Like many Veterans, Herman Carl “Bud” Abelein Jr. served many different roles throughout his military career. A Denver native, Abelein originally enlisted as an airman apprentice in the Navy to avoid being drafted with no choice of military branch. Little did he know, this decision was the beginning of a lifelong career. Beginning in San Diego, California, Abelein’s training took him to Corpus Christi, Texas, and Pensacola, Florida.
In June 1950, when the Korean War broke out, Abelein received a commission and shipped out. Before being permitted to fly seaplanes, he was sent to a three-month Advanced Underseas Weapons (AUW) school in Key West, Florida. After completion, Abelein became the officer in charge of the AUW school in Japan. Flying over 20 different aircrafts throughout his career, he was a part of the Fleet Air Service Squadron-11 (FAS-11) and FAS-120. After meeting his wife, who was in training on Air Force Bases in Japan, they relocated to California, where Abelein became a flight instructor to take a break from overseas tours.
After being on reserve for nearly eight years and still only a high school graduate, Abelein worked as a flight instructor while studying at the Parks Air College in St. Louis. He submitted a letter for inactive duty, but received a reply augmenting him back into the regular Navy. He was ordered to be a catapult and arresting gear officer on the USS Shangri-La, an attack carrier. Although his wife loved San Diego, Abelein was called to Hawaii in 1959 and so the family moved once again.
After serving there, Abelein graduated in 1963 on the honor roll and returned to Corpus Christi for piloting and instructing. A true jack of all trades, he then went to Maryland to help develop technology for nuclear submarine warfare. In addition to a tour in Iceland, his was the first eastern squadron to go to Vietnam. There, as part of the United States Navy Coastal Surveillance Force, he and his squadron were vital in monitoring 1,200 miles of coastline and 50,000 licensed watercrafts.
After finishing Naval War College in 1967, Abelein served as executive officer and, later, commanding officer of Patrol Squadron 5 in Jacksonville, Florida. His squadron eventually received every single award that a patrol squadron could acquire. After this tour, Abelein became the Middle East desk officer for the Department of the Navy as a political military specialist, which suited his foreign language skills and master’s degree in International Affairs. In this role, he was sent to Cairo, Egypt, to sign a facility contract on behalf of the State Department and also visited many other countries in the region.
His next assignment was chief of staff of the Commander Patrol Forces of the Far East, based in Okinawa, Japan, where he stayed for one year before becoming the professor of Naval Science at Tulane University in 1973.
Abelein and his wife retired in December 1976 after serving for nearly 30 years. His family had grown to include his wife, two children, and multiple grandchildren. Later, he and his wife traveled in a mobile home across the United States to scout for a place to retire, and eventually decided on Orange Park, Florida. However, he did miss flying, so he ran a charter airline with a friend for a few years.
For his lifelong commitment to service, he earned an Air Medal, the Legion of Merit and the Navy Commendation Medal.
Herman Carl Abelein Jr. died in March 2019 at age 89.
We honor his service.
Writer: Claire Pei
Editor: Elissa Tatum
Fact Checkers: Enya Lowe, Richard Aguilera
Graphics: Brandi Muñoz