Asbury United Methodist Church, Cinnaminson, NJ
Sunday, March 26, 2023

Asbury Veteran: Henry Holt

US Navy
Yeoman First Class (WWII)

Henry Holt was born and raised in the Fishtown area of Philadelphia. He attended Public Schools and graduated from Northeast High School in June, 1938. His Mother was the driving force in beginning his musical career. When he was twelve years old she insisted that he join a local children’s choir together with the Lighthouse Boys Choir. After some vocal instruction he was a Boy Soprano Soloist. When his voice changed he sang with the Kensington Choral Society and several church choirs.


Immediately after Pearl Harbor he decided to enlist in the US Navy, February 1942 and was transported to Great Lakes Naval Station for boot training. While enrolled in Quartermasters School his clerical background caught up with him and he was transferred to Yeoman’s School for further training in Naval Records. Upon graduation Henry was retained as a permanent member of Ships Company of the Great Lakes. For two years he was assigned to clerical duty keeping records of the incoming recruits.


Henry’s tour of duty at Great Lakes gave him the opportunity to advance from Apprentice Seaman to S2c (Seaman Second Class), Y3c (Yeoman Third Class), Y2c and finally Y1c Petty Officer. On weekend leaves he was always in attendance with the Senior Choir at the Waukegan Illinois Presbyterian Church. 


Sea duty beckoned all men who were stationed on shore bases like Great Lakes and in 1944, after a temporary four months at the Navy V-12 Officers Training Unit at the University of Illinois, it was on to the Norfolk Naval Station for further assignment. Within days Henry received orders that he was being shipped with others to become “plank owners” (nucleus crew) of a new Destroyer, the USS Willard Keith DD775, being built on the West Coast. After the ship was commissioned and a “shakedown cruise”, it was off to the South Pacific. On board the Willard Keith, Henry worked in the Ships Office. At General Quarters his battle station was manning the Captain’s phone on the Bridge. Henry transferred commands from the Captain to other stations aboard ship.


The USS Willard Keith saw service in the Philippines, was on Radar Picket duty during the invasion of Okinawa and was credited with downing three Japanese planes. Their sister ship DD774 USS Hadley was hit by three Kamikaze planes and one bomb which completely demolished the ship. Two-thirds of the crew members were killed. Henry’s ship lost only two members.


During the closing months of the War the Willard Keith was assigned to Desron 66, a task force of two Battle Cruisers, four Cruisers and nine Destroyers that were assigned to anti-shipping between China and Japan. The crew of the Willard Keith was awarded 6 Medals and 2 Battle Stars for their service. In October 1945 Henry was transferred to the battleship USS Nevada for transportation back to the United States for discharge from the Naval Service.


Henry learned the printing trade through the G.I. Bill and in 1950 and became the Founder and President of Holt Printing & Stationery, Inc. located in Northeast Philadelphia. For forty-eight years the business grew and prospered. During all of those years Henry became involved with the Optimist Club of Philadelphia, the Mayfair Society and the Cinnaminson Community Chorus.

In 1993 Millie and Henry were married in the Church of the Woods in Medford, NJ. At the age of 78, in 1999, Henry decided it was time to retire. For the past ten years they have resided at Sweetwater Adult Community in Cinnaminson and are members of Asbury United Methodist Church.