|Victory Medal w/Transport Clasp|
Sunday, November 10, 2013
Albert H. Pastoor (1898-1949)
On this Veteran’s Day 2013, I am thinking about my grandfather, Albert Herman Pastoor who served during World War I in the U.S. Navy. Sadly, I never got the chance to meet him; he died long before I was born.
Albert H. Pastoor was born on January 30, 1898, in South Brooklyn, New York, the third child of his German immigrant parents, Albert and Anna (Kolb) Pastoor. The family was not wealthy, as evidenced by their moving frequently from one tenement house to another. As a cook, Albert senior probably did not make much money. Since he worked in the transportation business, it seems likely he worked along the Brooklyn docks, maybe working in a kitchen to help feed the longshoremen. My grandfather had two siblings who died in early childhood. A sister died just months after his mother gave birth to another sister, and a brother died as an infant from pneumonia. I imagine the living conditions were crowded and unhealthy and life at home was a struggle.
In contrast, during the time he lived there, industry in Brooklyn was booming. Brooklyn was one of the nation’s leading producers of manufactured goods. It also had sugar refineries which produced more than half the nation’s sugar. The Williamsburg Bridge, the world’s largest suspension bridge at the time, was built, as was the city’s first subway, and Ebbets Field, the home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Work was plentiful, but it wasn’t always safe or healthy. Chances are good that Albert worked at odd jobs when a boy to help make ends meet at home.
When Albert was ten years old, his father became so gravely ill that he was sent away to a state hospital, never to come home again, and died three years later. Shortly after, his mother started to display signs of illness, eventually dying when Albert was 16 years old.
From a young age, my grandfather’s parents were negligent or absent, not from choice, but because of poverty, sickness and death. Between the ages of 10 and 16, Albert had to deal with both parents being ill and probably struggled to make ends meet, especially after his father fell sick and could not work. I imagine my young grandfather roaming the streets of South Brooklyn and winding up on the waterfront. By the time he joined the Navy, he had numerous tattoos. I imagine tough streets and wonder if he knew Al Capone, who lived there at the same time as my grandfather. I wonder if Albert watched the freighters sail into the busiest freight port in the world or stood looking at the Statue of Liberty across the Bay. I wonder if he ever visited the U.S. Navy Yard, where the USS Arizona was being built, or if he ever crossed the Brooklyn Bridge.
In 1915, Woodrow Wilson was president and Europe was engaged in World War I. Earlier that year, the Lusitania was sunk by the Germans. By that time, Albert was 17 years old and living with his married sister in Annapolis, Maryland, and it was there that Helen signed his consent to join the U.S. Navy. When the United States became involved in the war in April 1917, Albert was a seaman serving aboard the battleship USS Texas.
On December 6, 1917, my grandfather was in Halifax, Nova Scotia, aboard the USS Old Colony which was dry docked for boiler repairs. That was the day two ships collided near Halifax harbor. One of them, a French freighter, the SS Mont-Blanc, was carrying wartime explosives. Shortly after the collision, a fire broke out on the Mont-Blanc causing a “cataclysmic explosion” that was deemed to be the largest man-made explosion prior to the development of nuclear weapons. The USS Old Colony had received little damage and was converted to a hospital ship to care for the estimated 9000 wounded. My grandfather received a commendation for his work during the Halifax disaster.
Albert also served aboard the USS Wachusetts, a cargo ship sailing to Brest, France, to bring supplies to the US Army in 1918. For his service aboard both the USS Old Colony and the USS Wachusetts, Albert Herman Pastoor was awarded the Victory Medal and Transport Clasp.
My grandfather reenlisted two more times, serving out the rest of his military career at the Naval Ammunitions Depot on Iona Island, New York. He was honorably discharged on December 17, 1922 with a rank of Boatswain's Mate Second Class.
He left a legacy of which he could be proud. All three of his sons joined the military, his oldest serving during WWII. Of his three grandsons, two have made careers in the military, both serving during peace and wartime.
So this Veterans’ Day, I salute and honor my grandfather, Albert Herman Pastoor. I don’t know much about him, but what I do know makes me proud to be his granddaughter.
Compiled service record, Albert H. Pastoor personnel file, service no. 1521327, (discharged 1921); Official Military Personnel Files, World War I; Enlisted Personnel, 1885 - 1951, United States Navy; National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis; photocopies supplied by Center without citation.
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Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Ships of the Halifax Explosion. https://maritimemuseum.novascotia.ca/research/ships-halifax-explosion: accessed 10 Nov 2013
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