di”We built it one brick at a time, and it looks just like the real thing!”, World War Two submarine veteran TMCM(SS) Ed Ferris, USN(Ret.) told friends before the official opening of Deterrent Park on 25 May 2001 at Sub Base Bangor. Ferris was referring to a full length replica of the topside areas of USS WOODROW WILSON, centerpiece of the newly completed Deterrent Park memorial located in the traffic circle in the center of Bangor’s upper base campus area. The park was formally opened in a combined ceremony that honored the completion of the 3500″‘ Strategic Deterrent Patrol by USS FLORIDA (SSBN 728)(GOLD), and also included the traditional Tolling of the Boars on Eternal Patrol in honor of Memorial Day Weekend. Rear Admiral John Padgett, COMSUBPAC, made his first official visit to Submarine Base Bangor as the principal speaker. Over 700 people attended the ceremony, including local dignitaries, a large group of U.S. submarine veterans, and a group of Canadian submarine veterans from Victoria, British Columbia.
The bricks to which Ferris was referring are engraved commemorative bricks honoring individual sailors, family members, and other friends and supporters of the Submarine Force. These bricks are the heart and soul of the memorial. They honor wartime heroes such as Dick O’Kane, two submarine sailors from the First World War, a host of sailors lost in World War Two and peacetime accidents, many of today’s living veterans, active duty sailors, civil servants, and the wives, sons, and daughters of submarine families. The bricks are set into the missile deck area of the WOODROW WILSON replica. Ferris pointed out that nearly 2000 bricks have already been placed in the memorial, and that an additional 3000 are available for purchase through the Pacific Northwest Submarine Heritage Association (PNWSHA) or the Association). The Association is an umbrella group of submarine veterans and active duty sailors who formed a partnership three years ago to build the memorial. “The bricks are called pavers by the folks at the brick yard for a good reason. They should last at least 100 years,” Ferris added.
The Association is justifiably proud of the park. The submarine replica includes the actual sail, periscopes, and rudder of the ex-USS WOODROW WILSON, salvaged from the submarine recycling process at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. The superstructure was sculpted out of reinforced concrete by professional concrete sculptors who added every possible touch of realism, including the weld beads of the hull and superstructure, and seams in the concrete approximating the locations of the missile hatches, access hatch, and radio buoy door. The result is so realistic that one conttactor attending a recent Strategic Weapons Systems (SWS) Week seminar observed that “it must have cost a lot of money to get the actual steel from the pressure hull and superstructure brought in from the shipyard.” Several other SWS Week guests were noted tapping on the concrete hull as if they suspected it was actually steel. The Association leadership now believes that hiring the concrete sculptors was probably the best decision they made.
Tom Roper, a retired submarine LDO who works for Electric Boat, headed the Association’s construction effort. It was he who engaged professional engineer Jay Martram to design Deterrent Park. Roper also saw the park through each step of construction. “Moving that sail was the toughest thing we did,” he noted. “I was relieved when we finally got it off the truck and mounted on its foundation. It went off without a hitch, but I got some of my gray hairs because of it.” Lowell Sweet, a Reserve CPO who drills at COMSUBGRU NINE, and an employee of Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, was one of the workers who cut the sail from the ex-USS WOODROW WILSON during the submarine recycling process. Sweet noted that “the normal method for removing the sail from an ex-SSBN was to cut it into six pieces and lift it off the hull piece by piece. This one was a lot more challenging because we had to preserve the integrity of the sail. We were able to make it light enough to lift by cutting out a pathway through the lookout stations so the fairwater planes could be lifted out first. Then the sail and planes were placed on a barge for the trip to Bangor. Sweet noted that he was able to see construction progress on bis Reserve weekends at Group NINE. The lookout stations were welded back together once the sail and fairwater planes were mounted in the park by Naval Reservists drilling at Intermediate Maintenance Facility Northwest (formerly Trident Refit Facility).
