TSgt Howard James “Grits” Rice
AAF: 9 April 1942 - 10 March 1945
Born: March 14, 1911, in Royston, GA (Elbert County) to Nancy Josephine Crittenden and Earl James Rice.
He had 3 sisters, none of whom had children. They moved to Mt. Dora, FL, when he was about 11.
Graduated from Mt. Dora High School. He had planned to attend college, but ended up going to work in Sales for Florida Power Corporation.
Spouse was Ruth Eskey Orum a graduate of Stetson University in 1939, attended Univ. of FL graduate school, and took a teaching position at Eustis High School.
Married Dec. 25th, 1941 and had two daughters Jane & Mary Ann.
TSgt Rice served in the 57th Troop Carrier Squadron (TCS) as a Radio Operator on the C-47 & C-46 aircraft. Sgt Rice departed with the 57th TCS from Baer Field, IN and on to Hamilton Field, San Francisco, CA where the squadron would depart for the South West Pacific. From Hamilton Field, San Francisco, CA the 57th flew to Hawaii and from Hawaii they would fly across the Pacific in 7 to 8 hour legs. Departing Hawaii they made stops at Christmas Island, Canton Island, Viti Levu in the Fiji Islands, and New Caledonia, before landing at Amberley Field west of Brisbane, Australia. At Brisbane, they oriented, adjusted, and waited for their support troops to arrive by ship. Then they flew across the Coral Sea to their base in Port Moresby, New Guinea.
TSgt Rice joined the 57th TCS while the squadron was at Baer Field, IN. He was with the 57th TCS in Port Moresby, New Guinea; Dobodura, New Guinea; Nadzab, New Guinea; Biak, San Jose, Mindoro, Porac, Luzon, Okinawa and Tachikawa, Japan before returning to the US.
TSgt Rice distinguishes himself by heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight during his time in the 57th TCS and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross as well as Air Medal w/2OLC and the Philippine Liberation Medal.
A note from his daughter Jane: He was proud of his service in WWII, but didn’t talk about it a lot, but I think that was the way it was with so many servicemen at that time. I do remember that he sent me a “hula” skirt made by the local New Guinea native women. It was made of parachute silk! He would also joke about worrying that they would crash into a group of head hunters and be put in a pot for dinner.
After returning from the war he played a lot of golf. His first love was golf – he was a scratch golfer and won his club championship several times, and was Lake County Champ. He encouraged kids to take up the game, and along with some of his friends, made sure they had the equipment. He would also help them with their game.
A nation builder indeed and was a member of the Elks Club, Kiwanis Club, Pine Meadows Country Club, Rotary Club, and Presbyterian Church. He liked to play poker, was an avid sports fan, especially football. He also loved to read.
Howard James “Grits” Rice passed away at the young age of 58, on February 4, 1970, in Gainesville, FL.