On 22 April 1996, a memorial stone was dedicated at Arlington National Cemetery to honor Lloyd McKenzie, a Torpedoman’s Mate First Class on USS TRITON (SS 201), and those submariners who remain on eternal patrol. USS TRITON (SS 201) was lost on March 15, 1943, during its sixth war patrol. This event would not have gained much recent notoriety. had it not been for the circumstances surrounding it and the people remembering it-the family of Lloyd McKenzie and the veterans of World Warn most notably.
This is the story of a daughter’s 10 year search to learn about the father whom she barely knew, to find someone who knew her dad, and above all, to find out if be bad made Chief Petty Officer before the last fatal patrol-a point disputed by her mother and aunt for 50 years.
In 1986, Mrs. Jeanine McKenzie Allen decided to have a memorial stone erected at Arlington National Cemetery to honor her father, Lloyd McKenzie. Her aunt convinced her to research whether her father had made Chief or not, before erecting a stone, so that the inscription would give him the honor with which he was never bestowed. As Mrs. Allen began her research, she found herself getting pulled deeper and deeper into the legacy and rich heritage of the Submarine Force in World War II. She poured through over 2000 pages of TRITON deck Jogs from War Patrols at the National Archives, tapped into the close-knit community of Submarine Veterans of World War II including Admiral Eugene Fluckey, Congressional Medal of Honor winner and author of Thunder Below!
Her progress was slow until she attended the National World War II Submarine Veterans Convention in October 1994. There she passed out flyers with a picture of her father, in hopes that someone might remember him. She met John Deane, the Honor Commander for TRITON, Connecticut’s Honor Submarine, whose wife bad been formerly married to a crewmember of TRITON– coincidentally, a torpedoman like her father. Mr. Deane gave her a list of 18 TRITON crewmembers who did not get underway for the fatal sixth war patrol and Mrs. Allen started a new phase of her journey-to find someone from this list.
She bad her breakthrough when she found Mr. Willard Devling, who remembered Lloyd McKenzie quite vividly-in fact, he remembered throwing Lloyd into the Brisbane (Australia) River to celebrate his promotion to Chief Petty Officer. He told Mrs. Allen that the captain promoted him on the deck of the ship and how handsome be looked in his Chief’s uniform. He also recounted the circumstances that led to bis missing the fatal patrol. It seems that during the fifth war patrol, TRITON underwent 19 hours of depth charging and was stuck on the bottom of the ocean for five days. The crew worked around the clock-running out of air, food and water-to get the submarine back to the surface, and ultimately to Brisbane, Australia. The crew was so fatigued before departing for the sixth war patrol, that in order to go to sea, one had to sit down and extend both arms and legs straight out for some specified period. Those who could not do it, like Willard Devling, were left behind.
Mrs. Allen’s epic journey came to an end with the dedication of the memorial stone at Arlington. She was joined by her mother, who received a telegram notifying her of TRITON’s disappearance April 22, 1943-53 years to the day of the dedication and her aunt. The featured speaker of the ceremony was Captain George Whiting, USN(Ret.), Weapons Officer and shipmate of Lloyd McKenzie on TRITON, and as a member of the wardroom of USS GRENADIER (SS 210), survived 29 months as a POW, with his crew, after his ship was sunk by Japanese aerial bombardments. One of the other participants of the ceremony was Joe Mastrangelo, a member of the Submarine Veterans of World War II, whose war heroics included saving the life of a shipmate by inflating his life preserver and then treading water for four days before being rescued (be was the gunner on merchant ships before joining the Submarine Force, and his last ship was blown up-he decided it was safer under the water).
The official ceremony included the tolling of the bells for the 52 lost boats by the World War II Submarine Veterans and remarks by Rear Admiral Ed Giambastiani, the Director, Submarine Warfare Division (N87). The highlight of the ceremony was a presentation of a shadow box to Mrs. McKenzie by MMCM-(SS) Thomas Hefty, the senior enlisted submariner in the Washington, DC area and prospective SUBLANT Force Master Chief. The shadow box included all of the ribbons and medals earned by Lloyd McKenzie and a set of anchors in recognition of his Chief Petty Officer status for which he was never officially recognized. The ceremony was attended by Vice Admiral Ship Bowman, Chief of Naval Personnel, and Rear Admiral Larry March, the Assistant Chief of Naval Personnel for Readiness and Community Support.
