TORRINGTON – Henry Korell, a young farmer in the Lingle/Torrington area, spent his World War II service in the U.S. Navy, thanks to a mail theft from the Torrington Post Office that just happened to contain his invitation from Uncle Sam to join the U.S. Army.
According to Korell’s account in a booklet that he put together in 1999, by coincidence, the news of his enlisting in the Navy and the report on the apprehension of the thieves were both on the front page of the Nov. 4, 1942, edition of the Torrington Telegram.
Henry’s son, Wayne, submitted the information which he thought was appropriate since it has been 75 years this month since the events took place.
“I just thought it would be a good way to honor him, and others, who served in that war,” Wayne Korell said.
In his account, Henry wrote: “During fall harvest on the farm, I noticed in Friday’s Torrington Telegram that I was to be inducted into the Army. I was scheduled to report to Denver on Monday morning. I was taken by surprise because I had not received notice by mail.
I always felt that if I ever had to go to the service, the Navy would be my preference. So, on Saturday night, I met the Navy recruiter on Main Street in Torrington and told him I wanted to enlist in the Navy. He then suggested that I come in Monday morning, and since Monday was the deadline, I told him I wanted to do it before Monday. He told me to come in Sunday morning and he would enlist me in the Navy.
I then reported to Cheyenne for my physical, and Tuesday night I was headed for Farragut, Idaho, Naval Training Station.
Only later did I find out why I was not notified by mail. A couple stole some mail, and my “greetings” was among the mail that was stolen. The stolen mail was kept for evidence, so my notice of induction was not received until several months later when I was already out to sea.
Some 35 years later, when Lois (Long) Morel was cleaning her mother’s house she came across the newspaper with the article on the front page about my enlisting in the Navy, and thought I might be interested in having it. She was unaware of the connection with the mail theft. Ironically, the article about the mail theft and my enlistment appeared on the front page in the same
The article on the theft explained the local Postmaster, D.T. Shoemaker, learned a man and woman had been apprehended at Deadwood, S.D., in connection with a robbery in that locality, and had confessed. The two states were to determine which crime would receive precedent
Korell’s Naval career was spent in the Pacific Theatre. His wife, Rachael, and small son, Bobby, joined him when possible, when he was in the United States.
Korell served 16 months on the LST 462 during his first tour of duty. He returned to the United States for reassignment, which took him to the LST 802.
According to Korell, an LST, or Landing Ship-Tank, was the largest of the amphibian ships, at 328 feet long and 50 feet wide, and was four decks high. They carried a wide variety of supplies and equipment. As many as 10 30-ton tanks could be carried in her deck. He explained that on one normal load of fuel, an LST could cruise around the world at 10 knots without refueling. It also had plenty of fire power to ward off enemy ships and
He arrived at Pearl Harbor on Feb. 4, 1945, having come from Florida by way of the Panama Canal, San Diego and San Francisco. From there, they sailed for the Pacific islands and participated in the invasion of Okinawa. He was in the Leyte Gulf, near the Philippine Islands in the South Pacific, when the war ended on Sept. 2.
“If I was to comment on the most grueling period of the war, it would be during the Okinawa campaign,” Korell wrote, citing the desperation of the Japanese and the damage they inflicted on U.S. air power, ships, and troops as the end of the
He eventually “hitched” a ride back to the United States on the carrier Ticonderoga. He landed in San Francisco, and went by train to Bremerton, Wash., where he was discharged on Oct. 14, and rode a bus back to Wyoming where he met his second son, Wayne, who was born in June 1945.
Korell’s Naval occupation was as a signalman, responsible for sending and receiving Morse Code, and by semaphore. He learned to recognize 65 different flags and pennants, and how to apply proper message procedure.
Wayne Korell said his father still remembered the signals decades later.
Henry returned to live a full life, contributing to his Goshen County community in many ways, including 16 years as a county
He passed away April 11, 2015. His four surviving children, Wayne, Alan, Kathy and Kayleen made their homes in the North Platte Valley also.
Excluding the post office theft, stories similar to Korell’s have been repeated thousands of times across the United States during times of war.
“Dad’s story is a peoples’ story, and I thought others would be interested,” Wayne Korell said, as he sorted through dozens of family pictures on his dining room table.