Milton Ricketts was born in Baltimore, Md., 5 August 1913, and was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1931. He graduated and was commissioned ensign 6 June 1935, and for the next 2 years, served in Ranger (CV-4).
Ricketts next assisted in the fitting out of Yorktown (CV-5) and he thus became a plank owner of the carrier when she commissioned 30 September 1937. He served in her through the anxious prewar years, and when America entered the war, he took part in her raids in the Pacific in February and March 1942.
During the Battle of the Coral Sea, Yorktown came under severe Japanese bombing 8 May 1942. Ricketts was directing the engineering repair party when a bomb passed through and exploded directly beneath the compartment in which he and his crew were working. All of the men were either killed, wounded, or stunned. Ricketts, mortally wounded, worked alone to open the valve to a nearby fire plug. He succeeded in leading out part of the hose and directing a stream of water into the fire before he fell dead beside it. His courageous action undoubtedly prevented the rapid spread of the fire to serious proportions, and was recognized by the posthumous award of the Medal of Honor.
Edsall Class Destroyer Escort
Displacement: 1,253 tons standard; 1,102 tons full load
Length: 306’ oa
Draft: 10' 5' full load
Machinery: 2-shaft Fairbanks Morse diesels, 6,000 bhp
Range: 10,800 nm at 12 knots
Top Speed: 21 knots
Armament: 3-3”/50; 2-40mm; 8-20mm; 3-21" torpedo tubes; 2 depth charge tracks; 8 depth charge projectors; 1 hedge hog.
USS Ricketts (DE-254), a destroyer escort, was laid down 16 March 1943 by Brown Shipbuilding Co., Houston, Tex.; launched 10 May 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Milton E. Ricketts widow of Lieutenant Ricketts; and commissioned 5 October 1943 at Houston, Lt. Comdr. Glenn L. Rollins, USCG, in command.
After outfitting at Galveston, Tex., and Algiers, La., Ricketts sailed to Bermuda for shakedown. She arrived Charleston, S.C., 28 November 1943, escorting merchantman SS Braga. Following post-shakedown overhaul, the escort got underway 9 December for New York City, where she joined a convoy destined for North Africa. The convoy cleared on the 14th, but Ricketts delayed her departure until the following day to wait for two late-loading merchant ships.
The three ships joined the main body of the convoy 20 December and continued on to Casablanca, French Morocco. Ricketts returned to New York 24 January 1944, thus completing her only convoy run to the Mediterranean.
Ricketts sailed from New York 22 February 1944 on the first of 12 escort voyages to Northern Europe and back. She saw a burst of flame in the convoy at 2035 on the stormy night of 25 February. Two merchant tankers, El Coston and Murfreesboro had collided, and both ships were badly damaged and burning. Ricketts snatched 33 survivors from the sea, which was covered with blazing gasoline. Her commanding officer was awarded the Bronze Star for his part in this daring rescue, and two other officers and six enlisted men received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal.
Rejoining the convoy, Ricketts received Capt. John Roundtree, Commander, Escort Division 20, when his own flagship, Marchand (DE-249) departed to escort the badly damaged El Coston to Bermuda. The convoy continued on to Lough Foyle, Northern Ireland, and Ricketts anchored at Lisahally 6-12 March. She then sailed with a return convoy to New York, arriving 22 March.
Ricketts made 11 other round-trip escort voyages: first from New York to Lough Foyle and back (6 April-3 May 1944); then from New York to Lough Foyle to Boston (21 May-17 June 1944); followed by three voyages from New York to Lough Foyle and back (2-27 July; 11 August-5 September; and 20 September-16 October 1944). Others were from New York to the River Clyde, Scotland, and return (7 November-7 December); from New York to Cherbourg, France, and Portland, England, and back (26 December 1944-23 January 1945); from New York to Le Havre, France, and Southampton, England, and back (31 March-30 April 1945); and from New York to Southampton and back (20 May-l l June 1945).
Ricketts sailed from New York 19 June 1945 with the remainder of Escort Division 20 for the Pacific. After exercises in Chesapeake Bay and refresher training at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, she transited the Panama Canal 7 July. She called at San Diego, Calif., for a 5-day visit and departed 20 July, steaming independently for Pearl Harbor and arriving 1 week later. A month of intensive training in Hawaiian waters followed. She sailed for Eniwetok 27 August in company with nine other ocean escorts, arriving there 3 September.
Ordered to accept the surrender and to help establish the occupation of isolated Japanese garrisons, Ricketts got under-way for Kusaie, the Carolines 1 week later to assist in the disarming of the Japanese on that bypassed island, and to set up a military government. Further duty included the repatriation of natives of Ponape and Kusaie to their home islands.
Returning to Eniwetok 14 October, Ricketts remained on patrol there until 3 November, when she departed for Pearl Harbor. Following training at Pearl Harbor 9-24 November, she continued on to San Diego, arriving there the last day of the month. She next cleared port 2 December 1945, took on passengers at Coco Solo, Panama Canal Zone, and arrived at the Brooklyn Navy Yard 16 December. Departing New York Harbor 21 January 1946, she reported for inactivation at Green Cove Springs, Fla.
Arriving Green Cove Springs 23 January, she decommissioned and joined the Florida Group, Atlantic Reserve Fleet, 17 April 1946. Ricketts remained in reserve status, berthed at Green Cove Springs, into 1961, when she shifted to the Texas Group, Atlantic Reserve Fleet, Orange, Tex. She remained berthed at Orange, Tex., until sold for scrapping 18 January 1974 to Andy International, Inc., of Brownsville, Tex.
Cutter History File. USCG Historian's Office, USCG HQ, Washington, D.C.
Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Washington, DC: USGPO.
Robert Scheina. U.S. Coast Guard Cutters & Craft of World War II. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1982.