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Autobiography of Verdell Lamar Jacobson

***Dad wrote this memoir in 1993. In addition to his brother Noel, Verdell Jacobson had a younger brother, Gordon in the Navy at the same time. Gordon spent time in the Pacific Theater and was one of a handful of personnel to explore Nagasaki two weeks after the atomic bomb was dropped there

Verdell LaMar  Jacobson 
  
Born: Vernal, UT  June 15, 1922. Died: Murray, UT February 19, 1999
  
 
  
When the war broke  out we knew that most of us single men would be drafted, even
though we  worked for the critical industry of Kennecott Copper.  My best friend 
Joe Evans joined the Marines and was killed at Midway Island in the summer of  1942.
 He wanted me to go in with him, but I had some debts to pay off  before I could go
in.         In early  September 1942, I decided the time was now, so I could choose
my branch of  service and not be drafted into the infantry. So I went to the Navy 
recruiting office in Salt Lake on my day off, signed up and passed the  physical. 
In the week that passed before I was shipped out I had to get  my affairs in order,
quit my job and my family gave me a farewell  party.  They gave me a beautiful 17
jewel Bulova watch which I cherished  and carried until it was lost when our ship
was bombed at Sicily.          On September 17, 1942 we put on a  train bound for
Los Angeles and then San Diego.  We were up at 6 every  morning and lights were out
at 10. They issued us gear and crammed 8 weeks of  training into four weeks so there
wasn’t much free time          After graduating from boot camp I  was promoted to
Seaman Second Class and sent to the Hemphill Institute Diesel  School.  I was able
to get a furlough in time for my dad’s  birthday.  I was able to fly home on a
seventy-two hour pass and  surprise him.  It was also my first flight on a plane.   
      By graduating in the top half of the  class I qualified to attend advanced
training operated by General  Motors.  Going from L.A. to Cleveland in January was a
really cold  change.  We were ready for our assignments by March. We arrived at 
Norfolk Navy Yard then on to Cap Bradford, Virginia.  Because there was  no motor
machinist rating I was classed Fireman First Class. My new  assignment at Bradford
was to tend the boiler at the mess hall and make sure  they had hot water and steam
at all times; an easy assignment.          Finally we boarded the LST 350 and 
sailed to New York City.  After a short stay we sailed on to Hoboken,  New Jersey
and boarded another LST as passengers and were on our way to  Bermuda for a few
days.  We left Bermuda on April 14 and hit rough  waters.  It took us two weeks to
get to Gibraltar.  We entered the  Mediterranean and had to be prepared for attack
at all times.  We slept  in our clothes and had a life preserver on at all times. 
We sailed for  Oran, Algeria which had just been liberated from the Germans.  The 
harbor was in shambles from our shelling.  There was nothing for us  G.I.s to do. 
The city smelled terrible, as did most North African  cities due people using the
allies as latrines.  We took our small boats  down the coast to a small resort on a
river mouth where we trained our small  boat crews.  We left there in May and went
to Arzew, Algeria, where 24  of us were assigned to LST 158 as small boat crews.  I
was the highest  rated man of the crews and was put in charge of maintaining all six
boats,  making sure they were in top shape at all times.  I was kept busy so I 
didn’t have to do mess hall duty or stand other watches.          We left for
Bizerte in May and  encountered another mess left by the Germans.  We had to thread
our way  around sunken ships, derricks and barges.  We were finally putting a 
flotilla together for actual landings.  I spent my 21st birthday aboard  ship in
Lake Bizerte.  We were under air attack almost nightly but  couldn’t shoot at the
planes as it would reveal our location.  The  antiaircraft units had a ring around
the lake and did a good job of  protecting us.         One day in July  while I was
working on a small boat, Mr. Morgan, the ship’s engineering  officer came by.  He
asked why I didn’t tell him I was from Utah, as his  wife was living with relatives
in Price.  I said “nobody asked  me.”  He said, “by the way, as of today you are
MOMM2/C.”  I asked  him when he wanted me to take the test and he said “You already
have, by  keeping our boats in such good shape.”          After more training we
began making final preparations for a landing in  Sicily.  Our convoy formed with
ships from all along the coast of North  Africa.  To fool the Germans and Italians,
we took a course to make them  believe we were headed for Sardinia and Corsica.  The
seas were very  rough with swells as high as 15 feet.          At midnight, July 9,
1943 we were  off the coast of Sicily.  We loaded our troops via cargo nets down the
 sides of the ship.  Those G.I.s had to climb down the nets with full  battle packs
and gear in rough seas.  We didn’t lose a man  overboard.  We were about five miles
out, incomplete blackout with only  small blinking lights from the beach, courtesy
of ‘scouts and raider’, Navy  men who had sneaked ashore early.          Suddenly
the whole area was lighted up by huge flood lights from shore.   Our cruisers and
destroyers opened up on them and suddenly they went  out.  We later learned the
Italians manning them turned them off, as  they didn’t want to be targets, and
wouldn’t believe there were that many ships  out there.         As we headed for the
 beach, naval bombardment continued with shells passing over our heads: 
eight-inchers from cruisers, five-inchers from the destroyers, and some 
three-inchers from the LSTs.  It sounded like a freight train going  by.  We were in
the second wave of small boats and by then the surprise  was over.  We hit the beach
amid much machine gun fire and had many pock  marks in our bow ramp.  The Signal
Corps men left some gear in our boat  and we waited for them to come and get it, but
decided we had to get out of  the way of incoming waves of boats.  We returned to
the ship and I was  happy to be back aboard in one piece.          That afternoon we
were docked at a  pontoon dock unloading cargo.  My crew was called out to launch
our boat  and handle a cable from the bow to the pontoon dock so we could get 
