|Birth: ||May 12, 1919|
New York, USA
|Death: ||May 21, 2000|
San Diego County
San Diego Union-Tribune, The (CA) - Saturday, May 27, 2000
Deceased Name: Henry J. Racette, 81 decorated WWII veteran
Henry Joseph Racette was about to leave his destroyer for a Sunday morning church service when Japanese bombs began devastating Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. A young Navy gunner's mate at the time, Capt. Racette emerged unscathed. Later that evening he joined his crewmates aboard the Worden in patrolling the waters around the harbor for signs of the enemy. All they found was a U.S. destroyer, the Detroit, which at first glance was mistaken for the enemy, recalled George Ducharme, one of Capt. Racette's crewmates.
"Hank was the gun captain for Mount 52, and he was ordered to fire an illumination round," Ducharme said. "I always give Hank credit for firing the last shot at Pearl Harbor.
Capt. Racette, a veteran of three wars, died of complications from a stroke May 21 at San Diego Hospice. He was 81.
During World War II, he earned seven battle stars for taking part in encounters at Pearl Harbor, the Coral Sea, Midway and the Aleutian Islands campaign.
It was in the Aleutian Islands that the Worden sank after hitting an uncharted reef in January 1943 while landing Army personnel, Ducharme recalled.
"It tore the ship in half," he said. "About 11 men were lost, but Hank and the majority survived."
During his 33-year naval career, Capt. Racette served aboard 10 ships and commanded three, including the destroyer Rupertus, a destroyer escort and a repair ship.
"Hank had a brilliant mind," Ducharme said. "He had a great memory for detail, a booming laugh, and he was just a force.
"He believed that you, and not your organization, were responsible for your own actions. And he lived by that."
Capt. Racette, who rose through the enlisted ranks to become a captain in 1966, retired from active duty in 1972. His final military assignment was commander of the Military Sea Lift Command at the Naval Reserve Manpower Center in Bainbridge, Md.
His military decorations included a Legion of Merit and a Cross of Gallantry, the latter for duty aboard ship during the Vietnam War.
While living in south Clairemont during his retirement, Capt. Racette volunteered for two church-sponsored charities: the Community Christian Service Agency and SHARE (Self Help and Resource Exchange).
He also built scale model ships for his grandchildren and was active in St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church.
Capt. Racette was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and enlisted in the Navy in July 1939. He was a transportation officer aboard the President Jackson, a ship transporting military dependents, when he met a Navy nurse, Mildred Nickels, in 1946 in Norfolk, Va. She became his wife in 1947.
During his naval career, Capt. Racette attended the University of Idaho and naval postgraduate school.
Survivors include his wife, Mildred; daughters, Mary Nelson of San Leandro, Ann Malstead of Fallbrook and Eliabeth Bestler of Herndon, Va.; a son, Henry J. III of Pasadena, Md; a brother, retired Navy Capt. William Racette of Coronado; and six grandchildren.
A memorial Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church, San Diego. Donations are suggested to San Diego Hospice, 4311 Third Ave., San Diego, CA 92103-1407.
US NAVY CAPT WORLD WAR II, KOREA, VIETNAM
Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery
San Diego County
Plot: CBE 5 15
Maintained by: Rainbow
Originally Created by: Marvin & Samme Templin
Record added: Sep 26, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 77150297