by Jonathan Templin Ritter, editor
Denton.: University of North Texas Press, 2019. . Pp. xii, 180+.
Illus., maps, chron., notes, biblio., index. $24.95. ISBN: 1574417711
A Memoir of Seabees at War
J. R. Ritter (1902-1994) –nicknamed “Rex” to distinguish him from his more famous cousin “Tex” – was a Texas highway engineer in the years prior to World War II. The book opens with a look at his early life, education, and work in highway construction. In early 1942, he joined the newly formed Seabees as a Lieutenant.
Ritter served nearly a year in the western Aleutians, occasonally coming under air attack, then commanded the 107th Seabee Battalion until the end of the war at Kwajalein Atoll and on Tinian, building airstrips for B-29s and fighting Japanese stragglers. His war ended at Tokyo Bay, having hitched a ride on a B-29 to be an eyewitness over the surrender of Japan.
Ritter’s memoir offers a lot of insights into the Seabees. He offers some interesting commentary on engineering, notably the difficulties of constructing installations in the arctic and on coral islands, with a lot of innovation and improvisation. Ritter also gives us a look at service politics and the problems of command.
A volume in the UNT “Military Biography and Memoir Series”, From Texas to Tinian and Tokyo Bay is a useful read for anyone interested in the Pacific War, military engineering, command, and life in America in the first half of the twentieth century.
Note: From Texas to Tinian and Tokyo Bay is also available in several e-editions.
StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium