- Associated Press - Saturday, October 18, 2014

NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) - For nearly three quarters of a century, a member of the Ratti family has been enlisted as an officer or cadet in the U.S. Coast Guard.

It all began with Rear Admiral Ricardo Ratti, 92, who enrolled at the academy in 1941. Along with his son, Rear Admiral Steven H. Ratti, 58, the two oldest Rattis comprise the only father-son duo of Coast Guard rear admirals.

The current generation is Steven Ratti’s son, Andrew, who is currently a first-class cadet scheduled to graduate from the academy in 2015.

The three generations of Rattis gathered at the Coast Guard Academy during its homecoming weekend on Saturday to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Ricardo Ratti’s graduation from the academy.

Though Ricardo Ratti is technically part of the Class of 1945, he and many of his classmates were graduated out of the academy June 7, 1944 - the day after D-Day - to join the war effort.

During his second or third visit since 1944, he noted a few changes at the academy.

“One big difference: women,” Ricardo Ratti said with a chuckle. “We didn’t have any here when I was a cadet.”

It was not until 1976, while Steven H. Ratti was a cadet, that the Coast Guard began integrating women into the academy.

In addition to Andrew Ratti, Ricardo Ratti has a second grandchild attending the academy: Third-Class cadet Emily Matthews, who also plays on the academy’s women’s soccer team.

Ricardo Ratti’s enrollment at the Coast Guard Academy in 1941 was not the Ratti family’s first exposure to sailing and navigating on the seas. As a boy, Ricardo Ratti traveled the world with his father, Captain Augustus P. Ratti of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, a precursor of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Augustus Ratti “did some of the initial survey work to determine latitude and longitude of islands up in the Bering Sea,” Steven Ratti said. “And now, people like Andrew can get their lat and long in their pocket.”

As many military families do, all three generations of Rattis moved often, only settling down for as long as the current tour of duty would allow.

“They moved around quite a bit,” Steven Ratti said of his father’s family.

“And then I was used to it, and with me being active duty Andrew’s whole life, he got used to moving around a whole lot.”

In the last 29-and-a-half years, Steven’s wife Pam said, the family has moved 13 times.

From 1946 to 1947, Ricardo Ratti served as a gunnery officer aboard the icebreaker Northwind, which made an expedition to the North Pole and participated in the Navy’s “Operation Highjump,” an exploration of Antarctica led by noted polar explorer Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd Jr.

Ratti and the others aboard Northwind spent two or three days breaking ice in the Bay of Whales so naval vessels could proceed, but at one point found itself lodged in the ice.

“The (commanding officer) called me and he said ‘Mr. Ratti, take some explosives and get on the ice and go and blast us free,’” Ricardo Ratti said.

So, with the other enlisted gunner’s mates, Ratti walked across the ice shelf and planted explosives about 50 yards from the bow of Northwind.

“When the captain said ‘let ‘er go,’ someone pushed the plunger and blew up a big part of the ice to get us through,” he said. “We had a (commanding officer) who liked to make the grand gesture, do the spectacular thing.”

Until April, when he retired and turned over command, Steven H. Ratti was commander of the Fifth Coast Guard District, which put him in charge of all Coast Guard operations from New Jersey to North Carolina.

A 1978 graduate of the academy, Steven Ratti commanded four Coast Guard cutters, directed all military operations in the Caribbean and Central and South America, and served as director of a joint interagency task force that planned and implemented counter-drug strategy in Asia and the Pacific Ocean.

For Andrew Ratti, growing up in a Coast Guard family did not necessarily prepare him for everything he has experienced as a cadet.

“I heard some stories, but without actually being here it’s hard to get a sense of what it is really like,” he said. “I kind of had a general idea of what I thought it would be like but once you report in it is pretty different, a bit of a shock.”

As a cadet, Andrew Ratti has taken part in summer training assignments aboard the barque Eagle, and at Coast Guard stations in Boston and San Diego.

“Every summer is a radical change, it is a changing point each time you go through a summer,” he said.

Most recently, while stationed on a cutter in the Pacific Ocean, Andrew Ratti took part in drug patrols.

“Getting to see that from first picking them up on radar to eight or ten hours later when you’re loading everything onto the boat and getting the detainees on board too, I really got a sense of what it is going to be like next summer, once I’m commissioned,” he said.

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