Halge Hojem Smestad Jr., was born May 19, 1919, in Murray County, Minnesota, in the southwest corner of the state. His father ran the general store in Dovray, a village of about 100. His mother, Mathilda Hojem Smestad, ran the post office out of the same building starting in 1928.
The son graduated from Westbrook High School in 1937 and enlisted in the Navy on July 20, 1938.
He first served on a cruiser, the U.S.S. Houston. In a letter in early 1940 to his uncle Thorvald Madson back in Minnesota, he described a “smoker” aboard ship the night before that featured boxing and wrestling matches, music, and sandwiches and beer. “It was just my tough luck to have the watch so I missed out. But there will come a day. Every dog has his day you know. I wonder when this pup will have this — two and a half years from now when I get payed off.”
Mr. Smestad, whose first name was pronounced Hal-gee, transferred to the battleship Arizona in May 1940. He was a radioman second class when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.
The local newspaper, the Dovray Herald, said “he was recognized as a Murray County boy who had made good. Halge was most sociable and had a pleasing personality coupled with a strong faith and a clear concept of right and wrong.”
His only brother, Lowell, enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1942 and was a radioman on a B-24 bomber. He served until late 1945. Lowell became a Lutheran pastor. When he died in 2005, his newspaper obituary said Halge’s death “was a loss from which Lowell never really recovered.”
There is a cenotaph for Halge Smestad at Our Savior’s Cemetery in Dovray.
Sources: Special thanks to Linda Munsey for the photos and much of the research for this profile. Other sources include: The Globe-Gazette of Mason City, Iowa; the Argus-Leader of Sioux Falls, SouthDakota; the Westbrook (Minnesota) Sentinel Tribune; the Dovray (Minnesota) Herald; Census; Navy muster roll. This profile was researched and written by Bobbi Jo Buel on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.