JOHN C. RIGGS, JR., LCDR, USN

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall
John C. Riggs, Jr. '28

Date of birth: April 26, 1905

Date of death: May 6, 1942

Age: 37

Lucky Bag

From the 1928 Lucky Bag:

1928 Riggs LB.jpg

J. CLARK RIGGS, JR.

Battle Creek, Michigan

"John"

"AND I learned about women from her." John has been one of the most consistent, but not the most constant snakes in our midst. A pleasant week-end without a lady is an impossibility and even the most critical of us cannot say that his taste is anything less than discrimination par excellence.

His disposition and ever high spirits make this Beau Brummel the life of any party; whereas the music that permeates his soul proves the theory that it takes an artist to appreciate good music. There isn't a record made by the six leading musical companies which you can't find on his five foot pile. "Give me this day my daily music," says John, "and then not even a Steam prof can get me griped."

The "Acs" have tackled this ponderous boy of ours but have each time been completely overwhelmed in defeat. Even the A test rope climb could not prove his Waterloo, although he threatens that if he ever goes to Congress, he'll have a law passed abolishing rope climbing in the Navy.

Crew (4); Class Wrestling (2); Class Boxing (3); Gymkhana Cast (4); Choir (4, 3, 2, 1); Plebe Show (4).

1928 Riggs LB.jpg

J. CLARK RIGGS, JR.

Battle Creek, Michigan

"John"

"AND I learned about women from her." John has been one of the most consistent, but not the most constant snakes in our midst. A pleasant week-end without a lady is an impossibility and even the most critical of us cannot say that his taste is anything less than discrimination par excellence.

His disposition and ever high spirits make this Beau Brummel the life of any party; whereas the music that permeates his soul proves the theory that it takes an artist to appreciate good music. There isn't a record made by the six leading musical companies which you can't find on his five foot pile. "Give me this day my daily music," says John, "and then not even a Steam prof can get me griped."

The "Acs" have tackled this ponderous boy of ours but have each time been completely overwhelmed in defeat. Even the A test rope climb could not prove his Waterloo, although he threatens that if he ever goes to Congress, he'll have a law passed abolishing rope climbing in the Navy.

Crew (4); Class Wrestling (2); Class Boxing (3); Gymkhana Cast (4); Choir (4, 3, 2, 1); Plebe Show (4).

Loss

John was lost on May 6, 1942 when the patrol plane he was aboard as a passenger crashed near Pearl Harbor.

From the VP-13 War Diary (via naval aviation historian Richard Leonard email on April 8, 2018):

When commencing a return fight to San Diego, Cal., about 1620 May 6, 1942, 13-P-5, BuAer #1633 crashed shortly after take off in the eastern end of the dry dock channel at Pearl Harbor, T.H. due to failure of No. 3 engine. The plane sank in 20 feet of water and was subsequently recovered by the Naval Air Station, Pearl Harbor, T.H., and was transferred to the A & R department of that station pending final disposition. A crew of ten and 13 passengers were aboard. Personnel injured as follows:

  • Lt.Comdr. R. C Winters, U.S. Navy - - Drowned
  • Lt.Comdr. J.C. Riggs, U.S. Navy - - Drowned
  • Colonel F.P. Mulchay, U.S.M.C. - - Fracture, left humerus.

Other members of crew and passengers either uninjured or received minor cuts and bruises.

Other Information

From researcher Kathy Franz:

John Clark Riggs, born in Michigan

John graduated from Central Battle Creek high school in 1923. “Whose smile and frown like Achilles spear, Is able with the change to kill and cure.” Senior Play ’23; Junior Pageant ’22, ’23; Grinds Ed., Paean ’23; Latin Play ’20; Football ’22; Cadets ’20, ’21; Tennis Club ’21; Victory Festival ’19.

He enlisted in the navy on June 10, 1923, and took a preparatory course at Hampton Roads before passing examination to the Naval Academy. He was appointed by Secretary Curtiss D. Wilbur.

He married Edith Fleming Stockton on January 25, 1930, in the chapel of St. John’s-by-the-Sea, La Jolla, California.

In March, 1931 and in June 1934, he sailed from Cristobal to New York City.

In 1940, the family lived in San Diego. Son John was born in the Panama Canal Zone.

In October, 1941, he had a manifest card from Bolling Field, Washington, D. C., to Baltimore. He was 5’10” tall with brown hair and brown eyes.

Per the Battle Creek Enquirer, June 12, 1942:

While serving on the Lexington, Commander Riggs made a successful forced landing in a damaged plane, landing with the wind instead of into the wind. For this he received special commendation. While serving on the airplane carrier Saratoga he made the 25,000th landing on the ship. A cake was baked for him to mark the occasion.

Mrs. Hennig wrote that during the First World war when Commander Riggs was 12 “he thought he should do something to help win the war against the Kaiser. He went out to Camp Custer in heat and dust to carry water to the men during the summer. He regretted he was not old enough to be soldier, not dreaming then that he would spend 14 years as a naval aviator, and die in line of duty in defense of his country.”

During the years from 12 to 14 it appeared that Riggs might follow a musical career. “He had a beautiful voice but he thought music was ‘too sissy’ so in 1923 he definitely chose a navy career and set his goal to become a naval aviator. He made Annapolis the ‘hard way’ by joining the navy, then taking one year’s intensive schooling at Norfolk, Va. to win an academy appointment,” Mrs. Hennig said.

“In 1924 he received word that he was one of 53 who had made the grade out of a class of almost 200. From then on he loved every day of his training as a potential navy officer,” she wrote.

Per the Battle Creek Enquirer, May 17, 1942:

he had several narrow escapes from death earlier, according to letters received here from his mother, Mrs. Angeline Riggs Hennig of Kansas City.

Commander Riggs flew a navy plane to England and landed there May 10, 1941, at the height of a Nazi bombing of the English east coast. Shortly afterward a bomb demolished a house two doors from his quarters in London.

After six months in London observing the R. A. F., he returned to the United States, and in November, 1941, was ordered to Manila. His boat, due to leave San Francisco on December 5, was delayed two days and had been at sea only four hours when Pearl Harbor was attacked. The ship returned and he was assigned to train Pensacola navy base fliers in advanced work. He went to Pearl Harbor this year with his students for patrol work and was so engaged when he met his death.

At the time of his death, he was on the admiral’s staff in patrol aviation assigned to squadron duties at Pearl Harbor.

His father was J. Clark as well, a rooming clerk in the sanitarium, and his mother Angeline was a cashier there. His step-mother was Antoinette.

From the Kansas City Star on May 15, 1942:

About a year ago he volunteered for observation duty with the R.A.F. in Britain, landing by plane in London the night of May 9-10, 1941, in one of the worst bombings London experienced.

In October last year he returned to this country and was ordered to Manila. At noon December 7 he was on a ship leaving San Francisco harbor. In a few hours, after the fateful news from Pearl Harbor, his ship was recalled and he was assigned to flying instruction duty at San Diego, before being sent to the Pacific again last January.

… Recently he has been on an admiral's staff, patrol squadron, in the Pacific.

From the Battle Creek Enquirer on May 13, 1942:

Besides the mother is his wife, Edith, and two children, Sally Gay, 13, and John David, 11, all of La Jolla, Cal., and a brother, Robert, of Kansas City.

He earned his wings as naval aviator #3690 on July 28, 1930 while an Ensign.

Photographs

Related Articles

Robert Winters '27 was the other passenger lost in this crash.

Navy Directories & Officer Registers

The "Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps" was published annually from 1815 through at least the 1970s; it provided rank, command or station, and occasionally billet until the beginning of World War II when command/station was no longer included. Scanned copies were reviewed and data entered from the mid-1840s through 1922, when more-frequent Navy Directories were available.

The Navy Directory was a publication that provided information on the command, billet, and rank of every active and retired naval officer. Single editions have been found online from January 1915 and March 1918, and then from three to six editions per year from 1923 through 1940; the final edition is from April 1941.

The entries in both series of documents are sometimes cryptic and confusing. They are often inconsistent, even within an edition, with the name of commands; this is especially true for aviation squadrons in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Alumni listed at the same command may or may not have had significant interactions; they could have shared a stateroom or workspace, stood many hours of watch together… or, especially at the larger commands, they might not have known each other at all. The information provides the opportunity to draw connections that are otherwise invisible, though, and gives a fuller view of the professional experiences of these alumni in Memorial Hall.

October 1928
Ensign, USS Tennessee

January 1929
Ensign, USS Tennessee

April 1929
Ensign, USS Tennessee

October 1929
Ensign, USS Thompson

Others at this command:
January 1930
Ensign, USS Thompson

Others at this command:
October 1930
Ensign, Torpedo and Bombing Plane Squadron (VT) 1B, USS Lexintgon

January 1931
Ensign, Torpedo and Bombing Plane Squadron (VT) 1B, USS Lexintgon

April 1931
Ensign, Torpedo and Bombing Plane Squadron (VT) 1B, USS Lexington


Others at or embarked at USS Lexington:
LT Harry Brandenburger '21 (USS Lexington)
LT James Carney '21 (Fighting Plane Squadron (VF) 2B)
LT Francis Bridget '21 (Fighting Plane Squadron (VF) 5B)
LT Edwin Crouch '21 (USS Lexington)
LTjg Hilan Ebert '26 (USS Lexington)
LTjg Dick Downer '27 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 3B)
LTjg Harold Richards '27 (USS Lexington)
LTjg Eugene Lindsey '27 (Fighting Plane Squadron (VF) 5B)
ENS Baylies Clark '30 (USS Lexington)
July 1931
Ensign, Torpedo and Bombing Plane Squadron (VT) 1B, USS Lexington


Others at or embarked at USS Lexington:
LT Harry Brandenburger '21 (USS Lexington)
LT James Carney '21 (Fighting Plane Squadron (VF) 2B)
LT Edwin Crouch '21 (USS Lexington)
LTjg John Waldron '24 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 3B)
LTjg Dick Downer '27 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 3B)
LTjg Harold Richards '27 (USS Lexington)
LTjg Eugene Lindsey '27 (USS Lexington)
ENS John Yoho '29 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 3B)
ENS Baylies Clark '30 (USS Lexington)
ENS Cleon Felton '31 (USS Lexington)
ENS Walter Bailey '31 (USS Lexington)
ENS Edward Allen '31 (USS Lexington)
ENS Eugene Lytle, Jr. '31 (USS Lexington)
October 1931
Lieutenant (j.g.), Torpedo and Bombing Plane Squadron (VT) 1B, USS Lexington


Others at or embarked at USS Lexington:
LT Harry Brandenburger '21 (USS Lexington)
LT James Carney '21 (Fighting Plane Squadron (VF) 2B)
LT Edwin Crouch '21 (USS Lexington)
LTjg John Waldron '24 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 3B)
LTjg Dick Downer '27 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 3B)
LTjg Harold Richards '27 (USS Lexington)
LTjg Eugene Lindsey '27 (USS Lexington)
ENS Henry Twohy '29 (Fighting Plane Squadron (VF) 5B)
ENS John Yoho '29 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 3B)
ENS Baylies Clark '30 (USS Lexington)
ENS John Craig '30 (USS Lexington)
ENS Cleon Felton '31 (USS Lexington)
ENS Walter Bailey '31 (USS Lexington)
ENS Edward Allen '31 (USS Lexington)
ENS Eugene Lytle, Jr. '31 (USS Lexington)
January 1932
Lieutenant (j.g.), Torpedo and Bombing Plane Squadron (VT) 1B, USS Lexington


Others at or embarked at USS Lexington:
LT Harry Brandenburger '21 (USS Lexington)
LT James Carney '21 (Fighting Plane Squadron (VF) 2B)
LT Edwin Crouch '21 (USS Lexington)
LTjg John Waldron '24 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 3B)
LTjg Dick Downer '27 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 3B)
LTjg Eugene Lindsey '27 (USS Lexington)
ENS Henry Twohy '29 (Fighting Plane Squadron (VF) 5B)
ENS John Yoho '29 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 3B)
ENS Baylies Clark '30 (USS Lexington)
ENS John Craig '30 (USS Lexington)
ENS Cleon Felton '31 (USS Lexington)
ENS Walter Bailey '31 (USS Lexington)
ENS Edward Allen '31 (USS Lexington)
ENS Eugene Lytle, Jr. '31 (USS Lexington)
April 1932
Lieutenant (j.g.), Torpedo and Bombing Plane Squadron (VT) 1B, USS Lexington


