Ronald Lee Ethridge, MM2, USN, UDT 11



After growing up in the central Illinois town of Taylorville, Ronald L. Ethridge enlisted in the U. S. Navy in 1956 at the age of twenty. On July 6, 1956 he completed the prescribed course of study at the U. S. Naval School, Machinist’s Mate Class “A”, Service School Command, at the U.S. Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, Illinois, and was assigned to the USS Ozbourn (DD-846).



At some point while aboard the USS Ozbourn Ron must have been influenced by a recruiter from Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) for he started training in San Diego with UDTRA Class 19 in July of 1957 and successfully graduated from that elite training on November 23, 1957. Ronald Lee Ethridge was now and forever a Frogman!



Ron was assigned to UDT 11 in Coronado, California, where he served with some of the Navy’s finest. In January of 1959 he attended Air Conditioning and Refrigeration School before being released from active duty on December 8, 1959. His Naval Reserve status expired in January of 1962.



During his tour of duty with UDT Ron spent about a month aboard a submarine, the USS Pomfret (SS-391). His wife, Judy, tells this story about that time: “looks like it was only for a month but enough time for the frogmen on board to try making potato jack out of the potato peels they accumulated from their duty as potato peelers. A long story but the "jack" blew up, made a BIG mess stinking up the sub and getting the frogs in deep kimchi. Ron said the "old man" gathered them all up, gave them a shot of whiskey and after some choice words, sent them back to the kitchen.” Frogman hijinks!



Legendary frogman Warren “Fins” Foley was a teammate of Ron’s. Ron’s teammate Phil Carrico recalled that Warren’s early nickname was “Peekskill”, perhaps because he came from Peekskill, NY. Only later, after his exploits in Korea, did he become Fins Foley. Judy remembers that years later when Ron entertained his teammates Gerry Meyer, John Stephenson, and Warren Foley at their home Fins was the only one to come to the kitchen to help Judy with the dishes. A woman remembers thoughtfulness like that!



I learned this about Ron from his obituary: “After leaving the Navy, he worked as an ordinance manager in the Pacific Missile Range on Kwajalein Atoll, a part of the Marshall Islands. Then, in July 1963, he went to Eniwetok Atoll as a recovery diver. Next, in 1964 on Johnston Island he worked as a construction diving foreman. For the next two years, he returned to Eniwetok and worked as a recovery diver. After an extended trip to Australia he came back to Seal Beach, CA with his many seashells and his island dog, Wooly Bugers. In 1968, Ron married Judy Rice.”



From 1970 until he retired Ron’s career was in banking. He loved his life in Nevada where he and Judy hiked, camped, fished, and he enjoyed his hobbies of hydroponic gardening, travel, and woodworking. Ron was active in Washoe County School District’s Partners in Education program and generously donated his large seashell collection to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.



In the last decade of his life Ron was an active member of the Fifties Frogs group, men who served in UDT in the decade of the 1950s, and who meet once a year to renew their bonds of friendship and shared experiences. He attended those yearly gatherings even after Parkinson’s disease put him in a wheelchair, thanks to his loving wife at his side. Ron passed away October 14, 2017 at the Veterans Hospital in Reno, Nevada. Hooyah, Ron!









Back to profiles