Kelahan, J. Richard ‘42

Kelahan, J. Richard ‘42

In October 1940 he left Granite City, IL bound for the Battery, New York City where he boarded a bus with others to go to the U.S. Maritime Commission Cadet School at Fort Schuyler, NY. USMC Cadet Officers who graduated from California Maritime School were also there. His first cadet assignment was on the Mormacrey, a WW I built triple expansion steam reciprocating engine ship. On December 7, 1941 he was on a Moore Mac ship and shortly after a U.S. Navy officer came on board and he was in his words “volunteered” to serve as Midshipman Active Duty Afloat. Other officers with licensed were activated into Navy service. He was sent to Tietjen & Lang Shipyard, Hoboken to man the Seatrain Havana that was converted to the aircraft transport Hammondsport APV-2 that was taking aircraft to Australia. There were a high percentage of MMR/USN officers on board. On the return trip the Hammondsport helped escort many of the ships damaged at Pearl Harbor back to the USA for repairs. On this assignment he was a USN midshipman serving as 3rd assistant engineer; when he returned from Brisbane he was detached, sent to Treasure Island to study for his 3rd assistant license that he passed in San Francisco. On August 3, 1942 he went to Tacoma to join the USS Card a C-3 hull that was converted to an aircraft carrier. The ship was commissioned on November 8, 1942 and after fit out was sent to the East Coast. He served with distinction and his ship was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for sinking eight U-Boats.


Kelahan never took a course at Kings Point. However in 1944 he was assigned to Kings Point in the Department of Naval Science and Tactics to teach the midshipmen. He said that Admiral McNulty believed that the regular Naval Officers did not have sufficient appreciation for the role of the merchant marine and he wanted naval officers with merchant marine experience to teach.

In November 1945 he became a District Inspector at San Francisco until he left in June 1946.

More of his life is covered in Billy and Billy, Merchant Mariners at War, an oral history of World War II.


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