Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Eternal Patrol: Peter McCafferty

Seattle Base member Peter McCafferty departed on Eternal Patrol on August 13, 2016.
We last saw Peter at the Kirkland Independence Day Parade in July. Peter joined the Navy in 1981 and qualified on USS Daniel Boone (SSBN-629) in 1982. He also qualified on USS Stonewall Jackson (SSBN-634) and left the Navy in 1987 as an MM1(SS).

We don't have any information on funeral service yet. We will post more information as soon as we get it. Please remember Peter’s family in your thoughts and prayers.

Sailor, Rest Your Oar.

Monday, August 8, 2016

2016 Smokey Point Rest Stop Event

Seattle Base USSVI manned the coffee both at the Smokey Point rest area (southbound side) over the weekend of July 22 – 25, 2016.

We want to thank everyone for your help, but especially all the watch-standers: Larry Abbott, Earl Greenling, Roy Burt, Doug Abramson, Dick Gonzalez, Carl Minor, Shel Harmon, Cliff Nutter, Bill Thompson, Kerry Ryan, Ralph Sterley, Bob Opple and Thea Benjamin, Ric Hedman and Patti Lynn.

Special thanks to those who covered multiple shifts: Earl Greenling and Doug Abramson for the graveyard lonely times (3), Carl Minor (2), Roy Burt for three shifts and a relief so I could go to breakfast on Monday morning, Ric and Patti Lynn for two big watches, and Ralph Sterley (3).
The Smokey Point south coffee booth
Earl Greening and Larry Abbott
Schell Harmon and Cliff Nutter
Roy Burt
Bob Opple and Thea Benjamin
Patti Lynn and Ric Hedman
Doug Abramson and Earl Greening
Steve Shelton - project organizer
If I’ve left someone out, please let me know and I will make sure to include them in my thanks at the next meeting.

We netted $759.90 in donations (after expenses for supplies). Not too bad for the southbound exit and better than we thought we did.

We do this event for fun, and it really is. We hope to see you the next time we do this.

Steve Shelton
Editor's Note: Special thanks to Steve for organizing this event and taking the photos. 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Submarine Hero: Howard Gilmore

Editor's Note: While Seattle USSVI Base has cancelled our Tolling the boats ceremony, we still want follow the USSVI creed to perpetuate the memory of our shipmates who gave their lives in the pursuit of their duties while serving their country. With that in mind, here is an article on Medal of Honor recipient Howard Gilmore. This article first appeared several years ago in Undersea Warfare magazine.
The first U.S. submariner to receive the Medal of Honor in World War II, Commander Howard W. Gilmore, lost his life in a selfless act of heroism that has become one of the most inspiring legends of the Submarine Force. Gilmore was born in Selma, Alabama, in 1902 and served first as an enlisted Sailor before entering the U.S. Naval Academy by competitive examination. He graduated from the Academy in 1926, standing 34th in a class of 456. Before the war, Gilmore had served as the executive officer of USS Shark (SS-174), and in a colorful incident during that time, narrowly survived an assault by a group of thugs in Panama, who cut his throat during an excursion ashore. In March 1942, four months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he took command of the new USS Growler (SS-215), fourth boat of the 81-ship Gato (SS-212) class and sailed her to the Pacific theater.

Operating out of Pearl Harbor, Growler was one of seven submarines assigned picket duty north and west of the islands as part of the Hawaii defense force during the early phases of the Battle of Midway in June 1942. Later that month, she embarked on her first war patrol in the vicinity of the Aleutian Islands, where Gilmore attacked three Japanese destroyers off Kiska, sinking one and severely damaging the other two, while narrowly avoiding two torpedoes fired at him in return. In early August, Gilmore took Growler on her second and most successful war patrol in the East China Sea near Taiwan, sinking four merchant ships totaling 15,000 tons, before returning to Hawaii in late September.

