Monday, October 19, 2009

Jim Allen Remembers Captain Kennedy, Pappy Rau

A while back I had the opportunity to talk at length with former Wahoo crewman James Allen. Jim joined the boat in Pearl Harbor for her second war patrol. We began by discussing his commanding officer at the time, Captain Marvin Kennedy. Given some of the negative things written about him, I asked Jim about his impression of Kennedy.

“Kennedy was an elitist. Every morning he took a freshwater shower in the forward torpedo room while forbidding showers for the rest of the boat. It was very disconcerting for morale. He was very aloof. I only had two interactions with him the entire time I was aboard.”

Jim went on to describe the first encounter which occurred when he was heading forward to check the battery levels. This was done using a hydrometer to measure the specific gravity of each cell. The task required him to crawl across the top of the cells. As a result, he frequently came in contact with battery acid which ate holes in his dungarees. Jim trimmed the legs and arms of his dungarees to eliminate the holes. It was standard procedure at the time but decidedly non-regulation.

As he passed through the control room, Kennedy entered from forward. “At this point,” Jim said, “I made my first mistake. I said, ‘Good morning, Captain.’ Kennedy looked at me like I was a piece of meat on a hook. He turned to the Chief of the Boat, Pappy Rau, and said, ‘Rau, have this man change into proper clothes.’ After Kennedy continued on, Rau looked at me disgusted and said, ‘You heard the man.’”

Jim stood watch with CTM Russell “Pappy” Rau and Ken Whipp in the control room at the electrical panel – the dry side of control. Jim recalled, “Pappy Rau was easy to talk to and knew his stuff which gave confidence to the rest of enlisted men.”

Jim was standing nearby in control when an incident occurred between Rau and the boat’s Yeoman, Forest Sterling. Dick O’Kane had removed Sterling from the regular watch list so he could concentrate on typing the patrol report mimeograph stencils. While typing, Joe Vidick called him to go on his usual sonar watch. Sterling refused impolitely.

Thinking better of it, Sterling went to control to advise Rau he had been reassigned. Before he could get his second word out Rau slugged him hard, driving him into the air manifold. Sterling regrouped and glared at Rau who was ready to go another round. “I’m gonna report you,” Sterling said. Rau replied, “I’m counting on it.” Sterling retreated and the misunderstanding was soon sorted out.

Jim recalled, "When Rau gave an order he expected stuff done -- right then."
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Friday, October 16, 2009

Mare Island Memorial Conducted

Bell tolls for 579 men, 7 subs lost

By Lanz Christian Banes/Times-Herald staff writer

A wreath is cast into the Mare Island Strait from berth 6 on Mare Island, part of Sundayƕs memorial ceremony for submarines constructed at the shipyard that were lost in World War II. With his ancient, tremulous voice, John Berger blessed the seven wreaths that represented Mare Island's lost ships.

"The symbols will speak for us, for we cannot," intoned Berger, the chaplain for the USS Hornet in Alameda, on Sunday.

The wreaths were made by volunteers from plants and flowers found on Mare Island the day before, said Myrna Hayes, who organized the memorial.

This is the third year Mare Island's lost World War II-era submarines - the USS Pompano, Swordfish, Gudgeon, Trigger, Tullibee and Tang - were honored in a day-long series of ceremonies.

"What I found from the last two years is a tremendous longing by the people who come here today to honor the 579 (lost) men," Hayes said.

The Mare Island Naval Shipyard produced 22 submarines that fought in World War II. Seven did not come home.

In total, 52 U.S. submarines were lost during World War II, with a combined crew of about 3,500 men now on "eternal patrol."

Larry Maggini, who wrote a book about the USS Wahoo, gave a presentation at St. Peter's Chapel about each of the lost seven, weaving their stories with the early history of the American submarine.

Though submariners accounted for only 1.6 percent of Navy personnel during World War II, the submarine fleet had a 22 percent loss rate, Maggini said. Still, the Pacific submarine fleet was responsible for 55 percent of Japanese ship losses, he added.

The 30 or so people who attended the ceremonies, which began by raising a flag to half-staff at Morton Field, were offered a chance to tell their own stories at St. Peter's Chapel.

"The wives of the men of the submarine service went through hell, too. We ought to think of that also," said Don Dickson, 93, who served on the USS Skate.

After a reception at Quarters C on Walnut Avenue, the group went to Berth 6, where submarines were repaired during the war.

"This is a place they last moored and from whence they cast off from our log of memories onto their eternal patrol," Berger said. And with a bell tolling for each of the lost ships, the wreaths were cast into the Mare Island Strait.
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Friday, October 09, 2009

Lost Boat Memorial Service at Mare Island

Mare Island to honor subs lost in WWII
By Sarah Rohrs of Vallejo Times-Herald

An annual service to honor the crewmen of Mare Island submarines lost at sea in World War II takes place Sunday afternoon.

The event, "Lost Boats of Mare Island Memorial," is the third annual tribute to the seven Mare Island-built submarines that never made it home, their crew members on "eternal patrol."

