A traditional peacetime mission that became even more important during the war was search and rescue, especially off the war torn East Coast. Thousands of u-boat survivors owe their lives to the work of Coast Guard stations along the coast. On 23 January 1942, motor lifeboats from Stations Hatteras Inlet and Ocracoke saved two men from the tanker Empire Glen. On 27 January, motor lifeboats saved 28 out of 32 men from the tanker Francis E. Powell. On 3 February, CGC Nike saved 40 crewmen from the United Fruit freighter San Gil. On 5 February, a Coast Guard aircraft directed Nike to the 37-man crew of the torpedoed tanker China Arrow. On 15 February, CGC Calypso rescued 42 crewmen from the torpedoed Buarque. On 16 February, CGC Woodbury saved 40 crewmen from the torpedoed tanker E.H. Blum. On 19 February, the tanker Pan American was torpedoed and its lifeboats caught fire. Her crew of 38 jumped into the water. CGC Forward dodged through the patches of fire to rescue 18. On 21 February, Vigilant went to the aid of the burning tanker Cities Service Empire to rescue three men in a lifeboat with fouled falls. The cutter then picked up another 36 men from lifeboats. The tanker W.D. Anderson went down in flames off Palm Beach. Her only survivor was rescued by the Auxiliary. On 28 February, motor lifeboats from Station Shark River went to the assistance of the tanker R.P. Reser. The tanker was completely engulfed in flames and burning oil spread 500 feet around her. The boat crew located a survivor who was too slippery from oil to be pulled aboard. They fastened a line around him and towed him away from the fire. When they finally got him on board, they went back into the flames and went through the same routine for a second survivor. That was all they could find out of a crew of 49. This list could go on and on.
In September 1943, ENS W.M.Braswell, flying from AIRSTA Miami, landed next to a ditched and submerged Pan American aircraft, swam to it, pulled three unconscious crewmen from it, and, with help from his radioman, resuscitated all three men before turning them over to a patrol boat. In December 1943, the first Air Sea Rescue Unit was established in San Diego and on 22 February 1944, the National Air Sea Rescue Agency was established. The Coast Guard was the lead agency. In December 1944, ENS F.T. Merritt rescued a Navy fighter pilot who had collided with a target tow aircraft and crashed into the ocean. From 14 to 20 January 1945, AIRSTA Port Angeles aircraft searched along with Army, Navy and Forrest Service aircraft for the crew of a Navy patrol plane that had crashed in the mountains 130 miles northeast of Seattle. On 17 January, four men were found and the Army and Navy secured search efforts. The Coast Guard and Forrest Service continued and found the other two men three days later. Statistics from the Northern California Air Sea Rescue Center show that in 37 air crashes involving 98 people, 51 people were beyond assistance. Of the other 47, 42 were rescued.