Alex Haley (Writer)
(Alexander Palmer Murray Haley)
b. 11 Aug 1921 - d. 10 Feb 1992
US Coast Guard, 1939-1959
(World War II, Korean War, Chief Petty Officer, Chief Journalist)
After dropping out of college, Simon Haley, Alex's father, felt that Alex needed discipline and growth and convinced Alex to enlist in the military. On May 24, 1939, Alex Haley began his twenty-year enlistment with the Coast Guard. He enlisted as a mess attendant and became a Petty Officer Third Class in the rate of Steward, one of the few rates open to African Americans. He spent World War II in the Pacific theater although he did not see much action during the conflict.
After World War II, Haley petitioned the Coast Guard to transfer into the field of journalism, and by 1949 he had become a Petty Officer First Class in the rating of Journalist. He later advanced to Chief Petty Officer and held this grade until his retirement from the Coast Guard in 1959. He was the first Chief Journalist in the Coast Guard, the rating having been expressly created for him in recognition of his literary ability.
Haley's awards and decorations from the Coast Guard include the American Defense Service Medal (with "Sea" clasp),American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Coast Guard Good Conduct Medal (with 1 silver and 1 bronze service star), Korean Service Medal,National Defense Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, and the Coast Guard Expert Marksmanship Medal.
During his World War II service in the Pacific theater, Haley taught himself the craft of writing stories and he obviously had a talent for it. Rumor has it he was often paid by other sailors to write love letters to their girlfriends. He talked of how the greatest enemy he and his crew faced during their long sea voyages wasn't the Japanese but boredom.