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First Name: Richard

Last Name: Suesens

Birthplace: Burlington, Des Moines, IA, US

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Home of Record: IA
Middle Name: Wayne

Date of Birth: 30 April 1915

Date of Death: 05 June 1943 (Presumed)

MIA Date: 04 June 1942

Rank or Rate: Lieutenant (junior grade)

Years Served: 1938-1943

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Richard Wayne Suesens

Lieutenant Junior Grade, United States Navy

Navy Cross

Richard Wayne was the eldest child of John Frederick and Martha Sophia Durand Suesens who married 17 Dec 1913 in Burlington, Des Moines, IA. Richard's siblings were Kenneth Glenn, Beulah Mae, John Frank "Tom," Doris Jane "Dode," and Martha Louise Suesens. Richard's father owned a tinning shop. He died unexpectedly of pneumonia on 19 Feb 1930 leaving his widow and six children ages 4-15 to make their way through the uncertainty and anxiety of the Great Depression. It wasn't until she married Horace E. Voelker on 15 January 1937 in Peoria, IL that she received additional support. Unfortunately, their marriage didn't endure the test of time and they were divorced within several years. However, from this union a daughter, Jean, was born on 13 Sep 1938 in Vancouver, WA. It is truly remarkable that most of Martha's children were high school graduates and most went on to some college experience. Their mother must have been a force to be reckoned with. By Sept 1938, Martha and her family packed up their stuff in Burlington, IA and moved to Vancouver, WA where she remained until her death on 26 March 1965 in Vancouver, WA. She was interred in Aspen Grove Cemetery, Burlington, Des Moines, IA.

Richard Suesens was a football and basketball standout at Burlington High School where he graduated on 6 Jun 1932. Continuing his education Richard graduated from the Burlington Junior College in May 1935 and Iowa State college, Ames, in May 1937. He graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and was a student member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers at Iowa State. He was also a member of Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity and played football at Iowa State. Richard married Margaret Jean Ita (Burlington HS class 1934 and Burlington Junior College class 1936.) on 3 Nov 1940 at the First Congregational Church in Burlington. After their marriage the couple made their home on Coronado Island, San Diego, CA. After Ltjg Suesens' death his widow married Joseph A Lancaster on 9 Mar 1946 in Rochester, NY. She died on 30 Mar 2005 in New Hampshire.

Richard Wayne Suesens enlisted in the US Navy Volunteer Reserve Flight Training Program (V-5) on 31 May 1938. He received orders for temporary active duty at the Naval Reserve Aviation Base (NRAB), Minneapolis as a Seaman Second Class (S2c) to undergo elimination training beginning on 16 Jun 1938. After he completed that training in mid-July he was ordered home to await further orders. In September he received orders from the Secretary of the Navy to report to the Commandant, Naval Air Station (NAS), Pensacola, FL., after he accepted appointment as an Aviation Cadet (AVCAD). He returned to NRAB, Minneapolis where he was discharged from enlisted status as a S2c on 02 Oct 1938. The following day he accepted the appointment and executed the oath of office as an AVCAD. He began his primary flight training under instruction on 31 Oct 1938 in Pensacola.

While an AVCAD at NAS Pensacola, Suesens was a member of the 1938-1939 cadet basketball team. He completed primary training at NAS, Pensacola, FL., then transferred to NAS Miami for additional 4-6 weeks of training with the Advanced Training Specialized Carrier Group. He was designated a naval aviator about Sep 1939. He was commissioned an Ensign, US Naval Reserve, A-V(N) on 15 Oct 1939 (date of rank 04 Oct 1938) with 84 other AVCADs. He was detached from NAS Miami with orders to report to Torpedo Squadron Three (VT-3) embarked USS Saratoga (CV-3). Prior to reporting to VT-3, Ens. Suesens reported for temporary duty with the Advanced Carrier Training Group, US Pacific Fleet in San Diego.

He reported to (VT-3) embarked on USS Saratoga (CV-3) on 20 Nov 1939. He was home during the Christmas Holidays where he visited his grandparents, Mr and Mrs. E.L. Durand with whom he lived while attending Iowa State College. In Nov 1940, Ensign Suesens was one of 370 naval officers who was appointed into the line of the regular Navy. He was promoted to the temporary rank of Lieutenant (j.g.) on 01 Nov 1941.

