Herman George Eiden was born in 1922 to father Peter H. Eiden and mother Clara Eiden. Eiden had four brothers, Albert, Peter, Theodore, and William, as well as three sisters, Charlotte, Clara Imelda, and Ruth. Growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, Eiden graduated from du Pont Manual Training High School. Shortly after graduation, Eiden joined the United States Navy. He completed his Naval training at the Great Lakes Training station in Great Lakes, Illinois. While in the Navy, Eiden earned the rank of Fireman Second Class on May 14, 1940, while serving on the U.S.S. Lexington. He later earned the rank of Fireman First Class on January 8, 1941, while assigned to the U.S.S. Houston (CA-30). Eiden was stationed in the Pacific and recorded his time at sea with photograph albums and film.
On March 1, 1942, after surviving the Battle of the Java Sea, the U.S.S. Houston (CA-30) was attacked by Japanese war ships in the Battle of Sunda Strait and was sunk. Many perished in the attack, including Eiden, while those that survived were sent to Japanese POW camps.