Tonight, we wrap up our series Veterans Voices with a 97-year-old Navy veteran who served in World War II.
“You talk about a bunch of loners from out here in the midwest, we went into Grand Central Station, you know? You ever been in there? I’m telling you I thought that was the biggest thing in the world,” said Navy veteran Lyle Lunde.
Little did Lunde know, that wouldn’t be the biggest thing he saw. He arrived at the USS Wichita after boot camp in 1941.
Prior to joining, he worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps and made $25 a month doing environmental projects. He actually made less money serving the country — only $16 a month.
He was a coxswain and was responsible for shooting the guns on the ship.
“I didn’t clean them,” Lunde said.
“Only thing I did was shoot them.”
His ship was in Iceland when Pearl Harbor was bombed. But, they had to be ready to fight even up there.
“Every time there was an engine revving someplace, we had to run to General Quarters,” said Lunde.
“General Quarters is when you go and get ready to do the fighting.”
The USS Wichita also participated in the Battle of Casablanca in North Africa.
“We were hit there and we had 14 of our people hurt there,” Lunde said.
After returning back to the shipyard, they set out to relieve the USS Chicago.
“About 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning, there was a sea battle,” Lunde said.
“First thing we could see is the Chicago sitting up like this, going down, straight down backwards, so that was the end of their journey for that.”
During Lunde’s time onboard the Wichita, they had only one burial at sea.
“We had a young man that fell from one of the high towers at noon he was … He was quite a monkey, is what he was. He could jump and grab and, well, he missed. He went down and hit his head. So, that was at noon and we had no place, where we were going to go, we couldn’t keep bodies there. So, we had the one and only burial at sea,” Lunde said.
Although he remembers his time in the service vividly, one of his favorite memories is after they passed through New Caledonia, where he was able to see a bit of his family when he was furthest from home.
“You know, that’s about the end of the world,” Lunde said.
“One day I was standing there and they passed the word for me to come up on the quarterdeck and here stood my brother.”
During his last couple of years, he was in Shanghai before taking a tugboat back to San Diego, which took 53 days. He returned to North Dakota and had a career in law enforcement.
Lunde has worn five uniforms throughout his life: The Civilian Conservation Corps, Navy uniform, Rugby Police Department, North Dakota Highway Patrol and Bottineau Sheriff’s office.