Russell R. Waesche

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Russell Randolph Waesche, Sr.
Russell R Waesche.jpg
Waesche in the 1940s
Birth name Russell Randolph Waesche
Born (1886-01-06)January 6, 1886
Thurmont, Maryland, U.S.
Died October 17, 1946(1946-10-17) (aged 60)
National Naval Medical Center
Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington County, Virginia, U.S.
Allegiance United States of America
Years of service 1906–1946
Rank US CG 10 shoulderboard.svg Admiral
Commands held Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard
Battles/wars World War II

Russell Randolph Waesche, Sr. (6 January 1886 – 17 October 1946) served as the eighth Commandant of the United States Coast Guard from 1936 to 1946, overseeing the service during World War II. He was the U.S. Coast Guard's longest serving commandant, having served ten years as its commander. In addition, he was the first officer to hold the ranks of vice admiral[1] and admiral[2] within the Coast Guard.

Early life and education[edit]

Waesche was born and raised in Thurmont, Maryland.[3] 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.


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 in 1915, he took an active part in creating the Coast Guard with the merger of the Revenue Cutter Service and the U.S. Life-Saving 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. After he served on the Beale, he went to the Philadelphia Navy Yard and was the Coast Guard representative at the U.S. Sesquicentennial International Exposition. He later commanded the USCGC Tucker. Waesche also commanded the cutters USCGC Boutwell and USCGC Snohomish. At 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 U.S. 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 was promoted to vice admiral in 1942 and admiral in 1945 and was the first Coast Guard Officer to ever achieve those ranks. [1]

Later life and death[edit]

Waesche retired from the Coast Guard on 31 December 1945, after the longest tenure as commandant ever.

In March 1946, U.S. 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. Waesche was one of them.

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

Personal life[edit]

His son, Russell Randolph Waesche, Jr., is a retired U.S. Coast Guard rear admiral who served as the commanding officer of USCGC Northwind from 1960 to 1962, with the rank of captain.[4]

Awards and decorations[edit]

Dates of rank[edit]

Third Lieutenant (USRCS) Second Lieutenant (USRCS) First Lieutenant Lieutenant Commander Commander Captain
O-1 O-2 O-3 O-4 O-5 O-6
US CG O3 insignia.svg US CG O4 insignia.svg US CG O5 insignia.svg US CG O6 insignia.svg
October 27, 1906 September 2, 1907 April 2, 1917 January 12, 1923 July 1, 1926 Never held
Commodore Rear Admiral Vice Admiral Admiral
O-7 O-8 O-9 O-10
US CG O7 insignia.svg US CG O8 insignia.svg US CG O9 insignia.svg US CG O10 insignia.svg
Never held June 14, 1936 March 10, 1942 April 4, 1945


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "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. ^ "Russell R. Waesche, Sr.", Commandants of the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office
  4. ^ "Russell R. Waesche, Jr., Biographical Sketch", Retired U.S. Coast Guard Flag Officers, U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office
References cited
  • "Russell R. Waesche, Sr.". Commandants of the U.S. Coast Guard. U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office. Retrieved 25 August 2015. 
  • United States Coast Guard Biography
  • "Russell R. Waesche, Jr., Biographical Sketch" (PDF). Retired U. S. Coast Guard Flag Officers. U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office. Retrieved 25 August 2015. 
  • 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