LaRue, Richard V

Richard Van Derlyn LaRue was born on January 23, 1918 to Bertha (Decker) and Raymond LaRue of Malvern, Pennsylvania. Richard's father owned the Malvern Pharmacy, later renamed to LaRue's Drug Store. He was known as a community leader in Malvern. Richard was the only surviving child of his parents.His brother, Raymond was born on October 7, 1921 and died the following day.

Richard graduated in 1936 from Tredyffrin-Easttown High School. He was very active in school, serving as class vice president his junior year, and president his senior year. Richard sang in the school chorus and was a member of the glee club. He also starred as the "Captain" in the high school's production of HMS Pinafore. Richard had a fine scholastic standing and was known as a friend to all.. He was described as follows in his yearbook "...always bears a great deal of responsibility willingly" and "...likes to be of service to everyone" - foreshadowing his heroic service to his country. 

Richard worked at his father's drug store during high school. After graduation, he attended the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, graduating in 1940. After graduation, he worked at De Haven's Drug Store in West Chester.

Richard (far right) in the high school production of HMS Penafore

R LaRue HMS Penafore Rich is on right
Richard enlisted in the Navy Reserve in 1940 as a Pharmacist Mate First Class. Navy pharmacists (sometimes called Corpsman) served on both ship and shore with the Navy and Marines and sometimes with Army troops when they were embarked on Navy ships. They were trained to treat common medical problems as well as trauma, and were similar to today's physician's assistants.

Richard was called to active duty in November, 1941. He received training at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital, with additional medical training at the New London Naval Base hospital. He was then sent to Norfolk, Virginia for intensive training with amphibious landing forces. Before leaving for overseas,Richard was engaged to Laura Moore of Glenside.

Richard was assigned to the USS Joseph Hewes, AP50. The ship, formally the merchant Excalibur, was acquired by the Navy and converted as a troop transport. The ship was named after a signer of the Declaration of Independence from North Carolina, who was instrumental in securing a commission in the Continental Navy for John Paul Jones.

The Hewes departed in October, 1942 for amphibious landings in Nazi-occupied Fedhala ( a suburb of Casablanca) in North Africa. This effort -  labeled Operation Torch - was the first amphibious combined landings that involved multiple allies. The troops were met with stiff resistance from the Vinci French who were collaborating with the Nazi’s and Italians. Richard's role was to go ashore under intense fire to treat, and then transport wounded troops back to the ship.  

The USS Joseph Hewes was torpedoed by a U-boat on November 11, 1942 (Armistice Day). While the ship was slowly sinking, Richard evacuated the wounded into the water. They were rescued by the USS Tasker H. Bliss (AP-42). After working to help save the wounded for three straight days, Richard was ordered by a Senior Officer to get some food and rest.‘We’ll take care of your wounded. You’re dead on you feet’.

While Richard was grabbing a much needed meal in the mess, the USS Bliss was torpedoed by a U-boat. Intense fire enveloped the ship and completely dissimated the mess hall. Richard was officially classified as Missing In Action on November 12, 1942, but in January, 1944 his status was changed to “lost”.

Richard received the Purple Heart posthumously. His parents received the following citation for meritorious service, signed by Admiral Jonas Ingram, the Commander-in-Chief of the U. S. Atlantic Fleet:

When beached landing craft in the vicinity of Fedala, French Morocco, were subjected to continuous enemy artillery fire and intermittent bombing and strafing attacks by enemy aircraft, Richard Vanderlyn La Rue, unassisted, transferred casualties from the beach to medical evacuation center and returned immediately to the combat area to assist in the handling of other casualties, and in the administration of necessary first aid measures. During the remainder of the period spent in the landing zone, LaRue worked incessantly unloading vital medical stores and in treating casualties. The exceptionally praiseworthy performance of duty by Richard Vanderlyn LaRue under hazardous condition reflects great credit upon the U.S. Naval Service.

Richards parents were never able to bury their son. All that remained was his name engraved on the Tablets of the Missing at the North Africa American Cemetery in Tunisia. To memorialize their son, Richard's parents placed a large Cenotaph (a monument to someone who is buried elsewhere during such times as war) at Great Valley Presbyterian Church Cemetery. They pined for their only child for the rest of their lives and were buried at the cenotaph dedicated to their son. 


Research by: Don Wambold WCMSC
Larue Cenotaph