Service Number: 282464
Birth and Early Life:
James Patrick was born on May 12, 1919. He was the son of Guy Patrick and Anna Maxwell Patrick, who died of pulmonary tuberculosis in 1922, at the age of 27. James grew up in Hardin, Kentucky with his older sister Anna and stepmother Rebecca Hobbs; his little stepbrother, John Henry Patrick, succumbed to appendicitis in 1934.
Enlistment and Boot Camp:
Patrick joined the Marine Corps from Fort Knox, Kentucky on February 15, 1940. He attended boot camp at Parris Island and was selected for the Sea School at Norfolk Navy Yard that April.
Service Prior to 1941:
After completing his training, Private Patrick served with the barracks detachment at Norfolk until September, 1940, when he joined the USS Vincennes in Boston, Massachusetts. Patrick was promoted to Private First Class in January, 1941, and spent the last months of peacetime patrolling the Atlantic with the Vincennes.
Patrick was off South Africa when Pearl Harbor was attacked; his ship was speedily recalled to the States, where she underwent a refit before heading for the Pacific Fleet under a new commander, Captain Frederick L. Riefkohl. Evidently, Patrick stood out as a Marine, for Riefkohl picked him to serve as his personal orderly and promoted him to Corporal. His daily routine consisted of guarding the Captain’s quarters and being available for special duties and errands; in combat, Patrick would also serve as Riefkohl’s bodyguard, in a tradition dating back to the first days of Marine combat on sailing ships. He would perform this function three times – the first two, at Midway and during the Guadalcanal landings were uneventful, but the third would be different.
Date Of Loss:
Shortly after midnight on August 9, 1942, Captain Riefkohl was awakened by a message that a firefight was taking place not far from his cruiser’s location. He and Patrick hurried to the bridge, and suddenly found themselves bathed in bright light. Believing he was being targeted by friendly spotlights, Riefkohl sent a snappish radio message for his comrades to turn off their lights – didn’t they know there were enemy ships about? The only answer the Vincennes received came in the form of Japanese high-caliber shells and torpedoes that quickly disabled the ship. In less than thirty minutes, Vincennes took over 85 hits.
Riefkohl knew the battle was lost; with his bridge in shambles and communications out, he cast about for two men to spread the order to abandon ship. Chief Yeoman Leonard Stucker was sent aft with the news; Corporal James Patrick was told to head forward and tell everyone he saw to save themselves. With a salute, Patrick turned on his heel and went to execute his final order from his commander. He was never seen again. (1)
Next Of Kin:
Father, Mr. Guy P. Patrick
Status Of Remains:
Lost at sea.
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.
St. James Cemetery, Elizabethtown, Kentucky
(1) Newcomb, Richard F. The Battle of Savo Island, pg 182. Leonard Stucker (October 23, 1905 – May 2, 1969) survived the battle unwounded; he is buried in Long Island National Cemetery.