Aviation Machinist Mate, AD2 Kenneth Sharlow

U.S. Coast Guard Veteran

The Coast Guard was originally founded in 1790 by Alexander Hamilton as the Revenue Marine, assigned to collect taxes at harbor entrances from smaller ships called Cutters. Over time the service absorbed the Lighthouse service, Lifesaving and Aids to navigation and became known as the United States Coast Guard in 1915.

I enlisted in the Coast Guard in Omaha, NE on Nov. 14, 1951. After three months basic training at Alameda, CA and seven more months technical training, I became a Third Class AD and was stationed at USCG Air Station, Brooklyn, NY. The practice in the Coast Guard had been that the aircrews were also the ground crew so if you maintained it, you flew it. My duties involved the large flying boats, PBM, P5M, PBY and Flying Fortresses, all left over from WW II. My duties as an Air Crewman were as a flight engineer. We flew searches for missing crafts and marine law enforcement missions.

I later transferred back to Elizabeth City, NC as I had a wife whom I'd met and married there during my training. While at Elizabeth City, I was selected to go on Temporary Attached Duty on a Stinson OY-1 assisting the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms units in locating illicit whiskey distilleries in the southern states. While assisting the ATF in an actual raid, my seat was given up to an agent familiar with the area.

Upon spotting a still, the plane radioed the agents on the ground as to its location. If the still was in operation the operators were arrested or pursued by plane. Signs of travel activity usually gave away still locations. The usual punishment was a year and a day in jail, but substantially more if they had firearms. The still and whiskey were inventoried and destroyed—chopped up with axes or dynamited.

The moonshiners had a certain code and did not tend to use violent behavior. Of course, I had a southern wife and did not get popular support for my activity no matter how proud of me she was.

The pilot I was with had been in several services and had flown the same aircraft as a spotter in Korea. My responsibility was maintaining the aircraft, including checking around the gas caps for sugar each morning.

During the winter of 1953-54, we were associated with locating about 200 illegal stills and the capture of six operators. With the temporary duty with the ATF being the high point of my first enlistment, I opted to reenlist for another three years and was stationed in Hawaii. My duty in the Pacific consisted of search and rescue and extended flights in the western region over many islands. It was in support of the LongRangeNavigation (LORAN) stations. These enabled ships and aircraft to determine their position and speed from low frequency radio signals transmitted by fixed land based radio beacons, using a receiver unit. These were later replaced by GPS. 

After discharge we relocated to Michigan.


Kenneth Sharlow