Norman Franklin Ridley

Airman Apprentice
United States Navy
03 February 1950 - 08 January 1969
Metlakatla, Alaska
Panel 35W Line 054


Purple Heart, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Norman Franklin Ridley

19 Jul 2001


A Note from The Virtual Wall

Airman Apprentice Norman Ridley was a member of the aviation fuels division aboard USS CORAL SEA. Aboard carriers, each group of flight deck personnel wear distinctively colored jerseys so that their function can be instantly identified. Ridley was a "grape", called that because of the purple shirts worn by the fuels personnel.

The flight deck of an aircraft carrier conducting flight operations is a notoriously hazardous place to be ... rarely is a cruise completed without casualties among the flight deck personnel. Norman Ridley was one such casualty - struck by an aircraft during launch while carrying out his duties.

Airman Ridley is remembered by another CORAL SEA sailor - Aviation Ordnanceman Michael L. Murphy of Attack Squadron 153. Murphy was within feet of Airman Ridley when Ridley was struck. His recollections and remembrance follow:

Norman Franklin Ridley
DOB 02/03/50
DOC 01/08/69
U.S.S. Coral Sea

I never knew you in life.

We may have passed each other at sometime on the ship or in port and never knew it. We met on the flight deck the day you died.

We had just armed the plane on the catapult and were waiting to launch it. For some reason they kept it on the cat for a long time and we started to recover the aircraft from the earlier flight and they started to bunch up on the deck. I kept thinking, "just scrub the damn flight, what the hell different will one more plane make." Then the plane was launched just as you were pulling the fuel hose across the deck. My back was to you and I saw part of your ear protectors and goggles blow down the deck, I knew that something terrible had happened. You were lying on the deck about 20 feet from me. The wing had hit you in the head as the plane was launched. I looked down at you as I walked by. I did not stop, I had planes to de-arm, I just walked by.

When I finished my job I went below deck to the ordnance shop and thought about your death. Where was God this day, why did this happen, what purpose did your death accomplish. It happened it was over. Another sacrifice had been made to the "Prince of Death" and it wasn't me. That may sound crass to those who weren't there but I know that you understand. I went down to dinner and on with my life, but I never prayed again.

You have never been far from me, sometimes I wonder about what your hopes and dreams were, what you wanted to do in life. At 18 we think we will live forever. In 1979 I cried for you for the first time, I cried again when I went to the Wall in 1987, I was back on the flight deck I could hear the Jets and the Helos, I could smell it, feel it and I could see it. You will be in my memory till the day I die.

I only knew you in death.

Michael L. Murphy
Attack Squadron 153, Ordnance
U.S.S. Coral Sea
Vietnam 1967, 68, 69

From Five Stories by Mike Murphy, by permission.

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 19 Jul 2001
Last updated 10/09/2009