Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Navy Veteran James Alvin Sagerholm, who served as surface, submarine and staff officer throughout the Cold War.
James Sagerholm was born in December 1927, in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. Sagerholm was eager to join the Navy and unsuccessfully applied for the Naval Academy straight out of high school in 1946. Sagerholm then opted to enlist into the Navy and completed his training at Lake Hurst, New Jersey. He trained as a meteorologist and went to Naval Air Station Miami to track hurricanes. One year into his enlistment, Sagerholm reapplied to the Naval Academy and joined the Academy’s class of 1952.
After graduating as class president, Sagerholm deployed to the Korean War aboard the heavy cruiser USS Rochester as a navigation officer. When recalling his Korean deployment in a Library of Congress Interview, Sagerholm remembered the Blockade of Wonsan most vividly. During the blockade, USS Rochester was bracketed by explosions, and shrapnel tore apart the map that Sagerholm was plotting courses on. Without hesitation, Sagerholm simply grabbed a new map and placed it over the remains of the old one. He remarked, “[In combat] you don’t think about the danger involved, you just think about the job you’re doing.” After the end of the Korean War, Sagerholm returned to the U.S. and served as an officer on three smaller vessels, culminating to his appointment as executive officer aboard the destroyer USS Sproston.
Just as Sagerholm finished his time on USS Sproston, the Navy dramatically expanded its submarine fleet. The Navy selected him to become a submarine officer. After completing his training on USS Seadragon, Sagerholm deployed with USS Seadragon into the Pacific.
Sagerholm led a successful career in the submarine service and eventually received command of the brand-new ballistic missile submarine USS Kamehameha. After six patrols aboard the USS Kamehameha, Sagerholm went to Suitland, Maryland, where he took command of the Naval Intelligence Support Center. While in Maryland, Sagerholm promoted to rear admiral. He became the first deputy director of Naval Intelligence and then the commander of the South Atlantic Fleet.
In 1977, after two years as the commander of the Navy’s South Atlantic Fleet, Sagerholm was given command of a special fleet bound for West Africa. The fleet was part of a major American diplomatic push in the continent to counter Soviet influence, and Sagerholm met with multiple African leaders as part of his duties. Following his diplomatic tour, Sagerholm briefly reported directly to President Reagan as part of the President’s Foreign Advisory Board.
Sagerholm’s last assignment was Chief of Naval Education and training at Naval Air Station Pensacola. For three years, Sagerholm worked diligently to reform the department and revitalize the Naval Reserve Officer’s Training Program (NROTC). Sagerholm retired from the Navy in November 1985 after a long, successful career.
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Writer: Michael Rattner
Editor: Brooke Wolfenbarger and Katie Wang
Fact checker: Carl Wessln
Graphic artist: Kiki Kelley