War is not fun and that is why Stanley “Bud” Mortenson, of Litchfield, didn’t care to talk about it. But after many years and reunions, Bud and his shipmates talked about their Navy experiences and opened up.
Kneeling in the front row on the left, Stanley Mortenson is pictured with his shipmates. They reunited every year between 1989 and 2004. Contributed photo
Mortenson was 18 years old when he joined the Navy on Sept. 25, 1943. He didn’t want to be drafted so he enlisted in his chosen branch, the Navy.
After basic training, Mortenson and more than 200 other Navy men boarded the USS Corbesier Destroyer Escort 438 on April Fools’ Day 1944. The Corbesier, named after a 19th century Naval swordsman, was first launched on Feb. 13, 1944.
Mortenson spent 17 months in the Pacific on the Corbesier, which sank one Japanese submarine, shot down one plane and escaped a torpedo dropped by a Japanese plane.
Mortenson didn’t witness a lot of the action because he was stationed deep within the ship in the boiler room, where he operated the machine that turned salt water into fresh water for drinking. He only knew of the attacks when he would hear a pinging pitch sound over the intercom.
“I made fresh water out of salt water,” said Mortenson, who was a machinist’s mate third class. To keep the troops hydrated on an island surrounded by salt water, the Navy used machines to remove salt from the water so troops could drink it. Each Marine was allowed one canteen of water a day. You had to use salt water to shave or clean up.
The Japanese submarine was destroyed by the Corbesier and two other destroyers by launching sinking mines called “hedgehogs.” After they launched their bombs they heard one boom and then later another boom.
When Mortenson was on the Corbesier near the island of Leyte, a Japanese air raid was coming towards, them. The Corbesier, unfortunately was situated between another machine-gunning destroyer and the incoming plane. The other destroyer took down the Corbesier’s mast as it was shooting at the plane, and took out the radar of the Corbesier.
The USS DE 438 Corbesier. Contributed photo
The Corbesier averted a potential ship-destroying torpedo thanks to the alert crew. According to Mortenson, the chief of the ship was warned of an incoming torpedo dropped by a Japanese plane. The captain ordered the ship to make a sharp right turn that turned the ship on its edge. This raised the ship upward allowing the torpedo to pass underneath. “We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the quick thinking of our staff,” Mortenson said.
For his service, Mortenson received seven medals, including those for the three island invasions he took part in.
Mortenson also recalled the time his ship arrived at the Nagasaki harbor after the United States dropped the nuclear bomb on Aug. 9, 1945. He felt if they had not dropped the bomb his ship would have been in danger.
Some good times Mortenson recalled was when he got to cross the equator and when he got to test the beers on the island of Mog Mog.
Stanley Mortenson was honored at a Navy Salute in Litchfield along with fellow Litchfield Navy man Bruce Cottington in September.
It was on May 20, 1946, when Mortenson was no longer a Navy man and returned to his hometown of Cosmos. He left the farm and started his own welding shop and raised a family. The ship, Corbesier, was taken out of commission and placed in reserve on July 2, 1946, at San Diego, Calif.