m a r k e r i c k s o n p a i n t i n g s Lt. Ernest Anders Erickson Air Corps 1942 - 1945
Click to view Lt. Ernest Anders Erickson's complete thirty five mission list and twelve B-17 Flying Fortresses flown between March 27th thru August 26th, 1944 out of Horham Airfield, England.
Machinist Mate Benet Ripin shown here in a 1944 studio portrait, when he was serving in the Navy during World War II. Benet is the son of my grandmother, Blanche (Nathan) Hesslein's older sister Sadie (Nathan) Ripin. He grew up in Far Rockaway, Queens, New York and was born there on June 5th, 1918. Benet was employed as a Mechanical Engineer at Hughes Autograf Company in Watervliet, New York, before he joined the service on January 12th, 1944.
Benet began his Navy training at Camp Perry on the north side of the Virginia Peninsula in York County, Virginia. Soon after his training was complete, he was stationed in Oran, a coastal city in the north-west of Alger until he was assigned to a Navy ship.
Benet served aboard the USS Jeffers in the ETO, the European Theater of Operations and the Asiatic-Pacific Theater of the war. The Jeffers was involved in heroic and significant action during conflicts with the Axis Powers. Benet was awarded for his service with the European Africa Middle East Ribbon, The American Theater Ribbon, The Victory Ribbon and The Asiatic Pacific Ribbon. Benet was discharged from the Navy on January 18th, 1946.
Benet trained as a Machinist's Mate and served in that capacity on the Jeffers. His job was to operate, maintain, and repair the ship's propulsion machinery, auxiliary equipment, and outside machinery, such as: steering engine, hoisting machinery, food preparation equipment, refrigeration and air flow equipment, windlasses, elevators, and laundry equipment. Benet also was skilled at maintaining the marine boilers, pumps, forced draft blowers, and heat exchangers. He maintained records and reports to the commanding officers on all his duties.
Benet and his wife, Janet Abigail (Simon) Ripin have three married children, Barrett Howard and Marilyn Joy (Merber), Peter Allan and Eileen (Cohen) and Venita Sue Ripin and Jay Evan Ackerman. Benet's oldest son, Barrie supplied all the photographs included of his father, and I thank him for his help in our Family Archive Project. Barrie wrote a nice accompaniment to the photographs below and it is included here, along with some additions on specifics I added of Benet's service.
Benet finished training in June 1944, went to Scotland and then on to Plymouth, England on the Queen Elizabeth on July 15th, 1944. He went ‘AWOL’ a few times to visit with his older brother, Robert (Bob) in July and August, and had a nice visit. He got to meet Bob's wife, Pauline and their daughter, Vicky for the first time. From Scotland, Benet boarded an English ship to Oran, Algeria in early August of 1944.
It was in Oran that he first boarded the USS Jeffers, the ship he would be assigned to throughout the rest of the war. The Jeffers had already seen intense action during and after the D-Day (June 6th, 1944 ) Invasion of Nazi Occupied Europe. The next step on the Allied timetable for the defeat of Germany was another invasion of France, this one in the south.
Assigned to screen escort carriers covering the operation, the Jeffers departed Malta on the 12th of August to join the task group. Three days later, as troops landed between Cannes and Toulon, the ship remained with supporting carriers, continuing to cruise off shore until September 28th. The Jeffers then sailed for New York, arriving on October 7th to prepare for duty in the far Pacific.
For the month of October, the Jeffers was being converted from a Destroyer to a Destroyer Mine-Sweeper. Benet had a number of leaves on the East Coast during this time, where he joined Janet and me. It was during this period that his formal Navy portrait (below) was taken. The group shot (below) of Benet and his Jeffers' shipmates was taken on New Years Day, January 1st, 1945 in New York. My dad purchased a little sailors suit for me, from the Main Navy Wear Shop that cost $8.20, including postage. On January 3rd, the Jeffers left New York and headed through the Panama Canal and headed to San Diego, arriving on the 17th of January.
In February, the Jeffers moved out across the Pacific to Pearl Harbor, and from there to the advance base at Ulithi, an atoll in the Caroline Islands of the western Pacific Ocean in Micronesia. They were part of the force preparing for the Okinawa invasion. Okinawa is the largest of the Okinawa Islands and the Ryukyu (Nansei) Islands of Japan. It would be the last and largest amphibious operation of the war against Japan. As part of the preliminary mine-sweeping group, the Jeffers arrived off Okinawa on March 24th, one week before the landings, and began clearing mines and marking boat lanes. On April 1st, as the assault began, the Jeffers moved to antisubmarine screening and air defense.
