Not many U.S. Navy ships served in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters of World War II.
The Battleship USS Nevada, the only battleship to get underway during the attack on the Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor, was one of them. And Paul Shaerer of Plainfield was one of her proud 2,000-member crew.
Born in Clayton, N.J., Shaerer entered the service in June of 1943 as a selective volunteer following his graduation from high school.
“I knew as a youth that something had to be done,” he recalled of his decision to enlist.
When asked why he chose the Navy he replied, “Three meals a day and a bed to sleep in!”
Following his boot camp in Bainbridge, Md., Shaerer traveled to Boston and reported for duty as a seaman on the USS Nevada, where he was assigned as a loader for the 20 mm guns. It would be his home for the next three years.
The USS Nevada was on Atlantic Convoy duty at the time, accompanying and protecting supply ships going back and forth from New York to England.
“We were in the center and there were 50 to 60 ships all around us,” Shaerer said. “We made that trip four times. And then we stayed in the English Channel at Normandy.”
It was April of 1944 and the Allied ships were getting in position to support the D-day landing.
The Nevada went up and down the Normandy coastline shooting its 14-inch shells inland to support the landing forces. The shells traveled 14 miles inland, accurately hitting the German shore defenses.
After its work in Normandy, the USS Nevada headed for the Mediterranean Sea to support Allied landings at Toulon in Southern France. She served from Aug. 15 to Sept. 25, 1944, and was instrumental in helping bring down the heavily armed coastal fortress used by the Germans.