Sunday, October 14, 2007

October 11, 2007

Because events on Thursday didn't start until 2:00, we were at our leisure all morning. Well, at least until Charles came over to get the photo display which we had been storing in our room since Tuesday night. This wasn't until 9:30 so we got cleaned up, had breakfast and posted to the blog. After loading up the display we went with him to the museum.

After unloading, Charles took us down to the Bowfin. We entered through the gun access trunk in the forward part of the conning tower fairwater. This was a thrill as I'd never done this before. The trunk has a hatch in the top which opens onto the forward 20mm gun deck, a large door in the side that opens onto the main deck (which we used) and a ladder that leads down into the control room. The landing is a nook just in front of the steering station.

From the control room Charles unlocked the ladder leading to the conning tower. Jeff and I climbed up into this usually forbidden area and had the place to ourselves for over an hour. Its condition is immaculate. All the proper WWII gear is in place: sonar control panels; radar screens; torpedo data computer; rubber pickles for raising the scopes; torpedo firing panel; a complete steering station; telephone talkers; even a set of headphones.

The No. 1 periscope was raised but the optics appeared fogged. No.2 scope's handles were just above the deck but one could see through it clearly. In low power the aiming reticle was centered on the stern of the boat. In high power the American flag filled the optics. It was a blast calling angles and taking photos. All too quickly it was time to rejoin Charles and head back to the hotel. Here's Jeff at the scope:

After a quick change of clothes for the more formal ceremonies to follow, we assisted with bus boarding and rode back to the museum with our group. Once there everyone was free to tour the boat and museum.

In the museum we stood by with the families as the facilities director Captain Jerry Hofwolt, unveiled a model of Wahoo commissioned for the occasion. Master modeler Brad Sekigawa created a beautiful representation of Wahoo in her patrol 7 configuration using the Revell Gato kit in 1/72 scale. It was complete down to battle flags and cremen on the bridge.

His friend Warren contributed the mahogony base and case in which the model rested. Both men live on the island and Brad's incredible work was on display at the Arizona Memorial museum among other locations. By the end of the afternoon, Jeff and I had given Brad and Warren the hard sell to join the submarine modeling group to which we belong, the SubCommittee. Here's me, Brad and Jeff behind Brad's beautiful model:

Immediately after the unveiling, a former crew member of USS Wahoo (SS-565) presented the group with two framed prints representing both boats. This unexpected gesture was the first time several of our group were made aware that a second boat named Wahoo had served in the submarine force.

We then had the opportunity to talk further with Edwina and Doug Morton, Mush's daughter and son. They were very gracious to everyone and patiently stood by as we had our picture taken with one of Wahoo's original battle flags on display.

Jeff remembered to ask Charles if he had been able to polish the smudges out of Wahoo's bell prior to the ceremony. He had not so we voluteered. Back in the storage area we polished and buffed, Jeff taking the front and me the back. It was an honor to be preparing the bell which was the original item from the boat. Thought to be lost for years, it was discovered in a scrap heap and delivered to the museum in the 1990's.

By now the Navy contingent had arrived. Everyone assembled under the blue and gold tent rigged on the lawn in front of the museum's ring of honor. The ring contains plaques for each of the 52 boats lost during WWII. There was a beautiful wreath beside the podium and Wahoo's bell was placed to the side for the tolling ceremony. A navy band played as the crowd gathered.

Following the invocation, Rear Admiral Joseph Walsh, Commander Submarine Force, US Pacific Fleet, gave the keynote address. It was a touching speech invoking the courage and sacrifice, as well as the long lasting legacy, of the men of Wahoo. You can see the complete text of the address in the post entitled "Touchdown".

Following the address, the tolling of the bell ceremony commenced. A roll call was made of each man lost on Wahoo. As the name was spoken, a family member came forward and rang Wahoo's bell a single time with a white gloved hand. Those men who did not have a relative present were recognized by the Command Master Chief from the submarine base. The silence of the crowd, the gentle lapping of the waves at the water's edge, punctuated by the sharp, steady ring of the bell made for a moving experience.

The Navy Chaplain lead the group in a closing prayer and all eyes turned toward Bowfin. Assembled on her after deck was an honor guard of seven sailors who delivered a 21 gun salute. A lone sailor on the conning tower completed the ceremony by playing "Taps" as the sun sank behind the hills.

