F e a t u r e  A r t i c l e  (06/07)

Recently, Legends was privileged to receive emails from the daughter of Wahoo crewman William Young. They included several images and read:

"Hi Paul, I've attached a couple pictures of my Dad. The other is my Mom and Dad with Oliver North. He came to Hawaii and interviewed my Dad for a documentary that he filmed on Submarines vets. Though he never spoke much about his experiences with us growing up, he did tell Ollie some stories. It was a great documentary.

"On the Wahoo dad was on War Patrols 2, 3 & 4 and he was a Seaman 1st Class. He served as a radioman. He mentioned to me that the 2nd war patrol was the one in which Mush Morton was ‘an observer in training to become sub captain’. Mush was so angry and vocal about how the Wahoo captain was so scared and afraid to go after the enemy that ultimately Morton was confined to his cabin for the remainder of the cruise. When they docked in Brisbane, Morton filed a report and within a few days he was the new captain of the Wahoo. Dad was on the dock when Morton gave his famous speech to the Wahoo crew. Not one sailor requested transfer off the boat and the Wahoo sailed off to become the most feared sub in the American fleet.

"My Parents live in Hawaii and always attend the Veterans Day ceremonies there. My Dad was the subject of the attached article by Captain Chuck Merkel. He is the "Bill" that the Captain spoke of. I am very proud of my Dad and all veterans who have fought for our country. It is because of them that we enjoy the good life today.
I hope you are able to use the pictures, THANK YOU! Ede"

The article by Captain Merkel follows:

A Submariner Reflects On Veterans Day
By Captain Chuck Merkel Commanding Officer, NAVSUBTRACENPAC & TSD-H

PEARL HARBOR, HI--I have been lucky enough to have been stationed in Pearl
Harbor for most of my Naval career. Through the years I have attended and participated in numerous award ceremonies, changes of commands and retirement ceremonies at the Submarine Memorial Park, but I had never taken the time to attend either the Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day ceremonies at the memorial until this past Veteran’s Day.

One week before Veteran’s Day I spoke at the memorial for the retirement ceremony of a shipmate from my first boat, USS BREMERTON. My remarks included the following comments about the legacy of our Submarine Force in World War II: “We are gathered here this afternoon at the PARCHE memorial, a place of honor for our submarine force. This memorial was built to honor the 52 submarines and nearly 3600 men who remain on eternal patrol over 60 years after the end of World War II. There is a plaque up here behind me for each of those 52 submarines that were lost as well as a plaque for men who gave their lives on boats that were not sunk. Come up here and take the time to look. Behind you is the bridge of USS PARCHE. On that bridge Red Ramage earned the Congressional Medal of Honor in a night time surface engagement on 31 July 1944 that was described as “PARCHE versus all hell”. In a 46 minute running and gunning battle PARCHE sank four ships and damaged another. PARCHE was nearly rammed by the enemy vessels several times and the gunfire was so thick that for a time Red Ramage sent everyone else below decks. Unlike Dick O’Kane or Gene Fluckey, Red Ramage never wrote a book. When Red Ramage was questioned by a reporter once, all he said was “I got mad”. The submariners or World War II paid a heavy price and we must continue to honor their legacy. Last year’s discovery of LAGARTO and this year’s discovery of WAHOO and GRUNION continue to serve as reminders of the sacrifice of that generation.

Saturday November 11, 2006 there will be a ceremony here to mark Veteran’s Day. I encourage you to attend this ceremony. The number of World War II submariners gets smaller every year. If you have never heard the tolling of the bell this would be a great opportunity for all of you.”

As I prepared these remarks, I realized that I was going to attend this year’s ceremony. My daughter Stacey and I arrived at the ceremony early enough to watch the Submarine Veterans arrive. Most of them were wearing their blue vests, embroidered with the boats that they served on and decorated with patches from various SUBVET reunions over the years. While it was good to see a number of World War II veterans present, it was also reassuring to see younger veterans that had the names of nuclear submarines on their vests. We sat behind an elderly gentleman and his wife. What immediately caught my eye was the top boat listed on the back of his vest – USS WAHOO (SS-238). The heart of the ceremony is the roll call and tolling of the bell for each submarine lost during World War II. Although I had observed the roll call before, I had never seen the placing of leis at the memorial.

All of the veterans and some widows participated in this part of the ceremony. What I found particularly touching was that although many of the Submarine Veterans of World War II arrived at the ceremony walking with the assistance of a cane. But when called upon to participate, they all left their canes behind at their seats. Following the roll call and wreath presentations Rear Adm. Joseph Mulloy gave his address. With the recent announcement of the discovery of the wreckage of WAHOO in La Perouse Strait, his remarks appropriately included the history of Mush Morton and WAHOO, the legendary submarine and skipper that “shook off the shackles and set the pace”. As Admiral Mulloy talked about the “WAHOO is expendable” speech that Mush Morton gave his crew before departing Brisbane in January 1943, I noticed that the gentleman seated in front of me beginning to shake and his wife took his hand to comfort him. I knew that he had been there – this man had served on WAHOO under Mush Morton. The ceremony closed with a 21 gun salute and the playing of Taps. At the end of the ceremony I introduced myself to the gentlemen that had sat in front of me. He had indeed been a WAHOO crew member and was present at Mush Morton’s speech in Brisbane, Australia. He had nothing but praise for Mush Morton. He had a hard time maintaining his composure while he talked briefly with me. I did not want to keep this man and his wife and our conversation ended without me learning his full name, but the first name embroidered on his vest was Bill.

Admiral Nimitz said it best: “It was to the Submarine Force that I looked to carry the load until the great industrial activity could produce the weapons we so sorely needed to carry the war to the enemy. It is to the everlasting honor and glory of our submarine personnel that they never failed us in our days of great peril.” Bill it was an honor to get to shake your hand and talk with you.

For you and all of the other submarine veterans of World War II, thank you for the great sacrifices that you made in your honorable service to our nation.

Article copyright 2007 The Hawaii SubVet