Richard Alonzo Jaccard was a local Kansas boy with passion for the sea and the sky. He attended both Manhattan High School and Kansas State College where he was president of his freshman class. Led by this passion, “Dick” Jaccard joined the elite and glamorous ranks of the U.S. Navy’s sea pilots in the months before Pearl Harbor.
Ensign Dick Jaccard and his classmates were in the last phases of their Advanced Carrier Training when they heard about the Japanese surprise attack on December 7, 1941. It would not be long before they put their training to the test. Dick was soon assigned to the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Enterprise and sent off to the Pacific.
Jaccard and the men of the Enterprise just missed the end of the Battle of the Coral Sea, but quickly made their presence felt at America’s next major battle – the Battle of Midway.
The Japanese plan was simple: seize the tiny island of Midway in the central Pacific and use it as a staging base for an advance on Hawaii. Japanese intelligence expected little resistance. What they did not know was that the Americans had broken their secret communications code, and were lying in wait for the Japanese invasion force at Midway.
The trap was sprung on June 4, 1942. American Admiral Raymond Spruance allowed the Japanese to launch their opening attack on Midway while he kept his fleet hidden, searching for the Japanese forces’ prized aircraft carriers. As luck would have it, he found them at exactly the right time. Spruance launched his attack just as Japanese aircraft were clogging the decks of their ships, arming for a second attack.
Ensign Jaccard and his comrades from the Enterprise and the U.S.S. Yorktown swarmed the vulnerable Japanese fleet. With ten bombs in ten minutes, the American flyers turned the tide of the war in the Pacific. Three of Japan’s four largest aircraft carriers were crippled almost immediately, and the fourth was tracked down and destroyed later that afternoon. Riley County’s Dick Jaccard is credited with a direct hit on the Japanese carrier Hiryu and with helping to cripple the heavy cruiser Mogami two days later. For the great courage and skill he exhibited that day, Dick Jaccard was awarded the Navy’s second highest honor: the Navy Cross.
Dick Jaccard continued to serve with distinction for the next four months, participating in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons three months later. Tragically, Ensign Jaccard was transferred to the U.S.S. Wasp in September 1942, only days before the ship was torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine. Dick was among the 193 lives lost in the attack.
The legacy of Dick Jaccard continued to be honored throughout the war. A Kansas-built B-25 bomber was named the “Jaccard Special” in his honor. Even more significantly, a brand new U.S. Navy destroyer escort, the DE-355, was christened the U.S.S. Jaccard in his honor as well. The contributions of Dick Jaccard and other home-town heroes will not be forgotten.