In the display of uniforms in the Veterans Memorial Hall is the uniform bearing the two stars of a Rear Admiral. Grant County, Minnesota being about as far from an ocean as one can get, an admiral that was born there is somewhat unexpected.
Rear Admiral Victor A. Dybdal was born in Grant County May 20, 1914, On graduation from Fergus Falls High School, he entered the Naval Academy, graduating with the Class of 1938 as an Ensign and attaining the rank of Rear Admiral January 1, 1967.
On December 7, 1941 Dybdal was a Lieutenant Junior Grade aboard the destroyer USS Helm (DD-388) stationed.at Pearl Harbor. He had been appointed gunnery officer a week or two before, and had controlled the main gun battery firing only once in practice. At 07:26, Dybdal was at his station aft in charge of mooring lines as the Helm got underway for a routine move to another part of Pearl Harbor. At 07:59. Japanese planes appeared. At 08:20, Dybdal was at his battle station high up in Helm’s gun director controlling main battery fire. For real this time – targeting an enemy submarine.
He was probably aboard Helm off Guadalcanal when she provided shore bombardment of Blue Beach for the assault landing by the Marine 1st Raider Battalion on Tulagi Island. Helm was screening the heavy cruiser USS Astoria (CA-34) during the desperate Battle of Savo Island the night of August 8-9, 1942, later stood by Astoria when she was dead in water, afire, and sinking. Later that day, Helm transported survivors of USS Vincennes (CA-44) and USS Quincy (CA-39) to transports off Guadalcanal.
Dybdal was transferred to USS Morrison (DD-560) as Executive Officer sometime in 1943-1944. In April, 1944, the Morrison provided aircraft carrier screening for operations in the Admiralty and Caroline Islands. In June, 1944, she provided gunfire support for the Saipan landings. Morrison was assigned to screen the light carrier USS Princeton (CVL-23) conducting air strikes off Luzon in the Philippines during September, 1944. The Morrison was a very lucky ship. On September 24, a single Japanese dive bomber scored a hit on Princeton, starting a severe fire on the hanger deck. Morrison came alongside to take off personnel. Her mast and stack became wedged between Princeton’s boiler intakes. After an hour, she finally freed herself and retired with damage to her superstructure. Then the light cruiser USS Birmingham (CL-62) moved in to take her place. A few minutes later, Princeton’s magazines exploded, raking Birmingham’s decks with debris that left half her crew dead or wounded.
After December, 1944, Dybdal became Commanding Officer of USS Drayton (DD-366). Drayton operated in the Philippines in early 1945, giving fire support for the Lingayen Gulfs, Mangarin Bay, Puerto Princesa, Cebu, Ormoc Bay, and Masbate City landings. At the end of April, 1945, she participated in the invasion of Borneo, remaining there until the end of July, 1945. With the war ended, the Drayton returned to New York in September, 1945.
After the Second World War, Dybdal had a distinguished career rising to positions of greater authority and responsibility, including heading the Fleet Training Center, San Diego, Staff Officer to the Navy Deputy of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Forces Europe, Chief of Staff for the Commander Seventh Fleet from 1964-1966, Commander Amphibious Group One Pacific Fleet, and Commander Naval Forces Korea. Admiral Dybdal retired on July 1, 1972.
Perhaps fittingly, Admiral Dybdal’s naval career came full circle December 7, 1989 when he spoke at the Arizona Memorial about his experiences 48 years before. Admiral Dybdal told of his special feeling for the Arizona and for three friends still aboard her. You see, he served with them on USS Arizona from 1938 to 1939, when he was transferred to USS Helm.
Admiral Dybdal died August 4, 1996 at the age of 82 and is buried along with his wife at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Punchbowl in Honolulu, Hawaii.
By Don McCollor 1.12.22
Grant County Historical Society Archives. Biography and transcript of address given December 7, 1989 at the USS Arizona Memorial Visitors Center.
USS Helm Action Report Pearl Harbor
Account of USS Helm in WW2
Warship Wednesday (on a Tuesday), Dec. 7, 2021: Of RADM Helm & PO1c Hirano
NO LONGER A STRANGER
Sergeant Herbert L. Legg never lived in Grant County, but he died in Barrett, MN and is buried in the Barrett Union Cemetery. His is a story of the special bond between veterans.
Sergeant Legg had been honorably discharged after served in Company I, 76th Infantry during World War I. On Friday November 16, 1928 between Norcross and Charlesville he fell from a flatcar he was riding and fell under the wheels of the train. With both legs severed, he was taken by a passerby to Dr. Leland in Herman. The doctor had him taken to the hospital in Barrett, where he died the next day. His parents promised to pay the costs of his care and burial, and asked that he be buried in the cemetery there.
Sergeant Legg was a stranger in Grant County, with no nearby friends or relatives. The Carl A. Hanson American Legion Post took charge of the funeral arrangements The funeral service was conducted by Reverend Ivar Sandberg of Our Saviors Lutheran Church at the Haugen undertaking parlor. Six veterans Sergeant Legg had never met were his pallbearers. He was buried at Union cemetery with the volleys fired over his grave in final tribute to a good soldier.
Veterans take care of their own.
By Don McCollor 1.12.22
Grant County Herald November 21, 1928 “Both legs severed by train. Former Service Man Met With Fatal Accident Friday.
Grant County Herald November 28, 1928 “Died Among Strangers; Buried With Military Honors”.