The event is to help keep alive the memory of Mare Island Naval Shipyard's history and prominence, Lost Boats Memorial co-founder and organizer Myrna Hayes said.

"Mare Island is the oldest Navy installation on the Pacific. We need to keep that memory alive. What better group to honor than those men who left on those seven boats and never returned?" she said.

Seven of the 23 Mare Island submarines that fought in World War II were among the 42 submarines lost at sea, Hayes said.

They are the USS Pompano (SS-181), USS Swordfish (SS-193), USS Gudgeon (SS-211), USS Trigger (SS-237), USS Tullibee (SS-284), USS Tang (SS-306), and the USS Wahoo (SS-238).

Events start 1 p.m. with a flag raising at Morton Field at G Street and Walnut Avenue. A memorial service from 2 to 3:30 p.m. will follow at St. Peter's Chapel, 10th Street and Walnut Avenue.

A former Mare Island submarine combat systems engineer, Larry Maggini, will give a slide show and present research from his book "On Eternal Patrol," which will be available for sale in print and DVD versions.

At the service, participants can share memories and recollections and recognize all members of the military's submarine force.

At 5:30 p.m. a wreath will be laid at Berth 6 -- at A Street and Nimitz Avenue.

Vallejo California Chapter of U.S. Submarine Veterans of World War II members will call out the names of all submarines lost at sea as they ring a bell for each boat.

The memorial program coincides with the anniversary of the loss of the USS Wahoo, built on Mare Island.

Launched Feb. 14, 1942, the USS Wahoo was lost at sea on Oct. 11, 1943, with a crew of 80 men, Hayes said. In 2006 remains found in the Soya Strait were confirmed as those of crewmen from the Wahoo.

For more details on Sunday's events go to
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Monday, July 13, 2009

"Wahoo" Image Actually Trigger

Was browsing for updated images and discovered something regarding an image in "Wahoo" by O'Kane.

In the first set of photos in the book, the first image is a port quarter shot of an as-built fleetboat. The description reads "USS Wahoo (SS-238) departing Mare Island". For some reason the look of that photo never felt quite right to me. The general arrangement is correct for the most part. But I could never find the shot in any of the archival sets of Wahoo images.

Then today I noticed an image had been added to the USS Trigger (SS-237) page on NavSource. As I scrolled down, I found the identical uncropped shot (see below). It is clearly marked as Trigger. Whether it was intentional or not, the image denoted as Wahoo is in fact Trigger.

Upon closer inspection I can see a detail that always looked wrong: the aft deck gun. Trigger had a taller mount as seen in the image. All other photos of Wahoo at the same point showed the shorter 3" mount. The proper attribution of the subject helps settle the issue -- Wahoo didn't carry the taller mount.

The Trigger as Wahoo identification is not the only misrepresentation in O'Kane's book. Several of the interior shots in the first grouping are actually the USS Pompanito on display in San Francisco. This makes sense given the boat was near O'Kane's home and could provide views of all her main compartments.

For all those interested in fleetboat photos, I encourage you to browse It is a wonderful source of naval images.

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Helmer Off Tang Project

According to, director Duncan Jones has selected the sci-fi thriller "Mute" as his next project instead of the "Escape From the Deep" film previously announced.

However, lists Escape with a 2010 release date and Mute with 2011. Such is the film industry.

There are no updates at present from Brilliant Films which is producing the sub film. I'll pass along anything new I find.
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Legends Teams With On Eternal Patrol

Legends was recently contacted by Charles Hinman of the USS Bowfin Museum and sitemaster of to provide new USS Tang (SS-306) content in light of the new "Escape From The Deep" film project.

Charles and I will be depositing additional research and files in the Tang section of Legends to provide the most complete record of her career online. Stay tuned -- the stuff from Charles is really great!
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Monday, June 15, 2009

USS Stewart Reopens

This past weekend the USS Stewart exhibit at Seawolf park reopened to the public for the first time since being heavily damaged by Hurricane Ike in September 2008. Mold remediation is complete and the followup inspection gave her a clean bill of health. The office and berthing space is in the process of being painted. USS Cavalla is open as well.

Congratulations to Chief John McMichael and all his dedicated volunteers for bringing the park and its exhibits back to like for all to enjoy.
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Monday, June 01, 2009

Tang Film in Pipeline

Charles Hinman forwarded this article to me today. It seems "Escape From the Deep" will be made into a feature film.

Duncan Jones to take on 'The Deep'
Brilliant Films to produce his second directing effort
By Stuart Kemp
June 1, 2009, 10:14 AM ET
LONDON -- Duncan Jones has surfaced with his sophomore feature.The helmer, who made his feature directorial debut with the Sam Rockwell starrer "Moon," will direct "Escape From the Deep" from an Alex Kershaw script based on the nonfiction tome of the same name."Escape" tells the story of a legendary World War II U.S. navy submarine that sank after a torpedo malfunction, leaving the crew stranded on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Faced with drowning, nine men made it out alive after swimming the 180 feet to the surface without getting the bends.The movie will be produced by U.S. production banner Brilliant Films, which also is developing the project via the company's in-house development cash pool.Brilliant Films president Joe Abrams said that Jones' "Moon" marked his arrival as a director to watch.Jones, whose father is rock legend David Bowie and who worked with Tony Scott in his early career, described Kershaw's book as a "powerful story that will come alive on the big screen."He said he hopes to create a "tense action movie" from the story.Sony Pictures Classics snapped up North American rights to "Moon" after it unspooled during the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. It will debut at the Edinburgh International Film Festival later this month.Brilliant's Joe Abrams and Rory Gilmartin will produce "Escape."
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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Circular Run Question

Got the following recently from Dr. John Christensen regarding the wreck and how it validates or disproves the circular run torpedo theory postulated by Richard O'Kane in his book "Wahoo".

