SIOUX CITY | Donna Fuller remembers seeing her father cry when getting the news that his brother, Rollin Fritch, had been killed in World War II.
On Saturday, she'll experience a much different emotion when the U.S. Coast Guard commissions its newest ship, named for her heroic uncle, who was killed while defending his ship from a Japanese kamikaze attack in the Pacific Ocean.
"I feel Uncle Rollin is a representative of all the other heroes of World War II," Fuller said.
The USCGC Rollin Fritch, a 154-foot fast response cutter, will be commissioned Saturday at at Cape May, New Jersey.
Fuller and her sister, Glenda Ford, who both live in Sioux City, will be there with their husbands and about 30 other relatives from across the country. Named the ship's sponsor, Fuller will give a short speech prior to the commissioning.
"It's going to be a pretty exciting ceremony," she said.
On Jan. 8, 1945, Fritch was on board the USS Callaway off the coast of Luzon in the Philippines when it was attacked by Japanese kamikaze pilots. A member of a gun crew, Fritch stayed at his gun, firing at airplanes in an effort to save his shipmates when a kamikaze crashed into his position, killing him at age 24. Fritch was posthumously awarded a Silver Star. He is listed with other Woodbury County residents killed in the war on a plaque in the Woodbury County Courthouse.
About two years ago, Coast Guard representatives contacted Fuller to tell her that the ship had been named in her uncle's honor. It was a complete surprise.
"Out of the blue came the news that my uncle's name was chosen as a hero from World War II. I was completely bowled over," she said. "I'm still flabbergasted."
Fuller had done extensive research of her family's genealogy and her uncle's service history, so she was able to give plenty of information to the Coast Guard about her late uncle, who was born in Blue Rapids, Kansas, moved with his family to rural Pawnee City, Nebraska, as a child, then moved to Sioux City as a young man to work in a meatpacking plant.
He enlisted in the Coast Guard on March 17, 1942, in Omaha.
Fuller was 5 years old when Fritch was home on leave for the last time in 1944.
"I have a faint memory of when he came back, and of course I have pictures," she said. "Uncle Rollin was such a sweet, loving person."