Uncle Herb at Pearl Harbor

I have an old family photo of a Navy Airman on his way to a brief, fateful encounter in World War II. That’s my uncle Herbert A Hopp, dressed in his tropical whites and wearing the brave smile of a man who has yet to witness the brutal horrors of war.

Herb with a lei

Herb in Hawaii, a month away from his call to action

The photo shows Herb on leave in Hawaii and being greeted with a traditional lei. This would have been in mid-December 1942, about a month before he flew into action against the Japanese Imperial Fleet.

I’ve been making some progress pursuing Herb’s military service record. I’ve gotten some deck logs of his ship the U.S.S. Copahee CVE-12 from the National Archives and the story is beginning to flesh out.

Herb reported aboard the Copahee sometime in November 1942 at San Diego’s North Island Naval Base along with the rest of his unit, VGS-12, Escort Scouting Squadron Twelve. In early December the Copahee steamed for Hawaii on her way to the South Pacific. Included in the ship’s log is a complete list of the names and service numbers of the 217 officers, airmen, and support crewmen of the squadron.

There are some interesting names on that list: Ivan John Herzing 652 15 42, whose later war record shows him surviving the entire war and quite a few engagements with the enemy, but whose white Navy issue web belt inexplicably turned up in an old kit bag of Herb’s along with some other Guadalcanal souvenirs; Joseph Riddle Jr., a pilot who died in the same action in which Herb was shot down and later had a Navy Destroyer named in his honor.

The smiling fair-haired boy shown in this photo is about one month away from his date with heroism and tragedy. Within that timeframe, he would go from the hale and hearty bucko seen here to a haggard and scrawny jungle island survivor with chunks of shrapnel in his forehead and chest, a permanent limp, and a record of two Japanese Zeroes shot down.

About Tom Hopp

Thomas P Hopp is a scientist and author living in Seattle. He writes medical thrillers, natural disaster novels, and the Dinosaur Wars science fiction series.
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