In this photograph of my grandfather, Howard William West Sr. (tallest) and friend, based upon the US Coast Guard Military History PDF file of ratings, ranks, warrant, marks and insignia (PDF File), my grandfather was a Petty Officer, Quartermaster, 2nd Class or a second or third Oiler 2nd Class Petty Officer at the time of this photograph. I’m still hunting for his military records and I have no clear date on when this photograph was taken, though I may assume as it was while he was stationed in Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands of Washington State circa 1935-1949. He was stationed at the San Diego Marine Base when he was a Marine, but this resembles the picket fence of other family portraits at the lighthouse on Friday Harbor where he was stationed for many years.
The two graphics are similar when viewed at this distance.
It is most likely, from the stories passed down, that he was a oiler, though he moved into security later in his military career as he shifted from Lighthouse Brigade, which eventually became Coast Guard, to Marines, and Navy, not in that order. The United States military, especially when it came to war on the water and along the coasts, was still evolving at the time.
Compare that photograph and uniform to this one featuring my father, Howard West Jr, and his father, the senior Howard West still in the Coast Guard, a decade or more after the one above was taken. This image is from circa 1958 when my father entered the Coast Guard. He made it through boot camp and served less than 18 months, discharged for medical reasons.
In that photograph, both are wearing the modern insignias for the Coast Guard, the bright red stripes and the distinguishing mark of the Coast Guard on the left forearm sleeve. Continue reading