From Texas to Tinian and Tokyo Bay
The Memoirs of Captain J. R. Ritter, Seabee Commander during the Pacific War, 1942-1945
Edited by Jonathan Templin Ritter
University of North Texas Press, Denton, Texas, 2019, 201 pages
Book Review published on: February 28, 2020
From Texas to Tinian and Tokyo Bay: The Memoirs of Captain J. R. Ritter, Seabee Commander during the Pacific War, 1942-1945 is the story of Capt. (then lieutenant and lieutenant commander) J. R. “Rex” Ritter, as edited by his grandson, Jonathan T. Ritter. Rex Ritter was a civil engineer from Texas who worked for the state highway department and who became a U.S. Navy Seabee officer during World War II at the age of forty. Ritter’s journey started with his induction into the U.S. Navy on 15 April 1942 at Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia (Camp Allen specifically, also known as the Naval Construction Training Center) and his initial training with the 4th Seabee Battalion prior to its deployment to the Aleutian Islands in late June 1942. Initially, Ritter was the company commander of Company A, 4th Seabee Battalion, and later the executive officer for the battalion during its campaign in the Aleutian Islands. Ritter described the 4th Battalion’s efforts in Dutch Harbor, Unalaska, Atka Island, Adak, and Amchitka from 1942 through 1943, when there was a true concern that Japan might invade the continental United States by way of these islands. Ritter returned to the United States and was eventually given command of the 107th Seabee Battalion in July 1943. He described the training and preparation of his battalion, which took place in Virginia initially and then later at Camp Endicott, Rhode Island, for commitment into the Pacific theater. In early September 1943, the 107th Battalion moved to Camp Parks, California. There, Ritter met and married his wife prior to his deployment to the Pacific theater. Ritter met Jeannette Rouyet (“Frenchie”) in mid-October 1943, and on 7 November, they were married. In late February 1944, the 107th Seabee Battalion set off for Hawaii and eventually moved to Tarawa, Kwajalein, Ebeye Island, Bigej Island, and to Tinian Island. Ritter detailed the building of airfields on Tinian Island in the northern Marianas that enabled the B-29 fire raids on Japan, “The Empire Run,” culminating in the two missions that dropped atomic bombs in August 1945. On 2 September 1945, Ritter witnessed Japan’s unconditional surrender on the USS Missouri from a B-29 circling over Tokyo Bay at 4,500 feet.
From Texas to Tinian and Tokyo Bay is an excellent read for anyone interested in the history of the Navy Seabees and their contribution to the Pacific theater during World War II. The book is a must-add to a military historian’s reading list.
Book Review written by: Eric O. Schacht, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas