The history of the Coast Guard, which formed in 1789 as the merger of no fewer than five separate Federal agencies, is long and illustrious. It evolved to become the nation's premiere maritime agency, with everything from coastal rescue and navigational advancement to the war against drugs falling under its jurisdiction. This Great Ships special dives into this history headfirst, taking audiences on a tour of some of the many vessels that make up the Coast Guard's fleet. These include the small boats used for shoreline rescue missions and the deep-sea patrol boats used to combat drug trafficking. Coast Guard sailors offer up their stories of life-threatening missions, while dramatic footage illustrates the excitement and danger they describe.