U.S. Navy Korean War Joliet, IL Flight date: 09/13/17
By Bob Pomorski, Honor Flight Chicago Veteran Interviews Volunteer
Amon Reinhart grew up in the small town of Dale, Indiana which is in the southernmost part of the state near Evansville. Interestingly, the town of Dale is near Lincoln City, Indiana where Abraham Lincoln lived from 1816 – 1830. Amon had deep roots in Dale, Indiana where both his parents and grandparents had been born and raised.
Being 1 of 13 children in the family, coming in at number 9, Amon grew up in modest surroundings. Even with 6 brothers and 6 sisters, there was no indoor bathroom – only an outhouse to share. Amon grew up in a close-knit family that used their land to be self-sufficient. “Everyone was involved in the growing of food and the canning process.”
Following his high school graduation in May of 1953, Amon enlisted in the Navy. He followed in his two older brothers’ footsteps who had enlisted during World War II, one in the Army and the other in the Navy. Even though he enlisted in May of 1953 at age 17, the Navy did not call him to active duty until January 1954 when Amon turned 18.
The boy who grew up in the small town of Dale, was sent to basic training at the US Naval Training Center in Bainbridge, Maryland. The Bainbridge facility was commissioned by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and named after Commodore William Bainbridge who commanded the frigate Constitution during the War of 1812.
During boot camp, recruits had a “service week” which generally consisted of kitchen duty, peeling potatoes, cooking, etc. Amon, having grown up doing these types of activities and having a passion for cooking, was assigned to a Commissary School for 6 months in Newport, Rhode Island following his basic training. After finishing Commissary School, Amon was assigned to the USS Northampton in Norfolk, Virginia.
Amon’s ship, the USS Northampton (CLC-1) was named after the USS Northampton (CA-26), a highly decorated cruiser sunk by the Japanese in WWII. This new light cruiser was launched in January 1951 and included “state of the art” equipment. The USS Northampton was assigned as operational control of the Commander Battleship Cruiser Force, Atlantic Fleet. Amon said they were always on high security alert, did numerous drills, and had ready battle stations during his time on board the cruiser.
During these times, Amon, “the cook”, was responsible for the monitoring and detection of any radioactive material that could potentially impact the ship. This was the 1950’s and the threat of nuclear attack was heightened. After demonstrating her capabilities as a tactical command ship by serving as flagship for Commander Amphibious Force, Atlantic Fleet and then for Commander 6th Fleet, the USS Northampton served as flagship for Commander Strike Force, Atlantic. It became known as the Presidential Command Ship.
Amon served 26 months aboard the ship and he said it definitely took some time getting used to. “The boat not only rocked side to side, but because of the design and equipment on-board, it rocked heavily bow to stern”. He traveled to many locations throughout the world including Norway, Scotland, France, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, and even crossing the Arctic Circle earning membership in the “Royal Order of Blue Nose”. One of his last tours of duty was during the Suez Crisis in 1956. It was a short lived, but highly tense battle over the Suez Canal in the Mediterranean. After leaving the USS Northampton, Amon was assigned to the Great Lakes Naval Base in Illinois where he continued as a Commissary man for one more year. He left the Navy in 1957 with the rank of 3rd Class Petty Officer.
While at the Great Lakes Naval Base, Amon met Donna, a nursing student, who was finishing a portion of her “psyche accreditation.” When she met Amon, Donna made sure to say that Amon was not a part of the “psyche” evaluations, which showcased the great sense of humor both Donna and Amon shared. They met during bible study which the nurses and sailors would attend and were married shortly thereafter and were married for 60 years.
After leaving Great Lakes, Amon went to college, worked as an accountant at various hospitals in the Chicago area and lived in Wheaton for 37 years. Amon and Donna, moved to the Joliet / Plainfield area to be near their daughters and watch their grandkids in their activities. “It was the best move we ever made”, said Amon.
The modest, humble man who grew up in the small town joined the Navy and got to see the world.
Amon, thank you for your service to the country and enjoy your Honor Flight trip to yet another port of call, Washington, D.C.