If you've read the book you are familiar with O'Kane's assertion that Wahoo was transiting La Perouse on the surface and was first attacked by shore batteries before submerging and falling victim to a coordinated air and sea attack. In order to create a scenario that would require Morton to remain on the surface in daylight, O'Kane concluded some sort of damage must have prevented him from diving. He settled upon a casualty caused by a circular run torpedo.

Before I share my response to Dr. Christensen I'd like to hear from you. What do you interpret from the wreck photos? How credible do you think O'Kane's theory is (or was)?


In looking at the amazing photos and drawings of USS WAHOO provided by the Russian divers, it seems to me the damage could indeed be from a circular torpedo run, not necessarily an aerial bomb.

In Commander O'Kane's account of the circular torpedo run that sank USS TANG in "Clear the Bridge", he felt it would have hit TANG amidships (at the conning tower) had he not been able to accelerate. I believe the pictures of the USS WAHOO are also consistent with an amidships hit from a torpedo on a circular run.

This would be an important interpretation of these photos regarding the cause of WAHOO's sinking, especially since there is no corresponding record of an aerial hit from the Japanese, and in view of the experience and skill of USS WAHOO's skipper and crew in avoiding such a strike. See second page, divers drawings.

Thank you.
Dr John Christensen
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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy 2009 and a Seawolf Park Update

Happy New Year to all Wahoo aficionados!

Hurricane Ike remains the weather event of 2008 that keeps on giving. I caught a glimpse of this story on our local news the other night and finally had a chance to get the particulars.

Boat under USS Stewart complicates recovery

By Leigh Jones The Daily News

Published December 29, 2008

GALVESTON — Members of the Cavalla Historical Foundation expected to find silt and some storm debris under the USS Stewart when crews working to right the ship started pumping water out from under it.

But as the water line receded, they discovered the World War II-era destroyer escort was sitting on another boat, an unwelcome surprise that has complicated efforts to put the popular tourist attraction back in its berth.

Hurricane Ike lifted the ship out of its resting place at Seawolf Park when it made landfall Sept. 13.

During what must have been a pretty wild ride, the storm’s 12-foot surge wedged the smaller boat under the Stewart, trapping it below the ship when the floodwaters subsided, Curator John McMichael said.

They hoped to discover the boat belonged to someone with pockets deep enough to help pay to get it back, McMichael joked, but no such luck. Crews were able to uncover the boat enough to see that it has a green hull and still has bumpers hanging over its side, but they were not able to find a name or any other identifying markings on it, he said. Based on its 11-foot-wide stern, McMichael thinks the boat is about 25 feet long. It likely came from somewhere on the Bolivar Peninsula, he said.

Although it would be interesting to know for sure where the boat came from, and they still hope to find a name somewhere near the bow when they finally get it out from under the Stewart, it won’t really make a difference to the salvage effort, McMichael said. The biggest problem is figuring out how to get it out, he said. Several companies have submitted proposals for the work, and on Tuesday, Galveston’s Park Board of Trustees, which manages Seawolf Park and partners with the foundation to keep the Stewart open to the public, will hire one of them.

Because the ship still floats, lifting it up again enough to remove the smaller boat shouldn’t be too difficult, said Ernie Connor, a member of both the park board and the historical foundation. The work should be complete by spring break, McMichael said.

Although Ike also lifted the USS Cavalla out of its berth, the submarine is stable enough that the foundation does not intend to try to move it, Connor said. The silt and sand trapped under the submarine lifted it about 6 feet higher than it was and moved it about 9 feet back, Connor said. The extra elevation helped expose all four torpedo tubes, something visitors couldn’t see before, Connor said. Once crews finish righting the Stewart, the foundation will build a new gangplank to the Cavalla and open the hatch again for tours, he said.

Thousands of visitors come to Seawolf Park every year to visit both the Cavalla and the Stewart, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places earlier this year.

Like much of the Ike recovery work, officials hope the Federal Emergency Management Agency will help pay to right the Stewart and make repairs to the rest of the display around the ship and the submarine. If the government doesn’t come through, the foundation will be looking for donations, McMichael said.

During World War II, the United States Navy had 750 destroyer escorts built. The USS Stewart is one of only three left. Two of them are serving as museum ships in the United States, but the third one is still in service in the Mexican Navy.

Donations to the Cavalla Historical Foundation can be sent to 2504 Church St., Galveston, TX 77550.
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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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