Branch: Merchant Marine
Rank: Able-bodied Seaman
Status: Lost at sea
Date of Service: WWI
Home Town: Copley Township
Newpaper article about the S S Lake City and S S James McGee collision
Julius Norby was born December 1, 1892 in Leonard, North Dakota to parents Aslak J. and Anna P. Norby. Aslak was a Norwegian immigrant who had come to the United States at age 15 and stayed in the home of an uncle and aunt in Goodhue County for a few years. There he met and married Anna Brandvold in 1891. They moved to North Dakota in a covered wagon and farmed there a few years before moving back to Minnesota. The year was 1902 when Aslak, Anna and six of their children moved to a 40-acre farm in Section 1 of Copley Township in Clearwater County, where they farmed for 32 years. Julius was born second among siblings Ida (1891), Peter (1894), Anna (1896), twins Rasmus and Avle (1899) and Alice (1907).
Julius attended school through the eighth grade and then went to work for his father on the home farm. He was a tall young 24-year-old with hazel eyes and brown hair when he registered for the draft on June 5, 1917.
Julius decided to join the Merchant Marine to help out his country. The Merchant Marine primarily transports cargo and passengers during peacetime, but in times of war, the Merchant Marine becomes an auxiliary to the United States Navy and delivers military personnel and materiel for the military.
Julius was aboard the S S Lake City, an American cargo steamer, when it collided with the S S James McGee near Key West Florida on October 3, 1918. The McGee, a steamship built by Maryland Steel Co. in 1917, was the property of the Standard Oil Company with a home port in New York City. The Lake City was on course east by north and the McGee on course west by south. The Lake City made out the McGee’s green light two points off the port bow, but the latter’s masthead light was on Lake City’s starboard bow. Even though the Lake City was a large vessel of 3,500 gross tons, it foundered and sank. The McGee was not seriously damaged and proceeded to port. The Lake City was cut in two and went down in three minutes with 30 of its 35 crew members. Among the lost mariners was Julius Norby. His body was never recovered.