In October 1942, Growler sailed from Pearl Harbor to Brisbane, Australia, by way of Truk in the Caroline Islands, both to support the blockade of that Japanese bastion and as part of a general re-positioning of submarine assets ordered by ADM Chester Nimitz during the early struggle for the Solomon Islands. Gilmore and Growler scored no kills on this third war patrol but arrived safely in Brisbane in mid-December.

Growler departed Brisbane on New Year’s Day 1943 for her fateful fourth war patrol, targeting Japanese shipping lanes between Truk and Rabaul in the Bismarck Archipelago. On 16 January, Gilmore sighted an enemy convoy, maneuvered inside the escorts, and sank Chifuku Maru, a 6,000-ton passenger-cargo ship. He was unsuccessful in subsequent attacks on a small convoy and a converted gunboat, but on the night of 6-7 February, while charging batteries on the surface, Gilmore spotted the 900-ton provision ship Hayasaki and manned the bridge for a surface attack. With Growler still a mile away, however, Hayasaki’s watch saw the on-coming submarine, and Hayasaki turned to the attack herself, attempting to ram her assailant. As the small ship charged out of the darkness, Gilmore sounded the collision alarm and shouted, “Left full rudder!” – to no avail. Perhaps inadvertently, Growler hit the Japanese adversary amidships at 17 knots, heeling the submarine 50 degrees, bending sideways 18 feet of her the bow, and disabling the forward torpedo tubes.
Growler's bent bow at Brisbane, Australia, for repairs to her bow, after she rammed a Japanese patrol vessel in the Bismarck Islands on 7 February 1943
Simultaneously, the Japanese crew unleashed a murderous burst of machine gun fire at Growler’s bridge, killing the assistant officer of the deck and a lookout, while wounding Gilmore himself and two other men. “Clear the bridge!” Gilmore ordered as he struggled to hang on to a frame. As the rest of the bridge party dropped down the hatch into the conning tower, the executive officer, Lt. Commander Arnold Schade – shaken by the impact and dazed by his own fall into the control room – waited expectantly for his captain to appear. Instead from above came the shouted command: “Take her down!” Realizing that he could not himself get below in time if the ship were to escape, Gilmore chose to make the supreme sacrifice for his shipmates. Schade hesitated briefly – then followed his captain’s last order and submerged the crippled ship.

Surfacing some time later in hope of re-attacking the Hayasaki, Schade found the seas empty. The Japanese ship had, in fact, survived the encounter, but there was no sign of Gilmore, who apparently had drifted away in the night. Schade and Growler’s crew managed to control the ship’s flooding and limped back to Brisbane on 17 February. Taken immediately into dry dock, Growler was repaired and fought again – at first under the command of Lt. Commander Schade, and then under Commander Thomas B. Oakley, Jr. Sadly, she was lost on her 11th war patrol in November 1944, while attacking a Japanese convoy south of Mindoro in the Philippine Islands. Growler received eight battle stars for her role in the Pacific War.

For sacrificing his own life to save his ship, Commander Howard Gilmore was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Subsequently, the submarine tender Howard W. Gilmore (AS-16) was named for him and sponsored by his widow. Even today – over 50 years later – “Take her down!” remains one of the legendary phrases of the U.S. Submarine Force.
"Take Her Down" Commander Howard W. Gilmore, wounded on the bridge of Growler, orders the submarine to dive
Medal of Honor Citation for Commander Howard W. Gilmore
For distinguished gallantry and valor above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of the USS Growler during her Fourth War Patrol in the Southwest Pacific from 10 January to 7 February 1943. Boldly striking at the enemy in spite of continuous hostile air and antisubmarine patrols, CDR Gilmore sank one Japanese freighter and damaged another by torpedo fire, successfully evading severe depth charges following each attack. In the darkness of night on 7 February, an enemy gunboat closed range and prepared to ram the Growler. CDR Gilmore daringly maneuvered to avoid the crash and rammed the attacker instead, ripping into her port side at 11 knots and bursting wide her plates. In the terrific fire of the sinking gunboat’s heavy machineguns, CDR Gilmore calmly gave the order to clear the bridge, and refusing safety for himself, remained on deck while his men preceded him below. Struck down by the fusillade of bullets and having done his utmost against the enemy, in his final living moments, CDR Gilmore gave his last order to the officer of the deck, “Take her down.” The Growler dived; seriously damaged but under control, she was brought safely to port by her well-trained crew inspired by the courageous fighting spirit of their dead captain.

