Proud of her late brother's service on the World War II submarine Wahoo, Ruth Taylor shows off her souvenir hat and T-shirt from the recent ceremony honoring the crew. The Wahoo was known for making a "clean sweep," sinking every enemy ship it encountered. It disappeared in October 1943 with 80 men and was discovered in 2006.
'This one's for you,
Ruth Anders Taylor reached out her right hand, clad in a special white cotton glove, and gave a strong pull on the rope dangling from the shiny gold bell of the Wahoo submarine.
"This one's for you, Brother," she said, addressing the late Floyd Anders, five years her senior and 64 years gone now.
The date was Oct. 11, 2007, exactly 64 years after her brother and 79 other submariners went down with the Wahoo.
It was just one year, though, since the McMinnville resident and other relatives of Wahoo crew members finally learned the fate of their loved ones. Russian explorers discovered the sub's punctured wreckage last year in the La Perouse Strait, which connects to the Sea of Japan.
In December 1943, Navy representatives interrupted the Anders family's Christmas decorating party with the news that Floyd was missing in action, apparently lost at sea. Between that day and the day she learned definitively of the Wahoo's fate, Taylor suffered.
Where was Floyd? Had her brother been captured and tortured? Had he been separated from his buddies and forced to die alone?
Floyd, closest in age
to Taylor, had joined the Navy and volunteered for submarine service
when the United States entered the war. An older brother, Roy, served
on a destroyer escort. Health issues prevented the eldest, Ernest, from
She would think of her brother every day.
When the Navy declared the Wahoo crew dead, following the war, Taylor finally accepted that Floyd was gone.
She and other relatives were determined to keep his memory alive, though. They raised their children with stories of Uncle Floyd, and included him when they said grace before family meals.
But it was hard not knowing the fate of the gregarious young man with the big, extra-white smile. When she was finally notified last year that Russian searchers had located the Wahoo, Taylor was relieved.
"I had a good cry," she said. "Now I know Floyd and his crewmates are all resting at the bottom of the sea together."
The Wahoo, SS238, was famed for its success in World War II's Pacific Theater. Launched in 1942, the 1,525-ton, Gato-class sub had sunk more enemy ships than any other vessel in the U.S. Navy by the time it disappeared.
It had received a presidential unit citation for sinking an entire Japanese convoy - unescorted, but armed - during a 14-hour sea battle. It was featured in a nonfiction book, "Wake of the Wahoo," and a movie, "Destination Tokyo."
Based at Pearl Harbor, the Wahoo spent the spring of 1943 at Midway Island. Floyd celebrated his 22nd birthday there that April.
The sub sailed for the Sea of Japan in September. It sank four Japanese ships between the time it left Midway and the day it disappeared. The courage, attitude and skills of the crew members are still being taught in submarine schools, Taylor said.
Not long after the Wahoo was located, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park in Hawaii began making plans for a ceremony to honor the crew. Taylor didn't think twice about accepting an invitation.
She flew to Honolulu on Oct. 8 with her grandson and his wife, Jason and Jessica Black, who practice together at A Family Healing Center in McMinnville. They took along their daughter, 5-year-old Sadie.
Taylor's sister-in-law, Wynona Anders of Florida, widow of Roy, also made the trip. Other relatives sent monetary contributions.
About 200 people gathered
to remember the Wahoo. They were joined by Naval officials.
The Wahoo relatives met at a reception on the evening before the memorial ceremony. They spent hours together sharing stories.
Taylor, just 17 when her brother was lost, had more memories to share than many of the survivors. The children of the sub commander, D.W. "Mush" Morton, for instance, were under 4 when the Wahoo was lost.
"I was the only one there with a scrapbook," Taylor said, displaying a hefty volume containing photos of her brother, his service medals and newspaper clippings about the Wahoo.
Although Taylor doesn't expect to see many of her fellow survivors again, she said she will always consider them friends. "In my heart, they'll always be there," she said. She does keep in contact with one fellow, Ken Lynch of Oklahoma, who lost his brother, Walter. They have been corresponding for some time and were happy to meet in person in Hawaii.
During her visit to Hawaii, Taylor and her family also toured Pearl Harbor and saw the Arizona memorial. They also toured the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, reading about other lost subs and viewing artifacts and exhibits such as a newly unveiled miniature of the Wahoo.
They drove around Oahu sightseeing as well. Raised in Florida, Taylor loved the weather and would like to go back someday.
When Taylor and her family
boarded the plane to return to Oregon, she turned to her grandson and
said, "I feel like we're leaving Floyd here." He pointed out
that Floyd will still be where he's always been - always in her memories,
and always in her heart.
Over in Hawaii, Taylor teared up when Naval riflemen fired a 21-gun salute in the Wahoo crew's honor. She cried when "Taps" was played.
"I considered this a burial service for Floyd," she said. "We never had one."
She cried again when she received a certificate signed by Rear Admiral J.A. Walsh, commander of submarine forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet. It says, "This honors the memory of MMM3 Floyd Roland Anders, awarded 11 October 2007, by a grateful nation, in recognition of devoted and selfless consecration to the service of our country in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Wahoo. He paid the ultimate price in service to our nation so that future generations could life in freedom."
But she walked the red carpet proudly when it was her turn to ring the sub's bell, which had been in storage all these years. She was the first bellringer, as her brother's name led the alphabetical list of submariners.
"I wanted it to ring out loud, so I hit it hard," she recalled. "I said, 'This one's for you, Brother.' And it was."