Carl Gerold was the executive officer on LST-742 in the Pacific during World War II.
The 91-year old Englewod man was second in command on one of the U.S. Navy’s workhorses of the second World War. LST stood for “Landing Ship Tank.” They were cheap, relatively small cargo ships that transported much of the war material needed for battle all over the world.
These football field length, three-decked, steel ships could pull up on a beach and disgorge 1,200 troops, a bunch of tanks, trucks, fuel oil or whatever else was needed. They did it all.
LST-742 was built by Drabo Ship Co. in Pittsburgh, Pa. in 60 days. Fourteen other LSTs just like it were also buit at the same time in the shipyard.
“The officers of 742 met for the first time at the shipyard in Pittsburgh in 1943,” Gerold recalled. “The only guy in the crew that had been on the ocean before was the chief steward’s mate. The captain, myself and the gunnery officer were all lawyers who had never been to sea.”
After their LST was commissioned, they sailed it without mishap, despite the greenness of the crew, from Pittsburgh down the Monogahela River to the Ohio at Cairo, Ill. From there they headed south down the Mississippi to New Orleans and around the Gulf of Mexico to Panama City for a shakedown cruise.
When they reached Florida, things for Gerold and his shipmates went from bad to worse.
“At Panama City, the admiral was supposed to come aboard and inspect us,” he said. “Our boys were all dressed in their white uniforms standing on the top deck in 90-degree heat waiting to be inspected.
“Then we learned we couldn’t get the engines in either one of our small boats going, so we couldn’t pick up the admiral on time. When he finally came aboard, he was really teed off.
“As he began his inspection, the first thing he did was climb through an open hatch into a tank without properly securing the hatch. An instant later the unsecured metal hatch cover hit him on the top of his bald spot and laid his head open. He had a 6 inch long gash that bled all over him and his uniform.
“The only thing we could do was drag him out of there, swab the blood off him with towels and put him in sickbay. We placed the admiral in the care of our pharmacist mate, who had absolutely no experience,” Gerold said.
The admiral’s subordinate, a Navy captain, took over and completed the inspection with Lt. Gerold at his side. The first thing the ship’s executive officer did was invite the captain to his quarters where he broke out a bottle of rye whiskey.
After a little libation the two officers proceeded with the inspection.
“We were to perform certain drills, like man overboard and a fire drill.
“The guys up in the bow threw a box over the side to represent a man falling overboard. Someone on the main deck was to yell, ‘MAN OVERBOARD!’ Then we would proceed to rescue the box.”
It didn’t happen quite like that.
“I was standing at the wheelhouse with the captain conducting the inspection. Two nearby sailors looked over the side and saw the box floating in the water.
“‘Some damn fool threw a box over the side,’ one sailor said to the other. That was the end of that drill,” Gerold observed.
“The fire drill was next. By the way the whistle was blown and the horn was sounded, you were supposed to be able to tell whether the fire was on the port or starboard side and what deck it was on. This drill was another fiasco.
“The big screw-up came when our captain had to demonstrate how to beach his LST as though he were bringing stuff onto shore during an invasion. The trick was to know when to drop the stern anchor used to pull the ship off the shore when the unloading was completed.
“Our captain made a kind of gun site out of a coat hanger. He mounted it on the con in front of the wheel. He would look through this rig to estimate the distance between the ship and shoer to know when to drop the anchor,” Gerold explained.
“After peering through his homemade gun site, he yelled, ‘Let go the anchor!’”
The sailors on the anchor detail reported back a few minutes later, “‘Stern anchor gone, sir!’ The anchor and 900 feet of cable went over the side and disappeared because it wasn’t properly attached.”
The next day the crew retrieved the lost anchor and cable. It also grappled up in a submerged phone line in the harbor at Panama City, Fla.
Four days later, LST-742 sailed for the war in the Pacific.
“I was the navigator as well as the executive officer aboard ship. I’d never seen a sextant before I went aboard the LST and neither had my four quartermasters, who acted as my assistant navigators.
“We all learned navigation together as we made the 42-day trip across the Pacific to New Guinea,” he added. “We made a game out of it. Each day the five of us put a quarter in the pot. We each put a point on the chart where we thought we would be at the end of the day. The one who was closest to the correct position, after we checked it with a sextant, won four quarters.
“After 30 days at sea, our crew was functioning like a fine watch. They all knew what they were doing and how to do it.”
As part of “Gen. MacArthur’s Navy” in the South Pacific, Gerold and his crew went “island hopping” with “Mac” to the Lingayen Gulf, the Visayan Island landing and the Tarakan Island operation.
He was awarded three Battle Stars for the campaigns he participated in, the Asiaatic/Pacific Campaign Ribbon, the Philippines Liberation Ribbon, the Philippines Independence Ribbon and the WWII Victory Medal.
