USS Tuscarora: From White to Gray

Resplendent in Coast Guard white, the Tuscarora would later be painted “war-color” gray in October 1917.

John Chester Aloysius Isermann enlisted on May 5, 1917, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  The Kenosha native was just shy of his twenty-second birthday when the United States entered World War I. His records show that he enlisted in Milwaukee where he was assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter Tuscarora. His association with the Coast Guard was brief, however.

The United States had just entered the war and on April 6, 1917 control of all Coast Guard ships and personnel was shifted to the U.S. Navy.  At the time, the Coast Guard numbered approximately 5,000 officers and men.  For the duration of the war they would serve under the direction of the Navy.

Isermann's ship, the USS Tuscarora, CG, was built in Richmond, Virginia in 1901 by the William Trigg Shipbuilding Company, at a cost of $173,184. Owned by the U.S. Treasury Department, the ship was used as a revenue cutter. Shortly after commissioning, she was assigned to duty on the Great Lakes.  The 178 foot cruising cutter's top speed was 4.2 knots - slow by today's standards but adequate for its time.  Based out of Milwaukee, she plied Lake Michigan and Lake Superior where her complement of 65 officers and men engaged in law enforcement and search and rescue.  Her brief stint as a Navy vessel included duty along the eastern Atlantic before the resumption of regular Coast Guard duties at Milwaukee in 1920. 


The Wisconsin Veterans Museum is an educational activity of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs.