Ralph McMaster Rich, born on 22 January 1916 in Denmark, N.C., enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve on 12 October 1939. Designated Naval Aviator on 12 July 1940, he was commissioned ensign on 16 August, and assigned to Enterprise (CV-6) on 28 November. Promoted to lieutenant (junior grade) on 28 May 1942, he led a section of fighters covering the approach of American bombers against the Japanese fleet during the Battle of Midway 4 to 6 June 1942. Lieutenant (junior grade) Rich, killed in an airplane crash on 18 June 1942, was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for "capable and aggressive leadership" which enabled his attack group to "maintain continuous flight over enemy naval units, thereby assuring our dive bombers an unmolested approach."
(DE-695: dp. 1,800 l. 306'; b. 36'10"; dr. 13'6"; s. 24 k.; cpl.; 215; a. 3 3";, 4 40mm. 8 20mm., 2 dct., 8 dcp., 1 dcp. (hh.), 3 21'" tt.; cl. Buckley)
The first Rich was laid down on 27 March 1943 by the Defoe Shipbuilding Co., Bay City, Mich.; launched 22 June 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Ralph McMaster Rich; and commissioned 1 October 1943, Lt. Comdr. E. A. Michel, Jr., USNR, in command.
Following shakedown off Bermuda, Rich was primarily engaged in coastwise escort and patrol duty until the end of February 1944. Then assigned to transatlantic escort work she completed three round-trip crossings by May and on the 12th of that month began her last transit of the North Atlantic.
On the 23d she arrived at Londonerry and commenced preparations for Operation "Neptune," the naval phase of the Normandy invasion.
Delayed by weather for 24 hours, the "U" force sailed for France on 5 June, with Rich in the screen of the bombardment group of TF 125. From the 6th to the 8th, she screened heavier units as they supplied gunfire support for the troops landed on the "Utah" beaches to the northwest of the Carentan Estuary. Soon after 0830 on 8 June, she was ordered to Fire Support Area 3 to assist Glennon (DD-840) which had struck a mine northwest of the Saint-Mareouf Islands. Closing Glennon, Rich dispatched a whaleboat only to learn that her assistance was not needed at that point. Rich then started to round the disabled ship and take up station ahead of the minesweeper which had taken Glennon in tow. At approximately 0920, a mine exploded 50 yards off Rich's starboard beam. Three minutes later, a second went off directly under the ship. Approximately 50 feet of her stern was blown off. A third mine delivered the final blow 2 minutes later. The forward section buckled. Rich was ordered abandoned. A few minutes later, she sank. Of her crew, 27 were killed; 73 wounded; and 62 missing.
Rich (DE-695) earned one battle star during World War II.