RADM Robert R. Fountain, USN(Ret.) of the TMC(SS) Walter W. Bishop, USN Bachelor Enlisted Quarters
Theresa, John, Mary Etta, Michael, Secretary Pirie, Admiral Giambastiani, Admiral Carr, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
This rainy May morning, in submarine weather, we gather to honor a man, a real man, his ship, his Navy and his country. In honoring the memory of Chief Torpedoman (Submarines) Walter W. Bishop, U.S. Navy, by dedicating this enlisted quarters in his name, we honor as well all those he loved. In reading his name upon the portals of this building, may generations of young sailors be inspired by his sense of duty, by devotion to this Submarine Force, and by the love of country he exemplified.
Wally Bishop represented the backbone of our Navy, the myriad numbers of young men and women from the small towns of America who flock to the colors inspired by patriotism and seeking adventure, opportunity, and advancement. These young people, now as then, are molded by tradition, challenged by rigid training, shaped by a gentle discipline and forged into the American sailor, capable of feats beyond their dreams, capable even of heroism when called upon.
Walter William Bishop was born June 7th., 1930 in Pittsfield, New Hampshire. A high school athlete, with ten letters in baseball, basketball and track, he graduated from Pittsfield High School in June 1948 and promptly entered the Navy. He completed Submarine School in December 1948 and began his submarine career in the diesel powered fleet boat CORPORAL, where he completed his submarine qualification. Subsequently, he served in the commissioning crews of the new fast attack diesel submarine WAHOO and our fifth new SSN, USS SARGO.
Then-Torpedoman First Class Bishop was the first member of SCORPION’s commissioning crew to report, in September 1959, returning from the West Coast to Groton with his young and growing family. SCORPION was then still on the building ways at Electric Boat, where she was launched in December 1959 a commissioned in late July 1960.
USS SCORPION (SSN 589) was a member of the Skipjack class of nuclear powered attack submarines, the first class to combine the new highly streamlined Albacore hull form with the powerful SSW nuclear reactor plant. The Skipjack’s were the world’s fastest submarines at the time, and revolutionary fighting ships. SCORPION in her day held both the transatlantic crossing record and the submerged endurance record.
I reported aboard SCORPION in the spring of 1961 at the end of her PSA, and was assigned immediately as her weapons officer. It was here that I met Wally Bishop, and began the long period of our service together. Torpedoman First Class Bishop was in charge of SCORPION’s torpedo room, including the crew’s berthing compartment above and the ship’s main deck as Topside Petty Officer. When I say. in charge, I mean in-charge. Not a person on board had the least doubt-not the torpedo gang, not the deck seamen, not those bunked in the berthing compartment, not the chief petty officers in the Goat Locker below, not certainly the weapons officer.
I quickly reached an understanding. While I had served previously as weapons officer in a diesel boat, Bishop was a professional. He knew his job, and his pride and quiet confidence were evident. Everyone, officer and crewman alike, treated him with utmost respect. He was not bombastic. In fact he led by taciturn New England example, but his quiet disapproval flicked like a lash that none wished to taste a second time.
In those days a torpedoman was truly a technician. The torpedo was far from a so~led wooden round that merely needed periodic dusting. The variety of torpedoes in the room required detailed knowledge and a craftsman’s touch. Steam powered Mk 14s, hydrogen peroxide powered Mk 16s, old electric powered Mk 27s, the then-new wire guided Mk 37s, ASTOR torpedoes with nuclear warheads, SUBROC launched ASW nuclear depth bombs. Bishopwas a master of his trade.
I continued as weapons officer of SCORPION for over two years, even as I picked up additional responsibilities-supply officer, electrical officer, main propulsion assistant, diving officer, and so on. Bishop and my professional regard and mutual respect continued to deepen and grow. The ship steamed hard. In July 1962 Bishop made the Navy-wide competitive advancement list for chief torpedoman, but had not yet been advanced. Our captain, Commander Bob Kaufman (later Vice Admiral), and our exec, Lieutenant Commander Carl Trost (later CNO) were faced with selection of a new chief of the boat. Despite the presence of several fine CPOs, including two senior chiefs, it was evident Petty Officer Bishop embodied the highest leadership qualities of any man on board, so the captain appointed Petty Officer First Class Bishop as chief of the boat and obtained approval from SUBLANT to frock him as chief until his number came up on the official promotion list!
Chief Bishop moved in the chiefs quarters, selected the bunk he wanted, had a closed door meeting with the chiefs and that was that. The ship deployed, returned with a Navy Unit Commendation and we won the SUBLANT Battle Efficiency “E” and the Award for Excellence in Fire Control, Torpedo Firing and Tactics that year.
I left the ship in the summer of 1963 to put a new fleet ballistic missile submarine in commission as engineer, but returned to SCORPION in the fall of 1965 as executive officer. Chief Bishop remained as chief of the boat, and we quickly resumed the easy working relationship we had enjoyed in the years before. He was my right hand man, the person I consulted always in matters affecting the crew, the man I turned to invariably whenever problems arose. The ship continued to operate hard, and won SUBLANT Battle Efficiency “E”s again for fiscal years 1965 and 1966.
I left SCORPION again early in January of 1968 for duty ashore, but I think it fair to say, that officers came and went, and crew members, too, but the soul of SCORPION was embodied in Chief Torpedoman Walter Bishop, chief of the boat, as fine a man and petty officer as ever it was my privilege with whom to serve.
For all those years together Chief Bishop and I were near neighbors. Our families lived in close proximity out Little Creek Road in Norfolk. From time to time I gave him a lift home when we were working late. He was a devoted family man, and as he spoke to me of his family the pride fairly glowed. He loved Theresa and his children, and would today be immensely proud of their accomplishments as adults. As the chief of the boat’s wife, Theresa was the stalwart rallying point for the enlisted wives during long deployments, as she has continued to be the long years since.
SCORPION deployed to the Mediterranean in February 1968, and continued to perform at her accustomed high level, despite an almost complete turnover in her wardroom and of many of her crew. Chief Bishop remained her one true constant. SCORPION disappeared in late May 1968 while on return transit to Norfolk. Months later her wreckage was found on the bottom, southwest of the Azores Islands in the deep Atlantic. While evidence points to an operational accident, we shall never know the precise cause of her loss. However it occurred, rest assured that Chief Torpedoman Walter Bishop led the efforts to save her until the end.
May the young sailors who gaze upon this building today, and dwell here in future years, reflect upon the unsurpassed example of leadership and professionalism bequeathed to them by its namesake. I can wish them, and through them the Submarine Force and our Navy, nothing more than that they rise to this challenge, and strive to equal, if not surpass, the accomplishments of Chief Wally Bishop, Chief of the Boat of USS SCORPION, Chief Torpedoman, leader, shipmate, friend, husband, father, and man. A real man.