Avis, Bill, and Herb Hays

Herb Hays: From the Farm to the Pacific

It started with a photograph. The image behind the blog title includes my father and his parents. (1) Dad is in a miniature version of Herb’s navy uniform; and, I wanted to find out more.

Using a combination of interview, newspapers, and muster rolls, I pieced the story together that took Herb from the farm in Ogle County to the Harbor of Japan in the final months of WW2.

Herb Hays, my paternal grandfather, enlisted in the Navy on 9 May 1944 at Chicago, Illinois. (2) My grandmother said that he enlisted in the Navy rather than wait to get drafted in the army because he didn’t want to sleep in a foxhole. (3)

He spent his first year of service at the Great Lakes Naval Base, north of Chicago. He traveled home at least twice during the year to visit family.

Dixon Evening Telegraph, 24 June 1944 (4)
Dixon Evening Telegraph, 24 June 1944 (4)
Dixon Evening Telegraph, 3 August 1944 (5)

Another story that Grandma Avis told about Herb was that Herb heard Bill’s first words over a phone call. The family is unsure during which point of his service this call occurred. (3)

In May 1945, the USS Habersham was commissioned, and Herb joined the crew as a Motor Machinist’s Mate first class, service number 9451066. He was a part of the crew that joined from the recruiting station in Houston, Texas on 12 May 1945. (6)

“During World War II, the USS Habersham was assigned to the Asiatic-Pacific Theater.” (7) Herb grew up on the family farm in Polo, Illinois and would travel to the Port of Japan aboard the cargo ship.

Following shakedown training off Galveston, the cargo ship sailed 2 June for Gulfport, Miss., to take on cargo and departed 4 days later to join the Pacific Fleet, then pressing ever closer to Japan. Habersham arrived Pearl Harbor via the Canal Zone 30 June, unloaded her cargo, and returned to San Francisco with passengers and cargo 12 July. She then loaded cargo and sailed 21 July for Eniwetok Island where she arrived 7 August. (8)

On September 6, 1944, Herb’s rating was changed to Motor Machinist’s Mate third class to fill a vacancy in ship’s allowance (9)

Habersham was at Eniwetok when the surrender of Japan was announced, and departed 9 September to carry cargo for occupation forces in Japan. Arriving Tokyo Bay 17 September, she unloaded cargo and departed for Guam and San Francisco 27 November. (8)

In San Francisco on Feb 1, 1946, Herb was released to inactive duty. (10)

Veterans Affairs lists Herb’s discharge date as 29 Jan 1946 (2)

The only image I found of the USS Habersham was from after it was decommissioned from the Navy. It gives you an idea of the size of the vessel.

USS Habersham (7)
USS Habersham (7)


(1) Avis, Bill, and Herb Hays, Photograph. ca. 1944-1945. Digital image. Privately held by Julie L Bartimus, [address for private use,] Naperville, Illinois. 2017.

(2) “U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010,” database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 7 Nov 2017) Entry for Herbert Hays, enlistment date 9 May 1944, release date 29 Jan 1946.

(3) Avis (Trump) Hays, Mt. Morris, Illinois, Interview by Julie (Hays) Bartimus, 28 June 2016; transcript privately held by Julie Bartimus [address privately held,] Naperville, Illinois, 2017.

(4) “Dixon Evening Telegraph (Dixon, Illinois),” images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 7 Nov 2017). 24 June 1944 edition, p3, Polo column.

(5) “Dixon Evening Telegraph (Dixon, Illinois),” images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 7 Nov 2017). 3 August 1944 edition, p8, Polo column.

(6) “U.S. World War II Navy Muster Rolls, 1938-1949,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 7 Nov 2017). Change report dated 12 May 1945, Entry for Herbert Charles Hays, line 26, rating: F1c(MoMM), Habersham (AK-186). Citing “Muster Rolls of U.S. Navy Ships, Stations, and Other Naval Activities, 01/01/1939 – 01/01/1949”; National Archives, Record Group: 24, Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, 1798 – 2007; Series ARC ID: 594996; Series MLR Number: A1 135.

(7) “USS Habersham,” article and digital images. NavSource Naval History (http://www.navsource.org/archives/09/13/130186.htm : February 27, 2012)

(8) “Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships – Index,” Naval History and Heritage Command (https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/h/habersham.html : 27 Feb 2012) Entry for Habersham.

(9) “U.S. World War II Navy Muster Rolls, 1938-1949,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 7 Nov 2017). Change report dated 9 Sep 1945, Entry for Herbert Charles Hays, line 5, rating: MoMM3c(T), Habersham (AK-186).

(10) … Change report dated 1 Feb 1946, Entry for Herbert Charles Hays, line 24, rating: MoMM3c(T), Habersham (AK-186).

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