During the month of June, the 535th flag to fly atop the Old Glory Tower in the North End honors CWO (Chief Warrant Office) and Chief Aerographer, Olaf A. Thoen, a career Navy veteran who served in the U.S. Navy for over 30 years, surviving the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle Midway.
It is fitting that Thoen is being honored during the month of June 2017, marking the 75th Anniversary of the sinking of the USS Yorktown during the Battle of Midway, which took place on June 7, 1942.
Thoen was born in New Bedford on August 23, 1909 and resided at 47 Jonathan Street with his family. He attended New Bedford High school and enlisted in the United States Navy on Oct. 17, 1927, in Newport, RI.
During Thoen’s 30 years of active duty military service he experienced first hand the tragedy of war. His duty assignments included being stationed in Hawaii during the attack on Pearl Harbor, serving aboard the carrier Yorktown during the Battle of Midway, a crewmember aboard the dirigibles, the Akron and Macon as well as being stationed in Lakehurst, NJ during the Hindenburg disaster. After being discharged from active duty, Thoen enlisted in the US Naval Reserve until his death on Dec. 31, 1964 at the age of 55 in Lomond, CA.
Olaf’s brother, David Thoen, of New Bedford, explained that CWO Olaf Thoen served aboard the airships USS Akron and USS Macon and as luck would have it, was not on either ship when they went down. “He had been stationed aboard the Akron and was transferred to the Macon two weeks before the Akron went down. Then he was in sick bay when the Macon went down.”’
According to Wikipedia, the Akron and the Macon were “the world’s largest airships.” Each “785 feet long, 133 feet in diameter and each had a capacity of 6,500,000 cubic feet of helium.” These “lighter-than-air” ships had a crew of“75 enlisted men and 13 officers.”
“An airship or dirigible balloon is a type of aerostat or lighter-than-air aircraft that can…