Sand pounders? What are they? Tools for creating a sand sculpture? Some new social media? I had come across the phrase while doing some research for something I was writing that involved World War II.
The Coast Guard Beach Patrol, eventually known as Sand Pounders, began in June 1942 in response to the threat of a German coastal invasion. The three main purposes were to “detect, observe and report offshore enemy vessels; to report enemy landing attempts; and to prevent people on land from communicating with the enemy at sea.” The threat of a coastal invasion by Germany was real to American citizens. German U-boats were a threat to ships crossing the Atlantic and were detected off the Eastern Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico. There was also the fear of invasion on the West Coast by the Japanese.
Coast guards would often be mounted on horses or on foot and were armed with radios and weapons. Those on horseback could cover ground more quickly and efficiently and usually work in pairs. Those on foot were often accompanied by dogs who could aid in detecting and protecting. German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers and Airedales were used, with the German Shepherd the preferred breed.
At its height, the Beach Patrol consisted of around 24,000 men who protected 2,700 miles of coastline from potential enemy invasion; the patrols ended in 1944 when preparations for the Normandy invasion began. While the Coast Guard is not often given as much mention in World War II as perhaps the other military branches, the Beach Patrol played a vital part in protecting the United States coast from enemy attack.