The toll of World War II came with the devastation of people and land, for those fighting in the war and those battling at home, that is too much, and these losses are part of what brought the war to an end on Sept. 2, 1945.
One such loss in the Wadena area is Elmer Goche, the young Navy man who the Wadena Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3922 is named after.
Elmer joined the Navy on June 18, 1941, at 17 years old, with a signature from his parents, Nick J. and Rose Elizabeth Markfelder Goche. As the youngest of three born in Verndale, with his brother Leo in the Army and Marvin in the Navy, Elmer wanted to serve after the events of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, according to Romeo Goche. By Jan. 10, 1942 Elmer was aboard the USS Vincennes as an electrician’s mate third class.
The USS Vincennes (CA-44) was a heavy cruiser that Navy service members worked on Neutrality Patrol from 1939-1941 before being outfitted for war in January 1942 when the U.S. joined the war. Those on the ship transported 16 Army B-25 medium bombers meant for a planned attack against Japan, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command. Service members on the USS Vincennes were quickly thrown into the fighting with the Battle of Midway in June 1942 and the Battle of Savo Island in Savo Island, Solomon Islands, Guadalcanal in August 1942.
At 18 years old, Elmer was listed as missing in action, according to two small paragraphs in a Pioneer Journal archive from Sept. 17, 1942.
During the battle of Savo lsland from Aug. 8-9, 1942 Elmer continued his work as “a valued fighting man” and went from his searchlight station on a crow’s nest to being wounded by a “flying piece of a loading machine,” according to Pioneer Journal records. The electrical room, where Elmer and other men were, was hit by a torpedo. The USS Vincennes sank within an hour, along with USS Quincy (CA-39) and USS Astoria (CA-34) being lost as well, as War Damage Reports from June 1943 said.
The news came slowly to Elmer’s family who received word “several months” prior to a March 23, 1944 Pioneer Journal article.
Elmer is also remembered at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines on the Tablets of the Missing. He, too, received a Purple Heart for his “supreme sacrifice in the service of his country,” as noted in Pioneer Journal records.
Shortly before the war ended, the Wadena VFW Post was formed. On June 18, 1944 the Post started with 26 members and on Nov. 29, 1945 the Auxiliary began with 51 members, according to a letter submitted to the Pioneer Journal. Those who served in World War I and II and family members of current armed forces servicemen were invited, as stated in a June 15, 1944 Pioneer Journal article.
While little else is known about this young service member, Elmer served with the honorable pride that marks the service members of the past and present.
The VFW Today
After marking the 75th anniversary of the Elmer Goche VFW Post 3922 last year, the honoring of veterans and giving to the community continues with about 300 Post members, according to Post Commander Phil Thoennes. Thoennes said it is an honor and a duty to pay tribute to fallen service members. He joined the Post in the early 1990s and became active after he retired.
The Auxiliary, which used to be the Ladies Auxiliary but is now open to men and women family members of those who served, has 230 members, according to Wadena VFW Auxiliary treasurer Lucille Belch. Belch has been active with the Auxiliary for over 30 years.