Coast Guard to Honor 93-Year-Old Surfman

Stewart Graham at the controls of a Sikorsky HNS-1, 1943. USCG Photo.

A 93-year-old Maine man is scheduled be designated a Coast Guard surfman in a ceremony at Coast Guard Sector Northern New England on March 11, 2011.

Retired Coast Guard Cmdr. Stewart Graham will be presented the designation as Surfman No. 68 by Vice Adm. John Currier, Coast Guard chief of staff, and Rear Adm. Daniel Neptun, First Coast Guard District commander.

LT Graham demonstrates the newly developed rescue basket and hoist on a Sikorsky HOS-3G, 1947. USCG/Photo.

Graham joined the Coast Guard in 1937 as a surfman and later went through flight training and became a Coast Guard aviator in 1941. He currently holds the distinction of being Coast Guard Helicopter Pilot No. 2, or the second helicopter pilot ever to serve in the Coast Guard.

Coast Guard surfmen are part of a tradition of lifesavers that dates back almost 200 years. Today, the Coast Guard uses the title of “surfman” for its most highly trained boat operators.

When Graham served as a surfman, there was not yet an official national registry of members who achieved this elite qualification.

LT Graham safely returns a survivor of the crash to an interim landing site. The survivors were then transferred to a PBY for a flight back to Gander, photo by AOM 1/c Robert O'Leary, USCG/Photo.

Graham is a distinguished Coast Guard veteran and aviator, having earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and two Air Medals, among other decorations, during his 25-year career. He has also been inducted into the Naval Aviation Hall of Fame in Pensacola, Fla., and the Coast Guard Aviation Hall of Fame in Mobile, Ala.

He also established a number of aviation firsts during his career. Among them was piloting the first helicopter take-off and landing aboard a ship, the first helicopter pilot to rescue survivors from the open sea and piloting the longest un-escorted helicopter flight in the world at the time. He completed a transcontinental flight from Elizabeth City, S.C. to Port Angeles, Washington, in a Sikorsky HO3S-1G rescue helicopter in 1949.

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