The United States Coast Guard ("Semper Paratus" - "Always ready") was established in 1790 by Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. Under the name of Revenue Marine, its original purpose was to collect customs duties in American seaports.
According to Gayle & Cohen's Art Commission and the Municipal Art Society Guide to Manhattan's Outdoor Sculpture, the artist was a combat veteran and a painter who created this, his first sculpture, based on a rescue scene he had witnessed. Parks Commissioner Robert Moses liked the design; the Art Commission, which must approve all public sculpture erected in New York, rejected it. A revised version was eventually accepted.
The pedestal reads: