PFC Leland Ralph Ricker


Leland Ralph Ricker
Bakersfield, CA
Mother, Mrs. Edna F. Ricker
October 26, 1913
January 5, 1942
October 9, 1942
Guadalcanal B/1/2 PFC KIA
Purple Heart
Private First Class
Lost at sea, Sealark Channel
Manila American Cemetery and Memorial

Service Number: 349708

Birth and Early Life:
Leland Ricker was born in California on October 26, 1913. He was raised among the oilfields of Kern County as his father Ralph moved the growing family from McKittrick to Maricopa to Bakersfield.

Bakersfield Herald, October 29, 1919.
Bakersfield Herald, October 29, 1919.

By the late 1930s, Leland Ricker was working in the oil fields as a rig builder; he attended one year of college, and in his spare time was active with the local Boy Scouts chapter. The Bakersfield Californian reported a proud day on May 9, 1938, when Maricopa Cub Pack #5 was presented with its official charter; receiving the document was Cubmaster Ricker.

Enlistment and Boot Camp:
After enlisting on January 5, 1942, Ricker was sent to MCRD San Diego. At the ate of 29, he was quite a bit older than most in his recruit platoon; the age difference and his experience as a youth leader probably played a part in his speedy promotion to Private First Class.

Wartime Service:
PFC Ricker was assigned to Company B, First Battalion, 2nd Marines in the early spring of 1942. That summer, he boarded the USS President Jackson for a two-month sail across the Pacific. After leaving the United States, Ricker set foot on land only once before making an awkward and embarrassing mock landing on the island of Koro. There was no time for a second rehearsal; the ships weighed anchor and steamed off for the Solomon Islands.

At dawn on August 7, 1942, PFC Ricker made his first combat landing; his company assaulted Florida Island in support of the landings on Guadalcanal just a few miles away. They encountered no live enemy and quickly secured their objective. Later that day 1/2nd Marines re-boarded their landing craft to return to the USS President Jackson, but Company B was diverted and ordered to make a landing on Tanambogo under cover of darkness. Planners hoped that the assault would relieve some of the pressure on the Paramarines fighting on nearby Gavutu, but the Japanese discovered the company’s boats and opened fire. Only a third of the men, mostly from First Platoon, made it to shore; the rest were driven off. The role that Ricker’s Second Platoon played is unknown, but they likely never touched dry land on Tanambogo.

Company B rejoined their battalion on now-conquered Tulagi a few days later. For the next two months, they garrisoned the tiny island. There were no Japanese to fight and little else to do; the men occupied themselves by building shelters, constructing fortifications they would never use (at least one company built a double line of barricades from sharpened eight foot logs, simply to stay busy), standing guard duty, and battling boredom. The first cases of malaria and dysentery were reported, and the worst cases evacuated.

Date Of Loss:
On October 9, 1942, Lieutenant Floyd E. Parks called his platoon together for a briefing. They were finally leaving Tulagi and heading for the fighting on Guadalcanal – and would be making a combat landing at the village of Aola, thirty miles from the nearest friendly forces. Most of the Marines welcomed this break in the monotony, and spent the day packing up their few belongings and combat loading their packs.

That evening, Second Platoon climbed into a Higgins boat tethered to a YP craft that would tow them the twenty miles from Tulagi to Aola. Night had fallen by the time they reached the center of Sealark Channel. The plywood Higgins boats groaned and creaked under the strain of their load. Each YP boat towed four Higgins boats lashed together in a chain, which meant the first boat in the chain took the most stress.

PFC Ricker and his platoon were unfortunate enough to be in the first boat. When their YP suddenly increased its speed, the plywood hull of the Higgins boat split in half, dumping Second Platoon into the channel. Loaded down as they were for a combat landing, many of the Marines never had a chance to get out of their gear. Fourteen Marines of Second Platoon – including the former Cubmaster from Bakersfield – drowned in the channel, vanishing without a trace.

Next Of Kin:
Mother, Mrs. Edna Ricker

Status Of Remains:
Lost at sea.

Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Philippines.

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