By Christine Baldwin
Herbert Outlaw was born in 1918 in Aulander, NC. He wanted to join the Navy in 1939, but they wouldn’t take him, so he went to live with his sister in Norfolk, VA and got a job making $.25 an hour. In February 1940, the Navy had a change of heart and Herbert joined at $21.00 a month (plus room and board). It worked out that this was a raise in pay!
Herbert’s first assignment was five months aboard a WWI Destroyer DD93. He then went to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where he served on a supply ship until after December 7, 1941. Since his records showed that he had been on a Destroyer, Herbert was assigned to this type of vessel. In the summer of 1942, he was on a shakedown cruise to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. On the way back, a German submarine wolfpack torpedoed them. Fortunately, the lookout saw the wake of the torpedo and they were able to avoid the hit. Other assignments included being an escort of an Army convoy to North Africa and taking supplies through the Panama Canal.
In January 1943, aboard the USS CHEVALIER (DD 451), a convoy left for Guadalcanal as a covering force. Two days out of port, one of the convoys, the USS CHICAGO fell victim to a night torpedo plane attack. Many on board were able to be picked up by the USS LOUISVILLE. In May 1943, the CHEVALIER was used to protect three minelayers as they set mines in the Blackett Strait. In this, the mission was a complete success. Herbert was based about thirty miles below the Japanese lines. Roughly, every third night, they would go up to the islands and bombard the shore installations. On October 5, 1943, the CHEVALIER, along with the USS SELFRIDGE and USS O’BANNON were sent to intercept an evacuation of the island of Kolombangara. Three other Destroyers were supposed to meet them, but had not come by the time they got to the island. At this point there were five enemy ships protecting the evacuation. A leading Japanese ship, the YUGUMO, fired her torpedoes before being hit and disabled by an American torpedo. However, one of YUGUMO’s torpedoes had hit the port bow of the CHEVALIER, tearing the bow off to the bridge and throwing the ship out of control. Fortunately, Herbert was at the other end and was able to be picked up by the O’BANNON. By this time, the other three Destroyers had arrived and made an unsuccessful sweep for enemy barges.
Due to the war, it has only taken Herbert 4 ½ years to make Chief Petty Officer, E-7. He had a great career. Being single he saw the world and enjoyed all the major cities. His favorite place was Long Beach, CA. Herbert retired after 19 years and 6 months and became a furniture salesman with Sears for another 18 years, when he truly retired. He came to AFRH-W in 2004, though he still maintains his home in Virginia. In May of this year, at the age of 95, Herbert needed a new driver’s license. He got one and it will expire when he is 103. So he decided he would buy a new car, and bought a Cadillac!