Sand Pounders: When the U.S. Military Hit the Beach

September 6, 2022

The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese caused widespread panic among Americans. There was a real fear that the Japanese would strike the mainland United States next. It didn’t help that Japanese submarines were sighted off the coasts of New York, Virginia, and New Jersey and that small Japanese balloons dropped a few bombs in Oregon and Washington. 

Mounted patrols kept watch on American beaches. (

To protect the American citizens, especially those living in coastal regions, from threats by the Japanese and Germans, the United States Coast Guard launched a new division, the Coast Guard Beach Patrol, otherwise known as the Sand Pounders. In these colorized photos, we will take a look at the brief history of the Sand Pounders. 

A Branch of the Coast Guard

A colorized photo of a Sand Pounder on the beach. (pinterest)

About a month after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. military was discussing ways to protect the country’s shores from foreign invaders. It was decided that this task would fall under the umbrella of the Coast Guard. After all, as the name implies, the Coast Guard’s job is to guard the coast. In June 1942, the U.S. military officially introduced the Coast Guard Beach Patrol, an organization dedicated to scouting the coastal regions of the country for suspicious activity, preventing the enemy from landing on American soil, and interrupting ship-to-shore communication by enemy saboteurs. 

Who Were the Sand Pounders?

Even though the Beach Patrol was set up to patrol the beaches along the Atlantic coast in the east and the Pacific coast in the west, the Coast Guard recruited men from the Midwest to serve as Sand Pounders. This is because soldiers from the Midwest were generally better horsemen. The division was established to be a mounted unit because many of the more remote coastal areas could be best accessed by horseback. Since the Beach Patrol spent the majority of their time riding their horses on the beach, they became affectionately known as the Sand Pounders.

Men between the ages of 17 and 73 years old joined the Beach Patrol. At first, their numbers were a meager 2,000. At their peak, there were more than 24,000 men working as Sand Pounders. The men worked in pairs about one hundred yards apart as they rode up and down the beaches.