‘A World War Two Secret’
Daughter chronicles father’s service in Atlantic
MERCER — As the ravages of time rob us of the wealth of knowledge and lived experiences of the men and women of the Greatest Generation, it becomes ever more important to chronicle and preserve them before they are gone. While some veterans returned from war were too traumatized or hardened to open up and share their stories, others were silent because they were involved in classified actions and sworn to secrecy.
One such veteran was Glenn P. Larson, originally of Regent, whose daughter chronicled his service aboard the USS Guadalcanal during the Battle of the Atlantic in her book “A World War Two Secret.” Larson was the youngest of three Larson brothers to serve in WWII, joining the Navy after his brothers left for the Air Force and the Army, respectively.
Beverly Larson Christensen of Mercer had heard her father’s Navy stories when she was growing up, but initially he had to be tight lipped upon returning to the family farm in the southwest corner of the state while on leave. This was due to the Guadalcanal’s involvement in the capture of the German submarine U-505.
In her book, Christensen explores her father’s journey from the family farmstead outside of Regent through his training and service aboard the Guadalcanal during the Battle of the Atlantic as part of an anti-submarine task force hunting down German U-boats. The capture of U-505 was a historic coup for the Allied war efforts, providing not only key intelligence on German technology but also an intact Enigma code machine the Nazis used to code their communications.
To prevent the Germans from finding out about the sub’s capture, the 3,000 men in the task force were ordered to tell no one about their victory that day as they towed it back to port. Larson held himself to secrecy until after the war, when his father-in-law read the latest edition of the Bismarck Tribune at the breakfast table, leading with a headline revealing the story to the world.
“Probably about 12 or 13 years ago, I started saving, collecting and reading more books. Then I started thinking if I don’t put this together, it’s going to be lost. I did it for posterity,” Christensen said. “My dad’s cousin would always encourage me. Three times he ran into me and gave me $100 to finish the book, and I thought, ‘well, now I’ve got to do it.'”
Christensen utilized not only government records, but also made use of members of the Hunter Killer task force who are still living to fill in the blanks and provide details and context for the war and the integral role such missions played in bringing an end to the threat of the Kriegsmarine and ultimately Nazi Germany itself.
With the bulk of her research complete, it wasn’t until the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns that Christensen was able to dig in and take the project forward. Unencumbered by distractions and social obligations, Christensen was able to come out of the lockdown not only with a silver lining, but with a manuscript preserving her father’s story for future generations.
“I had my mom’s letters from dad during the war. I did research. I went and looked at microfilm newspapers at the Heritage Center. I spent hours in there searching the Mott Pioneer Press and printing them out when I would find an article about World War Two,” Christensen said.
The book shows its heart when it focuses on the story of Larson’s courtship and eventual marriage to his wife, Clara. As detailed in the book, Clara knew she was going to marry that young man in Navy Blues from the moment she met him on a night out in Mott with his cousins when he was home on leave. Occasionally, the focus of the narrative shifts to Clara’s and the rest of the family’s experiences at home while the three Larson boys were overseas.
As Clara Larson served as a primary resource for Christensen during her research and writing, she was grateful her mother was able to see the project come to fruition.
“She was 98, and I took a copy of the book to her. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to do that,” Christensen said.
“A World War Two Secret” is available in both paperback and digital formats on Amazon and can be found at local bookstores such as Ferguson’s Books in Bismarck. It soon will be available at Main Street Books in Minot. Christensen will be attending a book signing at the Turtle Lake Public Library on Dec. 16.