known information on the Lighthouse Service during this period and will be a valued addition to your library. --James Claflin, author of Lighthouses and Lifesaving along the Maine and New Hampshire Sea Coast
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