Lieutenant Commander Austin T. “Butch “Jordan is a retired limited duty officer who qualified in submarines (enlisted) as a YN3 on board USS ALBACORE (AGSS569) in January, 1967. He is currently serving as Executive Director, The Hartford Guides, Inc., a nonprofit community service agency located in Hartford, Connecticut.
F ew would diminish the contributions of USS NAUTILUS (SSN571) in making the United States Submarine Force what it is today. And for those whose education has been incomplete, a visit to the Submarine Force Museum in Groton and a tour of the historic ship is particularly helpful in developing an under-standing of the early years of the nuclear submarine and the beginnings of modern undersea warfare.
In addition, there are many who would argue that another submarine, commissioned one year earlier than NAUTILUS, made an equally important contribution to the development of modern submarine design, operation and technology. Although much less known to the general public, one need only look at the ground breaking hull design of USS ALBACORE (AGSS569) to understand that her role was of no small significance in shaping the design of the undersea platforms of today.
So what’s the point: that my submarine is more important than your submarine? Of course not; the point is that, as of this writing, of the over 600 submarines1 that have proudly served our nation as commissioned vessels, only twenty have been preserved for future generations and each has a unique story to tell. From Portsmouth, New Hampshire to Honolulu, Hawaii and at eighteen other points in between, the old boats are out there for all to see. And nearly all of them are in the care of private organizations who have taken on the task of displaying these monuments to our proud undersea faring heritage.
Since 1984, for example, the historic ship ALBACORE has been open to the public in Portsmouth, New Hampshire under the auspices of the Port of Portsmouth Maritime Museum Association, a private nonprofit organization in whose care the historic ship is entrusted. Not surprisingly, funds to preserve and display our privately held historic submarines, like ALBACORE, are not easy to come by. Many organizations, like the Port of Portsmouth Maritime Museum Association, are hard pressed to generate sufficient revenue to develop and present interpretive programming for the vessels in their care and still pay the bills they incur just to keep the doors open.
So what’s the answer? Some of us who served in ALBACORE, with the custodial organization’s support and endorsement, have formed a group we call Friends of Albacore. Our mission: ” … to preserve, maintain and present the historic ship ALBACORE in a manner befitting her important role … ” in submarine history. One of the more significant (and challenging) aspects of our mission is fundraising. Yes, sir, we’ve hoisted that task aboard! At a ceremony that doubled as both a reunion and a commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the ship’s commissioning, the commissioning Ship’s Superintendent Steve Cuff conveyed a generous challenge grant of $25,000 to ALBACORE with the understanding that it must be matched dollar for dollar through the efforts of ex-crew members and that the money be used for presentation of the ship to the public.
Appropriately, the Friends of ALBACORE are rising to the challenge. We’ve written to every former crewm ember for whom we have an address, contacted regional and community foundations as a first step in initiating a grant writing campaign, are taking steps to involve the local community and are developing a periodical ad campaign intended to reach out to others who may have an interest. We have some other ideas, too, but they’re not sufficiently developed to discuss publicly at this point. We’ve received excellent response from the crew, found that the foundations are most definitely interested and learned that we’ve still got significant growth potential with the rest of our ideas.
And just what, you may ask, do we intend on doing with the money that we raise? In addition to the usual presentation requirements, projects that are on the building ways include: a crewmember oral history project, interactive shipboard exhibits, updated and enhanced promotional and educational material, docent crewmember of the month and student docent programs, public/private school outreach and a variety of others.
Lest you think our expectations may be too lofty, there are those of us in Friends of ALBACORE who either work in the nonprofit sector or who serve on nonprofit boards. We do understand the process and the pitfalls. Our approach to the task at hand is one of realistic optimism and we have charted our course accordingly. That said, the sign outside our door reads “New ideas always welcome.” Drop us a line if you’ve got one, are interested in learning more about what we ‘re doing or you’d like to participate financially in the Steve Cuff challenge. Our address is: Friends of ALBACORE, P.O. Box 392, Kittery, ME 03904-0392.