The museum then treated us to a dinner. Afterwards Jeff and I introduced ourselves to Admiral Walsh. I wanted to ask him how he enjoyed serving with Captain Don Henley and Petty Officer Glenn Frey but didn't. Instead, we complimented him on his address and requested a copy of the text which he immediately agreed to supply. Later, Jeff asked him about the possibility of touring the submarine base. He readily agreed to this as well.

After the sun went down everyone reassembled under the tent to hear from the men whose hard work and dedication brought the search for Wahoo to fruition. George Logue related how he learned of the loss of his brother Bob and how he vowed to find his final resting place. With the aid of sub vet Marty Schaeffer, George made the initial inquiries, established lasting bonds of friendship with the Japanese, and helped create the Wahoo Peace Memorial in Wakkanai, Hokkaido Japan in 1995. He also recognized the prinicipal Japanese supporter of the memorial, Satoru Saga, Wakkanai Businessman and Chairman of the Peace Committee. Though he was unable to attend the events this week his daughter represented him in fine fashion.

Next, Bryan Mackinnon gave a power point presentation on Project Wahoo and the men and women in Japan who combed the records to pinpoint her most likely location. These included Kazuo Ueda, Satoru Saga, Yasuhiro "Tommy" Tamagawa, Noritaka Kitazawa,
Keiko Takada, and Kayoko Itoh. He detailed the process by which side scan sonar images made by Sakhalin Energy Investment Company Ltd. were supplied by Ian Bullpitt and how those images were taken at a point within a mile of the probable location site identified by Kazuo Ueda. He then introduced the video taken by the Iskra Team, lead by former Russian submariner Vladimir Kartashev, which detailed their three dives on Wahoo. The subsequent viewing of the video was the first time many had seen the complete footage taken of Wahoo resting on the floor of La Perouse Strait.

Tom Logue, nephew of George, concluded with a talk and video presentation of the joint Russian-American memorial ceremony which was held at sea in July 2007. Tom and his cousin Rear Admiral John Christenson represented all Wahoo families at the active duty personnel only ceremony. Upon meeting John, I learned that he is the CO of the command in Corpus Christi to which a good church friend of mine is attached.

By this time it was the end of a long and emotional day. Everyone headed to the buses. Along the way, Jeff and I passed out DVDs of the wreck footage and a copy of a certificate commemorating the reading into the Michigan Congressional record of a proclamation recognizing the Wahoo remembrance ceremony. Unfortunately, we ran out of DVDs half way through. A little later we discovered the second box and distributed the remainder onboard the buses. Hopefully every family received a copy. If not, they can contact Charles at the museum to receive one.

Back at the hotel we said our good-byes to Charles and the many others we had met. All in all, I can't think of a better series of events to honor the courage and sacrifice of the men of Wahoo and those they left behind.


Shell on 8:49 PM said...

Now I am really "upset" that I was unable to attend. Barb and I spent 4 years stationed in Pearl Harbor with the Pacific Fleet Band...members of which performed for the ceremony. We did many Retirement, Memorial, Change of Command Ceremonies at the Sub Base Memorial. We ate lunch a lot at the Sub Base Cafeteria as it was usually the BEST in the Navy... always a NEY Award winner for food excellence.

You got to visit some of the places I was very familiar with. Had I been there I would have taken you out to the National Cemetery of the Pacific located in Punchbowl Crater. That is another place to visit and check the Memorial Wall of the Missing.

All in all it sounds like a very good and moving time was had by all.

Sheldon Levy
Charter Life Member
Pacific Fleet Submarine Memorial Assn.

Ayami on 3:44 AM said...

Dear Paul,

I appreciate you, Jeff and other volunteers' help for the Wahoo events.
It has been great experience for me to participate in the impressive events and to see many Wahoo family members in Hawaii.
Your event reports are compactly organized and precise. I will refer to your report for my report to my father Satoru, Vice Adm. Kazuo Ueda and other Japanese people concerned.
Thank you.

Ayami Saga


About Me

The first 'grown up' book Paul Crozier ever read was "War Fish" by George Grider. Since then he has spent most of his life researching the U.S. Submarine Force in WWII and USS Wahoo (SS-238) in particular.


This blog is dedicated to all who have served in the U.S. Submarine Force. Thank you for your service and sacrifice.

Admiral Chester Nimitz

"We shall never forget it was our submarines that held the line against the enemy while our fleets replaced losses and repaired wounds."

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