Russell R. Waesche

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Russell Randolph Waesche, Sr.
Russell R Waesche.jpg
Adm. Russell R. Waesche, Sr.
Born (1886-01-06)January 6, 1886
Thurmont, Maryland
Died October 17, 1946(1946-10-17) (aged 60)
U.S. Naval Hospital
Bethesda, Maryland
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance United States of America
Years of service 1906–1946
Rank Admiral
Commands held Commandant of the Coast Guard
Battles/wars World War II

Russell Randolph Waesche, Sr. (January 6, 1886 – October 17, 1946) served as the eighth Commandant of the United States Coast Guard from 1936 to 1946, overseeing the service during World War II. He also holds the distinction of being the longest serving Commandant, serving ten years in command of the United States Coast Guard. In addition, he was the first to hold the ranks of Vice Admiral[1] and full Admiral[2] within the Coast Guard.

Early life[edit]

Waesche was born and raised in Thurmont, Maryland. He was fifth of the eight children of Leonard Randolph Waesche and Mary Martha Foreman. Waesche's grandfather George Henry Waesche was a German immigrant who had become a prominent figure in Carroll County, Maryland. Following graduation from high school, Russell Waesche attended Purdue University for a year before transferring to the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service School of Instruction and accepting an appointment as a cadet in 1904. He graduated from the Revenue Cutter School of Instruction in 1906.

Military service[edit]

After graduating with the rank of ensign, Wasche served in the North Atlantic, the Great Lakes, and the Pacific Northwest. In 1911, Waesche commanded the USRC Arcata and the USRC Pamlico. In 1915, Wasche was assigned to headquarters in Washington, D.C. While stationed in Washington 1915, he took an active part in creating the Coast Guard with the merger of the Revenue Cutter Service and the Lifesaving Service. Waesche remained in Washington and in 1916, became the head of the communications division. During World War I, Waesche remained in Washington.

In 1919, the 18th Amendment was passed, and Waesche was assigned to enforce Prohibition at sea. He commanded various destroyers in preventing "rum runners" from entering port. He commanded the USCGC Beale (CG-9). After he served on the Beale, he went to the Philadelphia Navy Yard and was the USCG representative at the US Sesquicentennial International Expo. He later commanded the USCGC Tucker (CG-23). Waesche also commanded the cutters USCGC Boutwell and USCGC Snohomish. At the Coast Guard Headquarters, Waesche started the Coast Guard Institute and Correspondence School for warrant officers and enlisted personnel as well as the reorganization of Coast Guard field forces in 1932.

In February 1932, he became liaison officer in the War Plans Division, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department. After completion of this duty he served as aide to Commandant Harry G. Hamlet, then he was Chief of the Finance Division, and Assistant Commandant. He was appointed Commandant as Rear Admiral on 14 June 1936, and was largely responsible for the merger of the Lighthouse Service with the Coast Guard in 1939. He was also instrumental in organizing a strong Coast Guard Reserve which underwent its greatest expansion in history. During World War II, Waesche held command over the Coast Guard and received honors for his service.

Waesche retired from the Coast Guard on December 31, 1945, after the longest tenure as Commandant ever. In March 1946, President Harry S. Truman nominated the ten top wartime Generals and Admirals of the United States Armed Forces who were to retain permanently their wartime rank. Admiral Waesche was one of them.

Waesche died on 17 October 1946, nine months after retiring as Commandant, at the Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland due to complications of leukemia. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

For his service during World War II, Wasche was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal and the Navy Commendation Ribbon.

His son, Rear Admiral Russell Randolph Waesche, Jr, USCG, (Retired) served as commanding officer, USCGC Northwind (WAGB-282) 1960 to 1962 with the rank of Captain.[3]

The cutter USCGC Waesche (WMSL-751) is named in his honor.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Russell Randolph Waesche". Retrieved 2009-01-22. "Waesche was promoted to Vice Admiral (three stars) in 1943 and full Admiral (4 stars) in 1944 ..... The first Coast Guard Officer to ever achieve those ranks." 
  2. ^ "Commandants of the U.S. Coast Guard & Chiefs of the Revenue Marine Division". Retrieved 2009-01-22. "1936-1946 Admiral Russell R. Waesche. Appointed Commandant as Rear Admiral. Appointed Full Admiral 4 April 1945. First officer to attain ranks of Vice Admiral and Admiral." 
  3. ^ Retired U. S. Coast Guard Flag Officers. U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office. Retrieved: 11 March 2014.
  • United States Coast Guard Biography
  • Admiral Waesche Dead at Age of 60. New York Times, October 18, 1946, page 21.
  • Holdcraft, Jacob Mehrling. Obituaries, Bible records, church records, family genealogies, county records, etc. for Frederick County, Maryland, 1800-1977. FHL Microfilm 1002706; Thurmont Obituary.

External links[edit]

Russell R. Waesche at Find a Grave

Military offices
Preceded by
Harry G. Hamlet
Commandant of the Coast Guard
Succeeded by
Joseph F. Farley