Karl Westa

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Karl Westa
Karl Westa MOH.jpg
At the White House, June 13, 1911
Born (1875-04-08)April 8, 1875
Died March 3, 1949(1949-03-03) (aged 73)
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Rank Chief Machinist's Mate
Unit USS North Dakota (BB-29)
Awards Medal of Honor

Karl Westa (April 8, 1875 – March 3, 1949) was a United States Navy sailor and a recipient of the United States military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor.[1]


Karl Westa was born in Norway and immigrated to the United States. He departed on board the Danish vessel SS Hellig Olav from the port of Kristiansand and arrived in New York City on September 5, 1905.[2]

Westa joined the United States Navy from New York and by September 8, 1910, was serving as a chief machinist's mate on the USS North Dakota (BB-29).[3] On that day, while the North Dakota was conducting tests using oil as fuel, an explosion occurred, killing three sailors and endangering the ship. In the engine room, pieces of hot coal and coke floated in waist-high hot water, oil was aflame above one of the boilers, and the entire room was filled with smoke, steam, and fumes. Despite these dangers, Westa and five other men of the ship's engineering department entered the engine room to haul the boiler fires and perform other tasks necessary to prevent a boiler explosion. After ensuring the safety of the ship, they then searched for and removed the bodies of the three sailors killed in the initial explosion.[4][5]

For these actions, Westa and the five other men were awarded the Medal of Honor a month later, on October 4. The others were Chief Machinist's Mate Thomas Stanton, Chief Watertender August Holtz, Chief Watertender Patrick Reid, Machinist's Mate First Class Charles C. Roberts, and Watertender Harry Lipscomb.[3]

Westa left the Navy while still a chief machinist's mate. He died at age 73 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia.[6]

Medal of Honor citation[edit]

Westa's official Medal of Honor citation reads:[3]

On board the U.S.S. North Dakota, for extraordinary heroism in the line of his profession during the fire on board that vessel, 8 September 1910.

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