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Milton Hershey School’s First Gold Star Boy

Fifty-seven Milton Hershey School alumni died in defense of our country, offering the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. The Gold Star Alumni roster includes graduates from eight decades, starting with Harold Ashenfelder ’40. 

Milton Hershey School Alumnus Harold Ashenfelder '40.

Early Life

Harold enrolled in the Hershey Industrial School in 1932 after his mother passed away. He lived at student home Swatara with 20 other boys. Harold worked on the farm, milked cows, and helped with household chores. At school, he participated in the accounting, agriculture, and leathercraft clubs and played football for one year.  

His classmates spoke highly of him. They recalled that he collected pictures of movie stars and hoped to one day be the president of MGM Studios. After graduation, he worked at The Hotel Hershey, which often hosted famous clientele who came to visit the town or perform at the Hershey Theatre. 

Milton Hershey School Alumnus Harold Ashenfelder '40 in his Navy uniform.

Answering the Call

Just 12 days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Harold enlisted in the United States Navy. He was trained as a radio operator in a seaplane. After some basic training in Virginia, he was deployed to Newfoundland. There he supplied support to facilities critical to the squadron’s upkeep.

While in Newfoundland, the weather was often extremely difficult for flying, and new radar technology was prone to frequent failures. On June 8, 1942, just two years after graduating from MHS, Harold was on patrol when bad weather and heavy fog forced the plane to land in the Atlantic Ocean. Rescue aircraft were unable to reach them in time. All ten members of the crew were reported lost at sea.  

 Today, Harold is memorialized on the East Coast Memorial in New York City dedicated to those who lost their lives at sea during World War II. Milton Hershey School remembers our first Gold Star Boy through student home Ashenfelder, which was created in honor of both Harold and all our Gold Star Alumni.  

Read More Stories About Our Alumni

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