Saratoga was in a refit/overhaul status most of 1941, therefore, her attached squadrons, including VT-3, were based at several Naval Air Stations in Hawaii or the west coast. On 07 Dec 1941, Saratoga was entering San Diego to embark her air group, which were ashore while she was undergoing refit. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Saratoga became the flagship of an unsuccessful American effort to relieve Wake Island. A few weeks later on 11 Jan 1942 Saratoga was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. She steamed to Pearl Harbor for temporary repairs arriving on 13 Jan 1942. She returned to the Bremerton Navy Yard for permanent repairs on 09 Feb 1942. During the yard period Saratoga's embarked squadrons were transferred elsewhere. VT-3 was assigned first to NAS Pearl Harbor at Ford Island then to NAS Kaneohe Bay on Hawaii.

On 28 May 1942, the squadron was temporarily reassigned to the aircraft carrier, USS Yorktown (CV-5). Aviation squadrons from Air Group Three and Five flew on board Yorktown shortly after she got underway from Pearl Harbor in company with the USS Hornet (CV-8) and USS Enterprise (CV-6). They steamed to a point on the navigation chart nicknamed "Point Luck" to await the arrival of the Japanese Striking Force which was steaming from Japan to attack Midway Island.

About a week later on 4 June 1942, Ltjg Suesens and his gunner ARM2 Troy C. Barkley, launched from the flight deck of USS Yorktown (CV-5) with other elements of Air Group Three and Air Group Five to attack the Japanese Striking Forces approaching Midway. Although they had some friendly fighter protection enroute to their targets VT-3 had to thread their way through a gauntlet of swarming enemy fighters and a hail of anti-aircraft fire. Of the twelve VT-3 torpedo planes that took off from the Yorktown that morning only two survived the attack. The two aircraft made it back to the vicinity of friendly forces, but had to ditch in the sea. Both pilots and one aircrewman were rescued. The second aircrewman died in the raft from wounds.

Ltjg Suesens and Petty Officer Barkley did not return from this mission, and they were listed as missing in action on 04 Jun 1942. Their remains were unrecoverable. The Navy Department notified the Suesens family via telegram on 18 Jun 1942 that he was missing in the service of his country. On 5 Jun 1943, Ltjg Suesens was presumed dead.

Ltjg Suesens was awarded the Navy Cross, Purple Heart, American Defense Service Medal with "Fleet" clasp, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/Fleet Clasp and 3 bronze battle stars, and the World War II Victory Medal. [The only award that wasn't posthumously presented was the Navy Cross. When it was awarded, Ltjg was still missing in action and not presumed dead.]


The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross to Richard Wayne Suesens, Lieutenant, Junior Grade, United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Pilot of a carrier-based Navy Torpedo Plane of Torpedo Squadron THREE, attached to the U.S.S. YORKTOWN, during the "Air Battle of Midway," against enemy Japanese forces on 4 June 1942. Participating in a Torpedo Plane assault against Japanese naval units, Lieutenant, Junior Grade, Suesens, in the face of tremendous anti-aircraft fire and overwhelming fighter opposition, pressed home his attack to a point where it became relatively certain that, in order to accomplish his mission, he would probably sacrifice his life. Undeterred by the grave possibilities of such a hazardous offensive, he carried on, with extreme disregard for his own personal safety, until his squadron scored direct hits on two enemy aircraft carriers. His self sacrificing gallantry and fortitude were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

General Orders: Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 309 (December 1942)


His family also received a commemoration from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It reads: In grateful memory of Richard Wayne Suesens, who died in the service of his country, SEA, Pacific Area, ATTACHED TORPEDO SQUADRON THREE, 5 JUNE 1943 (Presumed). He stands in the unbroken line of patriots who have dared to die that freedom might live and grow and increase its blessings. Freedom lives, and through it, he lives -- in a way that humbles the undertakings of most men.

(Signed) Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States of America


Carroll Daily Herald (Carroll, Iowa) - 20 Nov 1939, Mon - Page 7

Naval Aviator

Washington (AP) – The navy department announced today that Ensign Richard W. Suesens, Waterloo, (1143 Williston Avenue), has been designated as naval aviator and ordered to report for active duty with a fleet aircraft squadron. Suesens was assigned to Torpedo Squadron 3, U.S.S. Saratoga.


