When researching a distant cousin, do you ever run across some information about that cousin that just begs you to research more of the story? Well, that’s the case with one of the descendants of William Taylor Thompson that I’m researching.
The Find a Grave site for Ernest Eugene Rickett contains a copy of an obituary.
Hedrick Journal, January 22, 1947
Chief Machinist’s Mate Ernest Rickett, 51, who survived 38 months of imprisonment by the Japanese at Cabannatun, Philippine Islands during World War II, died at 10 p.m. Saturday in the Naval Hospital at Great Lakes, Illinois.
Rickett had been in the hospital since August but was improving and his death was unexpected. His wife, who with their children live in Hedrick, had visited him at the hospital a week before his death. He was born and reared in Hedrick and had been in the Navy 30 years. He was living in Shanghai with his family when recalled to active duty prior to the outbreak of World War II and was serving at Manila Bay when captured.
He was liberated January 30, 1945 and arrived in Hedrick March 3, 1945. When his family first arrived in Iowa, they lived in Oskaloosa, lately moving to their home in Hedrick. He was a member of the American Legion Post at Oskaloosa. Surviving are his wife, Alice, two daughters, Margaret, 13, and Pauline, 6, and a son, Ernest Jr., three sisters, Mrs. Earl Hamilton of Hedrick, Mrs. Ollie Tennis of Beacon, and Mrs. Herbert Dickey of Cantril, and two brothers, Andrew Rickett of Knoxville and Clifford Rickett of Phoenix, Arizona.
The body arrived in Ottumwa at 8:30 this morning and will remain at the Cooperative Burial Association in Fremont until time for the funeral services Thursday. The funeral services will be conducted at the Christian Church Thursday afternoon at 2 o’clock with complete military services at the grave. Interment will be made in Brooks Cemetery beside his mother.
****Ernest Rickett gave a good accounting of his life in a Japanese POW camp. His story was published in the Hedrick Journal on March 07, 1945. Excerpts from the story are below, but the entire story is a good read.
“Before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Chief Rickett was a member of the Naval Reserves and resided in China. He was called into action and was on shore patrol at Manila Bay, where he was captured on May 6, 1942.”
“The camp [Cabannatun] was a half mile long and a quarter mile wide, surrounded by high wire fence. Outside the camp was a 900 acre farm on which the prisoners labored. Their food was principally rice, radish tops, a native sweet potato plant, and a native lettuce. Every ten days they were given a small portion of meat with which they made gravy.”
“At the time of his release, he was preparing for bed and was clothed only in his shorts. When the firing started, everyone fell to the ground for they thought these shots were from Japanese guns. He said he heard shouts, ‘Come on, the Yanks are here!’ At these words, all made a dash to freedom. In Rickett’s own words, “I didn’t wait for my clothing; I grabbed my shoes and left.'”
“Chief Rickett, who has been in the Navy for 28 years, is wearing seven service stripes and four campaign medals; they are South West Pacific, American Defense, China Service, Filipino Defense, for World War II. For World War I, he has the Victory Medal, Second Nicaraguan Campaign, Yanks Sea Service, and Good Conduct.”
This information on Find a Grave challenged me to learn more about Ernest Eugene Rickett and his military service. My initial search of Fold3 was unsuccessful. Not willing to give up, I turned to newspapers — and located articles that help fill in the details.
Ernest Ricket Is Reported Missing
Mrs. Earl Hamilton has received word from the navy department that her brother, Ernest Eugene Rickett, 47, machinist’s mate first class of the U.S. Naval Reserve, is reported missing in action May 6, 1942, in the Manila Bay area, when Corregidor fell.
Mr. Rickett enlisted in the navy in 1917, serving in World War No. 1, and retired in 1937, after 20 years service and had residedin Shanghai, China, since. He was called back to active service Oct. 18, 1940, and was assigned tot he U.S.S. Luzon, which was severely damaged by enemy gun fire and was sunk by U.S. forces, when capture appeared imminent. So far as is known no casualties resutled and it is feared he may be a prisoner of war.
He is the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. A. D. Rickett of Hedrick and was born and reared in Hedrick and attended the Hedrick schools from which he graduated in 1913. As far as can be learned his wife and three children are still in China.“Ernest Rickett Is Reported Missing,” Hedrick Journal (Hedrick, IA), 23 December 1942, page 1; digital iamges, Advantage-Preservation (hedrick.advantage-preservation.com : viewed online 14 November 2021).
Rickett Believed Rescued at Luzon
Included in the rescue of 513 Yank prisoners ant Luzon, Phillippines, recently was one Earnest E. Rickett with address of Shanghai, China. Mrs. Earl Hamilton, of Hedrick, has a brother by that name and address, who is the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. A. D. Rickett, of Hedrick.
Rickett graduated from the Hedrick high school with the class of 1913. Shortly after graduating he entered the navy and served over 20 years. He retired from the navy service and established a home in Shanghai, China, where he lived with his wife and three children at the start of the present war.