Others at or embarked at USS Lexington:
LT Harry Brandenburger '21 (USS Lexington)
LT James Carney '21 (Fighting Plane Squadron (VF) 2B)
LT Edwin Crouch '21 (USS Lexington)
LTjg John Waldron '24 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 3B)
LTjg Dick Downer '27 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 3B)
LTjg Eugene Lindsey '27 (USS Lexington)
ENS Henry Twohy '29 (Fighting Plane Squadron (VF) 5B)
ENS John Yoho '29 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 3B)
ENS Baylies Clark '30 (USS Lexington)
ENS John Craig '30 (USS Lexington)
ENS Walter Bailey '31 (USS Lexington)
ENS Eugene Lytle, Jr. '31 (USS Lexington)
October 1932
Lieutenant (j.g.), Patrol Plane Squadron (VP) 3S, Naval Air Station Coco Solo, Canal Zone
January 1933
Lieutenant (j.g.), Patrol Plane Squadron (VP) 3S, Naval Air Station Coco Solo, Canal Zone
April 1933
Lieutenant (j.g.), Patrol Plane Squadron (VP) 3S, Naval Air Station Coco Solo, Canal Zone
July 1933
Lieutenant (j.g.), Patrol Plane Squadron (VP) 3S, Naval Air Station Coco Solo, Canal Zone
October 1933
Lieutenant (j.g.), Patrol Plane Squadron (VP) 3S, Naval Air Station Coco Solo, Canal Zone
April 1934
Lieutenant (j.g.), Patrol Plane Squadron (VP) 3F, Naval Air Station Coco Solo, Canal Zone
July 1934
Lieutenant (j.g.), Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B, USS Colorado

Others at or embarked at USS Colorado:
October 1934
Lieutenant (j.g.), Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B, USS Colorado

Others at this command:

Others at or embarked at USS Colorado:
LCDR Warner Portz '15 (USS Colorado)
January 1935
Lieutenant (j.g.), Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B, USS Colorado

Others at this command:

Others at or embarked at USS Colorado:
LCDR Warner Portz '15 (USS Colorado)
April 1935
Lieutenant (j.g.), Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B, USS Colorado

Others at this command:

Others at or embarked at USS Colorado:
LCDR Warner Portz '15 (USS Colorado)
October 1935
Lieutenant (j.g.), Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B, USS Colorado

Others at or embarked at USS Colorado:
LTjg Andrew Stewart '31 (USS Colorado)
LTjg Thomas Williamson '32 (USS Colorado)
ENS Ned Wentz '33 (USS Colorado)
ENS Victor Gadrow '35 (USS Colorado)
ENS Albert Bontier '35 (USS Colorado)
January 1936
Lieutenant (j.g.), Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B, USS Colorado

Others at or embarked at USS Colorado:
LTjg Andrew Stewart '31 (USS Colorado)
LTjg Thomas Williamson '32 (USS Colorado)
ENS Ned Wentz '33 (USS Colorado)
ENS Victor Gadrow '35 (USS Colorado)
ENS Albert Bontier '35 (USS Colorado)
April 1936
Lieutenant (j.g.), Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B, USS Colorado

Others at or embarked at USS Colorado:
ENS Ned Wentz '33 (USS Colorado)
ENS Victor Gadrow '35 (USS Colorado)
July 1936
Lieutenant (j.g.), Fighting Plane Squadron (VF) 1B, USS Langley


Others at or embarked at USS Langley:
LT Stephen Cooke '21 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 4B)
LT Walter Dey '24 (USS Langley)
LTjg Clarence Kasparek '32 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 4B)
January 1937
Lieutenant (j.g.), Fighting Plane Squadron (VF) 1B, USS Langley

Others at this command:
April 1937
Lieutenant (j.g.), Fighting Plane Squadron (VF) 1B, USS Langley

Others at this command:
September 1937
Lieutenant, Patrol Squadron (VP) 1, Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii

Others at this command:
January 1938
Lieutenant, Patrol Squadron (VP) 1, Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii

Others at this command:
July 1938
Lieutenant, Patrol Squadron (VP) 1, Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii
January 1939
Lieutenant, Patrol Squadron (VP) 18, Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii
October 1939
Lieutenant, Patrol Squadron (VP) 13, San Diego, California

June 1940
Lieutenant, USS California


Others at or embarked at this command:
ENS Conde Raguet '38 (Battle Force)
November 1940
Lieutenant, Patrol Squadron (VP) 41, Seattle, Washington

Others at this command:
April 1941
Lieutenant, Patrol Squadron (VP) 41, Seattle, Washington

Memorial Hall Error

John is recorded as "J. C. Riggs, Jr." in Memorial Hall. Should be John C. Riggs, Jr.


Class of 1928

J. is one of 17 members of the Class of 1928 on Virtual Memorial Hall.

The "category" links below lead to lists of related Honorees; use them to explore further the service and sacrifice of alumni in Memorial Hall.