LaVerne Herzfeldt of Dale joined the Navy in 1942 when he was 19 years old.
“I wanted to see the world,” Herzfeldt said, of why he joined the Navy.
He accomplished his goal of seeing the world. Some of the places his military tours took him were: Africa, France, China and Russia.
Herzfeldt, 88, volunteered for a mission in Murmansk, Russia in 1944. He said he was part of the gun crew on ships involved in the convoys that took supplies, especially food, to that part of Russia. He left the United States in late January of that year.
“I volunteered for that job, for a trip up there,” Herzfeldt said. “I was told right out, the chances of living if you got hit, there were 20 ship convoys that went up there, and they’d say maybe half of them would make it.”
He was told of the dangers before he volunteered, but that didn’t stop him from volunteering.
“The rest of the gun crew that was on the mission, they volunteered, and I felt, ‘I’m not going to be the only chicken one.’ I stayed with them. We made it,” he said.
Herzfeldt made it back safely, despite the mission being filled with dangers.
“On this Russia trip, if you ever hit the water, we didn’t have suits like they have today, you had three minutes,” he said. “If you weren’t pulled out in three minutes, that was it.”
He also said if it wasn’t for a bad winter in Russia that year, the Germans would have taken Murmansk.
“They spent so much time getting these convoys up there but they all had to be in and out of there by the last of May because the ice would come down,” Herzfeldt said. “It’s right on top of the world. You had to be out of there by the end of May, otherwise the ice would build up in the harbor and you couldn’t get out of there.”
Returning to Boston in late May 1944, the ship for his next mission was loaded with an unknown cargo.
“The company didn’t want anybody around the ship for nine days while it was getting loaded,” he said.
He had 12 days of leave coming, so he was sent home to Dale, but used only nine of those days, he said.
“The company bought my train ticket to come home and go back so you were out of the way,” he recalled. “We went back and it (the ship) didn’t look so bad, the ol’ girl was loaded with something. We didn’t know what it was.”
Herzfeldt said he was in Dale when the D-Day invasion took place, and he didn’t think he would eventually end up there. But four weeks later he found himself on a ship off the shores of Omaha Beach.
The ship that was loaded in Boston, the one with the unknown cargo, turned out to be loaded with ammunition for Normandy.
“You have to stay there. When those ships come in you’re a warehouse,” he said. “You stay there until your cargo is gone. It took them five weeks to unload the cargo. They’d come out [to the ship] with these amphibian vehicles and get a load and go back in.”
When the ship was empty, it returned to the United States.
He was then transferred to the Pacific.
While in the Pacific, Herzfeldt said he recalls many instances that showed the pride of those in the United States military.
One instance was the sight of a United States ship in the Pacific that had the top of the ship tore off in a Japanese kamikaze attack. Herzfeldt said the ship’s crew fixed the ship enough so it could return home under its own power.
The sights of damaged United States war planes struggling to get back to their base or ship are also engrained in Herzfeldt’s memory. One particular memory is of an airplane flying with its engine hanging down.
“You talk about glory and honor. I’ve seen more guys that did more stuff and deserve more glory and honor than I do,” Herzfeldt said. “When you’d see those planes all busted up, I tell you, that’s guts and glory.”
Herzfeldt left the Navy in 1946, and returned to Dale where he still resides.