Anchor of U.S.S. Aaron Ward
Bluff City Cemetery in Elgin, Illinois, has a a special section
dedicated to veterans. Each year the city holds services on Memorial Day to
remember those who gave their lives for our country. A huge white anchor lies on
a concrete slab on top of a hill in the veterans' section.
This anchor at Bluff City Cemetery came from U.S.S. Aaron Ward
(DM-34), a destroyer minelayer hit by six kamikaze planes off Okinawa during the
early evening of May 3, 1945. The ship somehow managed to stay afloat despite
raging fires and extensive flooding, and another destroyer minelayer towed the
stricken Aaron Ward through the night to safety at Kerama Retto. The
kamikaze attacks killed 42 crewmen, including Laverne Schroeder of Elgin.
Harry Schroeder, Laverne's father, heard after the war that the Navy had decided to scrap Aaron
Ward due to extensive damage caused by kamikaze planes. He wanted
something from the ship to remember his son, so the Navy agreed to sell him the
4,000-pound starboard anchor for $20. The anchor arrived in Elgin by
rail on July 17, 1946. He initially placed the anchor against an elm tree on his
farm outside Elgin, and he and his wife donated the anchor to the Navy Club of Elgin on
Memorial Day of 1947. The anchor rested in front of the Navy Club on State
Street until it closed in 1971, when the anchor was moved to its current
location at Bluff City Cemetery.
The plaque to the left of the anchor has the following inscription:
THIS SHIP'S ANCHOR FROM THE
U.S.S. AARON WARD
WAS PRESENTED TO
NAVY CLUB OF ELGIN SHIP NO. 7
MR. & MRS. HARRY J. SCHROEDER
IN MEMORY OF THEIR SON
LAVERNE H. SCHROEDER
SEAMAN SECOND CLASS – U.S.N.R.
KILLED IN ACTION – MAY 1945
WHILE SERVING ABOARD THIS DESTROYER
The plaque on the right side states the anchor was relocated on Labor Day
1971 by the Elgin United Civic Association and the Elgin Trades Council.
The history of the anchor in the third paragraph comes from pages 251 and 257-8 of the following
Lott, Arnold S. 1978. Brave Ship Brave Men. New York:
Dale Books. Original edition, Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1964.