Senin, 09 November 2020

Mare Island event recalls WWII subs, crews lost at sea - Fairfield Daily Republic

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VALLEJO — Paul Smith said he’s always “had a thing for submarines,” ever since serving on one in Vietnam.

That’s why the 70-year-old came all the way from Calistoga, despite Sunday’s inclement weather, to attend the 14th Annual Dockside Tribute in honor of the Mare Island boats lost at sea.

Smith and his partner, Debbie Colmar, stayed until the end, despite the event starting with a heavy drizzle and wind gusts that toppled flowerpots and sent programs and flyers sailing. Organizers nearly canceled the event as they chased decorations sent aloft by the wind.

But, as the winds died down and the drizzle mostly stopped, the event went on at the former submarine berth – No. 6 – for the handful of masked and socially distanced onlookers.

Sunday’s event was founded and organized by Myrna Hayes of the Mare Island Heritage Trust, and Larry Maggini, a former submarine combat systems engineer at Mare Island Naval Shipyard and author of two books on the subject – “USS Wahoo – In Memorium” and “On Eternal Patrol – The Lost Boats of Mare Island.”

After the Mare Island Shipyard closed in 1996, Maggini, a founding sponsor of the USS Wahoo and Lost Boats of Mare Island Memorial events, was employed by Weston Solutions Inc., one of the U.S. Navy’s environmental cleanup contractors for Mare Island.

The first Lost Boats memorial occurred in 2007, after the remains of the Wahoo were located, the two said. The Wahoo was discovered by a Russian oil consortium in 2005 in La Perouse Strait, during an expedition to find the ship that was organized by “Mush” Morton’s grandnephew Brian McKinnon.

Dudley W. “Mush” Morton was the Wahoo’s commander and the man for whom Mare Island’s historic Navy Submariners football field is named.

Classified under international law as wartime grave, Wahoo and the other lost boats are considered by naval tradition to be fitting resting places for their crews.

“I heard about the Wahoo being found and Myrna and I got to talking, and she dreamed up this event,” Maggini said. “The purpose is to honor the seven boats built on Mare Island and their crews that were lost during World War II.”

The first event honored the Wahoo and its crew only. Part of Sunday’s ceremony included the tolling of a bell for each of the seven Mare Island-built boats lost at sea during the Great War – the final resting places of most of which remain unknown, the two said. Besides the USS Wahoo, they are the USS Pompano, USS Swordfish, USS Gudgeon, USS Trigger, USS Tullibee and USS Tang.

The memorial service, which included music played by Barbara Morris, who grew up on Mare Island, was meant to honor the more than 550 crewmen of the lost boats of Mare Island.

The Mare Island Heritage Trust for the past 14 years has hosted a free public memorial event in the month of October when both the USS Wahoo and the USS Tang were lost at sea. The annual commemoration now occurs the second Sunday of November.

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Held at the World War II Landing Craft Support Gunboat 102 berthed at Berth 6 at A Street and Nimitz Avenue, a service made brief in deference to the cold and damp included music, an abbreviated history and the laying of a memorial wreath in the Napa River/Mare Island Strait.

The wreath, made by hand mostly out of materials found in and around Mare Island, was placed into the water at the end of the ceremony by several veterans who were in attendance.

“It goes into the river, and wherever it goes, it honors the boats and their crews,” Hayes said. “The first year, I made seven wreathes – one for each boat.”

Songs played included “Wayfaring Stranger,” “The Navy Hymn” and taps at the laying of the wreath.

The Landing Craft Gunboat 102’s flag was raised during the memorial. Hayes thanked those who attended the event despite the weather.

She said in an earlier statement that organizers hoped people would come and help them in honoring these men who gave their lives during World War II “in service of the Navy and the people of this nation.”

“We have a privilege and responsibility to remember the lost crewmen and to honor all of those who have served our country in the submarine force,” she said in the earlier statement. “And, as importantly, we owe the men and women who built and maintained ships such as these seven submarines at Mare Island a debt of gratitude.”

There were some 52 U.S. submarines lost during World War II and 13 other U.S. submarines lost at sea. These, too, were remembered Sunday. Seven of the 23 submarines built at Mare Island that took part in World War II combat operations were among the 52 that never came home.

More than 665 U.S. submarines have been commissioned since 1900, according to material passed out during Sunday’s memorial.

“A total of 65 have been lost; 41 to enemy action and the remaining 24 to ‘operational’ causes (like grounding, flooding, collisions, fires and equipment failure),” according to the printed material.

A total of 3,882 officers, enlisted men and civilian yard workers died.

The names of the lost boats are honored names, Maggini said.

“Not just because of the courage and the spirit and the sacrifice of the men who sailed aboard them, but also because of the sweat and the skill and the steel of Mare Island that are forever linked to them,” Maggini said. “The records in the archives may fade, but their memory will live as long as the bell still tolls.”

Veterans salute and others stand as “The Star-Spangled Banner” is played during the Lost Boats Memorial event on Mare Island, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020. .(Rachel Raskin-Zrihen/Courtesy photo)

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November 08, 2020 at 03:00PM
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Mare Island event recalls WWII subs, crews lost at sea - Fairfield Daily Republic

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