Branch: U. S. Navy
Status: Deceased Veteran
Date of Service: WWII, Korea
Home Town: Popple Township
Ernest Milton Stavig was born on June 20, 1916 in East Grand Forks, MN (Polk County) to parents Bernt and Jetta Cherum Stavig. He was baptized on October 1, 1916, at the United Lutheran Church, Grand Forks, ND. The Stavig family later moved to a farm in Popple Township where Ernest and his five brothers (Bennie, Reuben, George, Halcomb, and Arnold) and four sisters (Alice, Tilda, Josie and Doris) all attended Minnow Lake School (now Popple Town Hall.) Ernest was the youngest brother.
Ernest attended school through the 8th grade; then went to work on the family farm. He enlisted in the Navy on December 8, 1937 in Minneapolis and was sent for training (Great Lakes Recruit Training Center, north of Chicago, IL) to be a boatswain’s mate.
His first duty was aboard the USS West Virginia (BB-48), a dreadnought battleship. The West Virginia was moored in Battleship Row the morning of December 7, 1941 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The ship was badly damaged by torpedoes and sank in the shallow water, but was later refloated and rebuilt. Ernest was re-assigned to the USS Minneapolis (CA-36). He went on to serve on the USS Guam, a Navy battle cruiser, during the battle for Okinawa in March of 1945.
Ernest served in the South Pacific for the duration of the war. Three ships were sunk beneath him during this time and he remembered how the sea would be aflame with burning oil. He credited being an excellent swimmer for helping him survive. He was in nine battles in the Pacific Theater, including the Battle of the Coral Sea; the Battle of Midway; the Battle of Tassafaronga, the Battle of the Philippine Sea; and the Battle of Surigao Strait.
After World War II ended, Ernest decided to make the US Navy a career.
Ernest Stavig married Virginia Sander on December 20, 1946. They had two children, Clare and Michael. They also had an adopted daughter Darlene.
Ernest and Virginia made their home in various parts of the United States, depending on where he was stationed.
Ernest also served during the Korean Conflict. It was during this conflict, when he was serving aboard the USS Pictor, an Alstede Class Stores ship; when the unthinkable occurred. Ernest Milton Stavig died on September 30, 1954 from non-battle injuries at the Adak Naval Air Station, Aleutian Islands, Alaska. A fire truck in which he was riding overturned and pinned him underwater, causing him to drown.
He had served in the Navy for 17 years and was three years short of retirement.
Ernest’s body was returned to Minnesota and is buried in the Bagley City Cemetery.
Plot: 7 Side: South Row from Bottom: 3
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