Navy life was a ‘learning experience’

T-R PHOTO BY CHUCK FRIEND Marshalltown native Richard Huff points to a location on a map of the South Pacific where he spent most of his time in the Navy.

Editor’s note: This is the latest in an ongoing series of articles profiling those who have ever served in the U.S. military, be it overseas or stateside. Every Thursday, a new profile will be published in the T-R.

Following graduation from Marshalltown High School in 1948, Richard Huff had no specific plans for his life and decided to join the U.S. Navy.

After two and one half years at sea, Huff called the Navy a learning experience. “You grew up fast,” he remarked.

Although serving during the time of the Korean War, Huff said he never was on mainland Korea, but spent most of those years on the water. He began his training at boot camp in San Diego, Calif., and said that his life changed dramatically after that time.

Huff reported that he and eight of his unit were picked to go to Vallejo, Calif., and were told that they would be assigned to the USS Iowa.

However when they got there, they quickly learned that this was going to be a decommissioning mission for the Iowa (the first time it was decommissioned).

“It was really one of the biggest letdowns of our lives not to be on it,” Huff said. “But what made up for it was the fact that the USS Hornet which Doolittle flew off of was docked right next to the Iowa,” Huff said.

He said that while decommissioning the USS Iowa in February and March of 1949, he and his unit members worked in the topside cabin that had been occupied by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Following that assignment, Huff was reclassified and sent to San Pedro, Calif., and assigned to the destroyer DD-846 the USS Ozbourn. This was one in a pack of four destroyers assigned to open water patrolling in the South Pacific. Huff’s main duty on this destroyer was to work in the engine room — where he said he was responsible for helping to “give the speed.”

They went on several shakedown cruises — the first ending in tragedy as one of the other destroyers collided with the Ozbourn. Huff said they had to back into Pearl Harbor to make repairs. For the second shakedown cruise the Ozbourn was assigned to the aircraft carrier in the Philippine Sea.

Jets were just coming into their own and the pilots were just learning to land on the carriers. “Many did not,” Huff said, “So it was our duty to rescue the pilots who did not land on the decks.”

During the presidency of Harry Truman, Huff said Congress was fighting a budget war and more that 300,000 sailors were cut. Huff was discharged in 1951in San Francisco. He returned home to Marshalltown and pursued a 37-year career at Lennox Industries working for John Norris in engineering and with the head of Carrier Corporation in designing air conditioner compressors.

What Huff is most proud of is, that his family served in three different wars — all in the Navy: His brother, Bill, in World War II; himself in Korea; and his son, David, in Vietnam. Two other brothers served their country in the U.S. Army.


Do you know a military veteran who should be profiled? Send your suggestions to Editor Jeff Hutton at: or contact American Legion Post 46 Commander Randy Kessler at: