James J. Ryan

James Ryan, WII vet, survivor
of Pearl Harbor, is dead at age 74

James J. Ryan, who participated in some of the earliest action for the United States in World War II, died Saturday night of lung cancer at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center at Fort Snelling. He was 74 and lived in Mounds View.

A Minneapolis native, Ryan served in the Navy during World War II and was on the U.S.S. Helena when it was disabled Dec. 7, 1941, during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

A friend, Maurice Kleckner of St. Ansgar, Iowa, said he was taking over the watch from Ryan in the forward generator diesel room when the alarm was sounded. The two, he said, immediately got the diesel engine started, which helped provide power so the cruiser could fire its guns.

During the attack, the cruiser was struck by a torpedo. "It probably was one of the earliest ships to get hit," Kleckner said.

"We were down there four or five hours before we got topside and could see what actually happened," Kleckner said. "What sticks out vividly in my mind is we didn't know what the hell was happening. We could feel that torpedo real good. And besides our guns, you could hear the near misses of the bombs. That shook you up quite a bit."

Ryan, he said, served in several other important battles, including Guadalcanal.

After the war, Ryan worked as a truck driver. He was a member of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.

Survivors include his wife, Rose; a son, Dennis, of White Bear Lake; two sisters, Loretta Roush and Marcella Swenson, of Taylors Falls; and two grandchildren.

A memorial Mass will be said at 11 a.m. today at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, 835 Second Ave. N.W. in New Brighton. Burial will be in Fort Snelling National Cemetery.

Tuesday/March 13/1990/Star Tribune


James J. Ryan dies; he survived
Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor

James J. Ryan, 74, of Mounds View, who survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, died Saturday of can­cer at Minneapolis Veterans Admin­istration Medical Center.

Ryan, drove a truck for Ruan Transport Corp. for about 32 years before retiring in 1977, said his wife, Rose. A Minneapolis native, he had also lived in the Minnesota cities of Wheaton, St. Francis and Forest Lake.

Ryan joined the Navy in 1939. When Pearl Harbor was bombed two years later he was working the 4 to 8 a.m. shift in the diesel generator room, of the cruiser Helena, far below deck. Maurice Kleckner, who was to work the following four hours, went down early to relieve Ryan so "J.J.," as he was called, could make the chow line.

"He was just walking out and I was walking in," said Kleckner, of St. Anwar. Iowa. "We heard general quarters, 'Everybody man the battle stations.' At first they thought it was a drill. There had been so many." For the next couple of hours, Kleckner said, he and Ryan were busy watching the generator and bail­ing water that had come in following an aerial torpedo hit. The dive bomb­ers missed the Helena, he said.

Even so, the ship lost about 30 men in a fire started by the torpedo, Kleckner said. Neither he nor Ryan were hurt.

In 1943, after several battles in the South Pacific, Ryan and Kleckner cut cards to determine who would go back to the United States for ad­vanced diesel school. Ryan won. He left the Navy in 1945.

They last saw each other in August at Helena. Mont, where a ship reunion was held.

Besides his wife, Ryan is survived by his son Dennis, of White Bear Lake; two sisters, Loretta Roush and Mar­cella Swenson, both of Taylors Fails, Minn., and two grandchildren. Ser­vices will be held at 11 a.m. today at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, 835 2nd Av. NW., New Brighton. Memorials to the donor's choice of charity are suggested. Arrangements are by the Miller Funeral Home.

James J. Ryan Military Awards

Navy Unit Commendation

Good Conduct Medal

American Defense Medal
with Fleet Clasp

American Campaign Medal

Asiatic Pacific Medal
with one Bronze Star

World War II Victory Medal

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