A man of faith, Harry Rich continues to live a life following in the steps of Jesus Christ. Having been a pastor and missionary for most of his adult life, Rich has led lost souls on their own spiritual journeys. Now, at 95 years old, his days are spent residing with his family in Lake Havasu City and being a profound member of the Lake Havasu Church of the Nazarene.
As Rich says, his voyage into the military started near the end of World War II. He recalls being in training during the end of the war, but continued to serve for three years.
In July 1945, Rich enlisted into the U.S. Navy and was initially approached to become an officer due to his outwardly scholarly nature. After noticing the demeanor of other officers, Rich was soon discouraged and vowed to not become a “permanent military person.”
Shortly after, Rich was sent to a Navy base in Point Loma, which is located in San Diego. While there, he learned the basis of becoming a radarman before being sent to his first ship, the USS Little Rock (CL-92) in Norfolk, Virginia.
The USS Little Rock, as Rich describes, was the length of two football fields and weighed in at over 10,000 tons.
“That was back at the infancy of radar,” Rich said. “I was never on a ship that had a captain that knew anything at all about radar. It was a brand new thing.”
Being well-versed in his job, the role introduced Rich to the many techniques that radarmen had to perform on their naval ship. One task that he had the advantage of partaking in was locating enemy forces from a faraway distance before his crew was detected.
Other knowledge Rich quickly grasped onto included learning about nautical miles and the limited line-of-sight sailors were presented with while out at sea.
Those who were tasked with firing weapons machinery on the naval ship were fortunate to receive accurate information regarding their enemy’s location. Rich adds that all of the information that had to be calculated was done by longhand.
While in the “heel of Italy’s boot,” Rich became known on his ship for his methodical way of working.
The crew’s ship had come across a patch of fog that made it difficult for the ship’s captain to look out onto the horizon. Rich overheard the conversation his captain was making to the combat information center and quickly figured out a way to help his fellow sailors.
As the captain was speaking, Rich managed to maneuver his equipment in a way that displayed the correct course the ship should travel onto. It was a technique he had learned earlier on in his military journey.
“I figured that out since I was in the sea detail, when you were going to sea or when you were landing, they made sure I was there on the radar,” Rich explained. “I was already prepared.”
When the ship made its change of course, Rich describes a man walking into the room he was in wearing a hat with a gold braid on it. Although he had never met the captain in person, Rich correctly assumed the title of the unnamed man.
The captain, after noticing the repositioning, came down to where Rich was working and asked him how he figured out the change of course. After Rich explained his calculations to the captain, he was met with the response of, ‘Oh, that was easy, wasn’t it?’
While in the Navy, Rich managed to traverse to 23 different foreign countries and helped bring a sense of peace to allied countries after the war. Rich explains how some regional governments in those countries felt conflicted about the way the war was won and made a point to create revolting gangs. His ship was responsible for traveling to certain areas and remaining there until opposing sides came to a halt.
“We would go up there and tie up, and everything was just calm and peaceful all over again,” Rich continued. “We were there to maintain order after the war was over… We did that for three years.”
One moment that stands out is Rich’s involvement in creating a church aboard his ship. After he returned from a leave, Rich gathered about 12 sailors and led them to their own religious relationships. This was the start of his first church for the Church of the Nazarene.
In July 1948, Rich left the Navy and attended school at Eastern Nazarene College in Massachusetts. He met his late wife while studying at the college and found she, too, had a passion for completing missionary work. During his senior year, he happened to create his second church by assembling men and canvassing the local area for interested parties.
Once 50 families showed interest, Rich set out to borrow a tent from the church’s district in order to conduct church services. On the night following his first service, the tent was burned to the ground by vandals.
Upon meeting a nearby circus company, Rich made a deal that the company could hold the title of his new car in return for a tent. If anything was to happen to the tent, he gave the company permission to sell his car to make up for the repayment costs. Rich went on to pastor the church at his college for five years before making his way to Haiti with his wife.
As missionaries, Rich and his wife spent a total of 14 years in Haiti and an additional 10 years in Quebec. After his wife passed in the mid-2000s, Rich was offered a place to stay to combat any feelings of loneliness. He relocated to Havasu in fall 2021 and continues to follow in the path of his religion in his daily life.
When remembering his time in the Navy, Rich makes it clear that his promotion to petty officer 2nd class developed his self-worth. His division officer did not lack when it came time to advance the young 18-year-old sailor through the ranks. Although he holds pride for his own service, Rich shares his humble opinion about the way the military works in the present day.
“It’s been 70 years since I’ve been in the military,” Rich said. “It’s very difficult to know how things are going now.”
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