Knud Haabendal Christensen
Rank(s): Chief Warrant Officer
Dates of Service: 3/11/1950 - 4/30/1952
Birth Date: 4/20/1919
Death Date: 2/13/2008
Knud Christensen was born in Kvaerndrup, Denmark on April 20, 1919, and immigrated to the United States via Canada in October 1927. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on June 14, 1939 and, following recruit training, was sent to the destroyer Hopkins (DD-249), and then to Neutrality Patrol in the Atlantic. Transferred to the Pacific Fleet in May 1940, the ship was converted into a high speed minesweeper at Pearl Harbor. Prior to August 1941, Christensen was transferred to the tug Ontario (ATO-13). On December 7, 1941, the old tug’s crew earned a commendation for its defensive effort with its two machine guns that shot down a Japanese aircraft. In April 1942, Christensen was transferred briefly to the store ship Boreas (AF-5), and in May moved to the repair ship Prometheus (AR-3) at Bremerton, Washington. The first task was to tow floating drydock ARD-2 from Pearl Harbor to Noumea, New Caledonia Island, where she provided repair services to ships damaged in the heavy fighting in the Solomon Islands. Except for occasional breaks at Sydney, Australia, Prometheus remained there until the spring of 1944, when she shifted to Tulagi Island to service the needs of escort carriers, and then moved further forward to Florida Island. Promoted to chief quartermaster, Christensen transferred to the gasoline tanker Rio Grande (AOG-3), operating with a mobile support group bringing petroleum products to the fighting ships. He was promoted to boatswain in April 1945 and detached.
In March 1950, Christensen became commanding officer of both USS Constitution and the 1853 corvette Constellation, moored just across the pier from “Old Ironsides” at the Boston Navy Yard. The World War II “house” covering Constitution‘s spar deck had only recently been removed, while Constellation served as the barracks for her crew. Both ships were in poor condition. The navy made an effort to replace the most decayed planking with red oak. It was a poor choice, but it was the most readily available wood available at the time. The captain was promoted to chief warrant officer on February 15, 1951. Constitution received about 150,000 visitors annually at this time, and Christensen is known to have appeared on occasion in a modest replica of an 1812 uniform, perhaps the first of the modern captains to do so.
Christensen left Constitution on April 30, 1953 and served at the headquarters of the Fleet Support Activity in Naples, Italy. He subsequently was stationed at the Naval Electronics Laboratory in San Diego, California. His final tour of sea duty came in 1965 when he reported to the fleet tug Mactan (ATF-86) for towing duties in the Pacific Fleet. There, he made voyages to Alaska and saw service in the Vietnam War. Christensen retired in 1969 after 30 years of service. In 1978, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the State University of New York Institute of Technology, going to school nights while working as a land surveyor by day. He died in St. Petersburg, Florida, his winter home, on February 13, 2008.