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In Memoriam: Vice Admiral Albert Joseph Herberger, USN (Ret.)

Sept. 20, 2022 | By Sam Cox (Rear Adm. USN, Ret.), Director, Naval History and Heritage Command
It is with deep regret I inform you of the passing of Vice Admiral Albert Joseph Herberger, U.S. Navy (Retired), on 26 August 2022 at age 91. Vice Admiral Herberger was commissioned in the U.S. Naval Reserve in February 1955 and served as a surface warfare officer until his retirement in April 1990 as deputy commander-in-chief/chief of staff for U.S. Transportation Command. His commands included Courtney (DE-1021), Waddell (DDG-24), Destroyer Squadron TWO FIVE (DESRON 25), and Cruiser-Destroyer Group TWO (CRUDESGRU 2). Vice Admiral Herberger was awarded a Bronze Star with Combat “V,” Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V,” and Combat Action Ribbon for service in the Vietnam War as an advisor to the Republic of Vietnam Navy in 1965–66 and as commanding officer of Waddell during the 1972 North Vietnamese Easter Offensive. He was also the first graduate of the Merchant Marine Academy to attain the grade of vice admiral. 

Albert Herberger attended the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York, including service at sea with Grace Lines and United States Lines, before graduating in February 1955 with a bachelor of science in nautical science. On 25 February 1955, he was commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve, reporting for active duty in April 1955. He first served aboard the experimental patrol craft escort rescue EPCER-851, subsequently given the name Rockville. The vessel operated from the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC, conducting sonar effectiveness and acoustic surveys as well as oceanic mapping from the Caribbean to Newfoundland. He was promoted to lieutenant (junior grade) in August 1956 and was released from active duty in May 1957. In February 1959 he was promoted to lieutenant before reporting again for active duty in January 1960. 

Lieutenant Herberger served aboard the cable repair ship Neptune (ARC-2), operating from Hampton Roads and conducting Project Caesar, the cover term for the classified laying of sound surveillance system (SOSUS) cables and arrays (declassified in 1991). In August 1960, he augmented into the regular Navy. In December 1961, he attended “Class One” at the Naval Destroyer School, Newport, Rhode Island, before being assigned to guided missile destroyer leader Dewey (DLG-14), in July 1962, operating from Norfolk and participating the naval quarantine during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. In February 1964, Herberger reported to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, where he was promoted to lieutenant commander in July 1964 and completed the engineering science program in 1965. 

In March 1965, Lieutenant Commander Herberger commenced Vietnamese language study at the Defense Language Institute at the Presidio of Monterey. In July 1965, he reported to the Naval Advisory Group, Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV), where he served as a deputy advisor to the South Vietnamese Navy River Force and as advisor to the South Vietnamese Navy Fleet Command. He was subsequently awarded a Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V.” Following his Vietnam tour, Herberger attended the Nuclear Weapons Training Center Atlantic commencing in September 1966, before reporting as executive officer to destroyer Glennon (DD-840) in November 1966. Glennon was homeported in Newport and conducted operations with the Atlantic Fleet, as well as UNITAS exercises with South American navies, including Panama Canal transits. 

In January 1968, Lieutenant Commander Herberger assumed command of destroyer escort Courtney, operating from Newport and conducting Blue Nose operations north of the Arctic Circle as well as a Mediterranean deployment. He was promoted to commander in November 1968. 

In April 1969, Commander Herberger assumed duty as director of training at Naval Officer Candidate School (OCS), Newport, with additional duty as chief staff officer. He then reported in March 1971 for pre-command training at Naval Destroyer School, Newport. Herberger assumed command of guided missile destroyer Waddell in June 1971, deploying to the Western Pacific in November 1971. Waddell was in the group of the first four ships that responded to the North Vietnamese Easter Offensive in April 1972, providing extensive naval gunfire support to beleaguered South Vietnamese troops and slowing the North Vietnamese armored advance down the coast road. The ship was fired on by North Vietnamese artillery multiple times, but was not hit. Although the South Vietnamese provincial capital of Quang Tri fell, the actions of Waddell and other destroyers on the gun line contributed to preventing the fall of Hue City. Although records are incomplete, this tour is probably where Herberger earned the Bronze Star with Combat “V.” 

In December 1972, Commander Herberger was assigned to the staff of Commander Cruisers Destroyers Pacific (COMCRUDESPAC) as special assistant to the training and readiness officer. In June 1973, he reported to the Bureau of Naval Personnel in Washington, DC, as head, Commander Assignment. In April 1974, he assumed duty as the executive assistant to the Assistant Chief of Naval Personnel for Officer Development and Distribution. He was promoted to captain in July 1974. 

