Each of our veterans has his or her own unique story to tell about their experiences in the U.S. armed forces. We are pleased to share a few of them with you.
(Glen Ellyn, IL) Lou Hoornbeek learned about patriotism from his father, who had been a lieutenant in the U.S. Army during World War I. After the war his father was the commander of the American Legion post in Ellenville, New York, which is Lou’s hometown. His father was also a member of the local draft board during WWII. Lou watched his father through the years and absorbed lessons of patriotism and sacrifice. When the Korean War broke out, Lou knew what he would do. At the time he was in his junior year at Union College in Schenectady, but he went to the local Naval Reserve Center and enlisted. This led to service in the Navy and Naval Reserve for almost twenty-five years, and included delivering planes and equipment to American and NATO forces in Korea during the Korean War.
After enlisting in the Navy, Lou was fortunate enough to be selected for the Reserve Officer Candidate program. He started training shortly thereafter, including two summers in California, and in 1952 was commissioned as an Ensign. In 1952 he reported for duty aboard the USS Corregidor, which is where he would spend most of the next two years. The Corregidor was an escort carrier, which is a small aircraft carrier that was originally constructed during WWII. Its primary mission was to deliver planes (mostly F84’s) to NATO countries as well as to Japan, from where they would be flown to Korea for use in the Korean War. During his time on the ship, Lou travelled all over the world, covering about 154,000 miles. Since there was a war going on, whenever they sailed to Japan they traveled in a convoy. Although the risk of enemy attack was low they wanted to be cautious, and they also used it as an opportunity for training. They sailed mostly in the Atlantic, but they made two trips to Japan and crossed through the Panama Canal three times.
While onboard, Lou was an officer in the Command Information Center, which is the “eyes and ears” of the ship. He also was the Operations Watch Officer and the Junior Officer of the Deck and also the Officer of the Deck when they were in port. He says they were always training, even when they were underway, which was the vast majority of the time. On the few occasions when they were in port in New York, he’d take an extra watch for the married officers. They would return the favor for him when they were in port abroad. Coincidentally his first port of call was at Alameda, California and after sailing all over the world, his last stop before being discharged was once again in Alameda, even though he never stopped there in between.
After leaving active duty in 1954, Lou decided that while he didn’t want to make a career out of the Navy, he wanted to join the Naval Reserve. He enjoyed the Navy, and he thinks the Navy training was excellent and he wanted to keep up with it. But the overriding reason for remaining part of the Navy was a sense of patriotism that was instilled in him by his father. Lou went on to spend 18 years in the Naval Reserve, which required him to do forty drills per year as well as two weeks of training a year (which could be ship or land assignments.) Every year he was given an assignment and he’s very proud of many of the things he achieved while in the reserves, including developing and running war games and developing new technologies as part of the Office of Naval Research. He was promoted twice while in the reserves, eventually retiring in 1976 as a Lieutenant Commander with a total of nearly twenty-five years of service in the Navy.
Given the nature of the conflicts the United States was involved in while Lou was in the reserves, he never really thought he’d get called up, but he always needed to be prepared just in case he was needed. By sheer coincidence he was almost involved in a Cold War incident that could’ve evolved into a major conflict. In 1961 he was scheduled to do his two-week reserve training aboard the USS Northampton. When he first got to the ship he was told that there wasn’t much going on and that he wouldn’t have a lot to do. However shortly thereafter they were told that they were going to sail off the coast of Florida for an exercise. Once they were there they found out that they were actually part of the naval force that was designed to support the Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba. The invasion failed before the U.S. intervened and the Navy never got involved. Those were some fairly tense days though and it’s an amazing coincidence that Lou would happen to be onboard that particular ship in those particular days to do his training. As it turned out after Lou’s two weeks ended, he was flown off the Northampton and after making a number of stops, he made it back to Pittsburgh just in time to meet up with his wife at the bank, so they could buy their first house. The life of a Reserve Officer!
After being discharged, Lou went to Cornell to work on his MBA, receiving the degree in 1956. After that he worked in a number of administrative roles at Westinghouse, Burroughs, Pratt & Whitney, TRW, Argonne National Laboratory, and Illinois Institute of Technology. At Westinghouse he was involved in the purchasing of naval equipment for nuclear subs and aircraft carriers, including the USS Enterprise. Most of the roles were in aerospace companies and he calls himself an “aerospace gypsy.” He moved all over the country in these roles, including stops in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, California, and Illinois. He eventually retired in 1990 and has lived in the same house in Glen Ellyn for the past 45 years.
Lou has stayed very active in military affairs since his departure from the reserve. He’s been involved in the Naval Reserve Association as well as the Military Officer’s association, both of which focus on supporting the military and lobbying congress on issues that are important to the military. He was president of the Forest Park chapter of the Naval Reserve Association and during his tenure, it was chosen as the outstanding chapter in the country in 1980.
In 1957 Lou married Lynda, a woman he had met while at Cornell, and they’re now approaching their 60th anniversary. They have three sons and six grandchildren, ranging in age from 12 to 23. Lou is very appreciative of all the extra challenges that Lynda overcame while raising their children alone for long stretches while he was off doing drills and training for the Naval Reserve. Their children have scattered around the country but Lou and Lynda keep in touch with them and this past summer were able to have a family reunion. As if seeing the world from the USS Corregidor wasn’t enough, Lou and Lynda have spent a lot of time traveling around the world. Lou also plays tenor sax in a Dixieland jazz group that entertains folks in retirement homes.
Thank you Lou for your service, and we hope you enjoy your well-deserved Honor Flight!!!