Newly added to the vast historical archives at the University of Texas at Arlington Library is a set of memorabilia from a university icon’s service in World War II.
The library’s special collections added the uniform, photos and various decorations from President Emeritus Wendell Nedderman’s Navy service during the war. Nedderman served as engineering officer afloat until the last six months of his service, when he became the chief engineer of his ship. The university’s engineering school is named for him, as is a street that goes through the campus.
The family has donated several historical pieces to the library before, special-collections department head Brenda McClurkin said. Nedderman’s son Jeff, a self-described “history buff,” said he wanted to donate the pieces to the school to help pass on his father’s legacy to future generations.
“I thought it was best to give it to the institution to benefit from the history and not just let it hang in my closet and collect moths,” he said.
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Nedderman, 92, said he earned eight battle stars and three ribbons while in the Navy. His service included time in landmark battles like Iwo Jima and Okinawa as part of a crew of 350 on the USS Patterson from 1943 to 1945.
He said standout memories included witnessing several kamikazes, a suicide attack from Japanese fighters to Allied warships.
“I remember this torpedo attack, and seeing one plane sneaking on the side of the ship,” he said. “I could see the whites of his eyes and then him crashing into the sea.”
The Patterson, though an advanced ship, had “thin skin,” which added to the danger of torpedo attacks, but it utilized speed to stay safe, Nedderman said.
His son Eric said he remembers hearing many stories from his father about the things he’d witnessed.
“They were always really interesting to hear about,” he said. “He is lucky to have lived through them all.”
The items will be a part of the special-collections library, the university archives, exhibits and the Mavericks Veterans’ Voices page, McClurkin said.
Even after all of his accomplishments in the military and with the university, Nedderman, whose grandchildren are in the engineering school that bears his name, remains humble.
“I am not a hero and I didn’t ask to be,” he said. “I’m just an old farm boy who is doing the best he can.”