Veterans of TRITON (SS 201), Shipmates of TRITON (SSRN and SSN 586), families of both TRITONS, Captain Moran and staff members of Naval Training Center, Great Lakes and Recruit Training Command, Guests.
Today we celebrate the service of two great American submarines that contributed immensely to the military success and history of our country, and dedicate this building: USS TRITON, carrying on a proud tradition by keeping the name in our Navy of the shellfish or from Greek mythology, The God of the Sea, represented as a bearded man from the waist up with a mermaid tail.
The first two USS TRITON’s share a number of similarities: By the design standards of their day, each was a large submarine: TRITON I at 310 feet and 1500 tons displacement; TRITON II at 447 feet and 5900 tons surfaced. Each would be surpassed in length/tonnage a few years after construction. Each was designed for a mission, which would tum out NOT to be the primary accomplishment of the submarine’s life. Each made its mark quickly. Each submarine was operated aggressively and took its mission seriously. As far as I have read, each was sincerely appreciated, if not loved outright by the bulk of its crew, and each submarine was decorated for performance. Both submarines had a short life relative to the design and relative to many contemporaries. We hope that will not be the case for USS TRITON III.
To mention a few specifics
TRITON I was commissioned on 15 Aug 1940, led by Captain Willis Lent, was underway for a 42 day patrol commencing in December 1941, fired the first U.S. torpedo of World War II and by June 1942 had sunk 7 ships displacing over 21,000 tons. TRITON pioneered use of the deck gun to attack enemy shipping. At the time TRITON I was lost on 15 March 1943 TRITON was credited with sinking 19 ships and damaging 7, the leader of Pearl Harbor submarines in the category of ships sunk at that time and awarded 5 battle stars and 4 Navy Unit Commendations. Jeanine McKenzie Allen has already read a fitting tribute from Adm Halsey. She and her husband Lorie, have done a marvelous job of keeping alive the spirit of TRITON I.
After World War II submarine missions changed
TRITON II was designed as a radar picket (SSRN). But TRITON under Captain Ned Beach came out of the blocks quickly in 1960, making history with the 36,000 mile, 84 day submerged shakedown cruise replicating Magellan’s circumnavigation of the world in 1519. I’m told that the original plaque commemorating this cruise was somewhat at fault in translation. Instead of stating in Latin: “It has been done again, Noble Captain”; TRITON lore (at least with the second crew) had it that the plaque really read: “We have been had again, Noble Captain”. Of course, the plaque was quickly replaced when the mistake surfaced, and special-delivered by Pan Am flight to the Naval Attachee in Spain to avoid a political faux pas. We deeply regret that Ned Beach, George Moran, and Frank Wadsworth are not with us today. I first rode TRITON for a day during the Springboard exercise of March 1961 operating from San Juan, while I was assigned to the destroyer USS BORIE. What a superb impression TRITON made!!!!!
TRITON’s mission officially changed in the first overhaul of 62-64. Significantly, the Cold War operations conducted by TRITON contributed greatly to our overall knowledge of the Soviet Union and their maritime capabilities. TRITON’s missions remain classified. That is unlikely to change. But I can personally attest to the skill of Captains Moran and Rawlins and our experienced officers and enlisted personnel in training us to operate unsupported for long submerged periods far from homeport, engaged in difficult missions, often in shallow water. The “R” in SSRN should have been for reconnaissance; reconnaissance was far closer to TRITON’s real contribution to winning the Cold War than “radar” .
Although all TRITON’s missions remain classified, two missions have been declassified that indicate the skill of our Cold War Submarine Force. I’ll discuss one:
This entailed the covert trail of a submerged Soviet ECHO II cruise missile nuclear submarine by USS GUARDFISH, a 594 (Permit) class submarine commanded by Dave Minton, during the period 12 May to 6 June 1972. GUARDFISH detected her contact while on patrol north of the Tsushima Strait (between Korea and Japan) an area familiar to many submariners. The contact was proceeding south toward US forces engaged off Vietnam. Once West of Okinawa, the ECHO submarine, turned Southeast into the Philippine Sea and the South China Sea where the ECHO conducted an anti-carrier patrol for l 0 days. GUARD FISH remained with the Soviet submarine throughout until ECHO departed the Vietnam operating areas and proceeded northward through the Philippine Sea. These Cold War missions afforded us substantial intelligence information regarding Soviet operating areas, patrol habits and tactics, acoustic signatures, and tracks to and from station. GUARDFISH mission directly supported protection of 71h Fleet forces conducting operations in the vicinity of Vietnam and helped us understand Soviet anti-carrier tactics.
So we are here today with three generations of our Navy family to dedicate this building:
The first generation: the heroes, the legends, those of incredible bravery who dared the odds in diesel electric submarines with limited submerged endurance, cramped spaces, poor air, limited sensors, torpedo problems. It took 1600 patrols, 52 lost submarines, including TRITON I, and the lives of over 3475 submariners to win that war. Sailors, especially submarine sailors, were Peacemakers in World War II.
They had no choice but to fight to restore the peace in a terrible war we didn’t start and didn’t want. These peacemakers we honor for doing the dirty jobs of war that we, your grateful successors, might know peace and a better world.
The second generation here is the Peacekeepers. Following the legends, those heroes, the peacekeepers had a much different situation, winning a Cold War. With the advent of nuclear power and subsequent technological advances we had a far more capable submarine: practically unlimited endurance illustrated by TRITON’ s circumnavigation, greater firepower, better sensors at longer range, a strategic weapon with incredible accuracy over thousands of miles, a tactical weapon that can strike far inland. We’ve taken a more active role internationally since World War II.
We learned that American strength, judiciously applied is an essential ingredient to peace preservation. The Cold War never went hot between the superpowers. The Submarine Force performed invaluable missions throughout, typified by USS TRITON II’s operations and the aforementioned declassified patrol enabling us to develop countermeasures to weapons, understand the military capabilities and plan accordingly, to be more confident in dealing with the other superpower of the day.
Finally, there is the third generation, the 21″ Century generation; those who serve today. Many of our sailors entering the Navy today were in kindergarten or grade school at the Cold War’s end. The Cold War has no meaning for them. The book has started to be written on their exploits in this new Century. The pages are largely blank. The “War on Terrorism” is starting a violent chapter. Sailors, above and below the waves, will write that history with novel equipment, innovative techniques, skill and daring. We know they have the intelligence, the work ethic, the will to defend our Country. We have turned over to them a Navy that’s smaller than we’d prefer, but with the unique, advanced capability such as a new carrier, RONALD REAGAN, Aegis cruisers, SEA WOLF submarines, VIRGINIA class submarines that are on the way, an all Trident ballistic missile Submarine Force, weapons and aircraft that can reach a long distance to take the fight to an enemy. Not a bad way to start. Their era undoubtedly will be demanding, thought-provoking, mentally and physically challenging. We hope they’ll only have to be Peacekeepers, but we should never doubt their readiness to be Peacemakers. We look to them to keep the ” torch of freedom burning for all” as John Paul Jones once said; that those who sing the praises of their service to our Nation 60 years from now will tout their successes, perseverance, and imagination in solving the problems of our Nation at sea.
USS TRITON, this building without “SS” or “SSRN” or “SSN” after it’s name, in a sense follows in the tradition of the first two TRITONs. It is large. We think we know USS TRITON’s mission, but the world changes and thankfully, TRITON III is large enough to accommodate a significant mission change. That’s planning. We hope this building will make it’s mark quickly; training the world’s finest sailors of today’s generation proudly to take their place with a fleet that extends American influence and Sea power, not simply around the world, but to the far ends of the globe. We trust TRITON will be led by professionals, skilled and serious in mission execution, if not loved, then mightily respected for their professionalism and performance. And again, we wish USS TRITON the Third, a long life in great service of the United States.
God bless those who have gone before us, those who serve today and those who will make this Country proud in this new century. God bless the USA.