Mr. Stefanelli qualified in Submarines in USS CATFISH SS-339. He is a Life Member of the United States Submarine Veterans Inc.
I would like to say that I served on the boats with the real American Heroes during World War II, but due to the fact I was only seven years old in 1941, I was clearly not eligible. I nonetheless did serve during the period of the Cold War and did in fact participate in some photo reconnaissance of the Siberian Coast line and other intelligence gathering, that we, the enlisted men were not privy to. A bit dangerous yes, but not to be compared to World War II.
Over the years, I have met many members of the USSVWWII and was somewhat envious that I was not eligible to join, because I did not serve on the boats during World War II. Clearly these men who served in the capacity are very special people. Simply put, these men arc the true American Heroes of World War II and clearly deserve their place in history.
However, those of us who have served on the boats, nonetheless belong to a special brotherhood and some far thinking gentlemen who served on the boats after World War II formed the second generation of Submariners by organizing the United States Submarine Veterans Inc. (USSVI).
Even though the two organizations maintain separate identities, they do in fact share a common interest and pride of their special military service and share in many events, such as the National Convention being held in Reno.
One of the most rewarding experiences in belonging to the USSVI, is the wonderful opportunity to renew friendships and meet so many fine gentlemen from all over the United States, and especially on the West Coast, that heretofore would not have been possible without the USSVI.
Being a member I have conducted several visits for bases, other than our Mare Island Base, to tour and enjoy a visit to USS PAMPANITO, SS383, now a working/floating Museum Boat based at Fisherman’s Wharf.
Hopefully, most of the submarine community knows that PAMPANITO has been restored to fighting trim by inactive submariners, dedicated to maintain her so that present and future generations will always be aware of what the submariners sacrifice now, and especially those that served during World War II.
Thanks to the efforts of ever so many volunteers, a casual visit will immediately show that the PAMPANITO today, although 60 years old, has virtually every system in the boat operational.
Three of the four main engines are operational, as is the auxiliary, heads flush, water is circulated, hydraulic systems function, and the mess room/galley is operational as well. That is the point of this article; to bring forth an extremely important facet of the Submarine Service which I believe has been over looked by most in their service career.
It was one of these visits from seven members of the Seattle Base of USSVI and one Member from the USSVWWII that I met. Commander Robert (Robbie) Robertson, plank owner of USS TIRANTE, SS-420. He clearly exemplifies what a USSVWWll is, and made me recognize one of the great contributors to the submarine spirit.
Commander Robbie, and USSVI Members Patrick House-holder; Cliff Nutter, Charlie Ryan, Charles Quimby, George Debo, Phil Ward and Doug Abramson flew down from Seattle to provide specialized maintenance and repair work on PAMPANITO.
As part of this special visit, this relief crew slept and worked on board PAMPANITO, but took their meals on shore. I helped to facilitate that part because I am a third generation San Franciscan and made sure that they had the best meals available while serving the Submarine Service.
In addition, I thought it might be a special treat to invite a few of my friends to share a meal with the Relief Crew from Seattle on board PAMPANITO in the Crews Mess. By doing so, I thought it would bring back some fond memories for us older submariners and provide a unique experience for the eight civilians by exposing them to a bit of a submariner’s life.
Being Italian, I planned sort of a special menu. Cocktails, (non military venue), shrimp cocktails, appetizers, ravioli’s with home made gravy, specially seasoned fried pork shops, tossed green salad, with special dressing, garlic bread, dessert, wine and after dinner brandy.
To save time, I prepared the entire meal on shore. Made the gravy, seasoned the pork shops, prepared the salad and dressing, made the garlic bread, prepared the shrimp cocktails etc. at the Local Eagles Club and brought the entire prepared ingredients on board
Once the food was ready to go, and with the help of my friend Nick Celona, we brought the prepared ingredients to PAMPANITO to cook and serve the 16 gentlemen of the relief crew and guests. The only task left was to fry the pork chops, boil the water for the ravioli’s, heat the gravy and brown the garlic bread and serve the food family style in the crews mess as tradition dictated on the boats.
Well, I found that this assumed-simple chore of completing and serving this one meal for only 16 people was not easy and substantially more difficult than I had imagined, even though the vast majority of the food was already prepared on shore.
To make a long story short, the meal proved to be excellent and rewarding for all present; however, after 50 years and up until that moment, I never realized the extraordinary planning and work that a submarine mess crew needed to feed three meals a day for a crew of 80 men.
My exceptionally short experience in preparing this one meal, to feed only 16 people, caused me to realize what an unbelievable and magnificent job the full time Cooks and Mess Cooks provided the Submarine Navy over the past 100 years, especially those on War Patrol.
It is common knowledge that Submarine Sailors enjoyed the best food in the Navy and you would never get me to argue to the contrary. However, during my time served, I never truly appreciated what it took to prepare and serve a meal on a submarine, especially a fleet boat, until that night as I prepared dinner.
I served on USS CATFISH 50 years ago and never really appreciated, let alone respected, the significant contributions these men made to allow a submarine to function as a magnificent and deadly Man of War. It was nothing short ofa miracle.
I am sure that my lack of comprehension and/or appreciation of the contributions of the Cooks and Mess Cooks is representative of many of the submariners who also overlooked and did not really appreciate them.
Through circumstance, in my small way, I walked in the Mess Cook’s moccasins and now after almost 50 years, I realize and respect their exceptional, extraordinary and ever so necessary service to the submarine crews, especially those who served in World War II under war time conditions.
By way of this article I wish to respectfully offer, to all crew members who have served in this capacity, on behalf of my self and I would like to believe, all the crews you served in the past, present and those in the future, to salute each of you, for a “Job Well Done”
On behalf of all the Submariners, I will offer the traditional “THANK YOU!” and trust that you will all know the depth and sincerity of their meaning.
The evening was rounded off with some brandy and an hour or so of listening to Commander Robbie recall his days as an enlisted man and plank owner of USS TIRANTE, SS 420, under the command of George L. Street. That extraordinary crew and their heroic contributions made victory for the United States possible.