It began as a simple question for Richard, what happened to his grandfather? Richard Chosset I was a decorated naval officer, on a newly commissioned Coast Guard cruiser patrolling the peacetime coast line when it sank in a nor’easter. The fascination began when he was in grammar school when a teacher asked each student to create a family tree. Richard sat down with his parents and begin writing names out, labeling individuals as they related to him and drawing branches.
When Richard got to his grandfather he asked inquisitively what happened to him. He never knew his grandfather and had never heard his name uttered before, Richard “Dick” Chosset. He asked his mother what happened to him and she simply said he died. Richard would have all but forgotten this except years later while researching a paper on the socio-economic impact of the occupation of the Philippines by the United States, he saw a picture that he will never forget. It was a picture of his grandfather standing on a beach after the United States retook Manila shaking General MacArthur’s hand. Richard was amazed to see a member of his family captured in a historic moment of time.
Richard was intrigued that he knew so little about a member of his family that played a role in the history of this country. He began gathering information by interviewing relatives, digging through family albums, and collecting newspaper clippings. He quickly learned that this was going to consume much more of his resources then he had available. It remained on Richard’s mind until after he finished his undergrad degree.
The details of his grandfather’s childhood are hazy to say the least. Unfortunately there was no one still alive that remembered those days. Everything Richard learned was passed on to his grandmother and their children from his grandfather. He was never able to produce a birth certificate so even his grandfather’s age was questionable but factually they do know he was an orphan. He was the only child of wealthy Londoners who died in a trolley accident. They had no immediate relatives so his grandfather was left to foster care. This would all be speculation had Richard not found newspaper clippings of the event. The story gets hazy as his grandfather claims he was a stowaway on a freighter headed to America where it came to the port of New York. Richard never found any confirmation of his transatlantic journey, and any trace of his processing through an immigration center.
He claimed he lived on the streets of New York City for a year and eventually was adopted by an upper middle class family living on the Upper East Side. It is much more likely that he came over through a typical mode of transportation of an ocean liner and after being processed was placed into foster care and then finally adopted.The Chosset’s were an archetypical American family and were for the most part unaffected by the depression. They had two children of their own before adopting Richard.
The best he could surmise, Richard Chosset I was born sometime around 1915 and was in New York around 1925. Richard’s adoptive parents, Thomas and Candace, loved him just as much as their own children if not more. This developed a harboring animosity that would manifest itself years later. Richard’s remaining childhood and teenage years were mostly uneventful. He received his education through the Xavier Preparatory School, where he played rugby, and some time in these years he picked up his first cigarette. It became a staple of his leisure life, and was never photographed without one. Much like in the picture with MacArthur, who was rarely without his pipe, Richard was rarely without a lit cigarette.
Every summer the Chosset family would go down the Jersey shore. Their quaint little cottage sat on an inlet and Richard would watch the ships, yachts and fishing boats pass on their way out to sea every morning and their way back each evening. This is where his love of the sea cultivated, watching the sea captains riding high up on their pearly white perches. Young Richard was driven by his childhood infatuation with the sea.
In 1933, Dick graduated high school and immediately enlisted in the Marines. On leave in 1935, Dick met Dolores his grandmother. Dick and Dolores were married in 1934 and Dick was discharged from the Marines in 1937. Dick spent his civilian days working at the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx as a caretaker. He enjoyed it much but he enjoyed it more as a hobby and not as a job. Aunt Olivia was born in 1941, months before Pearl Harbor. When the war broke out, Dick enlisted in the Navy with the condolences of his wife. With his previous military experience Dick was able to become a commissioned officer. He was first stationed in Pearl Harbor after the Japanese attack and was then sent to the Philippines after they were reclaimed. Half way through the war Dick became the commander of a PT boat. Richard Chosset II was conceived around VJ Day.
Dick survived the war with a few close calls but the sea continued to beacon him. Dick petitioned for a position in the Coast Guard and was given command of a cutter. A few months later the ship, her crew of 220 men and his grandfather had vanished without a trace and the United States government simply said they were lost in a storm.