Born in 1894, Rear Adm. Herbert John Grassie was one of three children of a lobster fisherman with Portuguese ancestry. His grandfather had come from the Azores Islands of the Atlantic in the 1850s to Massachusetts.
Grassie went to high school in a little town called Cohasset on the South Shore near Cape Cod, graduated first in his class and entered the Naval Academy in 1912. He graduated in 1916 and immediately was ordered to the battleship USS Pennsylvania as a young gunnery officer. Aboard, he was subject to German submarine torpedo attacks near his family’s ancestral fishing waters of the Azores.
After the first World War, he spent his early naval career in the Far East, principally in China and the Philippines, commanding one of those famous gunboats on the Yangtze. In all, he served on 15 ships and commanded six. Prewar, he attended the Naval War College and was an instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy.
After he received his scrambled eggs, a Navy term for the leaf-shaped embellishments on the visors of peaked caps worn by military officers, he was appointed Executive Officer of the battleship USS Nevada at Pearl Harbor. As fate would have it, he was detached from Nevada in the fall of 1941 and missed the Japanese attack.
As a veteran of both wars, Grassie was awarded the Silver Star medal as well as a Bronze Star, a Gold Star in lieu of a second Bronze Star and the Legion of Merit. In World War II, he commanded the battleship USS Idaho, flighting off numerous Kamikaze attacks and supporting landing operations in Guam, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
At the war’s end, Grassie was appointed Commanding Officer with Flag rank at Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Chicago, which at that point had served to train over 1.5 million sailors.
Finally retired from the Navy after 37 years of service, Rear Adm. Grassie assumed the position of President & Chancellor of Lewis University in Illinois. After five years, he returned to his home in Coronado on Star Park Circle, spending his final 20 years on the Coronado Planning Commission, playing golf and enjoying the benefits of Coronado in his retirement.