Mrs. McKenzie Allen’s research of her father, the TRITON and submarines in World War II was extensive and warrants reproducing for a wider audience. Excerpts follow:
Brief History of USS TRITON
|Keel laid:||5 July 1939, Portsmouth Navy Yard, Ports-mouth, New Hampshire|
|Launched:||25 March 1940|
|Commissioned by:||Mrs. Ernest J. King, 15 August 1940|
|1st War Patrol (11/19/41-1/3/42) :||Became second U.S. submarine to attack a Japanese warship.|
|2nd War Patrol (1/25/42-3/18/42) :||Sank two Japanese cargo ships in East China Sea. Damaged two others.|
|3rd War Patrol (4/13/42-6/4/42) :||Sank the CALCUTTA MARU, TAIEI MARU, TAIGEN MARU and the Japanese submarine 1-164 in the East China Sea and a trawler and two sampans in the Sea of Japan becoming the first U.S. submarine to destroy Japanese ships by gunfire. (Note: Lloyd Mckenzie was in charge of the topside guns and Captain Whiting recounted during his remarks that Lloyd McKenzie was personally responsible for this sinking.)|
|4th War Patrol (6/25/42-8/24/42) :||Sank the Japanese destroyer NENOHI and an escort vessel near the Aleutian Islands.|
|5th War Patrol (12/16/42-1/26/43) :||Sank the AMAKASU MARU and the OMI MARU near Midway and Wake Island, and damaged a second tanker in the Solomon area.|
|6th War Patrol (2/16/43-3/15/43) :||Sank the AKEBONO MARU, KIRIHIA MARU and MITO MARU, one unidentified maru.|
|Lost on Patrol:||Lost with a crew of 74 in the Caroline Basin, northwest of the Admiralty Islands on March 15, 1943. Investigations of Japanese records recovered after the war showed that a submarine was depth-charged by three Japanese destroyers in that area. “A great quantity of oil and debris came to the surface, including manufactured goods inscribed ‘Made in USA’.” USS TRIGGER (SS 237), in an adjoining area, heard the depth charge attack on TRITON which lasted more than an hour. TRITON was reported overdue from patrol and presumed lost on 10 April 1943.|
|TRITON Awarded:||5 Battle Stars for World War II service.|
Messages/Letters Home from Lioyd McKenzie
September 26. 1942. “We were at Wake Island when the war began and watched it bum every night … We stayed until we lost it to the Japs … We torpedoed one of their ships on December 10th, damaging it.” (Though the ship got away, it was the first attack by a U.S. submarine on Japanese forces after Pearl Harbor. Damaged, it was sunk a few days later by U.S. Marine shore fire from Wake Island.)
Spring 1942. “Elna writes that my little Gayle is walking all over the place, and she has hazel eyes now. Jeanine still remembers me .. .I hope she doesn’t forget. I don’t know when I’ll see them again.”
August 2. 1942. “Today is Elna’s birthday, the second in a row I’ve missed … it’s been over a year since I’ve seen them, and I wouldn’t know my little girls-there’s so much change in them-if it weren’t for the snapshots Elna sends me. I carry them and look at them whenever I get a chance.”
September 25. 1942–during ten days spent with his wife and children. “We’ve sunk the most tonnage in Japanese ships of all subs operating out of Pearl Harbor … We’ve sunk ten Japanese ships, including a large submarine, plus three trawlers .. . I’m loader of the deck gun and saw the three trawlers destroyed … we fired one torpedo, hitting the Japanese submarine near the stem, blowing part of it high into the air … We’ve had two Captains, and they both have received Navy Crosses. I’ll soon have three commendations.”
December 3. 1942. “I’m at Pearl Harbor for only a few days. Next door to a friend of mine is a baby that I look in on every time I visit .. You know how I love babies! Those babies of mine won’t even know me …I surely think the world of them and my dear wife, and I miss them very much.”
December 14. 1942. to his sister. “From what you’ve written, I realize that all of my cousins are at war, now. They hardly seem old enough. I’d like to know where they are. There is so much that I can’t write. This letter will be short … ” (Remainder of letter cut by Navy Censor.)
January 30. 1943. “We go out for two months and are lucky if we see daylight or feel the air in all that time. I’m fine, but I surely am homesick and tired of this war. It’s a hard and dirty life, but when it’s over, nothing will ever be too difficult … I’m not where you think I am, and I won’t be able to write for quite a while …I hope this war’s not too hard on you … don’t worry about me.”
(A submariner buddy who was one of the 18 men transferred from TRITON after the 5th war patrol which had ended four days before this letter-was contacted by Mrs. Jeanine McKenzie Allen in the Spring of 1996. He recounted that TRITON had just experienced six weeks of an extremely difficult though successful 5th war patrol, during which she was badly damaged, in multiple battles and severe depth charge attacks. The crew bad worked around the clock for five days and nights to repair the boat, suffering heat exhaustion and losing an average of 50 pounds each, before finally malting it back to Brisbane, Australia. TRITON and crew left for the 6th war patrol, facing heaving enemy naval activity, and never returned.)