I decided to start this introduction by repeating what I wrote in the blog’s “About”.
My father, John T. Ryan (Jack) was born in the early years after World War I and due to heart failure, he passed away before the Vietnam War was in the history books. In between he grew to manhood in Philadelphia, enlisted in the US Navy, went to war serving on the USS Hornet Aircraft Carrier (CV-12), met and married my mom in the late 1950s and fathered five children. Due to my age when he passed away, I never really knew my father and so I never had the opportunity to hear his stories of World War II. In this blog, I will attempt to tell his World War II story through the history of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-12). It will lack the personal stories that I just don’t have. I welcome any comments to make it better.
In the beginning…
I know very little about my father’s childhood. My uncle James Ryan was my father’s twin brother and there were a few quotes in a biography prepared for my Uncle’s 80th birthday that provide some insight. My uncle recently passed away on his 90th birthday and at his viewing and funeral, I saw many photographs of the twins as boys. I never saw these before and I hope to get copies. I also found out through the eulogy that Jim and Jack were little entrepreneurs selling ice cream at Philadelphia’s Connie Mack Stadium.
The twins lived in Philadelphia with their parents Jerome and Margaret Ryan. In addition to the twins, there was one sister, Frances and three other brothers, Bernard, Jerome and Edwin. When they weren’t working at their father’s A&P, the kids could be found playing at Fairmount Park’s Smith Playground and sneaking into the Philadelphia Zoo.
The twins were not model students and had a habit of being somewhat mischievous. After a less than stellar career at Most Precious Blood Grammar School, Jim and Jack were asked to leave Roman Catholic High School in 1940. That would have been at age 17.
While in high school and I believe afterwards, my father rowed for the Fairmount Rowing Club. I see his name mentioned in the Fairmount Log, a newsletter published in the 1930s and 1940s and still today. Like his older brother, Bernard, Jack had been a successful rower. Bernard had the nickname “Big Ding” and they called my father “Little Ding”. I am still trying to find out what the nickname meant.
In 1942 at age 18, my father was a shipfitter for the Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company.
In October 1942, John T. Ryan enlisted in the US Navy.
In my next post, I plan to write about the building and commissioning of the USS Hornet (CV-12) Aircraft Carrier.