On December 7, 1941, 17-year-old Al Crawford asked his father if he could join the Navy. His father’s response was swift: “One less mouth to feed.” Those five words launched Al’s long military career.
In WWII, Al served on the USS Swivel (ARS-36), which saw duty at Normandy. He was also part of the rescue operation sent to the sinking of the SS Leopoldville on Christmas Eve, 1945.
Having signed up for “Regular” rather than “Reserve” duty in 1941, Al was called back into service after WWII and ended up serving in the Navy until 1980, when he retired at the rank of Master Chief Petty Officer, the highest enlisted rank in the United States Navy.
For a while during the war the Swivel’s crew cleared mines and rescued ships in French harbors and along the Seine River. “We loved the French people,” Al reflects. “We felt sorry for them. They had nothing.” Although illegal, the Americans helped the French receive food and other essential supplies through the black market—a lucrative venture but dangerous as well.
A fifty-cent pack of cigarettes and a “free” case of government issued canned meat could fetch a hundred dollars on the streets of Le Harve. A lot of Al’s buddies really took advantage of the French, but many were swindled by shady civilians as well.
On January 27, 2012, the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative invited Albert Crawford to speak about his WW II experience as a Quartermaster in the United States Navy. Mr. Crawford’s interview was conducted by historian Todd DePastino, and it was recorded in both audio and video formats at the Father Ryan Arts Center in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania.
One Less Mouth to Feed: How I Joined the Navy
In this video short by Chris Rolinson, Albert Crawford talks about his father’s reaction when he told him that he was joining the Navy in WW II.
In My Own Words
Listen to Albert Crawford’s complete audio interview. An archival version of this interview is available upon request for research and educational purposes.
The Final Story
Albert N. Crawford (“Big Al”) of Coraopolis, at age 90, was called to be with his heavenly father on October 11, 2014. It was the joy of his life to serve the Lord. Born June 24, 1924, in Pittsburgh, to the late Ida Herrmann and George Crawford of the North Side. Albert served his God, country, family and friends with an unwavering sense of honor and commitment.
Albert retired from the U.S. Navy in 1980 after 38 years service as a Master Chief Petty Officer. He enlisted at the age of 17, immediately after Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, ultimately serving in the D-Day invasion of WWII, as well as the Korean and Vietnam Wars, across his accomplished military career. He was recently bestowed France’s highest distinction, the French Legion of Honor medal, for his contribution to France’s liberation from German occupation during World War II. After his retirement, he worked for the Port Authority and the Post Office. He was a member of the Veterans Club, Naval Enlisted Reserve Association and West Ridge Christian Community Church.
Albert enjoyed e-mailing his friends and researching military history. He was an extremely generous man who befriended everyone he met, always had a story to share, and made lasting impressions upon us all. He is survived by his loving wife of 42 years, Eileen Mary Bell Crawford; his children, Albert Crawford, Jr., Bobby Crawford, Jonathan Crawford and Kathleen Crawford; daughter-in-laws, Darlene Crawford and Sarah Crawford; four grandchildren, Mark, Megan, Noah, Wesley; and six great-grandchildren, Benjamin, Lilly, Mark, Kaden, Noble, Thea, Nova; and preceded in death by six siblings. Friends were received at the Copeland Moon Twp. Funeral Home, where a service was held, followed by interment in the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies with full military honors.