Alexanderson was born to Swedish immigrant parents. He graduated from the New York Merchant Marine Academy at Fort Schuyler in the Bronx in 1930 and was commissioned in both the Naval Reserve and the Maritime Service.
In 1934, Alexanderson joined United States Lines. As the US’s entry into World War II approached, he volunteered for destroyer escort duty. His first command, the attack transport Gage, landed Marine elements on Okinawa and saw heavy action. The vessel later carried thousands of homebound troops.
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