VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. (NNS) – 81 years after being killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor, the remains of Shipfitter (SF) 2nd Class Claude Ralph Garcia, assigned to the Colorado-class battleship USS West Virginia (BB-48) returned to Ventura County Dec. 6, 2022.
SF2 was aboard the USS West Virginia on Dec. 7, 1941, moored on Battleship Row, Pearl Harbor, when Japanese bombers conducted a surprise attack, killing one-hundred and six crewmates.
Garcia was a member of the 1933 graduating class of Ventura High School who attended community college prior to joining the Navy. A Feb. 1943 article in the Ventura County Star-Free Press carried a photo of Garcia and described him as the first casualty from Ventura in the war.
“I can’t speak highly enough of the Department of the Navy for all the efforts that they have gone through,” said Ric Ruffinelli, Garcia’s great-nephew. “I mean, 81 years later, my goodness’ sake. I just I take my hat off to them. I’m in awe of the efforts they put forth.”
Garcia’s remains arrived Dec. 6 at Los Angeles International Airport in a flag-draped casket. Chief Aircrew Survival Equipmentman Graciano Lupercio, assigned to Fleet Readiness Center West (FRCW) Detachment Point Mugu, served as the watch commander and provided Honor Guard duty with Sailors from Naval Reserve Center Los Angeles.
“The effort to bring home Claude Garcia shows that no matter how long, we will always remember and honor our brothers and sisters while making every effort to bring them home,” said Lupercio.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced the remains of Garcia had been recovered from the “Punchbowl” National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu and identified in a press release issued May 12, 2022.
“It’s our sacred duty to find, account for and bring home our shipmates who made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Capt. Robert T. McMahan, director, Navy Personnel Casualty Command Division. “The legacy of Petty Officer Garcia who perished as an American hero will be carried onward by every Sailor today.”
The Dec. 7th surprise offensive which President Franklin D. Roosevelt called the “a date which will live in infamy,” lasted two-hours and 20-minutes, killed 2,403 sailors, soldiers and civilians, damaged or destroyed 19 Navy ships, and more than 300 airplanes.
Members of the Naval Base Ventura Honor Guard, a selectively manned unit that provides Naval ceremonial customs and courtesies, will pay final respect during a private ceremony on Dec. 11.
NBVC is comprised of three distinct operational facilities: Point Mugu, Port Hueneme and San Nicolas Island. It is Ventura County’s largest employer and protects Southern California’s largest coastal wetlands through its award-winning environmental program.
This piece is written by Ensign Drew Verbis from the Naval Base Ventura County. Want to feature your story? Reach out to us at [email protected]
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