The Des Moines Register (Des Moines, Iowa) - 08 Jul 1942, Wed - Page 14

Burlington Pilot Reported Missing

Burlington, IA. – Word was received here Tuesday that Wayne Suesens, 27, lieutenant and pilot in the naval air corps, is missing in line of duty. His wife lives here. Suesens was a Burlington high school and junior college football and basketball player. He was graduated from Burlington Junior college in 1935 and Iowa State college at Ames in 1937.


The Muscatine Journal and News-Tribune (Muscatine, Iowa) - 22 Jul 1942, Wed - Page 6

Burlington Man Listed by Navy Among Missing

Washington – (AP) – Richard Wayne Suesens, lieutenant (JG), U.S. navy, was the only Iowan listed today in the navy department’s casualty list no. 8, covering the period from July 1 to July 10. He was included among the missing. His next of kin is his wife, Mrs. Margaret Jean Suesens of Burlington.


The Des Moines Register (Des Moines, Iowa) - 15 Nov 1942, Sun - Page 16

Awarded Navy Cross

Washington, D.C. (AP) – The navy Saturday announced the names of 15 officers, all missing in action, who have been awarded the navy cross. Among them was Lieut. Richard W Suesens, 27, son of John F. Suesens, Waterloo, Ia. His wife, Mrs Margaret Jean Suesens, lives at Burlington, Ia.


The Des Moines Register (Des Moines, Iowa) - 21 Mar 1943, Sun - Page 11

Victory and Revenge a Personal Matter for Widows of Iowa’s Dead, Missing

Mrs. Jean Suesens, 25, of Burlington, Ia., went to work as a receptionist and assistant to an optometrist when she learned her husband had been ordered to foreign duty shortly before Pearl Harbor. Last July Lieut. (j.g.) Richard Wayne Suesens, 27, was reported “missing in action” by the navy. A pilot, he was assigned to an aircraft carrier in the Pacific. Mrs. Suesens, the former Jean Ita, is making her home with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Conrad Ita, and has not lost hope that her husband will return.


The Des Moines Register (Des Moines, Iowa) - 06 Jan 1944, Thu - Page 9

Name Destroyer for Suesens, Iowa Cager

Orange, Tex. (U.P.) – The destroyer escort U.S.S. Richard W. Suesens to be launched here next week will memorialize the late Lieut. (j.g.) Richard Suesens of Burlington, Ia., former University of Iowa basketball star killed in action as a torpedo dive-bomb pilot in the battle of Midway June 4, 1942. His widow, Mrs. Richard W. Suesens of Burlington, will christen the ship.


The USS Richard W. Suesens (DE-342) was named in his honor. She was commissioned at the Consolidated Steel Co., Ltd., Orange, TX on 26 April 1944. Sponsored by Mrs Margaret Jean Suesens, widow of Ltjg Suesens. The USS Richard Suesens earned five battle stars during WWII for operations in the Pacific. She participated in the following campaigns and engagements; Invasion of Leyte (Nov 1944), Battle of the Philippines (Nov 1944), Invasion of Nasugbu, Luzon (Jan 1945), Invasion of Keramam Retto (Mar 1945), Invasion of Okinawa (Mar - Jul 1945), Screen at Okinawa (Mar-Jul 1945), China Sea Ops (Jul-Sep 1945), Occupation of Korea (Sep 1945) and Occupation of Japanese Homeland (Sep-Nov 1945). She was credited with destroying seven Japanese aircraft between Jan-May 1945. She was decommissioned on 15 Jan 1947 and struck from the Navy List on 15 Mar 1972. She was sold for scrap on 13 Jun 1973. Miles steamed: 120,000.


Combat Action Ribbon (CR) note:

None of the Navy/Marine flight crews in the Battle of Midway were eligible for or were awarded the Combat Action Ribbon (CR). See Navy and Marine Corps Awards Manual (SECNAVINST M-1650.1 of 16 Aug 2019, Appendix 2C.1.c (3) Amplifying Guidance). It reads in part, “The CR will not be awarded in connection with aerial flight, . . . “ The CR was established in 1969 and made retroactive to 07 Dec 1941. According to the Awards Manual, when deemed appropriate, the award for aerial combat is the Air Medal.


[Bio #175 compiled by Gerry Lawton (GML470)]

Find A Grave memorial #56132945

Honoree ID: 102830   Created by: MHOH




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