Thursday, May 26, 2011

2011 Armed Forces Day Parade Photos and Memorial Day Events

Here are a few photos from the Bremerton Armed Forces Day parade. Thanks to Pat Householder for passing these along.
Seattle Base Float with Sam Ronnie's limo behind
The “Bonefish” float, the Bremerton Base contingent, and an Honor Guard of active submariners from the Trident Training Facility were in front of the Seattle float.
Ralph Sterley (left) and Paul Christofferson (right)

Ralph Sterley and Paul Christofferson, both USSVI and SVWWII (Submarine Veterans WWII) members, carried the “Freedom is not Free” banner in the parade.
2011 Armed Forces Day USSVI and SVWWII Group Photo

Seattle, Bremerton, and SSMC Base members gather for a group photo. Thanks to everyone who showed up for the parade.

Memorial Day Events
Here is some information about some of the Memorial Day events in the area.

Doug Abramson, Jim Harper, and Bill Giese are going to have a USSVI table at the Cruzin to Colby car show in Everett on Monday, May 30.

South Sound Base is holding their Memorial Day Fundraiser on May 30th at Puyallup WalMart (165th and Meridian). If you are in the area, stop by and say hello.

On Memorial Day, several Seattle Base members are planning to attend the program at Tahoma National Cemetery. The program starts at 1:00PM, but plan on being there early to find parking.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Sinking, Rescue, and Salvage of USS Squalus

USS Squalus (SS-192), a Sargo-class submarine, was built at Portsmouth Navy Yard in Portsmouth N.H. and commissioned on March 1, 1939.
Squalus fitting out at Portsmouth (U.S. Navy photo)
After fitting out at the shipyard, the submarine began a series of test dives off the Isle of Shoals in early May. After successfully completing 18 dives, the boat made another trial dive on the morning of May 23, with a complement of 56 crew members and three civilian contractors. At 0740, just after the submarine submerged, the main engine air induction valve failed and water poured into the boat's after engine room. The submarine sank stern first to the bottom, coming to rest keel down in 40 fathoms (240 feet) of water.

During the disaster, 26 men were trapped and perished in the flooded after portion of the submarine. This left 32 crew members and one civilian alive in the forward compartments of the submarine. The survivors sent up a marker buoy and then began releasing red smoke bombs to the surface in an attempt to signal their distress.

USS Sculpin (SS-191), sent to the area later that morning, spotted a smoke bomb and marked the spot with a buoy. She was joined later that day by tug Penacook (YT-6), tug Wandank (AT-26), and Coast Guard vessels No. 158, No. 409, and No. 991. Divers and submarine experts, including the Experimental Diving Unit from Washington, DC, also converged on the location. During this preparatory period, the 32 survivors below spent a cold night trapped inside Squalus and began to suffer from the effects of chlorine gas released from the battery compartment.
"Sweating It Out" survivors wait in Squalus' forward torpedo room (watercolor by John Groth, Naval Historical Center)
The following morning, after the arrival of submarine rescue ship Falcon (ASR-2), a preliminary observation by a Navy diver determined a salvage operation was possible. At 1130, Falcon (ASR-2) began lowering the newly developed McCann rescue chamber--a revised version of a diving bell invented by Commander Charles B. Momsen--and at 1247 direct contact was established with the trapped crew. Over the next six hours, 25 survivors were brought to the surface in three trips by the rescue chamber. After serious difficulty with tangled cables, the fourth trip finally rescued the last seven survivors just after midnight on May 25. A fifth and final descent by the rescue chamber confirmed there were no remaining survivors on the submarine. (You can read the transcript of a lecture by Commander Momsen on the rescue and salvage operation at this link)

Four enlisted divers, Chief Machinist's Mate William Badders, Chief Boatswain's Mate Orson L. Crandall, Chief Metalsmith James H. McDonald and Chief Torpedoman John Mihalowski, earned the Medal of Honor for their work during the rescue and subsequent salvage. (You can read the citations for these divers at this link)

