Thanksgiving at sea: 76-year-old menu stirs memories for WWII veteran

This Thanksgiving Day menu brought back memories of Herb Morrow.

It was dated November 29, 1945.

And he described the fare that was to be served that day aboard the light cruiser USS Birmingham, a veteran scarred by the battle of World War II that had just ended.

Morrow, now 94, of Carlisle, was one of the cooks who prepared this food for over 1,000 homesick sailors on this mighty ship.

He didn’t review this menu for 76 years, until the son of one of his former shipmates brought it to a meeting at the Carlisle VFW Post 477 last week.

Jim DeSalvo had found the menu among the war memories of his late father James. Morrow’s name was written on it.

USS Birmingham

Morrow was then 18 years old. He was 17 when he joined the Navy. He was trained as a baker and boarded the Birmingham just in time to take part in two of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific War, the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

“We had to win the war to be free,” Morrow said on Tuesday. “I just wanted to get into it.”

He almost got it for good off Okinawa when a Japanese suicide bomber crashed into Birmingham.

“He (hit) about 25 to 30 feet away,” Morrow said. “I was in a turret, so I didn’t see it.”

The wreckage of the plane and its bomb crashed on several decks before exploding deep inside the ship. Morrow said he walked through his dorms.

“If I had been there then, I wouldn’t be here today,” he said.

Forty-seven American sailors were killed in this attack.

The explosion punched a hole in the side of the ship, forcing the Birmingham to retreat to Guam and then to Pearl Harbor for repairs. Then, Morrow said, the ship and crew were sent straight back into the war.

The fighting was over by Thanksgiving 1945 and by that time the Birmingham was the flagship of an admiral tasked with bringing the US military home.

“We were either in Australia or on our way to Australia” when the festive meal was served, Morrow said. The menu lists the location as Melbourne.

Grass of tomorrow

The 1945 Thanksgiving Day menu for the USS Birmingham.

Rick Olsen, commander of Post 477, said that on the menu DeSalvo brought to the meeting, Morrow’s name appeared in a prayer with the other cooks and bakers on the ship.

Morrow said he didn’t remember DeSalvo’s father. “There were 1,200 people on this ship,” he said. “You haven’t known them all. “

Some of the memories were also elusive, he said, although it was “interesting” to see an artifact from so far in its own past.

“It was nice to see… I remember some of them. And I don’t remember some of them, ”Morrow said. “You can’t remember all of this. “

What he distinctly remembers is the date of his release from the Navy – June 4, 1946.

A few weeks after his release, he married his childhood sweetheart. And then Morrow said, “I just went out and got a job.”

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