Graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1958. After an “obligatory” lour in the surface nary, he attended submarine school in 1959 and subsequently served in four submarines, USS WAHOO (SS- 565), USS SARGO (SSN-583), USS T. ROOSEVELT (SSBN 600)(8) and commanded USS DANIEL WEBSTER (SSBN 626)(G). Post command duties with CTF 60 and SUBDEVRON 12 rounded out his active duty.
Five months of grueling shipyard overhaul behind them, the diesel-electric submarine USS WAHOO crew champed at the bit to take in lines and return to the briny. All that stood between WAHOO and full-up sea trials: a harbor cruise to check propulsion systems and a new battery. They’d circle Ford Island, then return to the yard for emergent tweaks.
A day earlier, the shipyard commander advised WAHOO’s CO of a Japanese Navy Captain’s wish to ride the harbor cruise. This officer had been sent to Hawaii to study U.S. Navy shipyard techniques.
The skipper’s mother didn’t raise any fools; he gave the only acceptable answer to an officer who stood on the brink of flag selection. “We’d be pleased to have the captain aboard, sir.”
Bright and early the following morning, maneuvering watch set, WAHOO took in mooring lines, backed from the dock, rendered the customary, ear shattering, prolonged blast on the air horn and got underway. The skipper, OOD, two lookouts, and distinguished rider crowded onto the tiny bridge. This caused the phone talker, a combat experienced World War II torpedoman, to be stationed at an intermediate level in the sail, eight feet below but in perfect earshot.
Things settled, WAHOO’s CO whispered to his OOD, “Let’s see if we can inspire the good captain to say nice things about us to the shipyard boss.”
The young officer nodded his response.
WAHOO turned around Ford Island’s northern tip and approached the wreck of USS ARIZONA.
The ARIZONA Memorial of today remained at the time a dream yet to emerge from the drawing board. In the long interim, a small wooden platform erected over ARIZONA supported a flagstaff anchored to the sunken hull. Each morning a marine detachment rowed to the platform in a small boat. Precisely at 0800, they raised the national ensign above ARIZONA. At sunset, the flag was ceremoniously lowered.
ARIZONA abeam, the CO ordered his OOD, “Render honors to starboard.” Crisp, military tones of the young officer’s voice rang out to crewmen stationed topside. “On deck, attention to starboard.”
The men, in anticipation of this order, had fanned ranks forward and aft of the sail. “Hand salute.” Each WAHOO crewman’s hand raised smartly to his white hat brim. Those on the bridge followed suit including the obviously puzzled guest. “Two,” snapped the OOD. “Carry on.”
Line handlers and bridge crew, having properly saluted the fallen warrior, resumed their duties. The Japanese officer asked, “To whom did we render honors, Captain? I saw no ship.” “We saluted USS ARIZONA. Her wreck lies beneath the flag and has lain there since December 7, 1941.” An awkward silence hung about the bridge, broken a moment later by the Japanese officer.
“So sony about ARIZONA.” Attempting to rationalize, he politely pointed out that his Navy too had suffered in the war. “I served aboard the IJN aircraft carrier TAIHO, sunk by your submarine USS ALBACORE.”
WAHOO’s CO ruminated, So much for inspiring the good captain to say nice things about us to the shipyard boss. The next bomb dropped nearly sunk the skipper’s heart out of sight.
The phone talker spoke up from his intermediate sail level station below, “I was a torpedoman seaman aboard USS ALBACORE that day.” He paused, then continued, “So sorry about TAIHO.”
The skipper’s eyes darted between faces of the captain and torpedoman. Tension mounted but quickly dissolved into expressions of mutual respect. Both had too much in common- seaman warriors, courageous and ready to give life and limb for their causes and countries-they just happened to be on opposite sides.
WAHOO’s phone talker stiffened to the position of attention and saluted. The Japanese officer promptly reciprocated. Both knew the other had performed his duty well. Animosity had long since passed.
What goes around comes around went through the mind of WAHOO’s skipper. He guided his ship back to dock knowing the Japanese officer would share only good things about WAHOO with the shipyard commander.