During the Japanese air attack on April 6th, the Jeffers downed a twin-engine bomber. Six days later, while on radar picket station, she again was under heavy air attack. She downed at least one of the attackers and was nearly hit by a Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka as the attack was repulsed. A MXY-7 was a purpose-built, rocket-powered human-guided kamikaze attack aircraft employed by Japan against Allied ships. Navy sailors gave the aircraft the nickname Baka (fool or idiot). The Jeffers then assisted survivors of the sunken destroyer, the USS Mannert L. Abele. The Abele had been successfully attacked by a Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka and eventually sank.
The Jeffers later steamed into Kerama Retto, a group of islands located southwest of Okinawa, to repair battle damage. They emerged on April 16th to join a carrier group operating off Okinawa in support of ground forces. She then sailed to Guam in Micronesia on May 3rd for further repairs. Departing again on June 26th, the Jeffers sailed via Saipan, the largest island of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Ulithi, an atoll in the Caroline Islands and headed back to Kerama Retto. The Jeffers spent the next six weeks on mine-sweeping operations north of Okinawa. She was at anchor off Okinawa when the news of the Japanese acceptance of terms of complete surrender was received on August 15th, 1945.
One of the most incredible experiences for Benet, while serving in the Navy, was being aboard the Jeffers when it was the 2nd ship to sail into Tokyo Bay on August 29th with occupation forces. Four days later, Benet was present for the Japanese surrender ceremonies aboard the USS Missouri on September 2nd, a remarkable moment in history. Soon after, the Jeffers joined a mine-sweeping group for operations around Japan. Hazardous weeks followed in the Tsushima Strait (Eastern Channel), where the Jeffers swept 100s of mines from the area. The Tsushima Strait lies between the Mainland and Japan, connecting the Sea of Japan (East Sea), the Yellow Sea (West Sea), and the East China Sea.
Porting at a soon-to-be Navy base, in Sasebo, Japan, on the island of Kyushu, the Jeffers continued it's work in the Yellow Sea through the beginning of December. On December 5th, 1945, after almost 2 years aboard the Jeffers, Benet headed back home and would soon be reunited with his wife, Janet, and their son Barrie. Benet was discharged from the Navy on January 18th, 1946.
After the war, Benet returned to his old job at Hughes in Watervliet, NY, and became their Chief Engineer. Benet, Janet and I moved to a new home in Waterford, NY where I grew up. Hughes was bought by Johnson and Johnson and made toothbrushes, hair brushes, etc. Dad had two patents with the company. Years later J&J let him go just before his 20 year retirement vesting would have become effective (yes, outrageous, but this was common back then). Benet then bounced around at positions in the Brockton, Massachusetts area for a number of years. Finally, he and my mom retired to the West Palm Beach area.
The surrender of Imperial Japan was announced by Hirohito on August 15th, 1945 and was formally signed aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2nd bringing to an end, World War II. Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers Douglas MacArthur accepted Japan's surrender from the Japanese Foreign Minister Shigemitsu, representing the Japanese government, and General Umezu representing the Japanese armed forces.
Three days before the official surrender on September 2nd, Benet was aboard the Jeffers manning his post and in his spare time, writing letters home to his wife and family. One of those letters was written to his brother Robert and his wife Pauline who were living in England. Both the letter, envelope and transcription can be viewed below.
In the letter, Benet mentions aspects of his recent Naval experiences. Since the war was over, Benet was now allowed to mention things he previously was unable due to Naval censorship. One item was to mention his ship's actual location which at the time was in Tokyo Bay awaiting the official Japanese surrender. He also discussed a harrowing time abroad the Jeffers when a Japanese Baka (suicide) attack occurred on the 12th of April. Benet's spirit's were light, and you can feel his thoughts were on his family and getting back home to the States.
The letter and envelope are compelling pieces of history. Robert and Pauline's daughter, Annabel, sent this letter to me recently from London. I thank her for her kindness and am pleased to post the letter below, with the transcription here:
August 31st, 1945
Here is an amusing item about our first day in Tokyo Bay. When we passed the city of Yokohama, I noticed a large sign painted on the side of factory building. It read, "Three Cheers for the American Army and Navy." We have movies topside at night and all the ships are lit up like Xmas trees. Despite all these signs of peacefulness, we are constantly on the alert for any treachery.
I can now tell you that my ship was hit by a Jap suicide plane during our action on April 12th in which we shot down four of them and one robot (Baka) bomb. We spent about 6 weeks in Guam getting new plates put on our sides. Luckily, no one was in the compartment hit and no explosions occurred. A few feet either way might have been disastrous. We have had many narrow escapes and all of us are mighty glad that this is all over with.
I don't know what our next future operations will be, but we all are pretty
sure that it will be at least several months before we head back for the
States. I hope that your new factory is in full production now and that
everything is going fine. Give my two little nieces a kiss from their sailor
uncle. Maybe you will all be making a trip to the states soon and that we
all can have a big reunion then.
1. Machinist Mate Benet Ripin - 1944
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