In July 1975, Captain Herberger assumed command of DESRON 25 at Pearl Harbor. In April 1978, he returned to Washington as deputy director of the Total Force Management Control and Analysis Division in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. In December 1979, Herberger was assigned at executive assistant and naval aide to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower, Reserve Affairs and Logistics. 

In April 1981, he was designated a rear admiral for duty in a billet commensurate with that rank and was assigned as Commander for Distribution, with additional duty as Assistant Chief of Naval Personnel. He was promoted to rear admiral on 10 September 1981. In July 1982, he was assigned to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations as director, Military Personnel Policy Division (OP-13). In June 1985, Rear Admiral Herberger assumed command of CRUDESGRU 2 at Charleston, South Carolina, responsible for 42 ships. In June 1986, he reported to Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet as deputy chief of staff for readiness/resources. He was promoted to vice admiral on 29 September 1987 and became the first deputy commander-in-chief of U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. In April 1989, he was awarded the “Old Salt” trophy by the Surface Navy Association as the longest-serving surface warfare officer on active duty (measured from qualification as officer of the deck). Vice Admiral Herberger retired on 1 April 1990. 

Vice Admiral Herberger’s awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal; Legion of Merit (five awards); Bronze Star (two awards, at least one with Combat “V”); Meritorious Service Medal; Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V”; Combat Action Ribbon; Navy Unit Commendation (two awards); Meritorious Unit Commendation; National Defense Service Medal; Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (Cuba); Vietnam Service Medal (one silver and two bronze campaign stars); Sea Service Deployment Ribbon; Republic of Vietnam Navy Distinguished Service Order Second Class; Republic of Vietnam Staff Service Honor Medal First Class; Republic of Vietnam Training Service First Class; Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation (Civil Action); and Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal. 

After retiring from active duty, Vice Admiral Herberger chaired the Committee on Advances in Navigation and Piloting, Marine Board of the National Research Council, from 1991–93. In 1993, he was named Kings Pointer of the Year by the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Alumni Association. He was then appointed as the director of the Maritime Administration (MARAD) of the Department of Transportation from 1993–97. During this period, he was instrumental in the passage of the 1993 National Shipbuilding Initiative and the 1996 Maritime Security Act, which provided for a U.S.-flag merchant fleet and a new voluntary Intermodal sealift agreement to meet Department of Defense logistics requirements. He was awarded the DoD Distinguished Public Service Medal in 1996, the Navy League of the United States Vincent T. Hirsh Maritime Award, the 1996 Admiral of the Ocean Seas Award, and the National Defense Transportation Association Distinguished Government Service Award. He subsequently served as vice chairman, American Ship Management and Affiliated Companies. He served as an industry consultant for many years. He co-authored the book “Global Reach,” on the importance of U.S.-flagged commercial vessels in support of the U.S. military. 

Vice Admiral Herberger will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery at a date to be determined. 

As a Kings Point graduate, a Naval Reserve Officer serving on an EPCER (I had to look it up), and a cable-layer, in and out of active duty, Vice Admiral Herberger’s illustrious career certainly didn’t get off to the most glamorous of starts. However, he quickly proved his mettle during the Cuban Missile Crisis and as an advisor to the Republic of Vietnam Navy during some of the most intense combat of the Vietnam War. His exceptional leadership was noted and rewarded with early (O-4) command of a destroyer escort (Courtney). His experience and preparation paid dividends when his second command, Waddell, played a key role in blunting the surprise North Vietnamese conventional armored invasion of South Vietnam in the April 1972 Easter Offensive. Dodging enemy shellfire, Waddell laid down accurate fire on North Vietnamese forces, slowing their advance down the coast road. Subsequent command of a DESRON and CRUDESGRU exemplified his superb leadership skills. During his shore tours, he acquired extensive and highly valuable expertise in Navy personnel management, leading to being tapped as the executive assistant for the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, and subsequently as director of the Military Personnel Policy Division. He was selected to serve as the first deputy commander-in-chief of the newly created U.S. Transportation Command in 1987, an extremely challenging assignment to bring order among the services’ transportation organizations. Nevertheless, Vice Admiral Herberger got the job done. After retiring from active duty, he continued to serve the nation (and the Department of Defense) as the Department of Transportation director of the Maritime Administration, one of most consequential personages to serve in that position. He led a life of great service and sacrifice, with many years at sea away from family, but truly making a difference for our Navy and nation, sometimes in harm’s way, for which we are most grateful. 

Rest in Peace, Admiral Herberger.