THE PRIDE OF DAGGETT
Owen Hammerberg was born on May 31, 1920 in the small village of Daggett in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Prior to service, Owen lived with his father downstate in Flint and worked as a shop clerk. In 1941, he enlisted with the Navy as a diver, serving on both the Battleship USS Idaho and Sub Chaser USS Advent. He attended Deep Sea Diving School in Washington DC in 1944 and eventually was assigned to the Pacific Fleet Salvage Force in Pearl Harbor, in the territory of Hawaii. These experiences would prepare him for an assignment where his bravery and skill would excel and consequently call his life to an abrupt end.
His naval citation reads: “Hammerberg by his cool judgement, unfaltering professional skill, and consistent disregard of all danger in the face of tremendous odds, had contributed effectively to the saving of his two comrades… he gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.”
NO HESITATION, JUST INTENSE SELF SACRIFICE
On February 17, 1945 Owen Hammerberg rescued two fellow divers trapped under the hulk of a mud bound sunken ship in Pearl Harbor. After several hours of working in 40 feet deep, black water, Owen freed the first trapped man. Without rest, he next moved far under the buried ship, reaching a spot above the second trapped diver.
A heavy piece of steel dropped on upon him and pinned him crosswise over his friend. Bearing all the weight from the steel, Owen protected him until he could be freed. Hammerberg later perished in a hospital.
His parents – Jonas Hammerberg and Elizabeth Moss accepted the posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor on his behalf. On August 19, 1954, his mother christened a destroyer escort named the USS Hammerberg to perpetuate the memory of his heroics. This ship stayed in service short of two decades and was decommissioned and sold for scrap in December 1973. Owen continues to be honored with two memorials – a Detroit playground at West Chicago and Wyoming; a memorial in Veterans Park in Stephenson, MI erected by VFW Post 5966.