Herbert W. Meyer - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Herbert W. Meyer

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From an article by Jim Wolff

As Herbert neared draft age, he followed a buddy to an enlistment center for the Navy. "We wanted to go in together and have a choice instead of the Army, but my buddy had flat feet and didn't pass the physical."

After training at Great Lakes in 1941, Meyer immediately went to the USS Oklahoma in San Diego and then to Pearl Harbor. He came back to the states and worked on a ship at Washington and took his first leave there since he had been ill following graduation at Great Lakes. He then went back to Pearl Harbor just in time to experience that infamous attack. It was a lazy Sunday morning, about 8 am. on December 7, when the crewmen of the USS Oklahoma were relaxing after having just finished patrols in the Pacific. The 27.5-ton vessel was moored in Battleship Row alongside the USS Maryland when 21-year-old Herbert Meyer and the rest of the 450 enlisted men and officers received a call to battle stations.

Meyer, who was captain of one of the three gun turrets on the ship, ran to his station and began loading the 14-inch guns, but within seconds the ship was hit by explosions triggered by aerial torpedoes. The Oklahoma took three torpedo hits almost immediately after the first Japanese bombs hit below the waterline and as the ship began to capsize, two more torpedoes struck home. Many of the men were strafed as they abandoned ship, but most of them were trapped below deck. A total of 429 enlisted men and officers were either killed or missing in that infamous attack on the USS Oklahoma, many trapped within the capsized hull, and another 32 were wounded. Within 20 minutes the Oklahoma had swung over until halted by her masts touching bottom, her starboard side above the water, and a part of her keel clear. Meyer stayed on his ship until it completely rolled over, then went into the water and was pulled onto the Maryland. "Three of my best buddies were killed that day," he said sadly. "By taking all the hits, though, we probably saved the men on the Maryland." Another ship that was saved was the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise because it had run into a storm and was late getting into the harbor that day.

When the Enterprise finally came into port, it was stoked up with food and ammunition and then headed out to sea for six weeks of battles. Meyer was aboard. "We attacked Midway and other islands that the Japanese had taken from us," he said. Then the aircraft carrier came back to Pearl Harbor for more bombs for the planes. "That was the only carrier to survive all six years," Meyer said. "The Japanese claimed they had sunk it several times which is why it was called the ‘Galloping Ghost.' "

It was on August 24, 1942 at Guadalcanal that Meyer was wounded when a piece of shrapnel went through his foot. His ship had been engaging in surprise attacks and had been hit with bombs a number of times. "We went back to Pearl Harbor for repairs and I was sent to the hospital there, then put aboard an ocean liner headed back to the states." After this he served with a 21-man crew on a minesweeper which traveled all over the Pacific, ending up in Guadalcanal. He came back to the states after that and served on the USS Barataria as a gunner's mate on the seaplane tender. At the end of the war they were in the Philippines, but Meyer's six-year stint was not yet up. He was honorably discharged in January of 1947 with the official ceremony held on the Barataria.

 

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