WWII Vet Tours Future USS Gerald R. Ford
U.S. Navy Story by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Litzenberger
A black duty van pulled up along the pier, carrying special guests to tour the new first-in-class aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). The doors to the van opened, and out stepped a seasoned man clad in a command ball cap reading “USS Monterey (CVL 26)” and wielding the brightest of smiles. He was accompanied by his wife and two friends. There was a moment for the group to take in the view of the tremendous warship before boarding and being greeted by Ford’s commanding officer, Captain Richard McCormack, and Ford Sailors.
Today, Sigmond Alman, a World War II veteran who served aboard Monterey alongside CVN 78’s namesake, Gerald R. Ford, would tour the warship, meet its captain and crew, and share his tales from World War II.
“So I was on the flight deck of the USS Hancock (CV 19) during the treaty signing in Tokyo Bay, and man, was it glorious!” said Alman as he told his stories to the crowd of Sailors surrounding him on the flight deck. “It was such a great feeling knowing the war was going to be over.”
The sun was finally out after four days of continuous rain in Norfolk, Va. Beads of sweat streamed down some of the Sailors’ smiling faces as Alman enthusiastically shared his stories with the younger generation—setting the scene for one of the best days of the veteran’s life.
“This is such an amazing opportunity,” said Alman. “All you men and women here really made today one of the best yet for me. I’m so extremely proud of all of you.”
Alman served aboard USS Monterey (CVL 26) as a radioman alongside then Lt. Cmdr. Gerald R. Ford, who served as the ship’s assistant navigator and athletics officer. Every step taken aboard the new aircraft carrier named after his old shipmate, and former president, took the veteran one step farther down memory lane.
“We really do appreciate today—especially Sig,” said Sharon Alman, Sigmond’s wife. “I know he appreciates you letting him come here and tell you his stories.”
“I’ve got lots of stories,” said Alman, immediately followed by laughter from everyone around him and a playful roll of the eyes by his wife.
“You know what sea stories are?” teased Sharon. “Well, I’m drowning!”
Standing beneath the “78” of the island on the flight deck, Alman looked around at the ship, finally settling his gaze on the junior Sailors rapt in his tales. He seemed to recall his time in uniform many years ago.
“It was a tough time back then,” recalled Alman. “A lot of good guys lost their lives from kamikazes, bombs, and fires.”
Along the tour of the new ship, the Almans were brought to a damage control repair locker and shown how it helps the crew fight fires, floods, and other casualties that may occur at any given time.
“The sacrifices you and the Sailors of your time made helped all of us serving now get to where we are today,” Damage Controlman 1st Class Ryan Vanderstouw told Alman.
“And it’s the same for what you’re doing for the next generation,” said Alman. “I’m really proud of you all.”
The Almans were waved off the ship smiling brightly and bearing new CVN 78 command ball caps and a coin from the commanding officer, but also leaving with an immense sense of pride for the servicemen and women in the Navy—specifically aboard CVN 78.
When asked what he thought of walking aboard a magnificent warship named after an old shipmate, Sigmond had one response: “I’m just glad to be alive to see it! It’s thanks to men like Gerald Ford—and dumb luck—that I’m able to be here today, and boy was it worth it.”
“Truly,” said Sharon. “What a legacy.”