Larson involved in bloody Battle at Iwo Jima aboard USS Pasadena

Eddie Barnett

Special to The Express


Edmund Larson was born near Alexandria, Minn. on Nov. 3, 1925. He was one of five boys and one girl in the farm family. While still in school, the family moved to town. During this period of time, young men were being recruited for the war effort. Larson was among those new 1943 high school graduates that were being recruited by all of the military services. Feeling his best option was with the Navy, Larson, 17, was among 200 young men that gathered in Minneapolis to learn more about the Navy in October 1943. 

He, along with a number of other signees, were housed at a local hotel that night, and the next day they would board a train headed to boot camp training.

Initially the destination was unknown, but this set of recruits would soon find out that they were headed for Farragut, Idaho, and boot camp. Larson and his fellow recruits arrived in late 1943 and spent the next eight weeks in rigorous Boot Camp Training at Farragut Naval Training Station (FNTS).

Following boot camp, Larson and his fellow recruits were sent to Treasure Island, San Francisco, for further training. During World War II, Treasure Island became part of the Treasure Island Naval Base, and served as an electronics and radio communications training school. It was a major Navy departure and receiving point for sailors in the Pacific aboard surface ships and submarines. 

The training was called Range Finder School. This was a period before Radar (RAdio Detection And Ranging) became the primary technical method of identification. Following Range Finder school, Larson was one of those that was sent to Boston for “pre-commissioning” on June 7, 1944. This was just a day after the Allies invaded Normandy.

Larson was one of two sailors from Minnesota that would be assigned to this new ship – the USS Pasadena CL65. The USS Pasadena CL65 was a Cleveland-class light cruiser of the United States Navy. For the next 12 weeks or so, Larson and his crew would be in anti-aircraft training. The primary objective of the cruiser class of ships, such as the USS Pasadena CL65, was to protect carriers and battleships. It was approximately 610 feet long and had a speed range of 38 miles per hour. It had a crew of roughly 1,200 officers and enlisted men. 

Larson’s primary responsibility was with the six-inch guns. He recalled that both the five inch and the 40 milimeter guns used tracers – every fourth shell fired was a tracer. This gave the crew the ability to have a visual tracking of the flight and range of the weapon and could thus be adjusted to suit the circumstance. 

On  Sept. 25, 1944, the ship and crew got underway for the Pacific Theater. They headed south with the destination being the Panama Canal. After passing through the canal, they were on course to Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean. They spent a couple of days in Hawaii for refueling and loading ammunitions. From there, they became a part of a flotilla. Flotillas often varied in number and types of ships. The USS Pasadena CL65 was part of a flotilla that included four carriers, four battleships, and four cruisers. Then their flotilla headed for the South Pacific where they would become involved in some of the heaviest fighting in all the war to-date.

Very shortly after the beginning of the battle of Iwo Jima, the flotilla that included Larson’s cruiser would arrive at Iwo Jima. They would become a part of this five-week battle that saw some of the fiercest and bloodiest fighting of the Pacific War. 

The war officially ended on Sept. 2, 1945, on the deck of the USS Missouri, when Japan signed the surrender documents. Larson was on deck of the USS Pasadena when it entered Tokyo harbor as part of the Navy’se Entourages of a variety of ships.

His ship would remain in the Tokyo Harbor Bay area until February 1946, with the occupation forces; finally setting sail for California on Jan. 19, 1946.

Ed mustered out of military service in late 1946. 

Ed’s choice was watch repair. He located a school in Albany MO that offered this type of training, as well as incorporating engraving training. So he spent the next 36 months in getting an education and training on, not only watch repair, but also making, repairing and engraving jewelry. 

It was while he was in this educational period that he met what would come to be his life long partner in marriage. Vera Jean Higginbotham was a secretary at this Albany school and she and Ed seemed to be a perfect match. History proved that it was (a perfect match). 

Following his educational experience, Ed headed to Iowa. After meeting with the president of the Iowa Watch Makers Association, he decided to take the exam that would allow him to be licensed in the State of Iowa. Then one day, a traveling salesman that routinely called on businesses such as where Ed was employed, told him of an opportunity in Red Oak Iowa, and it paid $100/week. That was a fair amount more than he was making at the time, so he took the leap and went to work for Burns and Wallick – on the square in Red Oak. After Burns bought out the store from his partner, Ed would, in turn, soon buy out Burns business. He renamed it Larson Jewelers. Ed recalls that in those days – 1950s and into the 1960s, that on Saturday night there was very little parking available on the square. Saturday nights boomed in those days before an explosive amount of television sources. 

Since there were a number of other jeweler and watch repair businesses on the square, in 1964. Ed made the decision to sell his business on the square, and moved some tools and inventory into his home on 6th and Hammon St – across the street from the Methodist Church. Herald. Smith had bought McCrary Jewelers (also on the square), so Ed went to work for Smith Jewelers. That is until Mr. Burns got sick. During this time, Connie Ayers Bergren bought Smith Jewelers, so then Ed went to work for Bergren Jewelers.

In 1999 Ed would move to a home on Woodfield Dr, and move his business interest to his home. 

Vera Jean passed away in 2003, 

The Red Oak Express

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P.O. Box 377
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