At the White House, June 13, 1911
April 8, 1875|
|Died||March 3, 1949(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 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.
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). 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.
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.
Medal of Honor citation
Westa's official Medal of Honor citation reads:
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.
- Norwegians Who Earned the U. S. Medal of Honor (Sons of Norway. Volume 102, Number 7. July 2005)
- S/S Hellig Olav (The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc)
- "Medal of Honor recipients - Interim Awards, 1901-1911". Medal of Honor citations. United States Army Center of Military History. August 3, 2009. Retrieved February 1, 2010.
- Williams, Dion (April 1919). "War Decorations". United States Naval Institute Proceedings. 45 (4): 511–512. ISSN 0041-798X. Retrieved February 1, 2010.
- US Navy. USS North Dakota (1910 Federal Census)
- "Karl Westa (1875 - 1949)". Find a Grave. Retrieved February 1, 2010.
- "Karl Westa: Chief Machinists Mate, United States Navy". Burials at Arlington National Cemetery. Arlington National Cemetery Website. July 4, 2007. Retrieved February 1, 2010.