Friday, July 22, 2016

2016 Tolling the Boats Ceremony Canceled


After consultation with Tolling the Boats ceremony organizers, we have collectively decided to cancel the 2016 Tolling the Boats event.
We made this decision for multitude of reasons and we believe it is the right thing to do. Some of the reasons that informed this decision are:
  • Seattle Base currently lacks full leadership, due to the vacant Sr. Vice Commander position and temporary absence of our Jr. Vice Commander. Participation of these board members is crucial during high profile events like our annual Tolling. 
  • The City of Kirkland has initiated a more stringent application process and we would have to pay for more liability coverage above the level currently covered by the National USSVI Policy. 
  • There are some complications with getting all the necessary materials (portable seating, float, etc.) to the event. 
  • I am currently under a doctor’s care for pneumonia and quite frankly probably won’t be up to conducting the ceremony on the 20th. 
In conclusion, we believe the Tolling the Boats ceremony, our premier event, requires us to be at our best. Under the current circumstances, this is not the case.

I hope you will agree with us that it is in our best interests to forego this year’s event and plan to resume at full strength in 2017. I would appreciate your assistance in getting the word out to all our shipmates.

I want to take this opportunity to thank those who work with dedication and limitless energy every year to make these events so successful.

Finally, remember there is no meeting in August. We should all take the month off to enjoy our summer with families and friends.

I look forward to joining you at the September 21st meeting.

Al Smith
Seattle USSVI Base Commander

Sunday, July 17, 2016

July 2016 Meeting Reminder

The next Seattle Base meeting is this coming Wednesday, July 20, 2016. We will meet at VFW Post #2995 (4330 148th Ave N.E., Redmond WA 98052). Social hour starts at 6 PM with business meeting at 7 PM.

We will be recapping the Kirkland Independence Day Parade, finalizing sign-ups for the July 22 – 25 Smokey Point event, and getting out information on the Tolling the Boats ceremony set for August 20 at Kirkland’s Marina Park. 
Reminder, there will not be a meeting in August due to the Tolling ceremony.

We hope to see you there!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Recap of the Bangor Submarine Base Tour

The June 30 tour of Submarine Base Bangor went off without any issues and everyone seemed to enjoy the trip.  Dick Gonzalez and Bob Opple were gracious enough to share their thoughts on the trip.
The Tour Group by USS Sturgeon's sail at Keyport Undersea Museum
We met at the Keyport Undersea Museum and while we waited for the arrival of the Navy bus we did a quick roll call of our members and their guests. We also managed to take a few group pictures next to the sail of the USS Sturgeon SSN 637. When the bus arrived, we met the Public Affairs Officer (Sub Group 9) Kenneth Takada, who provided an overview of the tour and the emphasis on security.
     We proceeded through Bangor main gate and disembarked at the entrance of the Trident Training Facility (TTF). We split up into several smaller groups, met our tour guides, (all wearing Dolphins) and proceeded into several training areas including the diesel engine room compartment where we enjoyed an overview of the twelve cylinder Fairbanks & Morse power plant with its updated electronic engine controller. My grandson Nathan was given the opportunity to start and operate a simulated engine. Later in the tour he simulated firing a torpedo in the torpedo training room. Our final event before breaking for lunch was the navigation simulator, where several tour members had the opportunity to wear virtual headgear in order to steer a boat in different scenarios.
     After lunch we boarded the bus and headed down to USS Louisiana SSBN 743, which was commissioned 1997 at Kings Bay Georgia. Prior to boarding we noticed several Humvees equipped with turrets, and machine guns manned by serious looking marines. We went through the Marine Security Checkpoint to validate our citizenship and then boarded the bus again and proceeded to the boat.
     Louisiana was undergoing a good deal of maintenance work and we saw several yard birds working right alongside crew members. We could see several other boats in the same state, keeping in mind this is primarily a boomer base where readiness is essential to their mission.
     We broke into small groups and several qualified crew members provided a systematic and detailed tour of the boat. They seemed to appreciate we were also qualified and could understand most of the terminology and layout of the boat.
     We exited the sub and boarded the bus back to the Keyport Undersea Museum parking lot. We expressed our appreciation to the Public Affairs Officer for the effort and time spent on our behalf.
     Perhaps we should repeat this tour again sometime next year.

