Friday, May 25, 2012

Ralph Huntington Hepworth

Picture taken abt 1925(age4) and 1942 (age 21)

     Ralph Huntington Hepworth was born to Charles Vern Hepworth
(my grandmother Hepworth Tomlinson's older brother)   and Mabel Ann Duffy in Salt Lake City Utah on 30 April 1921.  He was the third child of five, one older sister Yvonne who is still living, and three brothers all deceased.   
In 1928 the family moved from Salt Lake City to Albion, Idaho.
     I just found out today(24 May 2012) that the name Huntington is not a family name as I had assumed.  He was named after a place, Huntington Beach California.   Charles purchased some property in Huntington and it seem like a good name for the Hepworth's second born son.  
     Ralph grew up to be a hero, a young hero. 

Ralph Hepworth - Lieut G.E. Miller Long Beach, CA- Robert Littmann San Mateo CA. 
     I wish I had a better picture of Ralph with his Navy buddies G.E. MILLER and LITTMAN but, this is better than no picture.  All were lost at sea on 24 July 1945. 
     Today I will post  about what happened on
July 2, 1945.
This letter explains part of what happened.     
THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY
WASHINGTON

     The President of the United States takes pride in 
presenting the 
DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS 
posthumously to 
LIEUTENANT RALPH HUNTINGTON HEPWORTH
UNITED STATES NAVAL RESERVE
for service as set forth in the following
     CITATION:
     "For heroism and extraordinary achievement in aerial flight as Co-Pilot of a Land-Based Patrol Bomber, attached to Patrol Bombing Squadron ONE HUNDRED TWENTY FOUR, during a search patrol over enemy Japanese-controlled waters between Korea and Kysushu, on July 2, 1945.  When the entire underside of the fuselage of his plane was ripped out during a bombing attack on an enemy merchantman, Lieutenant (then Lieutenant, Junior Grade,) Hepworth rendered invaluable assistance to his pilot in preventing the plane from crashing and in flying the severely crippled aircraft back to base.  His expert airmanship and unswerving devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."
                                       For the President
                                        (signature)
                                       James Forestal
                                        Secretary of the Navy 

This story was in the Newspaper's all over the world. 
I think this article was in the Twin Falls Times with the headlines;
Albion Pilot's Mangled Plane Back With Chunks of Ripped-off Jap Mast. 


   Okinawa, July 4 (U.P.)   An American Privateer search plane, its belly ripped out and it crew hanging from its sides like trapeze artists while its pilot fought to reach home, brought back two chunks of the mast of a Japanese freighter attacked in the Tsushima straits between Kyushu and Korea. 
"We came home on prayer and hope." said Lieut. G.E. Miller, Long Beach, Calif., the pilot.
Miller's Privateer with another piloted by Lieut. D.E. Ellis, Kalamazoo, Mich., flying wing to wing pounced on a freighter and began spraying the decks with machinegun fire.  
    Esign Robert A. Littmann, San Mateo, Calif., the navigator reported:
"We started to pull out when there was a terrible rip-tearing noise going through the plan--it was the mast of the ship.  We hit with the nose of the plane and were ripped 25 feet through the whole belly.  A marine photographer was injured in the nose as the mast hit and took out the deck.  The crew were just hanging onto the sides from straps."
     The Privateer turned up on end as Miller pulled out only five feet above
the water.  Lieut R. H. Hepworth, Albion, Ida., co-pilot, said: 
 "The plane was shaking all over and felt like it would fall apart.  All the instruments were lost except an airspeed indicator and a magnetic compass.  With everything gone it was still possible to get it back."
     In the wing plane co-pilot Ens. Henry M. Page, Grosse Ile, Mich., signalled Ellis to turn around and assist the stricken Privateer.  Below them the Japanese freighter blazed and smoked.  With nearly 500 miles to return to Okinawa the plane shook loose hundreds of small parts as the crewmen stuck to their posts hanging over the white-capped ocean-four engines kept them in the air. 
     A few miles from Okinawa, Miller ordered the crewmen to edge 
forward and jam themselves around the flight deck.  They piled around the injured marine bobsled fashion to absorb the shock of wheels-up 
crash- landing. 
     Miller brought his plane down perfectly, the nose slightly up, the ripped bottom sliding about 200 yards along the coral runway.  None were hurt. 
     Inside the plane were found two pieces torn from the top of the mast-one hunk two feet long, the other about one foot-- several Japanese ammunition boxes which flew up into the fuselage and a piece of cloth, apparently a signal flag.  


Under Ralph's picture it reads:
Lieut. Ralph H. Hepworth
.........he and his fellow navy air crewmen his their enemy target, 
but they were moving so fast that 
the mast of a Japanese freighter
tore through the belly of their 
ship, leaving the Americans clinging
to straps far above the sea. 
They made it in to Okinawa, but
it is a flight they will never forget. 

The next article printed with this article dated July 5  ALBION, is more about  Ralph. 

     The vigorous school athletics in which he participated must have been a contributing factor to Lieut. (j.g.) Ralph H. Hepworth's being alive today. 
     Friends and relatives here, reading of the grueling experience Lieutenant Hepworth and fellow members of a Privateer air crew encountered after attacking a Japanese freighter, remembered that both in public school, the State Normal and at the University of Idaho he took an active part in football basketball and other sports.  
     The son of Charles V. Hepworth, the lieutenant has been service three years taking boot training in both California and Texas.  He has been overseas for a year. 
     Lieutenant Hepworth, who was president of the Albion student body, has two brothers, First Lieut. Charles M. Hepworth and S 1/c Merle Hepworth, serving somewhere in the Pacific. 
     The Privateer, of which Lieutenant Hepworth was co-pilot had attacked and enemy freighter and swept so low that the mast of the vessel ripped through the bottom of the fuselage.  That forced the American occupants to hang to sides of the plane like trapeze artists high above the ocean. 
      The plane was shaking all over and many of its parts were torn off and fell into the sea. 
     They were nearly 500 miles from Okinawa, but while the perilous fight was nearly over-the greatest danger of all was yet to be faced....a crash landing. 
     The men edged their way arm over arm to the flight deck and huddled about a marine photographer who had been injured, supporting him so that he would not be further harmed when the plane bellied flat against the surface of the landing field.  

Thanks for stopping by;
Renee