|Untitled Personal Story
Untitled Personal Story
by John Bryan Lippard
What was it about Bert Riggs that led the two of us to become life-long friends, from 1940 to the time of his death on February 20, 1997? We first met in 1940 when each of us was participating in intramural athletics between ships and stations in the Philippines, at which time he was serving aboard the U.S.S. Quail. As our friendships developed we visited each other's tour station-the Cavite Marine Barracks or the Quail. From that we enlarged our Navy-Marine friendship to include a half dozen who could be depended upon to get together when liberty call was sounded. At times we would go dancing at a near Dime-and-Dance Casino known as Dreamland, where a U.S. nickel would get you two dances with a lovely ballerina. On one occasion, Bert and I went to a fancy mountain resort in northern Luzon. Later six of us returned and had a grand time. The Quail was sunk while tied up at the Corregidor pier in February 1942 while Bert and most of the crew were ashore. The Quail's surviving crew joined other military units on Corregidor until we were surrendered to the Japanese on May 6, 1942.
We managed to stay together at the 29th Garage, Bilibid, Cabanatuan, the Tottori Maru- of Hell Ship fame, Mukden, Manchuria, and Kamioka, Japan. Before leaving Cabanatuan we were ordered to complete a form covering our work skills. We steadfastly refused to do so for several days until finally our Senior Officer asked us to comply with their wishes. To show us that he was not asking us to do anything he would not do, he read his BIO to us. We quickly perceived that he had told nothing truthful. He said he was a Texas cotton farmer, for example, when all of knew he was a Virginian and a lifetime military man. Taking a clue from this, I filled out the blanks on my paper, completely absent of truth, writing that I was an electrician with 12 years of practical experience.
Bert Riggs copied my BIO with a few changes in locations, states, etc. When we arrived in Mukden, we were given a highly technical test dealing with electrical circuitry and Ohm's Law, a theory developed by George Simon Ohm, a German Physicist. When I looked at my paper, I wrote on the front, "See back page" and then I entered: "This is entirely out of my field. My line is installing electrical circuits in a home, winding motors, and installing ground wires". Monday morning I was taken to the MKK. factory and turned over to the Japanese in charge of the Electrical Shop. A little later, Bert Riggs joined our gang. Can you imagine the type of electrical excellence we contributed to MKK.? It is said that the 150 "Domi Americans were credited with $3 million dollars in damage to the factory, before we left for Kamioka, Japan.
When peace came at last, we celebrated a long planned first night back in the U.S. on the city of San Francisco. We were then separated and allowed to return to our waiting homes. I was Best Man in his wedding and visited in their home on a number of occasions. Bert Riggs rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander during twenty-five years of service. He and I strolled the decks of five of the ten vessels on which he served, including tiny USS Quail and the mighty aircraft carrier USS JOHN F. KENNEDY.
A ten-day period in which his grieving wife had misplaced her address book, kept me away from his funeral.
To what do I attribute the things that constitute a lasting friendship? Most certainly it can be said that Bert Riggs and John Lippard were indeed LIFE-LONG BEST FRIENDS.