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Florida on Monday, Nov. 11, 2002 and is republished with permission.
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WWII vet, 101, remembers prohibition
Charlotte Sun (Port Charlotte, Fla.) – Thursday, September 6, 2012
Author: DANA SANCHEZ ; Englewood Editor
Gerold, 101, was honored guest on the Clyde E. Lassen VFW Post 10178 float for the 56th Pioneer Days Parade. This is Gerold’s third parade.
What was it like to see thousands of people out there sitting, watching and applauding him?
“I was in seventh heaven,” Gerold said. “It was quite a thrill. I took a bunch of pictures of the people. I had some of them developed yesterday. There were just bundles and bundles of people. Did I think about World War II? Not really.”
Born Aug. 10, 1911, Gerold served as an executive officer on an LST (Landing Ship Tank) in the Navy during World War II. He served in the Pacific and was involved in the invasion of Borneo.
‘The only casualties we had were guys who went nuts and we sent them home,” he said.
After the war, he married Mary Ketel, had two children and resumed a law practice, handling financing for municipal improvements and overseeing the selling of bonds to pay for construction. The couple was married for 69 years.
They moved to Englewood in 1950. Mary died five years ago.
On Aug. 26, Gerold drove down to Englewood from his cabin on Rock Dam, Wis., to participate in the Pioneer Days Parade. Accompanying him was his son, John. A. Gerold , 73. He also has a daughter, Paula Schreiner.
How has he lived so long?
“Well I just keep breathing,” he said. “I drank a lot of moonshine and I remember the 18th Amendment.”
The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution established prohibition. The law took effect Jan. 17, 1920.
Born in Milwaukee, Gerold was 8 years old at the time. His grandpa owned a saloon across the street from the Pabst Brewery, he said, and he remembers that day.
“At midnight, they went and emptied the beer into the sewers,” he recalls.
Gerold is a regular at the VFW Post 10178 in Englewood where he goes to enjoy barbecue spare ribs on Friday nights.
He’s sharp as a tack, has a great sense of humor, sings karaoke and remembers everything, says Carl Fisher, who drove the convertible in the Pioneer Days Parade. Fisher is senior vice commander of the VFW post.
“People were just applauding him, running up to the car and taking pictures and he was taking pictures of the crowd,’ Fisher said. ‘He got mad at the golf carts in front of him that got in the way.”
Gerold says he’s not one to brag.
“I just keep living, that’s all,” he said. “I don’t have anything to worry about. My oldest great-grandson just started college. Everything is going along pretty good.”
Carl was born on Aug. 9, 1911, in Milwaukee, WI to Arthur and Pauline (nee Steigenberger) Gerold.
He attended public schools in Milwaukee, Fredonia, and Random Lake, WI and graduated from Random Lake High School in 1919. He then attended undergraduate school at UW Milwaukee and Madison, WI and graduated from the UW Law School in 1936.
He then began the general practice of law in Port Washington, WI for the next 40 years, mostly with the law firm of Gerold & Huiras, of which he was the founding partner.
On Dec. 18, 1937, he married Mary Ketel, in Ladysmith, WI. They enjoyed 69 years of marriage.
In October, 1943, Carl joined the Navy as a Lt.jg and served 28 months as Executive Officer aboard a LST in the Pacific Theatre.
After returning from service, Carl became an active member of the Port Washington community, belonging to a number of organizations including Rotary, Barbershoppers, Ozaukee Lodge#17, UCC, and serving on the school board.
In the mid-sixties Carl and Mary built the then modern nursing home, Heritage, which continues to operate today. Upon retirement in 1975 he and Mary split their time with winters in Englewood, FL and summers at Rock Dam, Willard, WI.
In Englewood, he was a member of Rotary, Elks, VFW, Community Presbyterian Church, Sunnybrook Alliance Church, and a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity.
He is survived by his son John (Geri) Gerold, Madison, WI, and daughter Paula (Robert) Schreiner, Lake Mills, Iowa.
He is also survived by six grandchildren; Mark (Holly) Schreiner, Mary (Charles) Anderson, David Gerold, Lisa (Geovanny) Sarmiento, and Amy (Steve) Carpenter; seven great-grandchildren, Drew and Alex Anderson, Nathan and Joey Schreiner, Zach and Finn Carpenter and Zolia and Viviana Sarmiento. He was preceded in death by his wife Mary, and granddaughter, Denise Schreiner.
A Celebration of Life service will be held at Sunnybrook Alliance Church, 6401 Sunnybrook Blvd, Englewood, FL, on Thursday, January 10th at 11:00 a.m.
Inurnment will be at a later date in Neillsville, WI.
In lieu of flowers memorials may be sent to any organization of your choice.
Fishing was his great love. The ship has left port and has sailed into the sunset.
Online Condolences may be made at http://www.geschefh.com.