We’re here to celebrate TRITON’s service in two very different eras of our country affecting two very different generations of Americans doing the task of their day. 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, those who made 1600 submarine patrols to win that war. 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 honored tonight in tolling the bells for doing the dirty jobs of war so that we, THEIR grateful successors, might know peace and a better world.
The first TRITON (SS20 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. When TRITON I was lost on 15 March I 943 she 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 Unit commendations.
Jeanine McKenzie Allen and her husband Lorie, have done a marvelous job of keeping alive the spirit of TRITON I.
The second generation here are PEACEKEEPERS. Following the legends, these heroes of World War II , the PEACEKEEPERS of my generation have had a different situation. The advent of nuclear power and subsequent technological advances provided us a far more capable submarine, practically unlimited endurance, 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 learned that American strength, judiciously applied is an essential ingredient to preservation of the peace worldwide. The Cold War never went hot.
TRITON II, at the right time, was also unique in submarine history; a two reactor sub, the first ship to circle the globe sub-merged, a feat forever recorded in history. In two years we’ll celebrate the 50 year anniversary of that historic voyage.
In addition to TRITON’s around the world voyage with its many talcs, TRITON made a number of operations classified to this day. I have little expectation that they will ever be declassified. Those operations contributed significantly to the knowledge of the United States concerning developments abroad and the naval capability of foreign Navies. TRITON II’s capabilities were unique, large space for information processing, stations for hard work and unique equipment installations.
The Submarine Force performed invaluable missions throughout the Cold War that enabled us to develop countermeasures to weapons, to understand the military capabilities and prepare accordingly, to be more confident in dealing with the other superpower of the day. 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.
For her time TRITON was unique, well respected for her capability; a thoroughly rewarding ship on which to work. What made the ship most important to me was the crew. I had not been happy in the surface Navy. TRITON was different and I was to find that submarine sailors were different from their surface brethren. The most professional, hard working, dedicated, intelligent, but also fun-loving, personable, and loyal, helpful, and thoroughly dedicated to their ship and it’s mission. It’s these friendships.
We, the PEACEKEEPERS of our era hope we have earned the respect of the PEACEMAKERS, the heroes and the legends of the TRITON I era.
Finally, we should not forget the next generation of submariners, the 21st Century generation represented by those who serve today. The sailors and young officers entering the Submarine Service today were unimagined when the Cold War ended. The Cold War has no meaning for them. The book has started to be written on the submarine exploits of this new Century. The pages arc filling rapidly. Submarine sailors 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 this country.
We turned over to them a Submarine Force that’s smaller than we’d prefer, but with largely 688 class submarines, the unique, advanced capability of three Seawolf submarines, the Virginia class that’s on the way, and an all Trident ballistic missile Submarine Force. 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 bu ming for all” as John Paul Jones once said.
God bless those who have gone before us, those who serve today, and those who will make this Country proud in this new century.