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In Memory of U.S. Navy Engineman Third Class

Michael Joseph Pederson

Keldron, South Dakota, Corson County

 March 28, 1946 – June 3, 1966

Lost Overboard from the USS Goldsborough between Vietnam and Siam in the South China Sea


Michael Joseph Pederson was born March 28, 1946, in Lisbon, North Dakota, to Arthur and Lorraine Pederson. After his parents’ divorce when he was a teenager, his mother later married Don Van Slooten. He had one sister, Catherine, three brothers, Frank, Isak, Arthur, and one step-sister, Lynda. Michael attended public schools in McIntosh and Lemmon, South Dakota.

Michael Pederson entered the Navy in Denver, Colorado on June 11, 1963. He completed his basic training at the Naval Training Center in San Diego. Ensign Third Class Pederson was deployed aboard the USS Goldsborough circa February 1966 to the South China Sea. His ship “provided gunfire support for Operation Binh Phu l firing nearly 600 rounds.” It also “screened attack carriers on Yankee Station in the South China Sea.” Ensign Third Class Michael Joseph Pederson died while the USS Goldsborough was going to Thailand to be a station ship.

On June 3, 1966, Ensign Third Class Michael Joseph Pederson was lost overboard in the South China Sea between Vietnam and Siam. He died while trying to fasten a preventer without a life jacket on. Several days later his parents received these words in a telegram: “I deeply regret to confirm on the behalf of the United States Navy that your son Michael Joseph Pederson, USN, died on 3 June 1966 when he fell overboard from his ship.” His body was never recovered but memorial services were held on Monday, June 20, 1966, in Morristown, South Dakota.

The following is most of the handwritten letter Michael’s mother received from a crew member of the USS Goldsborough explaining what happened:

It is with deepest regret and a strong feeling of personal loss, shared by the entire ship’s company of the USS. Goldsborough, that I take this opportunity to personally explain the circumstances of your son Michael Pederson’s death at sea on 3 June 1966.

Michael, in company with other members of the boat crew had just been hoisted aboard, removed their life jackets, and disembarked from the boat. Noting that the after [illegible] preventer had not been attached, Michael climbed back into the boat and while in the process of attaching the preventer fell over the side. The cause of the fall was not observed by an witnesses. All witnesses on the scene including the crew of the helicopter hovering over the stern of the ship at the time, observed your son enter the water clear of the ship’s side and pass clear astern of the ship. However, he was floating face down with no motion and apparently unconscious. The helicopter responded immediately and attempted rescue by lowering a recovery sling as the ship was maneuvered to return to the spot. A man could not be lowered from the helicopter since only the pilots and one crew man were aboard. At that time, Michael, still apparently unconscious, was seen to sink below the surface of the water with indications of head or neck wound apparently incurred prior to water entry. Less than three minutes after Michael fell, the ship lowered a boat at the spot marked by the helicopter but he was not visible. It is regretted that the immediately instituted and extensive search conducted by the ship, two boats, two helicopters, and one fixed wing aircraft failed to produce any further trace of your son.

I have enclosed copies of the program and pictures of the very impressive memorial service that was conducted on board Goldsborough the following morning by the Squadron Chaplain Lieutenant Powell. I’m sure you would have been very proud to hear the Chaplain describe Michael’s ability as a seaman and voice the admiration of his shipmates. Since Michael was assigned as coxswain of the boat which I frequently used, I probably knew him better than most of the seamen onboard. I had the feeling that he truly enjoyed life in the Navy, was proud of his ship and most of all enjoyed the association of his shipmates with whom he so easily formed friendships. He was a capable seaman who could be depended on to do more than his share. I think I can best express my feelings by saying he was a loyal and respected shipmate. We in Goldsborough share your loss and send with this letter our sincere condolences.

Currently Michael is survived by his sister, Cathy Alley, three brothers, Art; and twins, Ike and Frank; a step-sister, Lynda Edwards; 7 nieces, 4 nephews, and 16 great nieces and nephews.

The Pederson family is still trying to get Michael’s name added to the Vietnam Wall in Washington, DC, a fight that Michael’s mother, Lorraine, started some years ago.

This entry was respectfully submitted by Alex Nachatilo, 8th grade, Spearfish Middle School, Spearfish, South Dakota, on March 29, 2006. Information for this entry was provided by Art Pederson, brother, a South Dakota Vietnam Veteran’s bonus application, and the Morristown World, June 30, 1966, issue. Profile approval by Art Pederson.


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