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The Chief Remembers the USS Rich
 


Chief Raymond C. Holler


    GQ station forward engine room. From the time of first hit I was in forward engine room. After all communication was lost I knew we were hit badly. I ordered the men to abandon ship. I was last man out of engine room. I went out of the engine room through the passage way hatch. The hatch to the weather deck was buckled nearly closed. I came out on the torpedo tube deck. I was shocked to see men laying all over the deck, some dead, some wounded. Went down to head on main deck and picked up first aid equipment and started down deck. The first man I saw was Jack Dempsey Lunsford all wrapped up in lines. I started to untangle him and he said, "No, No, Chief. I might need them."

    I started forward and Mr. Brooks, engineering officer, blood running down his face, trying to come through the expansion joint. I talked to him and told him how I got out. When he disappeared, I thought he was down in #1 fire room. I went down into fire room. It was dark and acid fumes. The grating was all blown out and very dark. I went back up on main deck and asked one man to tie a line on me and stay on main deck so I could find my way out. Someone told us Mr. Brooks had left the ship. I went into the motor whaleboat to care for the wounded. While transferring men from our boat to another so they could be taken to hospital ships, the Rich rolled over the boat davit caught on the inside and I jumped over into the other boat. The other boat had tied up to the Rich. We tried to pull away from the Rich. The Coxswain could not untie it, but the lines were cut which released us. I was on a LST which had been converted to a hospital ship. I spent my time in hospital bay talking to the sick and wounded. Went back to England. Was in survivors camp at Plymouth. Then to Scotland, then back to Bristol when I boarded the USS Albemarle, sea plane tender, back to Boston.

News note:
    After 53 years of being forgotten by the United States Navy, Ray Holler has finally been awarded for the lives he saved June 8, 1944. He was awarded the Navy Marine Award in 1997.

    Chief Holler joined the Navy Reserve. After many years, retired as CMM. He is and was an ordained minister before going on board the USS Rich. Still preaches at ripe age of 85. Lives in Copan, OK.

Editor's note:
     On October 20, 2005, Chief Raymond C. Holler passed away at the Jane Phillips Medical Center in Bartlesville, Oklahoma after a short battle with pneumonia. His is deeply missed by many. Chief Holler's obituary can be found here.

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