World War II was in its final year when New York native Herb Alberg was finally old enough to enlist. Joining the Navy, he started his active duty service in December 1944. Following basic training and follow-on instruction, Herb received orders to the Navy’s newest, largest and most advanced aircraft carrier – the USS Midway (CV-41).

Destined for the Pacific Theater to support the pending invasion of the Japanese Islands, Herb and his fellow Midway sailors prepared the carrier for its commissioning and continuing the fight. However, by the summer of 1945, with the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the war came to an abrupt end. The Japanese signed the official documents of surrender eight days before Midway joined the fleet.

“I was on the ship when she was commissioned on Sept. 10, 1945,” said Herb, who recently celebrated his 96th birthday. “It was just after the war was over, so we never went to the Pacific. We stayed on the East Coast and operated as part of the Atlantic Fleet.”

Herb Alberg, a radarman, was member of the USS Midway’s original crew in 1945.
Plankowner Herb Alberg meets Midway docent director, Jim Reily, during his first visit back to the ship after 77 years.

Trained as a radarman, Herb’s experience on Midway was focused mainly on training and “breaking in” the Navy’s newest warship. He was even on board when Midway was tasked to participate in Operation Frostbite, a test voyage in early 1946 into subarctic conditions in Canadian waters of the North Atlantic to evaluate the feasibility of conducting carrier flight operations in extreme cold.

A few months later, with the American armed forces drawing down following the war, Herb was discharged after serving only a year and a half.

“I served for the duration of the war, plus,” said Herb. “Most times, you enlist in the Navy for two years or four years, but that’s the way it was back then. Duration plus meant – whenever they let you go. By June 1946, they let me go.”

Herb left Midway that summer and never saw the ship again. That all changed in early 2023, when, after nearly 77 years, he once again walked the deck of the ship where he served as one of its original crewmembers.

Known as a plankowner, Herb was excited about finally coming back to where his service in the fleet started and ended.

“It was an opportunity,” said Herb, who visited Midway with several family members. “If I had a bucket list, this would have been on the bucket list. I don’t know how many more years I’ve got left, so that’s why I really made the trip with my family so that they can remember.”

Although Midway was his home for nearly a year, Herb was still impressed with the massive size of the carrier.

“There were so many changes on the ship,” said Herb, who made the trip to San Diego from his home on New York’s Long Island. “Seeing how large the ship really is. I didn’t take notice because I was on her every day. I sailed on her. I was really looking forward to coming back to see her again.”

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