Editor’s Note: DRUM (SS228) has bee11 a tourist attraction at the ALABAMA Memorial Park in Mobile, Alabama since 1970. She has been out of the water 011 saddles since 2002. The World War II crew has held reunions there continuously since 1971. !11 June 2005, one officer and I 2 crew were 011 hand along wiht 27 family members, including /..ids and grandkids. RADM Mike Rindskopf. a plankowner with I I patrols including hvo in command, could not be present at the reunion but prepared these remarks-addressed lo rhose kids and grandkids.
Rosamond Rice, a resident of Annapolis, MD and a daughter of DRUM’s commissioning skipper, LCDR Robert H. Rice, delivered the remarks.
It has been almost exactly 60 years since that exciting first night off Nagoya, Japan when DRUM made its initial night surface attack, and in return, suffered some 22 hours of depth charging.
There are still a few of us left who made that first run and some of those have been regular reunion participants. We have regaled our shipmates (and lots of others) with tales which have grown in scariness to the point that some of them probably occurred only in the imagination of the teller. I know this is true since I have been party to them over the years myself.
But tonight I want to come at this story from a different direction. I want to talk particularly to the children and grandchildren of the twenty..odd officers and some 250 men who sailed in DRUM through three and a half years and 13 war patrols-and came home to full and satisfying careers with their families which grew perhaps from a mom and dad to a wife and bunches of kids.
So here’s what I want the kids and grandkids to hear:
DRUM was commissioned in Portsmouth, NH just as the United States became involved in a major conflict, some 25 years after the conclusion of”the war to end all wars”. But, for submarines it was a war like no other the U.S. Submarine Force ever fought, and may never fight again. We were neophytes by any definition.
Before we sailed from cold New England in the winter of 1942 into an Atlantic ocean literally full of Nazi U-boats, we readied our 24 torpedoes as war shots-a sobering three days work which not one of our talented torpedo gang or their young torpedo officer had ever accomplished. We knew how to drive our ship, but there was a lot about attacking a determined enemy we did not know-and truly, could not know except by experiencing life in the trenches, as it were.
During our Pearl Harbor training, we actually heard a couple of friendly depth charges but not a man aboard said “Hey, let me off, this isn’t for me”! On our two week trip to Japan our lookouts learned to see sea gulls at two miles, and the infrequent Japanese plane far enough out to let us dive and evade. Our engineers and electricians learned that they could live without sunshine and fresh air for almost 60 days, and be none the worse for wear. The ship’s cooks knew that Napoleon said “an arms travels on its stomach” and thus reveled in the thought that they were the most important gang on board even if they also were the target of daily pointed suggestions. Yes, it’s true. “If it’s smoking, it’s cooking, and when it’s burned it’s done”. We tried limiting smoking to l 0 minutes per hour, but soon learned that people in their bunks were requesting calls hourly so they could have their drag. But on our second patrol, we lifted restrictions and cut down smoking markedly, leaving the air only “somewhat polluted” after 12 hours submerged. I never smoked so I can’t guess what affect this had on lifetime smokers.
What dad or grandpa has told you about the two weeks we spent off the ship between patrols may range from bragging to downright untruths. Let me say that two weeks on Waikiki beach or in Brisbane and Sydney, Australia with girls and bars all around is a far cry from the same 14 days on Midway Island or Majuro Atoll in the middle of nowhere. I’ll wager, too, that you heard that the crew regularly whipped the officers and chiefs at softball, but that is only because they would not play unless it was by their rules.
We arrived in Brisbane, Australia in May 1943 for the first of three refits in that interesting land. It was then that I suddenly realized that submarine losses were mounting, especially in the Southwest Pacific; and that we, in DRUM, would have to make the most of our training to ensure that every challenge we confronted was met by performance of the highest order from the skipper down to the junior seaman and fireman.
After our third patrol, Lieutenant Manning Kimmel, the Admiral’s son, and our most capable engineer was transferred to new construction in Manitowoc, Wisconsin as the executive officer of Raton; and from there to Command of RO BALO. She was lost to an enemy mine off Indonesia in July 1944. Later Lieutenant John Harper who made six runs with us was also transferred to new construction as executive officer of SHARK II. She was lost to depth charging in an area next to DRUM in the Taiwan Strait in October 1944. It was on my last patrol that we heard a sustained depth charging-not all that far from us. The Submarine Force suffered the highest casualty rate of all branches of the service-some 20% of the boats that went to sea!
We all left families at home who fought the ‘Home-Front” war, many by working, and others by raising some of you. Whether they lived in a Navy town, a large city, or a farm way out yonder, everyone supported the war; everyone was gung-ho in cheering us on for what we were doing so far away. They knew that it was a dangerous business we pursued, but they had faith that the team which manned DRUM (and all the other boats in the war) had what it took to get home, not once or twice but 13 times. When it was all over, and DRUM came home for decommissioning, every officer and man came home a hero!
Contrast that attitude with that which our nation developed during Vietnam where opposition to the very involvement in the war, even with the loss of more than 50,000 men, made coming home a night-mare for almost every veteran. Most, or all of the DRUM family watched from the sidelines, but we were not happy to see how it turned out.
Now, we in the DRUM family may be going through another cycle with family engaged in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, or Uzbekistan. We hope that the values we learned in that long ago massive conflict will somehow reach down to each of you as you follow your chosen path, or perhaps one which Uncle Sam has chosen for you.