Naval authorities felt it was important to raise Squalus to find out why she sank, since she incorporated a succession of new design features. Over the next three months, determined salvage operations passed cables underneath the submarine's hull and attached pontoons on each side of the boat. After blowing the pontoons full of air, Squalus was finally raised and towed into the Portsmouth Navy Yard.
Squalus' bow breaks the surface during the salvage operation (U.S. Navy photo)
Following an investigation of the engine room compartments, the boat was formally decommissioned in November. The submarine was renamed Sailfish on 9 February 1940.
USS Sailfish
USS Sailfish went on to serve with distinction during World War II, making 12 War Patrols, earning 9 Battle Stars, and the Presidential Unit Citation.

After World War II, Sailfish was decommissioned at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on October 27, 1945. The bridge and conning tower of the submarine were removed and installed as a memorial to the men lost on Squalus at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on 11 November 1946.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

May Meeting Notes

During our June meeting we will be inducting 14 of our members into the Holland Club. Be sure to come to the meeting and congratulate them on achieving this milestone. This year's inductees are: Charles Blain, John Bush, James Davis, Bill Godfrey, Robert Haslan, Robert Lange, Gary Ness, Kingsley Parker, Don Ross, Don Sass, Robert Shirer, Ron Thody, Art Thompson, and Lee Trunkhill.
Jim from VFW Post 2995 stopped by to let us know that the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall is coming to the Sunset Hills Memorial Park in Bellevue July 1 - 4. The VFW Posts in the area are helping out with this and they will be looking for volunteers to help set up the exhibit and to help out while it is here. An e-mail will be going out soon providing more details on how you can help out.

Upcoming Events:
Here is a reminder of some of the upcoming events, be sure to mark them down on your calendar.

Tahoma National Cemetery Memorial Day Program - Monday May 30 at 1 PM. Note the time change for the program. The event will be at the flagpole assembly area. The keynote speakers are retired Lt. Cmdr. Bob O’Neal and Don Murphy, Director Memorial Program Services, Washington D.C. The program will last about an hour. Remember that parking is a premium and you might want to show up early.

Cruzin' To Colby car show - Doug Abramson, Jim Harper, and Bill Giese will be participating in the upcoming "Cruizin' To Colby" car show on Memorial Day, Monday, May 30. We hope to have our submarine float there. Doug let us know that there are already 325 cars registered for the show.

Smokey Point Rest Stop Event - This is set for June 10, 11, 12, and 13 at the Smokey Point (North) rest stop. Steve Shelton has the sign-up board ready. We hope that you will sign up for a shift during the four-day event. If you can't take on a shift, you can still help out by providing cookies and other snacks. Please contact Steve to volunteer or for more information.

Kirkland Independence Day Parade - On July 4, we are planning on marching in the parade with the float and the Silent Service Motorcycle Club. We've been doing this for several years and always have a good time.

Tolling of the Boat Ceremony - The ceremony is set for August 20 at the Kirkland Marina Park Pavilion. We are planning on a picnic before the ceremony and hope to have the Navy Band in attendance. Be sure to mark the date on your calendar!

USSVI National Convention - The national convention is set for September 5 - 11 in Springfield/Branson Missouri. You can find out more information on the convention website at:

Tahoma National Cemetery Veterans Day Program - This program will happen on Friday, November 11.

Auburn Veterans Day Parade - This is set for Saturday, November 12. We are planning on marching in the parade with the base float, other submariners from the region, and the Silent Service Motorcycle Club.

