November 10, 2014

Veteran's Day: Honoring Great-uncle James Fitzgerald RYAN

I have many ancestors and relatives who have served in the U.S. military, but today I'd like to focus on one: my great-uncle James.

James Fitzgerald Ryan was born on 31 Jul 1919 in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of David Thomas Ryan and Mary Elizabeth Fitzgerald. He was the youngest of five children; there was an 8 and a half-year gap between the two youngest, my grandmother Clare (born on 18 January 1911) and James.

My father talked quite a bit about his uncle growing up-- James was something of a savant, and became a teacher. He was fun-loving and musical, able to play the piano by ear very well.

Dad mentioned in passing a couple of times that Uncle James had served in the Pacific during World War II. Awhile back, I poked around on Fold3 and found several Navy records pertaining to his service.

He enlisted in the Navy on 2 July 1942 and served on the U.S.S. Prairie, a Dixie-class destroyer tender, until at least October of 1945. According to the ship's reports of changes, Uncle James was an "S2", which I found out via a Google search of Navy rank abbreviations meant Seaman 2nd class. The report of changes I found dated 30 April 1944 gives a new rank for James-- he was now a TM3c, which means a Torpedoman's mate 3rd class (thanks again, Google!). That sounds a bit more interesting than simply a seaman... according to Wikipedia, this job mainly involved maintaining torpedo equipment, though it also seems to have involved getting to help blow stuff up.
The U.S.S. Prairie, photo courtesy of

The first log of changes I could find on Fold3 listing Uncle James as a TM3c
The U.S.S. Prairie's locations during World War II

James was a brave man, never one to be intimidated, either by the many tough boys he had to teach, or by muggers!

He passed away on 15 January 1995 due to the effects of Lou Gehrig's Disease.

I only met him once, but I was a toddler and only very vaguely remember him playing the piano in our living room in Quincy, Massachusetts. I wish I could have known him, or at least had a photo of him (for some reason, photos of my Ryan relatives are very scarce).

So, along with all of my other family members-- past and present-- who serve and have served in the United States armed forces, I want to honor James Ryan. Thank you for your service, and eternal memory.

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