William “Bill” Toivo Korhonen

Navy Badge
  • Name: William "Bill" Toivo Korhonen
  • Location of Birth: Swan River, Minnesota (at farm home)
  • Date of Birth: December 6, 1922
  • Date of Death: March 31, 2013 (90 years old)
  • Parents: Toivo and Lydia Korhonen
  • High School and Class: Grand Rapids High School, Grand Rapids, Minnesota - 10th grade
  • College:
  • Highest Rank: MOMM 1 (Motor Machinist's Mate First Class)
  • Branch: Navy
  • Other Branch:
  • Date Sworn In: November 26, 1942
  • Place Sworn In: Duluth, Minnesota
  • Date of Discharge: November 13, 1945
  • Place of Discharge: Personnel Service Center, Memphis, Tennessee
  • Units and Locations:
    Start Date End Date Unit(s) and Location(s) Served
    November, 1942 Basic training in Farragut, Idaho
    February, 1943 Land Craft School in San Diego, California and Fleet Service School in San Diego, California - completion of additional mechanic training
    May, 1943 Transferred to Diesel Mechanic School at University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri
    July, 1943 Shipped to Naval Advanced Base, Torokina, assigned to USS Libra at Bougainville (served as Barge Mechanic)
    November, 1945 Transferred to Mobjack until war ended
  • Military Awards:

  • Military Highlights:
    Information from Bill's daughter, Diane Korhonen Gross:

    My father, William Korhonen, did not speak of his military life very often. He was involved in one conflict with a Japanese fighter plane. The barges (5) were waiting for a United States fighter plane to cover their drop-off of Marines onto Bougainville soil. Four were tied together and my father's barge was alone in another direction. The United States plane did not appear. A solo Japanese plane headed toward the four barges. Luckily, my father's barge was also armed with 50-caliber machine guns. My dad (age 19) began shooting as his partner (age 17) froze. The Japanese pilot was intent on attacking the group of barges and missed seeing the solo 5th barge. The plane was hit at close range, began to smoke, and then went down a quarter mile beyond the barges. My father said he was so thankful to have a gun to shoot! That incident was his only exchange of fire in the service.

    Bill volunteered for service in the United States Navy during World War II and was assigned to diesel mechanic school in Columbia, Missouri. He shipped out of San Francisco, California for service in the South Pacific where he operated the engines on PT boat tenders and manned the machine gun on landing barges. While working in the engine rooms, he would hear torpedoes whistle by the ship's hull. Bill participated in the Solomon Islands campaign and served until the war ended.

  • Wars Involved:
    World War II

  • MIA / POW:

  • Civilian Life:
    Bill grew up in Swan River, Minnesota and attended the Maki School, a one-room school in Swan River, and Grand Rapids High School, Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

    Bill met Ethel Marybelle (Mary) Tennyson at a roller skating rink in Columbia, Missouri during his naval training. After Bill left for the South Pacific, they wrote to each other and eventually got engaged by mail. They were married while Bill was on leave, and after the war lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Duluth, Minnesota where Bill worked for Greyhound as a diesel mechanic. Bill and Mary eventually moved to the family farm in Swan River, Minnesota. Bill farmed, logged and worked as a diesel mechanic at the M.A. Hanna Company.

    Bill delighted people with stories of his childhood in Swan River, hopping freight trains through Canada as a young man, World War II battles and serving in the South Pacific with Marty Robbins, the country western singer. In later life, his family would find a doctor or a nurse sitting on the edge of his bed, thrilled by one of his stories. Bill loved life on the farm. He was up early in the morning to get the weather report and take care of the cattle, and worked on farm projects well into the evenings. He liked to take people on tours of the farm and the neighborhood in an old truck, talking about the "old-timers" and local history. His family and friends loved him and will miss him.

    Bill is survived by his children, Gloria Wahrenbrock, Kenneth (Jeannie) Korhonen, Donald Korhonen (Judy Connell), Diane (Gerald) Gross, Julie Pidhayny (Tim Buka), Cynthia (Robert) Holbrook, and Steven (Pamela) Korhonen; his siblings, Helen Jerome and Arthur (Clarice) Korhonen; eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. He is predeceased by his wife, Mary, and his brother Elmer.

  • Tribal Affiliation(s):