2011 Christmas Luncheon - We have reserved the Seattle Yacht Club on Saturday, December 17 for our luncheon.

Base Raffle:
We want to remind you about the Seattle Base raffle. The raffle prize is a highly detailed, three-dimensional, submarine cutaway plaque. The winner can choose the submarine class displayed on the plaque, the current options are a Gato (SS-212), Balao (SS-285), Tench (SS-417), or Lafayette (SSBN-616). The company is working on other classes, so there might be more choices at raffle time. Raffle tickets cost $5 and the drawing will be held at the Tolling of the Boats Ceremony on Saturday, August 20. You do not need to be present to win, so be sure to pass this information along to anyone that might be interested in one of these beautiful cutaways. (Click on the photos to see a larger view)
Gato Class
Balao Class
Tench Class
Lafayette Class
 Binnacle List Updates:
Ted Taylor - Ted wanted to let us know that he is still "alive and looking down at the grass." Ted is on oxygen and has been keeping busy planning his memorial service. He would love to hear from his USSVI shipmates.

Bill Godfrey - Bill is having some liver and kidney issues.

Bruce Fisher - Bruce is still undergoing treatment for diabetic neuropathy on his foot.

Andrea Geisler - Andrea had a bit of a set back with her eye recovery. There is a small cyst forming in her eye that is causing problems.

May Presentation:
Our May presentation was by Capt. Angus McDonald on his book discussing the loss of USS Scorpion (SSN-589). He started off by talking about some of the other books on Scorpion's loss and giving his thoughts on their conclusions. These stories were what really spurred Angus to do his own research, write an article for the Naval Institute Proceedings magazine, and finally his own book.

After this introduction, he gave us the background on his own involvement in the incident. Angus was at the Pentagon at the time and assisted Dr. John Craven during his investigation. Angus discussed the different information and methods used to track down and eventually find the site of Scorpion's final resting place. He also discussed how he constructed his own theory about Scorpion's loss and the threads he tied together, all of which is covered in his book "The Scorpion Story: How She Was Lost."
Capt. Angus McDonald talking the battery on Mk 37 torpedoes
 After this initial presentation, Angus opened up the floor to questions from the meeting attendees. We asked many questions, getting Angus to further expand his ideas. It was an interesting presentation about an event that is still a sore subject for many submariners.
After the presentation, Angus sold and signed copies of his book. If you would like to purchase the book, each copy costs $25.00 and you can get them by contacting Capt. McDonald by e-mail or regular mail at:E-mail:
Regular Mail:
Capt. Angus McDonald
PO Box 3331
Bellevue, WA 98009-3331

Friday, May 13, 2011

May Meeting Announcement

Now Hear This Shipmates,

Our next meeting is set for next Wednesday, May 18 2011.

The presentation for this meeting will be by Captain Angus McDonald, a Life Member of the USSVI and the Seattle Base. Captain McDonald will be talking about his book “The Scorpion Story, How She Was Lost” concerning the terrible tragedy of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589), which sank on May 22, 1968 with the loss of all hands. In his book and presentation, he will go deeper into the tragedy than any of the previous books. This is a story that deals with mystery, intrigue, great science, agonizing irony, and state-of-the-art technology associated with this terrible loss. 99 Submariners went on Eternal Patrol that day; I sailed with two of them on the USS Wahoo (SS-565) in the 1950's. Why did this tragedy happen?
Please pass the information about this presentation along to other submariners and interested parties. Be there at 6PM for social time with the meeting starting at 7PM.

Additionally, be sure to mark these upcoming events on your calendar:
  • Armed Forces Parade in Bremerton, Saturday, May 21. It begins at 10 AM, but meet us around 9 AM on 4th Street and we are in Section B.
  • Memorial Day Ceremony, Tahoma National Cemetery 18600 SE 240th Street Kent 98042, Monday, May 30. The ceremony begins at 12 PM, but get there early for parking space. We will have lunch at Gloria's Restaurant (23220 Maple Valley Black Diamond Road (Highway 169) Maple Valley 98038) after the ceremony.
  • "Cruzin to Colby" - Everett's Car Show, Sunday May 29 and Monday May 30. Check with Jim Harper (425-357-6485), Doug Abramson (360-652-9709), or Bill Giese (425-355-5990) for details.

See you at the meeting this coming Wednesday!

