Coast Guard Heroes: Oliver F. Berry

The Coast Guard Compass was proud to unveil the first 25 heroes the service’s new fast response cutters would be named for and we are even prouder to share the next 10 names with you in a continuation of our Coast Guard Heroes series. Over the next two weeks we’ll be sharing profiles of the namesakes of the Coast Guard’s fast response cutters, from legends of the U.S. Life Saving Service to courageous men who served during the Vietnam War. Today, we share with you the story of Oliver F. Berry.

 

Gander Rescue Group; From left to right: Lt. A. N. Fisher; Lt. Stewart R. Graham; Chief Petty Officer Oliver F. Berry, ACMM; Chief Petty Officer Leo Brzycki, ACMM; Chief Petty Officer Cozy Eldridge, ACMM; and Petty Officer 1st Class Merwin Westerberg, AMM1c. Photo illustration (black and white original) by Petty Officer 2nd Class Seth Johnson.

Gander Rescue Group; From left to right: Lt. A. N. Fisher; Lt. Stewart R. Graham; Chief Petty Officer Oliver F. Berry, ACMM; Chief Petty Officer Leo Brzycki, ACMM; Chief Petty Officer Cozy Eldridge, ACMM; and Petty Officer 1st Class Merwin Westerberg, AMM1c. Photo illustration (black/white original) by Petty Officer 2nd Class Seth Johnson.

 

Written by Christopher Havern

Oliver Fuller Berry was born in Marion, South Carolina March 2, 1908 and he grew up in Florence, South Carolina. He enrolled at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina and graduated in 1928. Upon graduation he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve, but later resigned his commission and enlisted as a seaman apprentice in the U.S. Coast Guard March 26, 1929. In 1940 he was serving at Coast Guard Air Station Cape May, New Jersey.

Chief Machinist’s Mate Berry became one of the world’s first helicopter maintenance specialists. A distinguished expert mechanic on original Coast Guard aircraft including landplanes and seaplanes as well as helicopters, he was lead instructor at the very first U.S. military helicopter training unit, the Rotary Wing Development Unit, which was established at Elizabeth City, North Corlina in June 1946. He was also prominent in the development of the first rescue hoist. He contributed significantly to a 1946 world renowned rescue of airliner crash victims in Newfoundland which required the rapid dismantling, air transport and reassembly of Coast Guard helicopters.

Berry received a letter of commendation from the commandant, Adm. Joseph F. Farley which stated:

You served for the period of Sept. 20-22, 1946 as a ground crew member of an HNS helicopter engaged in the rescue of 18 survivors of the Belgian Sabena DC-4 airliner which crashed twenty-four miles southwest of Gander Airport, Newfoundland, Sept. 18, 1946. With your energetic assistance and technical skill the helicopter was quickly and carefully disassembled for transportation and assembled for the rescue flights, thereby greatly expediting the evacuation of five injured survivors. I wish at this time to commend you most highly for the outstanding manner in which you performed your duties. By your meritorious service in this assignment, you brought great credit to the United States Coast Guard.

Cmdr. Frank A. Erickson reading orders establishing the Rotary Wing Development Unit in Elizabeth City, North Carolina June, 1946. Left-to-right: Lt. Stewart Graham; Chief Petty Officer Oliver Berry; Chief Petty Officer Leo. Brzyki; Chief Petty Officer Fox; Chief Petty Officer Hainstock; Petty Officer 1st Class M. Westerberg; Petty Officer 1st Class O. Best.

Cmdr. Frank A. Erickson reading orders establishing the Rotary Wing Development Unit in Elizabeth City, North Carolina June, 1946. Left-to-right: Lt. Stewart Graham; Chief Petty Officer Oliver Berry; Chief Petty Officer Leo. Brzyki; Chief Petty Officer Fox; Chief Petty Officer Hainstock; Petty Officer 1st Class M. Westerberg and Petty Officer 1st Class O. Best.

Of exemplary character, extraordinary technical knowledge, exceptional planning talent, and superior leadership traits, his untiring quest for excellence established the ensuing high standards characterizing Coast Guard aviation maintenance.

Oliver Berry passed away Sept. 13, 1991.

 

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