One day last week I was looking through President Lovett’s personal papers and I was caught off guard by this newspaper article about the launching of a ship named after a Rice graduate who had been killed in combat and awarded the Navy Cross. I’d never heard of nor seen any mention of this anywhere:
You can see that the upper left corner of the paper is folded over. When I carefully turned it back I found that it was dated December 25, 1943.
I can’t think what to say.
Here is Lieutenant La Prade’s Navy Cross citation:
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Robert M. LaPrade (0-9775), Second Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps (Reserve), for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service while serving with the SECOND Marine Division during action against enemy Japanese forces on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, on 20 January 1943. Operating behind the enemy lines, Lieutenant LaPrade, in command of a combat patrol which wiped out one enemy machine gun position, was critically wounded twice and his second in command incapacitated by enemy machine-gun fire. Despite his insistence that they leave him behind, First Lieutenant LaPrade was carried back to our lines where, with unfaltering disregard for his own ebbing strength, he continued to give orders concerning directions and formations until he lost consciousness. His indomitable fighting spirit and inspiring devotion to the accomplishment of an important mission were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave up his life in the service of his country.
Here’s the ship that was named for him:
And here he is himself as a member of the Rice Institute Hall Committee in 1942, less than a year before his death in the Pacific Theatre:
I’m taking a couple of days off to celebrate Christmas with my family. I’ll be back probably on Thursday and in the meantime I hope you all have a wonderful holiday. Thanks very much to all of you for taking the time to read and comment here.
Really enjoy your posts. Keep up the wonderful work, and happy holidays as well.
It would be interesting to find out what action the ship named after him had.
Tiki — The service record for the USS La Prade can be found here: http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/l1/la_prade.htm . Additionally, its Wikipedia entry says it was scrapped in 1973 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_La_Prade_(DE-409) )
Robert Maitland La Prade received his B.A. from Rice in 1942. (http://scholarship.rice.edu/bitstream/handle/1911/61383/wrc00674.pdf)
USS La Prade (DE-409) was a John C. Butler-class destroyer escort acquired by the U.S. Navy during World War II. The primary purpose of the destroyer escort was to escort and protect ships in convoy, in addition to other tasks as assigned, such as patrol or radar picket.
She was named in honor of USMC First Lieutenant Robert M. La Prade who was awarded the Navy Cross for bravery in action on Guadalcanal. She was laid down 18 November 1943 by Brown Shipbuilding Co., Houston, Texas; launched 31 December 1943; sponsored by Mrs. J. T. La Prade, mother of the late Lieutenant La Prade; and commissioned 20 April 1944, Lt. Comdr. C. M. Fellows in command
Completing shakedown off Bermuda, La Prade departed Norfolk, Virginia, 27 June 1944 for the Pacific Ocean, arriving Pearl Harbor 25 July. The destroyer escort engaged in ASW, screening, and escort operations out of Pearl Harbor and departed 8 September for Eniwetok. Operating out of Eniwetok and Ulithi, La Prade continued escort and patrol services, sailing with a hunter-killer task group during the Palau Islands invasion. When the Palaus, needed as logistic bases for the Philippine Islands invasion, were secure, La Prade returned to Eniwetok 9 October and resumed escort and patrol duty.
While escorting the damaged USS Canberra to Manus on 12 November, La Prade was detached to aid a distressed PBM seaplane. The destroyer escort salvaged the portable equipment and stood guard until Onslow arrived to direct the rescue operations. From November 1944 until March 1945, La Prade escorted convoys to Leyte, Manus, and Ulithi. She also joined Casco in a joint attack on a Japanese midget submarine in the entrance to Kossol Roads Harbor, Palau Islands.
Departing Ulithi 30 March, she steamed toward Okinawa to join the screen for oilers engaged in replenishing Vice Admiral Mitscher’s fast carrier task force. With American troops struggling to establish a garrison next door to Japan, the oilers and their screening units played a vital role in keeping supplies moving into the embattled island. La Prade continued to support the campaign until Okinawa was declared secured 26 June. La Prade performed escort and patrol operations for the rest of the war before joining the Japan occupation forces at Sasebo 23 September.
The destroyer escort returned to Okinawa 10 October and 4 days later headed home, arriving San Diego, California, 5 November. La Prade remained at San Diego until 11 May 1946 when she commissioned and joined the Pacific Reserve Fleet. Stricken 15 January 1972 sold for scrapping 15 January 1973.
The connection to Brown Shipbuilding is a nice touch.
Thanks for sharing this truly sobering story, Melissa. It’s good to be reminded of the unimaginable sacrifices these young men and women made for our country. Going from the Hall Committee at Rice one year to the carnage that was Guadacanal is not something we, thankfully, had to experience upon graduating from Rice. Posts like this help to keep our lives in perspective.
Very well said.
Wow and keep up the good work.
Bob’s older brother, James, was a graduate of West Point and rose to lieutenant colonel and was commander of a battalion in the 506th parachute regiment as part of the 101st airborne division. During the Battle of the Bulge, his command post took a direct hit from German artillery at Noville. The Laprade family lost two sons in the service to our country.
Melissa: the Navy Cross is a very high honor. Lt LaPrade’s story deserves to be known and should be commemorated with some sort of plaque in the RMC, which is after all our war memorial. How can I help make this happen?
Great post. Thanks for sharing. Without it, we’d never have known his story.
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