Keith Watson
Commander Seattle Base USSVI

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

USS Triton Completes First Submerged Circumnavigation of the Globe

On May 10, 1960 USS Triton (SSRN-586) returned to the United States after completing the first submerged circumnavigation of the globe following Ferdinand Magellan's route and steaming more than 41,000 miles in just 84 days.
USS Triton (U.S.Navy)
The circumnavigation, code named Operation Sandblast, used the St. Peter and Paul Rocks, located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean near the Equator, as the starting and end points for the circumnavigation. During the course of the circumnavigation, Triton crossed the Equator four times while maintaining an average Speed of Advance (SOA) of 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph).

Triton's first commanding officer was Captain Edward L. Beach, Jr., a highly decorated submarine officer who had participated in 12 combat patrols during World War II, earning 10 decorations for gallantry, including the Navy Cross. After the war, Beach served as the naval aide to the President of the United States from 1953 to 1957, and he also was the best-selling author of the non-fiction Submarine! and a novel Run Silent, Run Deep, which was made into a 1958 movie of the same name. In his last interview prior to his death in 2002, Captain Beach recalled Triton and the background to her historical mission:

As I was reporting to the Triton, I remember saying,  "This ship is an unusual one. We've got to do something special with it. What could it be?" We talked about it a little bit, and nobody had any ideas. Finally, I got an idea. We'll do a stunt. We'll go around the world from North Pole to South Pole. That was my brainstorm. If you take a look at a map of the world, you'll see that's not a very easy way to go. So we didn't do that. But I do remember thinking of it. And I made a speech to the crew, advising them of my thinking—that we were going to put this ship on the map. Well, that died out. Suddenly ... a phone call came, asking me if I could be in Washington tomorrow.

On February 1, 1960 Captain Beach received a message from Rear Admiral Lawrence R. "Dan" Daspit (COMSUBLANT) instructing Beach to attend a top secret meeting at The Pentagon on February 4th that led to the execution of Operation Sandblast, the first submerged circumnavigation of the world.
Triton departing New London on Feb. 16, 1960 (U.S. Navy)
Triton departed New London on February 16, 1960 for what was announced as her shakedown cruise. As Triton headed for the south Atlantic, Captain Beach announced the true nature of their shakedown cruise:
"Men, I know you’ve all been waiting to learn what this cruise is about, and why we’re still headed southeast. Now, at last, I can tell you that we are going on the voyage which all submariners have dreamed of ever since they possessed the means of doing so. We have the ship and we have the crew. We’re going around the world, nonstop. And we’re going to do it entirely submerged."
Triton's Navigation Track (click to enlarge)
Triton arrived in the middle Atlantic off St. Peter and St. Paul Rocks on February 24 to commence the history-making voyage. Having remained submerged since her departure from the east coast, Triton continued on south towards Cape Horn, rounded the tip of South America, and headed west across the Pacific. After transiting the Philippine and Indonesian archipelagos and crossing the Indian Ocean, she rounded the Cape of Good Hope and arrived off the St. Peter and Paul Rocks on April 10 - 60 days and 21 hours after departing the mid-ocean landmark. Only once did her sail break the surface of the sea, when she transferred a sick sailor to USS Macon (CA-132) off Montevideo, Uruguay, on March 6. She arrived back at Groton, Connecticut, on May 11, having completed the first submerged circumnavigation of the earth.

