Lorie Allen is Secretary of the Naval Submarine League’s Capital Chapter. His wife, Jeanine McKenzie Allen, was the subject of the article One Woman ‘s Search (or USS TRITON (SS201) in the July 1996 issue of THE SUBMARINE REVIEW by Commander Dennis Murphy. Mrs. Allen’s father was a Torpedoman who was lost with TRITON on March 15, 1943.
The Navy will dedicate TRITON HALL, a giant new training facility, at the U.S. Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, Illinois, on June 23-26, 2004. The occasion will mark the service to the nation of the two renowned United States Navy submarines which have borne the name USS TRITON (SS-201) and (SSRN-586), as well as those officers and crewmen who served aboard them.
TRITON (SS-201) was one of 52 U.S. Navy submarines lost during World War II. TRJTON (SSRN-SSN 586) served the nation during the Cold War and completed the first submerged circumnavigation of the world, a feat of seamanship which stands as a record of great significance.
After the conclusion of the bloody battles of World War II, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, from the Federal Office Building, San Francisco, California wrote:
“We, who survived World War II and were privileged to rejoin our loved ones at home, salute those gallant officers and men of our submarines who lost their lives in that long struggle. We shall never forget that it was our submarines that held the lines against the enemy while our fleets replaced losses and repaired wounds.
Our submarines, hunting the enemy wherever he tried to be on the high seas, hastened the collapse of the Empire of Japan. USS TRITON (SS-201) was one of those Navy submarines fighting during the dark days of 1942 and 1943 taking the war to the enemy virtually alone, while the nation began recovering from the Pearl Harbor attack. TRITON (SS-201) distinguished herself during six war patrols; she fired the first torpedo at an enemy vessel in anger after Pearl Harbor, and was the first Navy submarine to destroy an enemy vessel by deck gun fire in World War II. She also guided our bombers by radio beacon on the first land-based bomber attacked on Japanese-held territory, Wake Island, in World War II and sank an arriving Japanese oiler as part of the same war patrol. She was thus one of the U.S. submarines which carried the battle to the enemy early in the war. She was awarded five Battle Stars for her aggressively conducted war patrols.
After TRITON’s loss in battle with 74 officers and crewmen, in the spring of 1943, the Commander-in-Chief of the South Pacific arena, Admiral William F. Halsey, sent a Top Secret communication describing TRITON’s service to the nation:
“Truly bitter pill is the loss of the TRITON X a wonderful ship manned by a magnificent crew which has been outstandingly successful from the beginning of the war and has inflicted irreparable damage on the enemy X Mackenzie maintained the high standard set by his skillful predecessors Lent and Kirkpatrick X carrying on without the TRITON means that each of us will have to fight harder with her deeds as an inspiration X
Concerning the 52 boats lost during World War II, Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, Jr., Commander Submarine Force, 1943-1946 would say:
“I can assure you that they went down fighting and that their brothers who survived them took a grim toll of our savage enemy to avenge their deaths
Then, during the dangerous and pressure-packed days of the Cold War, when the safety of our nation was threatened by the former Soviet Union, USS TRITON (SSRN-586), under the command of Captain Edward L. Beach, USN, secretly completed, on her shakedown cruise, the never before attempted or accomplished feat of seamanship, an epic voyage-the first submerged circumnavigation of the world, in 1960. It was a voyage that captured the world’s attention and thrust the United States Navy into technical leadership in undersea surveillance and warfare, a role which ultimately resulted in the breakup of the Soviet empire. It was a war won without a shot being fired.
TRITON’s (SSRN-586) officers and crewmen remembered and honored TRITON (SS-201) during the epic voyage as described in the ship’s deck log, as follows:
“Sunday, 27 March 1960, 1349: We will soon be passing through our nearest point of approach to the presumed location at which the first TRITON (SS-201) was lost in action during World War II. As a matter of interest, this took place almost exactly seventeen years ago, and by a strange coincidence, the first TRITON departed on her last patrol from Brisbane, Australia, on the same day (16 February) as we, her namesake, departed from New London on this voyage. TRITON I is presumed to have been lost as a result of depth charge attack by three Japanese destroyers on 15 March 1943, in a position almost exactly 800 miles due south of where we are now.
The services were announced at 1340, with directions that all hands not on watch assemble in the crew’s mess, the Combat Information Center or the officer’s wardroom. At 1345 the services, broadcast throughout the ship, began by the playing of Tattoo. This was followed by the National Anthem and a scripture reading, a short prayer similar to the committal service was read, followed by reading of the tribute, which would hardly be called a eulogy but which was an attempt to put the significance of the occasion into words for our own better inspiration and understanding: The sacrifice made by the first TRITON, and all the sacrifices by all the people lost in alt the wars of our country, sanctify the service of those who follow in their footsteps.
Rendering of proper honors gave considerable occasion for thought, and it finally was decided that the only salute a submarine can fire is actually the most appropriate one anyway. Upon command, TRITON’s course was changed to due south and the Officer of the Deck was directed to stop all engines. The entire ship’s company was then brought to attention, and all were directed to face forward. This was, of course, possible even at their regular watch stations. Then, with the entire crew silently at attention, the forward torpedo tubes were fired three times in rapid succession.
We could hear the resounding echo of the water-ram and feel the fluctuation of air pressure on our eardrums. Three times the harsh war-like note traveled through the ship; and as the lost air fluctuation died away, the clear notes of Taps sounded in proud and thoughtful tribute.
The moment of reverence was a real one, truly caught. Everyone on board felt it; and though their response was by command, their personal participation sprang from deep within themselves and was given willingly.
USS TRITON (SSRN-586) received the Presidential Unit Citation and the Navy Unit Commendation during her service with the fleet. USS TRITON (SSRNSSN-586) was the sole U.S. Navy submarine to have been equipped with two nuclear power plants. Because of cutbacks in defense spending, TRITON’s (SSN-586) scheduled 1967 overhaul was cancelled and the boat was decommissioned on 3 May 1969. She is at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard awaiting salvage by the cutter’s torch in 2005. Currently, an effort is underway to recover SSN-586’s sail, or a portion thereof, for transport and re-assembly as a permanent exhibit for display at TRITON HALL, at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center.
The June, 2004 dedication of TRITON HALL will firmly establish the naval heritage of these two submarines, those who served aboard them, and the Navy’s commitment to the training of future shipmates following in their footsteps to def end the United States.