Dick Gonzalez
The Tour Group at Deterrent Park on Submarine Base Bangor with the sail of USS Woodrow Wilson (SSBN 624) in the back
Bangor and the Tour of USS Louisiana 
I have been fortunate enough to go to Bangor a few other times and as with all of my visits to this NW sub base I once again was in WOW.

WOW at the hospitality shown towards us by everyone we came in contact with be it the bus driver, a major tour guide, the young sailors conducting the training classes and in particular the crewmen assigned to the SSBN Louisiana who took time out of their very busy schedules to each give us a very in-depth personal tour.

I was in WOW at the security around the submarines that were in their pens, the professionalism of the Marine Corps who have the responsibility for security of not only the submarines but the many nuclear weapons that I know are somewhere on the base. We can all rest assured that our submarines are protected from anyone who has hopes of damaging our fleet.

I was in WOW at the ballistic submarine we toured; there was little comparison between it and the old diesel World War II submarines that many of us served on. The sophistication of the equipment far exceeded anything that we could have imagined in the 50s or 60s. As I stood in the forward torpedo room I was told that it was 47 feet across, that itself was a tremendous difference as the old fleet boats were only 17 feet at the widest point.

But most importantly I was in WOW just meeting and talking to today’s submarine crew. I doubt that I would have the knowledge to qualify on subs today. The sophistication and complexity of the electronics and nuclear power are all about my head. These kids are continually undergoing training not only at sea but during the three-month period there on shore. The only question that our guide, or anyone on board, could not answer was: “where was the fanorknor valve?”, all we diesel guys know that answer.

We also had the opportunity to tour the training facility and talk to a few of the instructors and they confirmed how sharp these young men and women really are. The retention rate of today’s submarine sailor’s over 70% and this tells you how well these young sailors are respected by the military today.

I want to thank Richard Gonzales for putting this trip together, all of us were very impressed at the conclusion of the tour and looking forward to our next visit. Maybe next time to a Fast Attack submarine like the old Razorback SS-394.

Bob Opple

Thanks Bob and Dick for the recap.

Monday, July 4, 2016

2016 Kirkland Independence Day Parade Photos

We had a cool, cloudy day for the 2016 Kirkland Independence Day Parade. There were a few sun-breaks toward the end of the parade and overall it was really a nice day for the parade.

Once again the city of Kirkland did a nice job with the parade and all the festivities for celebrating Independence Day. As usual, veterans were presented with a boutonniere and we had some pizza before the parade. We had a few more submarine veterans, including the Silent Service Motorcycle Club (SSMC), participants than last year. The parade route was lined with a large and enthusiastic crowd.

Here are some photos from before and during the parade.
A few admirers having a look at the Seattle Base float before the parade
Before the parade, we got a group photo of all the veterans in front of Heritage Hall

We also grabbed a quick photo of all the submarine veterans
Then some last moment preparations ...
And getting the riders on the float
The piper led off the parade
The parade started off with the piper, then the Honor Guard, followed by some vehicles with World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War veterans.

Then came the submarine float and Silent Service Motorcycle Club - Thresher Chapter
Submarine veteran banners led the group
Then the float
Most of the group rode the float this year
There were still some marchers behind the float
Then the SSMC

We had a few parade stops along the way, but the crowd seemed to enjoy those too

We all had a good time at the parade. We're looking forward to next year's parade and hope to see a few more members there.