Triton's globe-girdling cruise proved invaluable to the United States. Politically, it enhanced the nation's prestige. From an operational viewpoint, the cruise demonstrated the great submerged endurance and sustained high-speed transit capabilities of the first generation of nuclear-powered submarines. Moreover, during the voyage, the submarine collected reams of oceanographic data. At the cruise's conclusion, Triton received the Presidential Unit Citation and Captain Beach received the Legion of Merit from President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
President Eisenhower presents Capt. Beach with the Legion of Merit (Life Magazine)
USS Triton was to be the lead ship of a proposed class of nuclear-powered radar picket submarines, but ended up being a one of a kind submarine. At the time of her construction, Triton was the largest submarine ever built. Her knife-like bow provided improved surfaced sea-keeping for her radar picket role. Her surface sea-keeping was further enhanced by high reserve buoyancy, provided by 22 ballast tanks, the most ever in an American submarine. She was the last American submarine to have a conning tower, as well as the last to have twin screws or a stern torpedo room. Her sail was the largest ever aboard an American submarine, measuring 70 feet (21 m) long, 24 feet (7.3 m) tall, and 12 feet (3.7 m) wide, and designed to house the large AN/SPS-26 3-D air-search radar antenna when not in use. She also had a compartment solely for crew berthing, with 96 bunks, and two separate Chief Petty Officers' (CPOs') quarters. With an overall length of 447.5 feet (136.4 m), Triton was the longest submarine ever built for the United States Navy until USS Ohio in 1979.

Following the development of carrier-based airborne early warning aircraft, Triton's long-range air search radar was no longer needed. Accordingly, the Navy's radar picket submarine program was cancelled and Triton was redesignated SSN-586. In 1962, Triton was modified to serve as the flagship for COMSUBLANT (COMmander, SUBmarine force AtLANTic). Triton operated as the flagship until a planned overhaul in 1967. But due to cutbacks in defense spending, as well as the expense of operating her twin nuclear reactors, Triton's overhaul was canceled, and the submarine - along with 60 other vessels - was slated for inactivation. On May 6, 1969, Triton departed New London under tow and proceeded to Norfolk, Virginia, where she was placed in the reserve fleet. She was stricken from the Naval Vessel Registry on April 30, 1986.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Loss and Rediscovery of USS Lagarto

USS Lagarto (U.S. Navy photo)
On April 12, 1945 USS Lagarto (SS-371), under Cdr F.D. Latta, departed Subic Bay, Philippine Islands for her second patrol in the South China Sea. On April 27, she was directed to the outer part of the Siam Gulf.

Lagarto contacted USS Baya (SS-318), already patrolling there, on May 2, 1945 and exchanged calls with her by SJ radar. Later that day Baya sent Lagarto a contact report on a convoy she had made contact with consisting of one tanker, one auxiliary and two destroyers. Lagarto soon reported being in contact with the convoy and began maneuvering for an attack with Baya. However, the enemy escorts were equipped with 10cm radar. The escorts detected Baya and drove her off with gunfire, whereupon the two submarines decided to wait and plan a subsequent attack.

Early on the morning of May 3, 1945, Lagarto and Baya made a rendezvous and discussed plans. Lagarto was to dive on the convoy's track to make a contact at 1400, while Baya was going to be ten to fifteen miles further along the track. During the day, numerous contact reports were exchanged. At 0010 on May 4, after a prolonged but unsuccessful attack, Baya was finally driven off by the alert escorts. However, no further contact was ever made with Lagarto.

Japanese records showed that the minelayer Hatsutaka, believed to be one of the two radar-equipped escorts of the attacked convoy, made a depth-charge attack on a U.S. submarine during this time. The attack was made in about 30 fathoms of water and it is presumed that this attack sank Lagarto. Eighty-six men perished with her and she was the fiftieth U.S. submarine loss of World War II.

The exact location where Lagarto was attacked and sunk remained a mystery until May 2005. When just after the 60th anniversary of her sinking, Koh Tao Divers Jamie Macleod & Stewart Oehl diving from the Koh Tao based shipwreck research vessel M.V. Trident descended a shot line in 73 meters (240 feet) of water to investigate an underwater anomaly close to the Lagarto's last reported position.

Here is a preview of the documentary LOST & FOUND: Legacy of the USS Lagarto (note, if this video doesn't appear properly, you can find it at this link on YouTube).

You can read more about the loss and rediscovery of Lagarto at the Thai Wreck Diver website. The website includes pictures from the wreck site and a list of the men lost on Lagarto.