underway.  We had just started to be hoisted back aboard when an ME-109  strafed the
ship and a second one dropped two bombs.  One went into the  sea next to our ship. 
The second bomb hit amidships, went through a  half track, cargo hatch and into the
tank deck directly into three truckloads  of gasoline.  The explosion was directly
above our auxiliary engine  room.  It knocked out all power, including the winches
holding us  aloft.  It also started a real inferno.  Our boat free-fell back  into
the water.  My crew and I regained consciousness within  minutes.  With no
firefighting equipment operating, all we could do was  abandon ship and let it burn.
  Our small boat circled the ship and  picked up crew men and Army personnel as they
came off the ship.  The  last one off the ship was the captain and he brought the
ship’s papers with  him.  Total lives lost on the 158 were 33 Army and five Navy. 
The  two men, who slept above and below me, were both killed in their bunks.   We
took the last load to shore and then circled the ship once more to make  sure no one
else was in the water.  We then beached our small boat,  joining the crew in a corn
field above the beach watching our ship burn and  sink, and waiting for a ride back
to Bizerte.  It was one year to the  day that the LST 158 had been initially
launched.  We had to dive into a  small gully in the field several times to avoid
strafing by the German  planes.  I don’t know where our air cover was.           LST
350 picked our crew up and  provided us with shoes, clothing and any thing else we
needed and headed back  to Bizerte.  We were under air attack half the night and
part of the  next day.  None of us would go below to sleep that night.  We spent 
the night in the galley passageway with our lifejackets on.          It was nice to
be out of harms way  back at Bizerte.  I ran water taxi for a while and ended up in
the  transportation department driving trucks on land.            Christmas 1943 was
my first one away from home.  We hosted a part for  French and Arab orphans.  On
December 17, 1944 we received orders to go  home.  We left Bizerte on an Infantry
Landing Craft for Oran,  Algeria.  Our ship home wasn’t ready to go so we spent
Christmas in  Arzew, my second Christmas away from home.  With delays for needed 
repairs and rough seas we finally made it back to the states as we docked in 
Chesapeake Bay.  It was really great to be back.  I had been gone  from the USA for
21 months and 16 day.  My brother Noel, also a sailor,  was stationed at Little
Creek, Virginia and I was able to spend three days  with him before heading home.  I
had 30 days leave and 8 days travel  time.  After a too-short visit home I returned
to Camp Allen, Virginia  and was transferred to the Seabees.  About four hundred of
us Motor  Machinists were sent to Davisville, Rhode Island for assignment to Pontoon
 Battalions.  I received word that my stepmother Rose had died, so I was  given 10
days emergency leave and came home again.  I then received  orders to report in Port
Hueneme, California where I caught up with the rest  of my outfit.  We spent some
time training barge crews in the bay off  Point Magoo.  On June 8, 1945, we went
aboard the transport USS Florence  Nightingale, a converted banana boat.  It was not
a luxury liner in any  sense of the word.  The bread had weevil shells in it, and if
you tried  to pick them out, you had nothing left.  The ship’s doctor told us it 
wouldn’t hurt us.  That helped a lot!          We sailed unescorted to Hawaii and 
went between Oahu and Molokai.  We joined a convoy and kept on going, on  to
Eniwetok where we stayed a few days and helped build a fleet canteen where  the
crews could come ashore, play baseball and drink a beer or two and  relax.  While
unloading oil drums from and LCT to a truck I slipped and  fell off the tail gate of
the truck onto the ramp of the LCT and broke the  bone in my arch.  It was a
challenge getting around the ship on ladders  with my foot in a cast.  We went from
Eniwetok to Ulithi, then on to Okinawa,  where my cast was removed.  My foot hadn’t
completely healed, and it  gave me a lot of pain.         We landed  at Naha Okinawa
on July 24, 1945 and hiked up into the hills where we built a  vehicle repair base
and later relieved a pontoon battalion at Buckner Bay where  we ran barges from ship
to shore unloading all kinds of supplies.  Each  barge had a crew of four men and we
lived aboard our barge.  I was  assigned to a large pontoon repair barge where we
had quarters above the  machine and repair shop deck.  We were anchored in the
middle of Buckner  Bay and the cargo barges tied up alongside for repairs and to
spend the  night.  We were self-contained with fresh water, a galley and crew and 
the barges kept us supplied with fresh meat and other supplies, as they like  to
come aboard and eat with us whenever they found an excuse.  We rode  out one typhoon
on the barge by putting out two extra anchors and keeping the  engines on the barge
running steady.  In September I was promoted to  Motor Machinist Mate First Class. 
The Japanese had surrendered in  August.  I was relieved because we’d previously
been told to have our  barges ready for the invasion of the Japanese home islands.  
       After a smooth trip home on the  USS Grimes, a brand new attack transport, I
was discharged from the Navy on  November 11, 1945.  I had spent 3 years, 1 month
and 27 days in the  Navy.            
  
***Dad wrote this memoir in 1993. In addition  to his brother Noel, Verdell Jacobson
had a younger brother, Gordon in the  Navy at the same time.  Gordon spent time in
the Pacific Theater and was one  of a handful of personnel to explore Nagasaki two
weeks after the atomic bomb  was dropped there.
  
  Dad was pleased to attend an LST  reunion in Washington, D.C. in 1992.  He was one
of two attendees  specific to the 158.  He especially enjoyed finding his former
crewmate  and friend, Tommy Brown.  He kept in contact with Tommy until Dad died 
of cancer on February 19, 1999.  As of October 2006, Tommy is the only  living
survivor of the LST 158. ---Karla Nye, daughter, Sandy          
p.s. Tommy has now passed on, suffering from Alzheimer's Disease in his later years.

Owner/SourceKarla Nye
Linked toVerdell LaMar JACOBSON

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