On World War II’s Operation BarneyPublished 10:06am Friday, December 17, 2010
Column: Between the Corn Rows
Late last month I received a telephone call from Mark Jones. He asked if I was aware of a U.S. Navy officer named William Bernard Sieglaff.
Mark likes to read books based on submarines and happened to see this name in a brand new publication about one of the most daring American submarine raids during World War II. The name of this book is “Hellcats” by Peter Sasgen and published by NAL Caliber. And on Page 125 he came across the Sieglaff name.
The Sieglaff name revived his memories of family members with this last name who once lived on Park and Grove avenues. Mark thought there might be an interesting connection between a naval officer with the nickname of Barney and Albert Lea.
I’m somewhat familiar with the Sieglaff name. I did some quick research into my previous Tribune articles and columns. I found an article dated Aug. 23, 1995, which was actually an obituary for Rear Admiral William Bernard “Barney” Sieglaff who had died about a week earlier in Urbana, Va. My column in the Sept. 6, 2002, issue evolved from an article written about a pioneer local Norwegian-American family name Knatvold, plus additional research.
Hoping to obtain more information about this particular officer, I contacted the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. I was hoping to obtain Sieglaff’s photo which could be used for a Tribune article, then given to the Freeborn County Historical Museum for the archives. Instead, I obtained some added details about this outstanding naval officer that were used for the column.
The U.S. Naval Academy Museum confirmed that William Bernard “Barney” Sieglaff was born on July 6, 1908, in Albert Lea.
His father, Henry S. Sieglaff, came to Albert Lea in 1900 from Waterloo, Iowa, and operated the cigar stand in the Hotel Albert for a few years. Before his death on June 2, 1921, Henry was a car salesman for the Motor Inn Co. The family then lived at 414 Park Ave.
His mother, Helen, was the daughter of Bernard H. Knatvold. After the death of her husband, Mrs. Sieglaff moved to the Los Angeles area with her son and two daughters.
Barney, who had a middle name and nickname inherited from his grandfather, attended school in Albert Lea for eight full years, then moved to California during his freshman year and graduated from a Los Angeles high school.
Influenced by a brother-in-law, who was a Navy officer, he entered the U.S. Naval Academy in the fall of 1927. Sieglaff graduated in 1931, served two years as an officer on the battleship USS Oklahoma, then attended the submarine school.
On Dec. 7, 1941, Lt. Sieglaff was at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He was in charge of a gun crew on the submarine USS Tautog which shot down one of the first Japanese aircraft in World War II.
He later commanded the Tautog and another submarine, the Tench, and credited with the sinking of 13 Japanese ships.
By early 1945 Sieglaff had been promoted and assigned to the staff of Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, commander of submarine operations in the Pacific Ocean. His new duties as the assistant operations officer soon resulted in Sieglaff being placed in charge of a top-secret mission that used his nickname — Operation Barney.
In the next column we’ll explain where Operation Barney took place and how the word Hellcats fits in with this part of World War II.
Ed Shannon’s column has been appearing in the Tribune every Friday since December 1984.