Lorenzo Sherwood Sabin, Jr., was born in Dallas, Texas, on May 23, 1899. He was the son of Lorenzo Sherwood Sabin, Sr., and Annie (Goggan) Sabin. He married Bertha “Bird” Bresnahan about 1928 and had three daughters. Sabin served in the United States Navy during World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. He was present at both Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and at Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. He rose to become a vice admiral and chief of staff to the Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic, of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Sabin’s paternal grandfather was Texas Unionist and later Radical Republican Chauncey Brewer Sabin, who served as judge of the United States Court for the Eastern District of Texas. Admiral Sabin owed his unusual forenames to his grandfather’s friendship with early Galveston abolitionist attorney and state representative Lorenzo Sherwood. Chauncey Sabin named a son after Lorenzo Sherwood; this was Lorenzo Sherwood, Sr. Admiral Sabin mistakenly believed that he and his father had been named for Lorenzo de Zavala. Sabin’s maternal grandfather was Thomas Goggan, founder of music company Thomas Goggan and Brothers of Galveston.
Sabin attended Terrill School for Boys (which later evolved into St. Mark’s School of Texas) in Dallas. He worked as a sportswriter on the school newspaper. He was appointed to the United States Naval Academy in 1917. During World War I he served while a cadet on the battleship Maine with the Atlantic Fleet. The 1921 Naval Academy yearbook noted that Sabin had “all the inherent qualities of a Texan” and “a determination that will carry him a long way on the road ahead.” After his 1921 graduation, Sabin was commissioned an ensign and began a career as a peacetime between-the-wars Naval officer, specializing in ordnance engineering.
On December 7, 1941, Sabin was present during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, where he served as a gunnery officer on the USS Maryland. With the coming of World War II, Sabin became instrumental in the development of tactics and strategy for the new area of amphibious assault vessels. Commander Sabin led the first squadron of these vessels from the United States across the Atlantic to North Africa. In July 1943 Sabin commanded an attack group in the invasion of Sicily and was commander of all Naval units at Licata, Sicily, during follow-up operations. For his actions there he was awarded the Legion of Merit, an action proudly noted by the Galveston Daily News on October 26, 1943.
On June 6, 1944, Sabin, now a captain, commanded the Close Gunfire Support Craft, Eleventh Amphibious Force, at Omaha Beach. That day he led a convoy of more than 200 small craft to the Normandy coast under severe enemy fire. Probably even more important than Sabin’s combat contributions to the Normandy invasion were his logistical ones. Samuel Eliot Morrison wrote in his History of United States Naval Operations in World War, Vol. 11—The Invasion of France and Germany, 1944–1945, that Eleventh Amphibious Force commander Rear Admiral John L Hall, seeking to solve a post-D-Day breakdown in unloading supplies and troops onto the Normandy beaches, “sent for his favorite trouble-shooter, Captain Lorenzo S. Sabin, and gave him oral orders to take charge ashore and ‘get the ships unloaded.’” Sabin cleared the backlog of ships within thirty-six hours. For these services he was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of a second Legion of Merit and a special citation listing his battle actions.
Sabin was promoted to rear admiral on December 2, 1948. He served in the Korean Conflict on the joint staff of Gen. Mark W. Clark, commander in chief of the U. S. Army Forces, Far East.
His logistical skills were utilized again during Operation Passage to Freedom. In 1954 the former French colony of Indochina was divided into Communist-controlled North Vietnam and French-backed South Vietnam. In a great humanitarian relief effort, the United States evacuated some 310,000 Vietnamese by sea from the North to the South, and Admiral Sabin was responsible for all sea operations during the evacuation. He was described as “uniquely qualified to head the evacuation operation, and it became one of the pivotal moments in his career and life.” Later, he evacuated Chinese nationalists from the Tachen Islands when the Red Chinese occupied those islands.
In 1956 Sabin was promoted to vice admiral. In 1957 he became chief of staff, Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic, NATO, regarded as the second ranking officer in the Atlantic Command. In 1961 he retired from active service. By then, he had held eleven different billets during his time as a flag officer.
During his long retirement, Admiral Sabin was a revered figure, often called upon to speak and write about current affairs and give the benefit of his experience in world affairs. He authored firsthand accounts of both his experiences at Pearl Harbor and on D-Day.
His decorations included the Army Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit with Gold Star, and the Commendation Ribbon. In addition, he received the Philippine Independence Ribbon, Britain's Companion of Distinguished Service Order, the French Croix de Guerre with Gold Star, and the Korean Order of Merit.
Though Admiral Sabin did not return to live in Texas after he left for the Naval Academy, he returned to the Lone Star State to visit relatives. He was well aware and proud of his Texas heritage, once relating to a Texas newspaper colorful stories of his grandfather. After his retirement, Sabin settled in La Jolla, California, where he was a member of Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church. He was also a member of the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club and the Retired Officers Association. His papers are housed at the Hoover Institution Archives at Stanford University. Lorenzo Sherwood Sabin, Jr., died at Pleasant Valley Hospital in Camarillo, California, on June 2, 1988. He was buried in El Camino Memorial park in San Diego, California.
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“Adm Lorenzo Sherwood Sabin, Jr,” Find A Grave Memorial (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/115078415/lorenzo-sherwood-sabin), accessed May 16, 2018. Dallas Morning News, January 24, 1935; December 3, 1948; October 28, 1951; June 10, 1959. Ronald B. Frankum, Jr., Operation Passage to Freedom: The United States Navy in Vietnam, 1954–1955 (Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2007). Hall of Valor: Lorenzo Sherwood Sabin, Military Times (https://valor.militarytimes.com/hero/27295), accessed May 16, 2018. Samuel Eliot Morison, History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Vol. 2—Operations in North African Waters, October 1942–June 1943 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, Inc., 1947–62; Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2001). Samuel Eliot Morison, History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Vol. 11—The Invasion of France and Germany, 1944–1945 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, Inc., 1947–62; Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2002). Paris News (Paris, Texas), August 21, 1974. Lorenzo Sherwood Sabin, Jr. Papers, Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford University. San Diego Union (San Diego, California), June 6, 1988.
Texas in the 1920s
World War II
Texas Post World War II
Dallas/Fort Worth Region
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Stephen P. Pate,
“Sabin, Lorenzo Sherwood, Jr.,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 23, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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