From my office I can see the full length of the memorial in one vista starting with the rudder. located about 20 feet from my window and running across the traffic circle and through the park about 450 feet to the bow. Although only two feet of freeboard show above ground level, one cannot look at the park without being taken by its enormity and authenticity. Sometimes it strikes me as a submarine moored placidly at its berth, and yet when I drive into the campus area at night or in the early morning and see the bow-on aspect at shon range with running lights ablaze. it has the appearance of being underway. Captain Bruce Gustin, Commanding Officer, Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific, and the Navy’s longest serving submariner, recently claimed that the replica looks better than the actual ship ever looked, “and she was a good ship when I sailed on her.” Gustin has been a strong supporter of the park ever since the plans were first drawn up, and has worked behind the scenes to ensure that construction moved forward.
Retired Captain Mike Gray served for two and one-half years as President of the Association and has been the driving force keeping the volunteers pointed towards the common goal of building the park. He recently commented that “Deterrent Park is foremost about people-the men who manned our submarines, especially the ones we lost in war and peace, the families who supposed them, and the myriad uniformed and civilian men and women who built, outfitted, repaired, supplied, and guarded our submarines. He pointed out several park features that were added to focus on the people. A World War II vintage Mk 14 torpedo has been mounted as an Eternal Palrol memorial. A massive bronze plaque mounted at the base of the torpedo honors 3914 men lost in U.S. submarines that did not return, including 52 U.S. submarines lost in World War Two, and 15 U.S. submarines lost in peacetime accidents. The bell from the former submarine tender USS HOLLAND (AS 32) has been mounted in the park in honor of all uniformed and civilian workers who have provided support for the U.S. Submarine Force.
Gray also noted that a number of plaques have been placed in the park honoring individuals and contractors who made gifts or provided services to help build the park, and indicated there is space for more.
Since the WOODROW WILSON sail first arrived in the park in early 1999, Deterrent Park has played a key role in the ceremonial life of Submarine Base Bangor. Commander Angus McColl, fonner Vice President of the Association and the Operations Officer at Submarine Group NINE, noted that “even when the park was just the sail on a vacant dirt lot, we noticed more than a handful of sailors go out there to reenlist. It was almost a daily occurrence … McColl also noted that several other key events happened before construction really got moving. Bangor’s, first annual Tolling of the Boats on Eternal Patrol occurred over Memorial Day weekend in 1999 with the sail as a backdrop. Tolling the Boats at Deterrent Park is now an annual Bangor tradition. The Woodrow Wilson Reunion Association (WWRA) held a memorial service for fallen shipmates at the sail in the fall of 1999. “After the service the WWRA made the first major financial gift to the construction fund, .. McColl said. “We look forward to other reunion groups using the park in years to come …
Over the summer of 2000 the park was used nearly every day for reenlistments, retirements, Submarine Centennial events, crew award ceremonies, reunions, and a memorial ceremony in honor of the lost Russian submarine KURSK. In May 2001 former crew members of USS WAHOO held a reunion and memorial service at the park. In June 2001 it was the stage for honoring the Blue and Gold crews of USS FLORIDA with the Omaha Trophy as the nation’s best strategic submarine for the year 2000. The first two Trident submarine Change of Command ceremonies at the park were also held in June. Future active duty command functions and submarine veterans reunions may be booked with the COMSUBGRU 9 Master at Arms by calling (360) 3%-6513.
The Association invites all who served in submarines or supported the Submarine Force to play a role in building Deterrent Park by buying an engraved brick. Bricks will be engraved and set in the missile deck of the WOODROW WILSON replica until they are all sold. Individual and corporate sponsors are also still being sought. Although the park appears complete, the Association has a long list of additional features that will be incorporated in the park and the surrounding grounds as money becomes available. A maintenance endowment is also needed to keep the park looking good in future years. The Association may be contacted through Lieutenant Commander Steve Kintzel on the COMSUBGRU NINE Staff at (360) 396-6591.
Brick applications and information on individual or corporate sponsorship may also be obtained at the Association’s web site at www .y-comm.com/-pnwsha. Please do what you can to help support Deterrent Park.
CDR Grant Apthorp, USN(Ret.)
CAPT William H. Ayres, USN(Ret.)
CDR James C. Cunningham, USN(Ret.)
RADM Dempster M. Jackson, USN(Ret.)
CAPT Paul Mansell, Jr., USN(Rct.)
CDR Rufus B. Moore, USN(Ret.)
CAPT John E. Nicssc, USN(Ret.)
CDR Frank F. Zcchlin, USN(Ret.)