Submarine veterans an elite group
One of the most elite fighting forces in the U.S. military is the submarine service. There are 52 subs from World War II considered to be on “Eternal Patrol.” These vessels with nearly 3700 crewmen were lost during the war years. There are also submarines and crewmen lost in years since.
The United States Submarine Veterans Inc., of which Southeast Texas has a chapter, was formed to keep the memory of these lost boats and sailors alive. It’s also a way for submarine vets to meet and talk about the times they spent in the special service in ways only another veteran of that service can fully understand.
The only qualification for membership is to be a veteran of submarine service from any period, any type boat and any rank. Some members of the Golden Triangle Base were on diesel boats, some on nuclear boats and a few members served on both types.
“Submariners are an elite group,” said William Wells, commander of the Golden Triangle Base of the USSVI. “You have to be very much a people person in order to work and live in the close quarters of a sub; you have to be able to learn a lot in a short period of time. The submarine service is a volunteer service, you are not assigned to a sub, you have to volunteer to be on one. It takes an eight week school before you are assigned to a boat and then a minimum of 10 months to qualify.”
The Golden Triangle Base consists of 19 members from Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana. The meeting locations rotate to different cities for the quarterly meetings.
The membership of the USSVI is about 13,195, with veterans from all 50 states. There are more than 150 chapters, called Bases, in every state in addition to two Internet Bases.
Each meeting opens with a moment of silence for Departed Shipmates on Eternal Patrol. The Base commander reads the Toll of Lost Subs. Even though a submarine has been sunk and shipmates lost they are considered on Eternal Patrol and remain alive in the memory of surviving veterans.
“The tolling of the bell is a very solemn time for us, one thing that we try to do is to keep the memories of our lost boats and crewmen alive. Once you have served in the ‘Silent Service’ there is a bond that is never broken. When we see someone with the Silver Dolphins we feel a respect that only sub vets can identify with. The tolling of the bell represents that bond and reminds us of the sacrifices of those that did not survive their duty in the submarines,” said Wells.
The Golden Triangle Base supports various charitable causes, such as children with cancer, and supports and promotes submarine memorials.
Members also present programs about the submarine service to schools and often counsel at risk teens. They point out that the service is very exclusive and that you earn a great amount of respect by wearing the Dolphins. To earn them you have to apply yourself, study hard, be a people person, and have a great deal of discipline. In their presentations they also tell “sea stories” about the time spent on the boats. The members take the time to work with the youth and show them that they can get an education in the process of being a member of the most elite service in the Navy.
Texas has nine submarine memorials.
The only complete submarine in Texas is the USS Cavalla, SS-244. The Cavalla was launched in 1943 and commissioned in 1944 and saw several combat patrols during the last year of WWII. She was decommissioned in 1946 and returned to service in 1951 for service in the Korean War. In 1971 the Navy transferred the title to the Texas Submarine Veterans of WWII. She was then sent to Seawolf Park in Galveston to be placed on permanent display.
The Golden Triangle Base has assisted in maintaining the Cavalla by attending work days as well as making financial contributions.
“One of our goals and it is one that has the interest of our members peaked is to establish a memorial at the Veterans Memorial Park near the Rainbow Bridge for submarine veterans. We are working on obtaining a torpedo to use as the center piece of the memorial,” said Wells.
If you are a submarine veteran and would appreciate being around other “sub vets” and enjoying the companionship and stories, the Golden Triangle Base would welcome your membership.
“At our last meeting we singed up a new member and there was a vet in the restaurant that saw our vests and asked for information. We are always looking for sub vets and trying to get the word out that we exist. We know there are a number of sub vets that do not know that we have an active base,” said Wells.
For membership information, call Wells at (409) 982-5492, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.