LCDR Alexander Philip "Zeke" ZECHELLA WWII destroyers and a Seabee in Korea Design engineer on the USS Nautilus
Born Aug 11, 1920 in Newport, KY he worked at odd jobs as a young boy to help his family through the great depression. He excelled in both academics and athletics and was named to the state championship football, basketball and track teams. Graduating, president of his class, from Newport High School in 1938 he then attended the University of Kentucky on a football scholarship for one year. He was then awarded and appointment to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD where he was a member of the football team. Zeke graduated with a degree in engineering in 1943. He married his childhood sweetheart, Jean Millicent Bary on June 24, 1942. He was assigned to the destroyer USS Greer DD-145, as assistant engineering officer, in the north Atlantic during the first part of WWII. He became the XO, second in command, of the USS Ringgold DD-500 at the age of 23 and participated in the Pacific Theater until the end of the war.
He returned home to his family, remained in the Navy, and earned a Masters degree in civil engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1948 while stationed in Long Beach, California. Zechella utilized his engineering knowledge while he was in charge of construction projects at Navy bases in Alaska and spent two tours of duty in the Aleutian Islands on Adak, where Zeke was the resident officer in charge of constructing new officers quarters. Before and during construction the family lived in a Quonset Hut, which was quite an adventure! He served with the Seabees during the Korean War and after many moves and tours of duty Zeke resigned from the Navy as a Lt Commander in 1953.
Zeke then, began a very distinguished career with Westinghouse Electric Corporation as a pioneer in the field of nuclear power. He worked as a design engineer on the USS Nautilus, the world's first nuclear-powered submarine, then was instrumental in the building of the USS Enterprise, the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. For the Enterprise, he was responsible for building the prototype engineering plant, then installed the ship's eight nuclear reactors, on the first nuclear powered aircraft carrier, in Newport News, VA.
Alexander Philip "Zeke" Zechella, 89, passed away August 15, 2009, after an extended illness. He was a member of the "Greatest Generation" and son of Italian immigrants, Nicholas and Cecelia Rizzi Zechella. He took great pride in being an American and made the most of what this country had to offer.
1944 After completing repairs in December, Ringgold took part in the assault and capture of Kwajalein and of Eniwetok Atolls during January and February 1944, where she furnished close-in fire support for the landing forces. On 20 March she bombarded the shore installations at Kavieng, New Ireland, as a diversionary action for landings in the Northern Bismarck Archipelago. From 24 April until 1 May 1944, she took part in the assault and capture of Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea.
In June Ringgold took part in the Marianas operations. During the invasion of Guam she served as Landing Craft Control Vessel and provided gunfire support. During the initial landing, she dispatched 23 waves of landing craft to the beach. Next came the invasion of Morotai Island, in the Northern Moluccas, where Ringgold again provided gunfire support.
On 20 October 1944, American forces returned to the Philippines, and Ringgold again furnished fire support, this time for the landings on Panaon Island off southern Leyte. Two days later, she was ordered to Mare Island Naval Shipyard, California, for overhaul.
1945 Early in February 1945, Ringgold joined Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher's famed Fast Carrier Task Force (then 5th Fleet's TF 58, later 3rd Fleet's TF 38) for the first carrier strikes against the Japanese mainland and Okinawa in support of the Iwo Jima operation. Under cover of a weather front, the force launched its air groups at dawn, 16 February, 120 miles (220 km) from target. Attacks against enemy air power were pressed into the heart of the Japanese homeland far into the next day. In the course of this 2-day attack, the Japanese lost 416 planes in the air, 354 more on the ground and one escort carrier.
After repairs at Ulithi and Pearl Harbor, Ringgold rejoined TF 58 in support of the Okinawa operation, joining up 4 June 1945. Upon completion of this task, the force retired to San Pedro Bay, Leyte Gulf, the Philippines, arriving 13 June.
On 1 July the ship again put to sea, this time with Admiral William Halsey's 3d Fleet Fast Carrier Task Force for strikes against the Japanese homeland. On the night of 15-16 July, with Destroyer Squadron 25 (DesRon 25) and Cruiser Division 17 (CruDiv 17), Ringgold participated in an antishipping sweep 6 miles (10 km) off the northern coast of Honshū, Japan. Again, on the night of 30 July, she participated in an antishipping sweep in Suruga Wan and bombarded the town of Shimizu, Honshū, Japan.
Rejoining TF 38 on 31 July, Ringgold continued coastal operations with that force until the cease fire. Ordered to escort USS Antietam (CV-36) to Apra Harbor, Guam, 22 August, she arrived there 4 days later and underwent repairs. Steaming to Okinawa 16 September, Ringgold took on 83 passengers for Pearl Harbor, and then proceeded to the east coast of the United States. Decommissioning 23 March 1946, she was placed in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet at Charleston, South Carolina, where she remained into 1959. Designated for transfer to the Federal Republic of Germany under the military assistance program, she underwent modernization and outfitting at the Charleston Naval Shipyard.
Ringgold received 10 battle stars for World War II service.