Friday is Veterans Day and Benshoof remains proud of his service nearly seven decades later.
The North Dakota native, who now lives at Cascade Plaza in Redmond, began his military career in 1942, at the height of World War II. He was in his mid-20s when he entered the U.S. Naval Reserve Midshipmen School at Columbia University in New York. Prior to graduation, Benshoof received orders to report to the North Atlantic Amphibious Command in Norfolk, Va. He completed midshipmen school in October 1942 and reported to Naval Station Norfolk for training shortly after graduation.
Benshoof shipped out for north Africa on the USS LST 392 on Dec. 7, 1942 — exactly one year after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Among other things, the ship transported bombs and detonators, which they made use of once they reached Africa in January 1943, Benshoof said.
“We bombed all the time,” he said.
Following Africa, Benshoof said the LST 392 was part of Operation Husky, the allied invasion of Sicily during the summer of 1943. The ship was also part of the invasion of Salerno, Italy, which was part of Operation Avalanche in fall 1943.
“That was a bloody one,” Benshoof said about Salerno.
Benshoof spent some time in England following the Italian invasions and on June 6, 1944, was part of another significant operation during the war: Operation Neptune, better known as the Normandy landings or D-Day. Benshoof was part of the invasion on Omaha Beach.
Outside of invasions, Benshoof, who served in various positions including gunnery officer and lieutenant senior grade, said the LST 392 spent a lot of time hauling cargo in many different forms. In addition to explosives, he said the ship also transported wounded soldiers as well as German prisoners. During this time, Benshoof was the ship’s first lieutenant and in charge of loading and unloading the cargo. And this was not an easy job as he sometimes went days without sleep.
“Sometimes it’d be three or four days before I could get in the sack,” Benshoof said.
In addition to the physical toll it took, he said being away from loved ones was another difficulty of serving overseas.
“You don’t see them ever,” said Benshoof, who was engaged before he left for Africa. “You write.”
Writing home also presented a challenge as Benshoof said they couldn’t reveal their locations. He said letters would have the words “here” and “there” in place of the actual location names.
Despite the lack of sleep and other demands on his body, mind and spirit, Benshoof said he really enjoyed his time in the navy. He said serving in the military is an opportunity to find out about yourself and what kind of man you are.
Benshoof said some people can’t handle it, but he functioned well in the environment.
“What I liked about it was there was always a challenge of some kind,” he said.
Benshoof said another aspect of the navy he enjoyed was the comradeship. And these relationships continued once he left the navy in August 1945 as he has attended countless reunions across the country during the past six-plus decades.
And from these reunions came a passion for travel Benshoof shared with his wife as they visited every state in the country except for Vermont.
Benshoof earned four Battle Stars for his service in northern Africa, Sicily, Salerno and Normandy. Benshoof also earned American and European theaters of operations medals as well as a Victory Medal and Combat Award Ribbon.
“I’m proud of my service,” he said.
When Benshoof returned stateside, he settled in the Pacific Northwest — though he remained on active reserve for 23 years following his service during the war. Benshoof married his wife Kathryn, who he met in college, in 1945 and they were together for 65 years until she died in January. Benshoof said they first settled in Renton before moving to Bellevue, where they lived for 59 years.
During this time Benshoof, who earned his degree in business administration but also had a number of engineering classes under his belt, worked for Boeing Co. for 40 years. He worked in inspections, manufacturing and engineering. Benshoof retired in at age 62.
Benshoof moved to Cascade Plaza about two years ago and said he has enjoyed his time at the senior living campus.
“I’ve made a lot of friends here,” he said.