RICHARD L. HELM, LCDR, USN

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Richard Helm '39

Date of birth: June 12, 1917

Date of death: April 3, 1943

Age: 25

Lucky Bag

From the 1939 Lucky Bag:

Loss

Richard was lost when USS Pickerel (SS 177) was sunk by Japanese vessels north of Honshū on April 3, 1943.

His parents were listed as next of kin. He has a memory marker in Pennsylvania.

Silver Star

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Silver Star (Posthumously) to Lieutenant Richard Lintner Helm (NSN: 0-82729), United States Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action in the performance of his duties in the U.S.S. PICKEREL (SS-177), during the first five War Patrols of that Submarine in enemy waters from 8 December 1941 to 26 August 1942. As Assistant Torpedo Data Computer Operator, his keen understanding of fire control equipment and proficiency in operating the Torpedo Data Computer were of invaluable assistance to his Commanding Officer in conducting successful attacks which resulted in the sinking of two enemy freighters, totaling 10,000 tons. His coolness and devotion to duty contributed directly to the success of his vessel in evading enemy countermeasures. His conduct throughout was an inspiration to the officers and men in his ship and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

General Orders: Commander in Chief Pacific: Serial 03958 (May 12, 1945)
Action Date: December 8, 1941 - August 26, 1942
Service: Navy
Rank: Lieutenant
Company: Assistant Torpedo Data Computer Operator
Division: U.S.S. Pickerel (SS-177)

Memorial Hall Error

His memorial marker and a listing of losses in that Pacific theater in Honolulu both list him as a LCDR. Believe his was likely a posthumous promotion; the Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps of 1945 lists him as a Lieutenant. (Have not been able to find the 1946 edition of this document.)

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 1939

Ensign, USS Helena

Others at this command: LCDR Elmer Buerkle '25, ENS Richard Sampson '38, and ENS David Pope '39.

June 1940

Ensign, USS Helena

Others at this command: LCDR Elmer Buerkle '25, ENS Richard Sampson '38, ENS David Pope '39, ENS Cyrus Radford, Jr. '40, and ENS Paul Thompson '40.

Others at or embarked at this command: LTjg Charles Brewer '34 (Cruiser Scouting Squadron (VCS) 5).

November 1940

Ensign, USS Roe

April 1941

Ensign, under instruction, Submarine Base New London, Connecticut

Others at this command: CDR Cassin Young '16, LT George MacKenzie, Jr. '31, LTjg Edward Robertson '35, ENS Fred Newell, Jr. '37, ENS Conde Raguet '38, and ENS Claude Goodman, Jr. '39.


Class of 1939

Richard is one of 77 members of the Class of 1939 on Virtual Memorial Hall.