He was called into service with the outbreak of the war and shortly after re-entering the service was reported missing. His wife made an attempt to correspond with his relatives in Hedrick and her communication was answered. No reply has been received and relatives have been unsuccessful in receiving information through several other sources.
His relatives believe that the Earnest E. Ricktt rescured fits the description of the former Hedrick man with the same name, address and rating. Also from the fact that when he was last heard from he was in the Philippine area. Other relatives are a sister, Mrs. H. A. Dickey of Cantril, a brother, Andrew at Knoxville, and a brother Clifford address unkown.
Hedrick Journal — Feb. 7th 1945 page 1
Rickett Home From Phillippines
Chief machinist Mate Earnest E. Rickett, who was recently released as a prisoner of war from Camp Cabannatuan in the Phillippines, and arrived in Hedrick Sunday, gave the following story of his life as a prisoner of the Japanese:
Before the attack on Pearl Harbor Chief Rickett was a member of the Naval Reserves, and resided in China. He was then called into action and was in shore patrol at Manilla Bay, later assigned to defense patrol at Ft. Hughes, where he was captured May 6 1942, following the fall of Corregidor. He was among 7,000 other Americans who were then sent to various prison camps. On October 29, 1942, he was sent to Cabannatun, where he remained until his recent release.
Rickett described Cabannatun as a former Phillippine army training camp, and mamy barracks still remained. The camp was half a mile long and a quartr mile wide, surrounded by high wire fence. Outside the camp was a 900-acre farm on which the prisoners labored.
Their food was principally rice, radish tops, a native sweet potato plant, a native lettuce called pichi, and very ten days they were given a small portion of meat with which they made gravy. They had no bread, but during the later months they ground rice from which they made a bread which would not keep well. Their food was eaten from regular army mess kits and the prisoners made rude stools and tables. There beds were nothing but bamboo slats and Chief Rickett sad one was very lucky if they had and bedding.
At the time of his release with the 511 disabled men the resto of the 7,000 had been moved for war work and to various other camps.
Regular church services were held in the prison camp, with Chaplains for every denomination. There were plenty of doctors but a very small amount of medical supplies. In the early part of 1943 they received a small amount of medical supplies.
Rickett said that time moved quickly until the planes started coming over last September. He said he had never given up hope for freedom, and that the planes made them realize something was ready to happen.
At the time of the release he was preparing for bed, and was clothed only in his shorts. When the firing started everyone fell to the ground for they thought these shots were from Japanese guns. He said he heard shouts, “Come on, the Yanks are here!” At these words, all made a dash to freedom. In Rickett’s own words, “I didn’t wait for my clothing; I grabbed my shoes and left.”
When asked about his feeling when he was released he said, “If there was a happier man in the world than I was, I would have like to have seen him.” Of General MacArthur, Rickett said, “He is the grandest general in the world, and there will always be a soft spot in my heart for the MarArthurs, for at one time the General’s brother, Capt. Arthur MacArthur, was captain of my ship.”
Rickett flew from Pearl Harbor to San Francisco on the flying boat the Mars with eight other prisoners of war. The thing that impressed him most was the improvement and change in the navy and their new weapons.
Chief Rickett, who has been in the navy for 28 years is wearing seven service stripes, and four campaign medals; they are South West Pacific, American Defense, China Service, Phillippine Defence for World War II. For World War I, he has the Victory Medal, Second Nicaraguan Campaign, Yanks Sea Searvice and Good Conduct.
This is the first time Chief Rickett ahs been in Hedrick since 1929. A family reunion was held Sunday at the Earl Hamilton home in his honor. The following relatives were present: Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Rickett, Mrs. Vance Sterling and daughter Charlotte, Mrs George Slocum and daughter Connie Joe, all of Knoxville; Mrs. George Perry and daughter Marilyn of Oskaloosa; Mr. and Mrs. H. A. Dickey and son Zane, of Cantril and Herschel Dickey.Hedrick Journal – March 7, 1945
Still determined to find muster rolls, I turned to Google and searched for “u.s. naval reserves muster rolls 1939”. The first item was a link to the National Archives. However, the second and third item led me to digital versions of these muster rolls on Ancestry and on Fold3.
A search of the Ancestry database resulted in 6 records that are likely for the same Ernest Rickett.
The Fold3 link led me to the ‘WWII Navy Muster Rolls’.
A search of this Fold3 record set for Ernest Rickett resulted in links to the actual muster rolls.
World War II Resources
- Battle of Corregidor (Wikipedia)
- The Rangers Raid Cabanatuan: A Classic Joint Special Operation
- Vets Remember Daring Raid that Liberated 500 POWs in Philippines
- Remember ‘The Great Raid’ of 1945
- Cabanatuan Raid: The Largest Rescue in American History
- The Great Raid – 2005 war film about raid at Cabanatuan (Wikipedia)
Ernest Eugene Rickett
Ernest Eugene Rickett1–2 was born on 19 Dec 1895 in Iowa, United States.1,3–4
He lived in Highland Township, Wapello, Iowa, United States on 5 Jun 1900.1 Earnest Ricket was listed as the son of Earnest Ricket on the 1900 census. He was born Dec 1895 (age 4) in Iowa.
