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I recently met Dick Ramsey at his daughter Patrice’s home following an e-mail that I received from him, which he sent via our Signal’s advertisement for local Veterans to contact me with their service information. It was wonderful listening to Dick at age 94 express his experiences as I found his memory simply incredible. Clearly, Dick remains very proud of his service aboard the USS Nevada battleship.
High School Interrupted
Richard Joseph Ramsey was born Halloween Night October 31, 1923, in Brooklyn, New York, where he grew up and attended Murray Hill Vocation High School. Due to the Japanese surprise bombing at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Dick chose to leave high school. Dick heard the tragic news over his family’s radio and he remembers them wondering where Pearl Harbor was even located. At age 18, Dick was immediately inspired to do his part by leaving high school to work in the defense industry and he landed a job at Bruin Machine Company that produced torpedo parts. He next became a pipe fitter helper in Brooklyn’s Naval Yard working on the Navy’s brand new USS Iowa battleship and witnessed its launching. Afterwards, he had a stint working on the USS Missouri.
On March 16, 1943, Richard Ramsey enlisted with the U.S. Navy which sent him directly to the Great Lakes Naval Training Station for Boot Camp. After training, he had a 10 day leave of absence to visit his family and it was right back to Great Lakes where Dick volunteered for submarine duty. He was motivated by his Uncle Joseph Ramsey’s WWI stories of serving aboard a submarine. Dick’s father, Francis Ramsey also served in WWI as an artillery soldier. Next, Dick was sent to Camp Shoemaker in Hayward, California, which was built specifically for WWII’s Pacific Theater. Two weeks later, Dick was assigned to Bethlehem Ship Yard near the Golden Gate Bridge where he reported for duty aboard the USS Nevada Battleship.
Anti Aircraft Gunner
Dick proudly learned that the USS Nevada, America’s oldest battleship at that time, participated in escorting President Woodrow Wilson to the Versailles Peace Conference at the end of WWI in 1918. It was in June 1943 when Dick also learned that his assignment was to man a 5 inch anti aircraft gun mount. Three days after boarding the Nevada, they steamed south to the Panama Canal and then up the east coast to Norfolk, Virginia, for retrofitting the mighty battleship with even more anti-aircraft guns. After two months at Norfolk, the USS Nevada joined six separate convoys that successfully delivered troops and supplies needed in the European Theater to Belfast, Ireland.
After convoy duties to Ireland, The USS Nevada embarked to Scotland for exercises in preparation for the massive Allied June 6, 1944 D-Day Invasion at Normandy. Late on June 5th, Dick said they began crossing the English Channel headed for Utah Beach. The USS Nevada was chosen as Rear Admiral Morton Deyo’s flagship for the Normandy invasion supporting ground forces from June 6th to the 17th, and again on June 25th. Additionally, they employed their guns against shore defenses on the Cherbourg Peninsula, and seemingly leaned back as the crew hurled salvo after salvo at Nazi shore batteries. Shells ranged as far as 20 miles inland to break up German concentrations and counterattacks while being straddled by counter battery fire 27 times but never hit. Nevada was later praised for its incredibly accurate fire in support of beleaguered troops, as some targets were hit just 600 yards from Allied front lines. It’s noted that the USS Nevada was the only battleship present at both Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and the Normandy landings.
Shelling Nazi Gun Emplacements
Dick witnessed the Normandy invasion and recalls seeing airborne troopers parachuting and saw many shot out of the sky; terrible sights that he will never forget. When the Nevada ran out of ammunition, they returned to Portsmouth, England, for resupplies before heading to Cherbourg, France, which was a key port for the Nazis. Dick participated in the USS Nevada’s shelling of Nazi concrete gun emplacements that enabled allied troops to make a land assault. Dick remembers the large number of Nazi mines at Cherbourg’s harbor but luckily they made it through safely. Once their mission concluded, the USS Nevada journeyed back to New York to have its gun barrels relined. Additionally, her Turret #1 14”, 45 caliber guns were replaced with Mark 8 guns from the Arizona’s turret #2. Dick recalls experiencing a harrowing 100 year Atlantic Ocean storm that Dick and his buddies thought would never end. Tragically, the USS Warrington was sunk during that hurricane category 4 with 70 foot waves. 228 sailors went down with their ship.
Following repairs at New York, the Nevada steamed south to the Panama Canal and on to Pearl Harbor where they received a conqueror’s reception. Dick and his fellow sailors could not have been more proud as they stood at parade rest on top deck. A week later, they embarked into the South Pacific to battle Japanese forces that had taken numerous islands including Iwo Jima. Dick’s Nevada was the Flag Ship for Iwo Jima’s land assault. During that assault, Nevada pounded the Japanese Imperial Army from February 16, 1945, through March 7th moving to within 600 yards from shore to provide maximum fire power. Ultimately, the Japanese suffered approximately 21,000 casualties while the gallant Marines losses exceeded Japan’s losses. Dick and his fellow sailors proudly witnessed the raising of our US Flag at Mount Suribachi following the Marines five-week battle that comprised some of the fiercest and bloodiest fighting in our Pacific War.
Fire Support Force
On March 24, 1945, the USS Nevada joined Task Force 54 (“Fire Support Force”) off Okinawa as pre-invasion bombardments began in preparation for an infantry ground assault by U.S. Marines and Army troopers. The initial invasion of Okinawa, code named Operation Iceberg, on April 1, 1945, was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific Theater of World War II lasting 82 days. During a Kamikaze attack, Dick’s ship was slammed into killing 11 sailors and wounding another 49 while decimating several 14” guns and anti-aircraft guns. Okinawa’s total casualties from both sides numbered over 160,000, including 75,682 Allied losses. Taking Okinawa was crucial for conducting a ground assault of Japan, code named Operation Downfall, located a mere 360 miles away. Thanks to B-29 bombers Enola Gay and Bockscar, that invasion was averted as Allied losses projected were estimated at over one million lives.
Once the Japanese surrendered, the Nevada returned to Pearl Harbor and was ultimately sunk while used for target practice by the U.S. Navy. After serving 34 months on the USS Nevada, Dick was Honorably Discharged January 25, 1946, and he returned home to Brooklyn. After a short stint working in the New York Ship Yard repairing the USS Franklin aircraft carrier, Dick moved on becoming a pressman for Mercury Lithograph Company. Dick retired at age 60, but along the way, he romanced Dorothy Lawrence whom he had met at age 16 at a roller rink when he helped her up after a fall. Dick was instantly smitten. On May 5, 1946, they were married at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church in Manhattan, New York. Dick and Dorothy had three children and lived in Queens, then Rockville Centre for 30 years.
A Great American
Dick and Dorothy opened a Bed and Breakfast in Lee, Massachusetts, which they operated for 14 years before moving to Port St. Lucie, Florida. But sadly, Dorothy passed away from colon cancer in 2004. Later, Dick met Pat Hammond through a friend’s introduction which led to his second marriage. Tragically, Pat also passed away which led Dick to moving to his daughter Patrice’s Saugus home in October 2017. Dick is very happy with his new surroundings, spending time with his family and grandkids, and he looks forward to making new friends through Newhall’s Senior Center and American Legion Hall. Dick’s imminent project is writing his memoirs.