The group was founded in 1966 by Nelson Gardner (aka Captain Metropolis) as a successor to the Minutemen. Gardner believed that the social climate of America had become so overrun by social unrest that a new collective of masked crimefighters was the answer. It is also suggested in the graphic novel that Gardner's motivation was driven by the return of his old adversary, Moloch, who had reportedly founded another underground crime syndicate in New York City.
At their first meeting, debate arose over the validity and necessity of such a group; Rorschach believed such a group would be merely a "publicity exercise" and would also be "too big and unwieldy." The Comedian expressed the strongest opposition, cynically stating that the threat of nuclear war looming over the world made Gardner's idea of "playin' cowboys and Indians" insignificant in the atomic age. To prove his point, The Comedian set fire to Gardner's carefully planned display. The only vocal support for Gardner's idea came from Dan Dreiberg who believed it was valid since he and Rorschach had some success fighting gangs by working together.
After that memorable meeting, not much is known about how the idea of the Crimebusters went. It is not known if they ever gathered up again or worked communally as a team with headquarters, like the Minutemen had. However this seems unlikely since no team victories were ever mentioned and the vigilantes remained mostly separated.
Dr. Manhattan and Silk Spectre II went out "on patrol" together where they established their personal relationship. In 1970, the Comedian and Dr. Manhattan joined together as God's Wrath in the Vietnam War and ensured US victory. They fought as US agents and not as "Crimebusters".
Rorschach and Nite Owl remained as a pair (as when hunting Jimmy the Gimmick or the Twilight Lady) without acting on behalf of any team. Also Rorschach investigated the case of Blair Roche disappearance by himself.
Two losses must have affected the numbers of the Crimebusters, if we are to consider them so. The first was the death of Metropolis and the second, the early withdrawal of Ozymandias, who begun pursuing business ventures as Veidt Enterprises; however Veidt would continue his aim to save the world from his new position.
The last known time when the "Crimebusters" were seen together was during the police strike of 1977. Riots spring up in New York where the Comedian, Nite Owl II and Rorschach attempted to keep the peace; Dr. Manhattan and Silk Spectre II were together once again, settling the riots in Washington.
The film version of the 1966 Crimebusters meeting is led by Ozymandias. Captain Metropolis is not present. The proposed group is called the Watchmen, and like in the graphic novel, the notion is ridiculed by the Comedian, however unlike the graphic novel, in the film it seems largely implied that the group stayed together even beyond the meeting, actually working as "The Watchmen" together, as opposed to the Crimebusters in the novel, that never came together after the meeting. Then again, somewhat like in the comics, "the Watchmen" might have just been an informal name applied to the "second generation of costumed vigilantes" operating in the 1960s and 1970s.