He lived in Hedrick, Keokuk, Iowa, United States in 1905.5
Ernest lived in Benton Township, Keokuk, Iowa, United States in 1910.6
He served in the military U.S. Navy in 1917.7
He lived aboard the U.S.S. Chattanooga in Harwich, England in 1920.8
Ernest lived in Hedrick, Keokuk, Iowa, United States in 1925.9
On 26 Mar 1927 he was a was licensed as assistant Engineer of Steam Vessels in New York City, New York County, New York Colony, British Colonial America.10
He retired from the U.S. Navy after 20 years of service in 1937.7
Ernest lived in Shanghai, China in 1939.11
He was called back to active service and reported aboard the U.S.S. Augusta on 18 Oct 1940.7,12–13
He served in the military aboard the U.S.S. Luzon (PR7) on 31 Dec 1940.14
Ernest served in the military aboard the U.S.S. Luzon (PR7) on 31 Mar 1941.12
He served in the military aboard the U.S.S. Luzon (PR7) on 30 Sep 1941.15
He was reported missing in action when Corregidor fell on 6 May 1942 in Manilla Philippines.7
On 29 Oct 1942, Ernest was sent to prison camp in Cabannatun.16–17
In in Jan 1945,he was rescued from the prisoner of war camp in Cabanatuan, Philippines.16,18
He was listed aboard the U.S.S. Hearld of the Morning (AP-173) on 15 Feb 1945–28 Feb 1945.19–20
Ernest was on list of nonenlisted pasengers on U.S.S.Triangulum (AK-102( on 27 Feb 1945.21
On 4 Mar 1945, he arrived home from the war in Hedrick, Keokuk, Iowa, United States.16
He died on 18 Jan 1947 at the age of 51 in Great Lakes, Lake, Illinois, United States.2–4,22–23
Ernest was buried at Brooks Cemetery in Hedrick, Keokuk, Iowa, United States.3–4
1. 1900 U.S.Census, Wapello County, Iowa, population schedule, Highland Township, Wapello County, Iowa, ED 133, Sheet 2B Image 4 of 22, household 36, A.D. Ricket; digital image, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : viewed online Juen 2017); NARA T623
2. Find a Grave, database and images, Find a Grave (www.findagrave.com : viewed online 12 November 2020), memorial for William Andrew Rickett (1882-1964), Find a Grave Memorial no. #146462885, created by Cindy Lovell & Steve Hols, citing Westview Cemetery, Kirkville, Wapello County, Iowa; accompanying photograph by Cindy Lovell & Steve Hols, William Andrew RIckett.
3. Find a Grave, database and images, Find a Grave (www.findagrave.com : viewed online 14 November 2021), memorial for Ernest Eugene Rickett (1895-1947), Find a Grave Memorial no. #88524800, created by Jane Cockayne weaver, citing Brooks Cemetery, Hedrick, Keokuk County, Iowa; accompanying photograph by djtruitt, Ernest Eugene Rickett.
6. 1910 U.S. Census, Keokuk County, Iowa, population schedule, Benton Township, Keokuk County, IA, ED 44, sheet 5A Image 9 of 20, family 131, Albert Di Rickett; digital image, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : viewed online October 2018)
7. “Ernest Rickett Is Reported Missing,” Hedrick Journal (Hedrick, IA), 23 December 1942, page 1; digital images, Advantage-Preservation (hedrick.advantage-preservation.com : viewed online 14 November 2021).
8. 1920 U.S. Census, Military and Naval Forces – U.S.S. Chattanooga in Harwich, England, population schedule, U.S.S.Chattanooga, Harwich, England, Sheet 2B Image 4 of 6, line 82, Ernest E Rickett; digital imge, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : viewed online 16 November 2021); NARA microfilm publication T625
9. 1925 Iowa State Census, Keokuk County, Iowa, Iowa state census, Hedrick, Keokuk County, Iowa, image 49 of 96 Image 49 of 96, Rickett Albert D; digital image, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : viewed online September 2018)
10. U.S., Merchant Marine Applications for License of Officers, 1914-1949, Ernest E Rickett, 26 March 1927; database with images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : viewed online 16 November 2021). Original Source: Merchant Marine Applications for Licenses of Officers.
16. “Rickett Home from Phillippines,” Hedrick Journal (Hedrick, IA), 7 March 1945, page 1; digital images, Advantage-Preservation (hedrick.advantage-preservation.com : viewed online 15 November 2021).
18. “Rickett Believed Rescued at Luzon,” Hedrick Journal (Hedrick, IA), 7 February 1945, page 1; digital images, Advantage-Preservation (hedrick.advantage-preservation.com : viewed online 15 November 2021).
23. Iowa World War II Bonus Case Files for Beneficiaries, 1947-1959, Ernest Eugene Rickett, 16 May 1949; databast with imags, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : viewed online 16 November 2021). Original Source: State Historical Society of Iowa.