Homeland defense is not new. The Coast Guard was charged 50 years ago with "weeding out" communists.
The port security mission dates to the beginning of the 20th century, but the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 presented a different challenge. President Harry S. Truman directed the U.S. Coast Guard not only to increase its patrols of the nation's harbors, but also to eliminate risks from suspected communist merchant seamen and waterfront workers. The number of those "weeded out" probably was greater than the toll of victims in any other loyalty or security program of the day. Yet this aspect of the Coast Guard Port Security Program attracted little attention at the time and receives little attention to this day. While one historian claimed this program "brought the service the greatest unpopularity it had known since prohibition," it was unpopular only among a few militant, left-leaning maritime unions on the West Coast. 1
The International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union (ILWU), one of the most radical labor organizations, had bolted the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and affiliated with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Unlike most of the labor movement, including other left-wing unions, the ILWU committed its considerable economic muscle to larger political objectives. 2