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Memories of Albert Van Acker Lt. jg, '45

From the (Norwalk, CT) Hour, Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2001: 

Albert Van Acker, Retired U.S. Navy Commander

Albert Van Acker, 79, of Norwalk, died 9/17/'01 in Norwalk Hospital. He was the husband of Angela Van Acker.

He was born on Feb. 18, 1922 in Lawrence, Mass., and was the son of the late Ghislain and Clementine Heerman Van Acker.

He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1943 and was commissioned as an Ensign in June of 1943. After attending submarine school at New London in the fall of 1943, he served on the USS Narwhal for six war patrols in the Philippines and on the USS Bergall and USS Finback from July 1945 to 1949.

He next enrolled in the Naval Post Graduate School and in June 1953 received a Master of Science degree in Electrical Engineering. From there, he was ordered to duty on the USS Sigourney and served as Operations and Executive Officer.

A tour at the Bureau of Ships, Washington, D.C., was followed by duty on the USS Wyandot as Executive Officer as part of Operation Deep Freeze in the Antarctic. From June 1959 - 1961, Commander Van Acker assumed command of the USS John Hood DD655. He went on to command the USS Lloyd Thomas DDE764. In addition, he was naval liaison officer to the Sperry Rand Corp. during the development of the inertial navigation system for the nuclear submarine fleet. He retired from the Navy in 1967 for a career in the private sector.


Van had this marvelous cartoon saved away.   His wife, Angela, thought the boat was the Bergall... research shows that this incident was on his earlier boat, the USS Narwhal and was indeed a harrowing event while Van was aboard.   Not a fun few minutes!!!!   The cartoon was inspired by a locking bow plane during a dive to evade a Japanese torpedo plane.   Van told Angela that the bow plane locked, sending the boat down deep.   After some adjustments, the bow plane locked the other way.   The boat broke the surface just as the Japanese plane passed overhead, too late to drop its torpedo.  The bow plane then behaved normally.

The wounded in the cartoon were American POWs, rescued from a sunken Japanese ship.   The Japanese frequently put American POWs on their merchant ships, and made sure everybody knew it.



As a Lt. jg, Van climbed on the USS Bergall on May 2, '45 as the Assistant 1st Lieutenant.   The Bergall left for her fateful fifth war patrol on May 12th, returning on June 17th too damaged to continue her war patrols.   Van got off her on July 10, '45 and then transferred over to the USS Finback.   His earlier war patrols on the USS Narwhal were also very important to the war effort.

Van suffered a severe stroke on 28 Dec 1983 which destroyed  his speech and left him physically disabled.   Although he recovered many of his physical limits he never recovered his speech.   His lovely wife continued to care for him until he received his final orders on Monday.

On receiving an "anonymous" large print of the USS Narwhal surfacing, Angela sent: Yesterday (7/27/2000), we received a beautiful print of the USS Narwhal rising to the surface and it was the ship that Van served on.  Needless to say, we are thrilled and extremely grateful for the print.  My husband served on the USS Narwhal when it was on patrol off the Philippines.  They used to go into inlets and drop off supplies for the coast watchers who were reporting the activities of the  Japanese.  They also brought out Americans who were being hidden by the Philippine people. The print is beautiful and I will have it framed and put in my husband's room.

From Michael Parenteau:   Van's last few years were pretty tough, both on him and on Angela. He had suffered a stroke which left
him unable to speak, and was confined to bed for the last year or so. Angela was always at his side.

I visited them a few times. He really perked up when we talked about the Bergall--he could understand everything Angela and I said. It must've infuriated him that he couldn't talk to us. I later gathered some Narwhal data (from Ben's Middletown Sub Museum) for the Van Ackers. The Narwhal did some pretty cool stuff--commandos into and out of the Philippines, sneaking in supplies, rescuing Nuns/kids, and the like. I think he rode a transport ship from Pearl to Northern Australia, and took a train down to Fremantle, where he hopped on the Bergall in early May, 1945.

The Van Ackers have 5 children--
o Angela Mershon (Medford, NJ);
o Katherine Van Acker Morrison (Westport, CT);
o Peter (Waynesboro, VA);
o James (Wilton, CT);
o Paul (Norwalk, CT).

To contact his loving wife, please send e-mail to Angela Van Acker

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