Howard County

Vernie L. Barnes



Link to more info about the Nazi ship Odenwald

Vernie L. Barnes - Great Lakes, IL, Graduating Class, 6 Dec 1940 (photo submitted by his son, Jerry)

Group of American Navy men who took control of the Odenwald.

~Photo submitted by Jerry Barnes, son of Vernie L. Barnes

Cresco Boy on U.S. Ship Which Took Vessel of Nazis

—Vernie L. Barnes, son of Mrs. Anna Barnes of Cresco, was a member of the crew of the U. S. cruiser Omaha which captured the German ship, Odenwald, in the Atlantic ocean, flying the United States flag, on Nov. 6.

The youth was one of the first in Howard county to enlist in the United States Navy more than a year ago. He was recently promoted to the rank of first class seaman.

The Navy said the Odenwald was flying the American flag in an attempt to break through the British blockade and that when signaled by the Omaha an attempt was made to scuttle her.

Source: Mason City Globe-Gazette, December 26, 1941

Source: Daily Times Herald, Carroll, IA, 09 Dec 1941


A former Cresco resident, Vernie L. Barnes, now a Navy recruiter at Milwaukee, has received a $3,000 check for his efforts in capturing a German ship just a month prior to the outbreak of World War II.

Capture of the German merchantman late in 1941 by the USS Omaha, of which Barnes was a crew member, is termed by the office of naval records, “one of the greatest dramas of American peacetime seamanship.”

The thrilling episode took place while the ship was on neutrality patrol.

Source: Waterloo Daily Courier, May 9, 1954

March 2014: Notes of father/son conversation between Vernie L. Barnes, age 93, and his son Jerry P. Barnes. Thanks so much to WWII serviceman Vernie L. Barnes for sharing with all of us in this way:

"I was able to read to my Dad the articles now posted and his reaction to his brothers “special inauguration” into the service completely cracked him up. He was unaware of the special treatment my Uncle Virgil received. Suffice it to say we had a great laugh together. He also was not aware that Virgil was stateside for so long before being deployed.
My poor dad, (as he put it) fighting the Germans every day, dodging U-Boat attacks, living on ships with no real creature comforts, sweltering in the heat and freezing in the cold, always on guard waiting for the next attack, while his older brother was lounging somewhere in the comforts of some nice Army base stateside. It was quite hilarious. I knew he would get a good laugh from this. I asked him where Virgil was being held and he could not remember. He did say that he was Repatriated though. Meaning that US forces either took over or were about to take over the POW facility where he was at. He said that at that time the war was coming to an end and he said the Germans were pretty much giving up POW encampments. They were not battling anymore.

He began telling me some stories about the Omaha, how that as a flagship for the convoy it was used many times as the Admirals ship for “PR” and such. He did say that the Omaha did have two photographers onboard at the time of the Odenwald capture. He said the two men were brothers from what he remembers, but after the war started they were ushered off the ship as the US did not want any photography being done. Everything became secret and on a higher alert.
Dad said the Odenwald capture began early in the day around ( he’s guessing ) 5 a.m., and said it probably lasted 8-10 hours before the ship was safely under US control. The crew of the Odenwald was carrying a load of rubber (mostly) tires, as the Germans were in great need of rubber for their war effort. The crew of the Odenwald started dumping tons of tires and attempted to blow up the ship (scuttle) so that the Americans could not get a hold of it. The US Navy personnel were able to put out the fires and control the explosives (or stop) to limit damage to the Odenwald, take control of the ship and take it back (under its own power) to Puerto Rico."

Photographs shared by the son of Vernie L. Barnes

Vernie L. Barnes - USS Polaris

Tugboat to Pearl Harbor

China 1947