Facial Hair Friday: From Baseball to War

This Facial Hair Friday photo shows baseball-player-turned-Coast Guardsman Frank L. Lailer sporting a respectable amount of facial hair, albeit not quite as much as some of his bushier-bearded Coast Guard colleagues. His is just one of the many beards and mustaches featured in a series of Coast Guardsmen at Work in the Records of the U.S. Coast Guard that have been digitized and made available in the National Archives Catalog.

The photograph was released by the Coast Guard’s Public Relations Division with the title “From Baseball to War.” Before it was banned, facial hair was common for Coast Guardsmen, especially those serving in cold climates.

This photo’s caption reads:

Before he enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard 28 months ago, it was smashing out basehits in professional baseball that gripped the interest of Frank L. Lailer, of 16 Jefferson Ave., Chelsea, Mass. Now a Coast Guard coxswain, complete with the beard that marks the northern ship lane crews, Lailer’s interest is centered on smashing the Axis. He serves aboard a Coast Guard assault transport in the North Atlantic. 

Frank Lemuel Lailer was born in 1913 in Everett, Massachusetts. He was named after his father, Frank Lemuel Lailer, a firefighter who died from injuries he sustained on duty when the younger Frank was just 4 years old. He was raised by his mother and stepfather after she remarried. 

As a young man he worked in a sporting goods store and had a brief career playing baseball. He was working for the Works Progress Administration when he enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard in 1941. The above photo even made it into the April 27, 1944, issue of the Boston Daily Globe, acknowledging his service. 

Following the war, Lailer was employed as a crane operator back in Chelsea but then moved around a bit before finally settling in Pennsylvania. Frank Lailer died on July 11, 1987, in Fredericktown, Pennsylvania, at age 73.

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