Memorial Day Remembrance of the Service and Sacrifice of Hubert Felton Comer
In the 2007-2008 Georgia Legislative Session, The Georgia Senate passed a resolution to dedicate the Ray City bridge over Cat Creek in memorial to Hubert F. Comer:
Dedicating certain portions of the state highway system; and for other purposes.
WHEREAS, Hubert F. Comer served in the United States Navy and was assigned to the USS Rich, a destroyer escort during the Normandy invasion in June 1944; and
WHEREAS, the USS Rich hit three German mines off the Normandy coast two days after the Normandy invasion; and
WHEREAS, Hubert F. Comer was listed among the missing, and his body was never recovered; and
WHEREAS, Hubert F. Comer was awarded the American Area Campaign Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Area Campaign Medal, and the Purple Heart; and
WHEREAS, it is fitting and appropriate to honor Hubert F. Comer for his service and ultimate sacrifice in that service to the United States of America, the State of Georgia, and Berrien County by the naming of the SR 37 bridge on Cat Creek in honor and memory of his service and sacrifice.
Hubert Felton Comer, age nine, was enumerated along with his family in the 1930 census living in the Lois community near Ray City, GA. He was a son of Margaret Jane Hudson and Audley H. Comer. His father was a farmer, and Hubert and his older brother, Harold, assisted with the farm labor.
Hubert, and siblings who were of age, attended the one room school house at Lois. A 1936-37 class photo (detail at right) depicting Hubert at about age sixteen is available at the Berrien County Historical Photos Collection.
Later, Hubert attended the Ray City School where he graduated from high school about 1940 (see Glee Club Gave 1939 Christmas Cantata).
Hubert Felton Comer enlisted in the U.S. Navy Reserve on April 6, 1942.
Hubert Felton Comer was born July 14, 1920 and died June 8, 1944.
The Nashville Herald
September 28, 1944
Hubert F. Comer Reported Dead
Hubert F. Comer, 24, Carpenters Mate Second Class, U.S.N.R. , missing in action since July 9, was reported dead in a letter received last week by his wife. The letter stated that he had been carried on the official records of the Navy Department in the status of missing since June 6, 1944. He was servicing on board the U. S. S. Rich when that vessel was lost in the European Invasion as a result of enemy action.
News of his death read:
“It is with deep regret you are here advised that, although the body of your husband was not recovered, his commanding officer has reported that the circumstances surrounding his disappearance have lead to a conclusion of death. It is hoped you may find comfort in the knowledge that he was serving his country at the time of his death.”
He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. A. T. Comer of Ray City, who received similar news of his death.
Young Comer was graduated from the Ray City high school in 1940 after which he was employed on construction projects at Augusta. He enlisted in the Navy in April of 1942 and was married to the former Miss Paula Skinner in June 1943. His last leave at home was in March of this year. He was a person of good moral character and his many friends are grieved to learn of his death.
Survivors include his wife and parents, four brothers, M. Sgt. Harold Comer of Eglin Field, Fla., Sgt. James E. Comer, somewhere overseas, Jerry and Murray Comer of Ray City, and two sisters, Ms. Algerine Garner, of San Diego, Calif., and Miss Barbara Comer, of Ray City.
Aboard the USS Rich:
The USS Rich was officially described as, “DE – 695: displacement 1,800; length 306’; beam 36’10”; draft 13’6”; speed 24 knots; complement 215; armament 3 3”, 4 40mm., 8 20mm., 2 depth charge tracks, 8 depth charge projectors, 1 depth charge projector (hedgehog-type), 3 21” torpedo tubes; class Buckley.”
The USS Rich was laid down on 27 March 1943 at the Defoe Shipbuilding Company, Bay City, Michigan, the third destroyer escort to be built at that yard. She was launched on 22 June 1943, sponsored by Mrs. Ralph McMaster Rich, widow of Lt. Rich.
After completion, the USS Rich was sailed from the builder’s yard at Bay City, IL to Chicago, Illinois, arriving September 24, 1943. From there, she passed through the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and down the Chicago River. At Joliet, IL, pontoons were attached to the ship so she could be pushed down the Des Plaines River, Illinois River, and Mississippi River as part of a barge train.
The ship was docked at the Todd Johnson Shipyard in Algiers, Louisiana, on the west bank of the Mississippi at New Orleans. Hubert Comer and the rest of the crew reported aboard, and the USS Rich was commissioned on October 1, 1943, Lieutenant Commander E. A. Michel, Jr., USNR, in command.
Following a shakedown cruise off Bermuda, the USS Rich was primarily engaged in coastal escort and patrol duty with Escort Division 19 (CortDiv 19) until the end of February 1944. Then assigned to trans-Atlantic escort work, she completed three round-trip crossings by May. On May 10, 1944, Rich departed New York City in escort of a convoy to Britain in what would be her last transit of the North Atlantic.
