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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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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