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I had a good warm-up speaker
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“As I have done many times, I was called on to make the Memorial Day speeches again this year. The governor was originally to be the speaker, but he was appearing in several other observances in the city, so they asked me to pinch hit. No big deal. I worked up may speech and gave it at the first observance. From there we paraded to another venue, and Ed Rendell showed up. The guy who runs the show introduced the governor first, and he spoke. Then he introduced me to give my speech. It was nice of "Fast Eddie" to get the crowd warmed up for me!”
I hope that is was a good one...
“Today is Memorial Day, when we pause to honor those who died in the nation’s wars.
We think of our war dead as having died honorably, perhaps gloriously, in battle. Yet we know that death in war, though indeed honorable, is far from glorious.
Today, I would like to remember those who died in World War II fighting what is nearly a forgotten war. Perhaps the very fact that the Navy’s Submarine Service fought under the waves rather than on them helps make their sacrifice more obscure.
Dubbed the Silent Service for the fact that their attacks were made without being detected, the submariners overcame many odds as they carried the war to the Japanese economy.
In the early days following Pearl Harbor, the submariners were called upon to patrol the Japanese shipping lanes and to gather intelligence on the Japanese Navy.
Submarine sailors lived in a very small craft, spending hours underwater, surfacing at night to replenish air and make radio contact with headquarters. Crews lived in crowded conditions, often going days or weeks without bathing.
Life in these close conditions could be trying, but the sailors serving on submarines made the best of it.
Early in the war, attacks were thwarted because torpedoes did not explode. After tests identified the problem, the submarines began to take their toll on enemy shipping and naval targets.
Sinking an enemy ship was not the end of the attack. After the enemy ship sank, very often enemy destroyers would make depth charge attacks in an effort to sink the submarine that had made the attack.
Depth charge attacks took a toll on eardrums and nerves, and sometimes wreaked damage on the submarine. And sometimes the depth charges hit their targets.
Because of sea pressure, any depth charge that ruptured the hull, no matter how small the hole, destroyed the submarine and its crew in an instant. The sailors either drowned in sea water and diesel oil or their bodies were imploded by pressure- hardly a glorious way to die.
In the course of the war, United States Navy submarines destroyed 1,178 Japanese merchant ships totaling 5,053,491 tons. They sank 214 Japanese naval vessels totaling 577,625 tons.
Japan started the war with about 6 million tons of merchant shipping and built another 3 million tons during the war. By war’s end, only 1.8 million tons remained, and of that, only 650,000 tons - a little more than a third of the total, was serviceable.
More than half Japan’s total merchant fleet was sent to the bottom by the submarine sailors.
A total of 319 submarines fought in World War II. Of these, 52 did not return from patrol. Of 14,750 officers and enlisted men, more than 3,500 died.
Among these was Commander Howard Gilmore who was wounded during a surface battle. Commander Gilmore ordered his crew to “Take her down!” even though his order meant that he would drown. But his order saved the crew and earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously.
Commander Gilmore’s self-sacrifice was perhaps the most poignant of the war. Other sailors and commanders died together as their boats perished in depth charge attacks, or in actions for which no record exists.
Crews had to deal with other threats besides enemy action. Submarine losses were often realized when boats did not return from patrol. Numerous accounts of subs running around or crashing into rocks on the bottom were recorded, so some deaths undoubtedly occurred in this way.
In short, serving on submarines was both dangerous and strenuous, both physically and mentally.
Nobody wants to die, and it is doubtful that our submarine sailors of World War II were any different. They took on a difficult and hazardous task - not for glory, but because the job had to be done, and they stepped forward to do it.
In that respect, they are not unique. In times of war, our young people rise to the occasion, as they are doing today in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other hot spots around the globe. Then, as now, families, friends, indeed all Americans pray for their safe return.
But not all those prayers are answered, and today we remember those who died for their country.
Before closing, I want to fast forward to the current war. Specialist Rodney Jones - then an East Falls resident - was a student at Roxborough High School, where he participated in the Junior ROTC program. Specialist Jones enlisted in the belief that he had to perform his duty to his country.
In Iraq, Specialist Jones’ unit came under attack by a truck bomber. Rather than run away from danger, Specialist Jones ran toward it, assuming a firing stance in an effort to stop the truck. His action caused the bomber to detonate the truck prematurely, killing Jones. But his action saved the other members of his unit.
Sacrifice is not something that is obsolete - a memory from World War II. It continues even as we speak, and we remember these young people as well on this day of remembrance.”
“Nicely done. And Semper-Fi.
Crazypace (USMC 82-86)”
“Nice tribute Geo.
My grandfather was a WWII naval captain and was able to get me a tour on a sub of that era. The quarters were so cramped I can't imagine extended duty on one.”
“Nice speech Geo. : )”
“Thanks. I got a tour of one of the last of those subs on active duty and was all set to join up, when a guy in the lunchroom one day asked how you dig a foxhole on a boat. And so that was the beginning of my very short Army career.
They have the Becuna tied up at Penn's Landing here in Philly and sliding oneself through those hatches as the old submariners did proved a bit of a challenge to an old fart. I did manage it after a few tries, without injuring myself. But sleeping over a torpedo was not my idea of first class accommodations. But then again, if I had spent a night in a muddy foxhole I may have decided otherwise.”
“Good job. Sorry so late in responding.”
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