RICHARD D. STEPHENSON, LCDR, USN
Richard Stephenson '35
Date of birth: September 20, 1912
Date of death: July 10, 1943
From the 1935 Lucky Bag:
On 10 July 1943 Douglas Pierson was airborne again. It was 06:01 hrs. Again the plane was piloted by Lieutenant Mishanec, two more planes were launched. Tow hours later Mishanec and Pierson were on board of the Philadelphia again. Lieutenant Commander Richard D. Stephenson (from New York) took off in 8-CS-1 at 10:02, his observer was Douglas Pierson. The plane was scouting CENT area, off shore the coast of Scoglitti. It would be the men’s last flight. Nearing the coastline of Scoglitti at an altitude of some 1,000 feet the vulnerable seaplane was suddenly attacked by two Messerschmitt Bf109’s. The Seagull was beyond the range of the ship’s anti aircraft guns. At 13:13 hrs the Seagull crashed into the waterline of the Mediterranean Sea some three miles east of Gela, 3 miles northwest of Scoglitti and some 100 yards offshore. The plane sank immediately.
Both men were buried by the infantry in a field grave on the side of the Via Riviera Gela, near the corner with the Strada Baia Donca. The Via Riviera Gela is situated along the beach and connects Scoglitti and Gela. When the temporary cemetery at Gela was opened and circumstances permitted, the remains of both men were exhumed and reburied at Gela.
Later Richard was reburied once more near Rome.
His wife was listed as next of kin. He is buried in Italy. He was also survived by three sons. (Information from January 1958 issue of Shipmate, which mentions him in the context of his re-married wife winning a judgement against the Veterans Administration.)
Distinguished Flying Cross
From Hall of Valor:
The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross (Posthumously) to Lieutenant Commander Richard Davids Stephenson (NSN: 0-75050), United States Navy, for extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight during the invasion of Sicily on 10 July 1943. Knowing that enemy aircraft of superior speed and armament were in the vicinity, he piloted his scouting plane from the U.S.S. PHILADELPHIA seven miles inland to spot long-range naval gunfire. Until his plane was shot down, he courageously assisted in carrying out the mission assigned to him.
General Orders: Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 324 (March 1944)
Action Date: July 10, 1943
Rank: Lieutenant Commander
Company: Scouting Squadron
Division: U.S.S. Philadelphia