#7 in a series
CWT Frank J. Ryan, Passaic, NJ
By Paul A. Roales
I was born and raised in Vincennes IN. So when I started collecting military memorabilia I started collecting items pertaining to any of the four US Navy ships which have borne the name of Vincennes over the years. For example, I have 126 postal covers either from or to the USS Vincennes CA-44 which was sunk in World War II. In 2003 I bought a collection of 29 postal covers either to or from Frank J. Ryan on the USS Vincennes. The Ryan collection was a real find. Many of the covers had photo inserts or hand drawn cachets. They dated from May 19, 1938 until May 9, 1942. Most were addressed to Mr. & Mrs. Anthony De Palo in Rhode Island but some were to Frank’s brother Joseph Ryan or actually addressed to Frank. Apparently he forwarded the covers addressed to Joseph and himself to the De Palo’s because the entire collection came to me from a friend of the De Palo family. One of those covers from Frank including an original drawing of himself is shown here along with a 1941 Christmas Card and a wartime postcard. Since those covers were among the most interesting in my collection, I decided to research Ryan. It turned out to be a good choice. Most of the following material came from the personnel files on Frank James Ryan which I obtained from the National Archives, other sources are mentioned in the proper place.
According to the book A LOG OF THE VINCENNES edited by J. T. Doris, Frank J. Ryan (called Pat) was a plank owner of the USS Vincennes. This means he was assigned to the crew even before the ship was commissioned on Feb. 24, 1937. He was still assigned to the ship when she was sunk by the Japanese off Savo Island in the Pacific supporting the US invasion of Guadalcanal on August 9, 1942. Frank was wounded during the Battle at Savo Island but survived the sinking. Lt. Frederick Moody, Pharmacist on the USS Vincennes, described Ryan as: “a sparkplug of Irish courage with a heart bigger than himself”. As Chief Master of Arms he had arranged the last religious service held on the USS Vincennes the Sunday before she was sunk. An issue of the ship’s newspaper in my collection, the “PIONEER”, dated August 9, 1939 also lists Frank in their staff as a cartoonist.
Frank James Ryan was born on Oct. 6, 1906 in Passaic, NJ. His fathers name was John. He only had an 8th. Grade education. He was working as a chauffer when he enlisted in the Navy on November 22, 1923 at age 17 with his Father signing an age waiver. He had a brother, Joseph Aquines Ryan and a sister Mary R. Buckley (who later became Sister Jean Marie). He married his first wife Emily Patricia Ryan Oct 21, 1930 and his daughter Eileen Patricia Ryan was born Feb. 23, 1933. His wife died in late 1939. He married his second wife, Helen Thersa Mann on May 14, 1946. He died March 10, 1958 in San Francisco of heart disease and is buried in Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, CA. A form he completed on June 18, 1953 lists his second wife, brother and sister as alive but the space for children says “none”. His wife died June 12, 1971 and was buried beside him. The picture on the far right shows him late in his career and was provided by Stephen Maggiora.
His first shipboard assignment was aboard the USS Anteres for 6 months in 1928. He served aboard the USS Bridge from 1928 until 1933. After spending a couple years in shore duty at Newport RI he transferred to the USS Tillman in 1935. On 12/17/35 he transferred to Boston Navy Yard to begin work on the USS Vincennes which was then under construction. She was commissioned on 2/24/37 and Frank served on her until late 1939. After serving shore duty in Norfolk VA for a month he spent a month on the USS Wichita before being reassigned to the USS Vincennes on 1/5/40. The USS Vincennes was sunk by Japanese ship in the battle of Savo Island on August 9, 1942. Frank survived the sinking, but was wounded in the left leg for which he received the Purple Heart Medal. He was picked out of the water by the USS Barnett (see form shown on the right) and sent to the hospital at Noumea, New Caledonia for treatment. He was then sent home as a passenger on the USS Henderson. After serving 3 months in NY he was assigned to the USS Iowa upon her commissioning on Feb. 22, 1943. He served on the USS Iowa throughout her battles in the South Pacific until 1/11/1946. He was transferred back to Brooklyn, NY and was retired on Dec 20, 1946 because of high blood pressure. He had spent 23 years in the Navy. He retied with the rank of Chief Water Tender (E-7). He was awarded the Purple Heart; Good Conduct medal with 4 bars; Philippine Liberation ribbon; Asiatic Pacific medal with 9 bronze stars, the first 2 for service on the Vincennes and the rest for service on the Iowa (Midway, Guadalcanal - Tulagi Landing, Marshall Islands Operations, Asiatic-Pacific Raids, Western New Guinea Operations, Marianas Operations, Western Caroline Islands Operations, Leyte Operations, and Okinawa Gunto Operations); American Defense medal with “A”; American Area medal; European African Middle Eastern medal; and World War II Victory medal.
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