Captain Herbert Hamilton Ries died on September 15, 2011, at his home in Rancho
Bernardo, California, with his beloved wife, Carolyn, at his side. He was 91
"Ham," as his friends called him, loved the Navy but often said that he couldn't have lived the Navy life without Carolyn. They met in kindergarten, fell in love in high school, and were married 70 years.
Born in 1920 in Tiffin, Iowa, and raised in Iowa City, Ham attended the University of Iowa for a year and joined Sigma Chi before entering the Naval Academy in 1939 as a member of the class of 1943. Upon graduating in June 1942 (his class was accelerated because of the war), he was ordered to the USS Nelson (DD-623), on which he served in all billets, including Executive Officer.
In 1946 Lieutenant Ries placed the USS Damato (DD-871) in commission as Executive Officer. He commanded the USS Tercel (AM-386) as a unit of the Mine Force, US Atlantic Fleet, and then served as Aide to the Commandant, Eleventh Naval District at San Diego. Thereafter he had the honor of commissioning several new ships: USS Formoe (DE-509) (Commanding Officer); USS John McCain (DL-3) (Executive Officer); USS Hull (DD-945) (Commanding Officer); and USS Coontz (DLG-9) (Commanding Officer).
In 1964-65 he was Commander of Destroyer Squadron 18, and from 1966-68 he commanded the USS Springfield (CLG-7), flagship of the sixth fleet in the Mediterranean. The cruiser was the only US ship allowed to retain its moorings in a French port (Villefranche) after Charles De Gaulle withdrew France from NATO.
His final command at sea was as Commander of Destroyer Flotilla Five, based out of Hawaii.
After retirement, Ham realized a long delayed dream by becoming a pilot and flight instructor. He had been one of only three classmates at the Naval Academy who entered with a pilot's license, and he aspired to fly for the Navy. (He had learned to fly, sitting in an open cockpit with no instruments, in a cornfield in Iowa.) After the war, his much-anticipated orders to flight school arrived, but his commanding officer asked Ham to stay aboard the USS Damato, which had been torpedoed in the invasion of Normandy. Knowing he was needed, the young officer set aside his personal desires; he remained a loyal officer of surface warfare for the rest of his career.
When not flying the blue skies of San Diego, he was on the golf course. He was the second chairman of the Rancho Bernardo Golf Club and was instrumental in the club's establishment as a members-owned institution.
He is survived by his wife, the former Mary Carolyn Kuever, daughter of Dean R. A. Kuever and Ruth Kuever of Iowa City; his son, Dr. Stephen H. Ries, Captain USN (Ret.) of Virginia Beach, Virginia; his daughter, Gretchen Weir, of Ann Arbor, Michigan; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.