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.



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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