On May 23, 1943 the USS Rich arrived at Londonderry, Northern Ireland, and awaited a convoy to escort back to the United States. Instead, Rich was assigned to the Normandy Invasion force, and commenced preparations for “Operation Neptune”, the naval phase of the invasion of Normandy. She arrived at Plymouth, England on June 4, and was assigned as an escort to the battleship Nevada.
Delayed by weather for 24 hours, the “U” force sailed for France on 5 June, with Rich and her sister ship Bates in the screen of the bombardment group of Task Force 125 (TF 125), which consisted of the battleship Nevada and the heavy cruisers Quincy (CA-71), Tuscaloosa, and HMS Black Prince. On “D-Day”, 6 June 1944 and the two days following, she screened naval gunfire support ships off “Utah” Beach as they laid fire for the troops landed on Utah Beach to the northwest of the Carentan Estuary. On 6 June, Rich laid down a smoke screen which foiled an attack by German E-Boat.
On the morning of June, 8, 1944, soon after 08:45, she was ordered by the Commander of Task Group 125.8 (TG 125.8) aboard Tuscaloosa to proceed to Fire Support Area 3 to assist the destroyer Glennon which had struck a mine northwest of the Saint-Marcouf Islands. Rich proceeded at full speed to the area, and then followed in the wake of two minesweepers to the immediate area of the Glennon. Closing on Glennon, Rich dispatched a whaleboat, only to learn that her assistance was not needed at that point. Rich then started to round the disabled ship and take up station ahead of the minesweeper which had taken Glennon in tow. She moved at slow speed, with extra hands on the lookout for enemy planes and mines.
At approximately 0920, a mine exploded 50 yards off Rich’s starboard beam.
“Although men were shaken and power and lights lost temporarily, no serious damage occurred from the mine blast. The ship was not so lucky when a second mine was encountered three minutes later. A deafening explosion thundered from beneath RICH. Men were thrown from the bridge to the deck. A 50-foot section of the ship’s stern was torn off and set adrift. Survivors attempted to cling to debris or swim to safety and the seriously wounded were helpless in the mangled wreckage. A series of emergency reports reached the bridge – several torpedoes were making hot runs in their tubes; the main deck had sagged, vicinity of No. 2 engine-room; compartments forward of the engineering spaces had suffered only minor damage. But, there was never time to assess the reports. Only minutes later, a third mine unleashed its fury on RICH. She stayed afloat less than thirty minutes before settling into the sea. RICH and 89 crewmembers were gone.
Lt. Cmdr. Edward A. Michel, Jr. received the Navy Cross for heroism and devotion to duty. USS RICH DE 695 was the last DesLant ship to go down to Nazi mines off Normandy.”
Roscoe, Theodore, “United States Destroyer Operations In World War II”, 1953, US Naval Institute.
One year after the sinking of the USS Rich, a memorial service was held in Ray City for Hubert Comer:
The Nashville Herald
June 7, 1945 Pg1
Memorial Services for Hubert Comer At Ray City Friday
Memorial services for Hubert F. Comer, C. M. 2-C, U.S.N.R., will be held Friday, June 8, at 4 E.W.T. at the New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church, Ray City.
Seaman Comer served on the Destroyer Rich and participated in the invasion of France last June. The U.S.S. Rich served as an escort ship and screening vessel in protection of heavier ships.
During the invasion it stood by to render aid to another destroyer when it struck several mines and went down. Seaman Comer went down with his ship and was never seen again. He is survived by his wife, Mrs. Pauline S. Comer of Nashville, and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. A.T. Comer of Ray City, four brothers, Harold Comer of Eglin Field, Fla., James and Jerry Comer, who are overseas, and Murray Comer of Ray City, two sisters, Mrs. Algerine Garner, and Miss Barbara Comer of Ray City, and his grandparents, Elder and Mrs. Joe Hudson, of Bartow, Fla.
Primitive hymns will be sung. Elder M. S. Peavy and Elder C. H. Vickers will officiate. A marker will be placed in the cemetery.
- Glee Club Gave 1939 Christmas Cantata(raycityhistory.wordpress.com)
- Billy Clements was a Combat Engineer
- Hyman Hardeman Sirmans of Ray City, GA
- James Aaron Swindle and the “Sarah E” B-26 Marauder
- Milton Harvey Godwin, U.S.M.C.
- Nazi Prisoners at Moody Field Worked Ray City Farms
- James M. Paulk, Jr ~ Flying Officer
- Hartridge Columbus Futch and the Construction of Camp Wheeler
- Jamie Alden Connell, A Life of Service
- Sea Cruises of Elzie Nathaniel Miller
- Jewel Wood and Ray City’s Victory Soda Shop
- St. Elmo Lee Was a Blessing to FFA
- Charles Otis Ray Freed From Nazi POW Camp