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Commandant of the Coast Guard: Wikis


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Flag of the Commandant of the United States Coast Guard

The Commandant of the United States Coast Guard is the highest ranking member of the United States Coast Guard. He is the only four-star Admiral of the Coast Guard, and is appointed for a four-year term by the President of the United States upon confirmation by the United States Senate. He is assisted by a Vice-Commandant, two Assistant Commandants/Area Commanders and a Chief of Staff, all of whom are three-star Vice Admirals.

Unlike the Commandant of the Marine Corps, the Commandant of the Coast Guard is not a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; he is, however, entitled to the same supplemental pay as the Joint Chiefs, per 37 U.S.C § 414(a)(5) ($4,000 per annum in 2009), and is accorded privilege of the floor under Senate Rule XXIII(1) as a de facto JCS member during Presidential addresses. Furthermore, in contrast to the Joint Chiefs who are not in the military's operational chain of command, the Commandant of the Coast Guard commands his service. He reports to the President, via the Secretary of Homeland Security. Prior to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, the Commandant reported to the Secretary of Transportation. Prior to the creation of the Department of Transportation, the Commandant reported to the Secretary of the Treasury.


Evolution of the rank and title

The title of Commandant dates to a 1923 act that distributed the commissioned line and engineer officers of the Coast Guard in grades. Before 1923, the rank and title of the head of the Coast Guard was "captain-commandant." The rank "captain-commandant" originated in the Revenue Cutter Service in 1908.[1] The original holder of that rank was the Chief of the Revenue Cutter Service (also known as the Revenue Marine). The Coast Guard traces the lineage of Commandants back to Captain Leonard G. Shepard,[1] chief of the Revenue Marine Bureau, even though he never officially received the title of Captain-Commandant.[2] The Captain-Commandant position was created in 1908 when Captain Worth G. Ross was the first to actually hold the position.[3] Although he was retired, Captain Charles F. Shoemaker was elevated to the rank of Captain-Commandant.[4] Captain Shepard had already died and was not elevated to the rank.

Chiefs of the Revenue Marine Bureau

Chiefs exercised centralized control over the Revenue Marine Bureau.

  • Captain Alexander V. Fraser, USRM, 1843-1848
  • Captain Richard Evans, USRM, 1848-1849

In 1849 the Revenue Marine Bureau was dissolved, and the Revenue Marine fell under the control the Commissioner of Customs until the Revenue Marine Bureau was again established in 1869.

  • N. Broughton Devereux, 1869-1871
  • Ezra Clark, 1878-1885
  • Peter Bonnett, 1885-1889


Revenue Cutter Service

1. Captain Leonard G. Shepard (1889-1895)

2. Captain Charles F. Shoemaker (1895-1905) (promoted, in retirement, to Captain-Commandant in 1908)

3. Captain-Commandant Worth G. Ross (1905-1911) (promoted, on active duty, to Captain-Commandant in 1908)

4. Captain-Commandant Ellsworth P. Bertholf (1911-1915)

United States Coast Guard

5. Rear Admiral William E. Reynolds (1919-1924)[6]

6. Rear Admiral Frederick C. Billard (1924-1932)

7. Rear Admiral Harry G. Hamlet (1932-1936)

8. Admiral Russell R. Waesche (1936-1946)[7]

9. Admiral Joseph F. Farley (1946-1949)

10. Vice Admiral Merlin O'Neill (1949-1954)

11. Admiral Alfred C. Richmond (1954-1962)[8]

12. Admiral Edwin J. Roland (1962-1966)

13. Admiral Willard J. Smith (1966-1970)

14. Admiral Chester R. Bender (1970-1974)

15. Admiral Owen W. Siler (1974-1978)

16. Admiral John B. Hayes (1978-1982)

17. Admiral James S. Gracey (1982-1986)

18. Admiral Paul A. Yost, Jr. (1986-1990)

19. Admiral J. William Kime (1990-1994)

20. Admiral Robert E. Kramek (1994-1998)

21. Admiral James Loy (1998-2002)

22. Admiral Thomas H. Collins (2002-2006)

23. Admiral Thad W. Allen (2006-present)


  1. ^ a b Commandants of the U.S. Coast Guard & Chiefs of the Revenue Marine Division
  2. ^ Who were the Commandants of the Coast Guard?, U.S. Coast Guard Office of Historian FAQs
  3. ^ Capt. Ross's biography at the U.S. Coast Guard website
  4. ^ Capt. Shoemaker's biography at the U.S. Coast Guard website
  5. ^ Bertholf was reappointed Commandant following the merger of the Revenue Cutter Service into the newly formed Coast Guard
  6. ^ "Commandants of the U.S. Coast Guard & Chiefs of the Revenue Marine Division". Retrieved 2009-01-22. "1919-1924 Rear Admiral William F. Reynolds, first Captain- and later Rear Admiral-Commandant. Re-appointed Commandant on January 12, 1923 with rank of Rear Admiral effective October 2, 1923. He was the first officer to attain this rank." 
  7. ^ He was appointed Commandant with the rank of Rear Admiral on June 14, 1936. [1]
  8. ^ Appointed as a Vice Admiral; Received his fourth star on June 1, 1960 by act of Public Law 86-474, under which all Coast Guard Commandants thereafter are appointed to the grade of Admiral.

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