< Earlier this year, Chris Maloney, one of the organizers of RYEWW2, which is dedicated to bringing a face and voice to those Rye residents who served our country during World War II, sent us information about the first two Rye casualties of “The Good War”.>
These are their stories. They will not be forgotten.
Seventy-five years ago last month, Harvey Joseph Hayman was the first of 58 Rye men who gave their lives for their countryin World War II.
Born in Rhode Island on May 27, 1920, he was the son of Robert and Eva (Senecal) Hayman. His mother died in 1926, when she was just 33 years old. That left his father to raise Harvey and his five siblings, including a newborn.
The family moved to Port Chester in the early 1930s, and soon after to Rye. Tragically, after a long illness, Mr. Hayman died in December of 1940. At the time, Harvey and his younger siblings were living with their married sister, Leah, at 398 Rye Beach Avenue.
the time of his father’s death, Harvey had already enlisted in the Navy. He was an aviation machinist and a member of the crew of the PBY-5A <Catalina>. When World War II broke out, he was stationed in Hawaii.
On April 5, 1942, nearly four months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he and his flight crew were patrolling the waters off Oahu. It was raining and windy and the visibility was poor. They had already flown for more than 12 hours on long-range patrol, searching for enemy ships and submarines. The crew was aboard one of four Navy planes that flew out of Kaneohe Naval Air Station that day. One plane returned to Kaneohe, one to Kauai, and one to Pearl Harbor. But the PBY-5A, Harvey Hayman’s plane, was dangerously off-course. In their confusion, the crew mistook the lighthouse beacon from Makapuu for the Barbers Point Lighthouse, and the plane slammed into the hillside, 200 yards short of the Makapuu Lighthouse.
Harvey Hayman’s family learned of his death from a telegram, and the community found out about it through an article in The Rye Chronicle on April 17, 1942.
Richard Traill Chapin was born in Rochester, N.Y., on April 14, 1914, the son of Charles and Dorothy (Traill) Chapin. He had two older siblings and the family lived at 291 Rye Beach Avenue. His father was a sales manager and his mother a homemaker.
In 1931, Richard graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. Two years later, at the age of 19, in the midst of the Great Depression, he enlisted in the Merchant Marines. He was described as being of fair complexion with brown eyes and auburn hair, and standing 5’10”.
His first ship was the <SS Exiria>, which left New York in October of 1933. Throughout the 1930s and into World War II, he continued his seamanship, traveling the world while based in New York.
In early April 1942, Chapin signed on as a third officer, also known as a third mate, with the <SS Robin Hood>, a 6,687-ton steam merchant ship in New York en route to Cape Town, Trinidad, and Boston.
Around 3 a.m. on April 16, the unescorted and unarmed <Robin Hood> (Master John A. O’Pray) was hit on the starboard side by two torpedoes from the German U-boat U-575. At the time, the <Robin Hood> was steaming on a zigzag course at 11 knots in rough seas about 300 miles southeast of Nantucket Island. Five hours earlier, the ship had been missed by an attempted torpedo strike. One torpedo hit the fire room, killing one officer and two crewmen on watch below, and causing a boiler explosion at lifted the deck up and folded it over. The next torpedo hit forward of the first and blew the hatch covers of the #1 and #1 holds and carried away the foremast.
The vessel flooded rapidly, broke in two at the #3 hatch, and sank within seven minutes. Many of the nine officers and 29 crewmen aboard abandoned ship in one lifeboat, but three officers and eight crewmen were lost. After seven days adrift, the survivors were picked up on April 23 by the <USS Greer> (DD 145), and disembarked at Hamilton, Bermuda.
Third Officer Richard Chapin, U.S. Maritime Service, was not among the survivors and was reported missing in the Atlantic. He was not officially declared dead until late 1945.
Interestingly, in Ralph Christopher’s book, “River Rats”, the <SS Robin Hood> is mentioned: “…extra security precautions were taken prior to the transits south through the shipping channel of special interest ships (<USNS Bland> and <SS Robin Hood>). One blogger, in an online forum, speculates that it could have been “carrying clandestine war materials.” A ghost ship in its own right, the <SS Robin Hood> and a portion of the men on it, among them Richard Traill Chapin, citizen of Rye, sacrificed their lives for the greater good.