James W. Rickel Jr. (1942/06/04)
Hanging in the window of the Rickel home in Watsonville was the city's first gold star flag.
James Wilson Rickel Jr. was born about 1919 to Mr. and Mrs. James W. Rickel. James, along with brothers Vernon and Sidney and sisters Opal and Beulah, shared the family Watsonville home and attended local schools. He enrolled in Watsonville High School; however, there is no record of his graduation.
When World War II broke out, James Rickel joined the US Navy and following boot camp in San Diego, received training as an electrician. He was promoted to Electrician's Mate Third Class and assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown.
Quick repairs [following the battle of the Coral Sea] at Pearl Harbor put Yorktown into good enough condition to participate in the Battle of Midway on 4-6 June 1942. During this great turning point of the Pacific War, her air group fatally damaged the Japanese aircraft carrier Soryu and shared in the destruction of the carrier Hiryu and cruiser Mikuma. However, successive strikes by dive-bombers and torpedo planes from Hiryu seriously damaged Yorktown, causing her abandonment during the afternoon of 4 June. Two days later, while salvage efforts were underway, the Japanese submarine I-168 torpedoed both the damaged carrier and the destroyer Hammann (DD-412), sinking the latter immediately and Yorktown shortly after daybreak on 7 June 1942.
Rickel was initially declared Missing in Action; however, a family member confirmed his death. James' uncle was a member of the navy salvage crew that boarded the Yorktown after it was first bombed and torpedoed June 4. "Opening the hatch into the compartment where young Rickel was stationed, the salvagers found it filled with water and oil indicating that the men within had all perished."
Petty Officer Third Class James Wilson Rickel was officially declared dead on June 5, 1943, and memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at Honolulu Memorial Cemetery. His awards include the Purple Heart.
(ABMC; W DANFS; USS Yorktown CV-5; WRP July 11, 1942 1:2, September 16, 1942 1:8)