Sunday, May 27, 2012
What Does Memorial Day Mean To You
Commander Lynn R. Clark USN
This is a picture of my father in his younger years. I believe that he was the young age of 28 when this picture was taken.
My father joined the Navy as soon as he possibly could as a young man. He was up for the adventure of sailing on the 'lake' at the time that he signed up at the recruiters. Originally, he wanted to sign up for the reserves and be able to train on a lake close by his Oklahoma home.
The recruiter encouraged he and his friend to go one step farther and "join" the United Stated Navy where they would be real sailors.
My dad signed on the dotted line and after Naval Training here in San Diego, he soon found himself stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and about to embark on adventure and a promise of a job and adventure on the high seas. He was 18.
It was soon after he arrived that the fateful day of December 7, 1941, arrived, finding him up and out on the base going for breakfast.
Overhead the buzz of far off plane engines were heard. Not thinking much of this people continued on their routine to their posts of work or otherwise.
All too soon they realised that this was an attack on the base and everyone headed for cover or to their stations.
My father was not on his ship and found cover under a crane near a work site.
Watching in shock, the planes strafing the area and dropping bombs on the anchored and moored battleships in the harbor, there was nothing much anyone could do but do their best.
After about 2 hours the disaster was over.
Never did my father ever speak about what he experienced there, and when he was elderly, he remembered it as if it were an experience placed before him to go through, just as if stepping over an obstacle placed in his path.
When The movie "Pearl Harbor" was being filmed, I was excited to view it to see how the movie rated compared to real life~ I was excited for my father to relive the day and see how Hollywood would tell the story and compare notes with him.
Just about this time there was a man collecting life stories of Submariners in WWII, and my father was contacted. Unfortunately, soon after, my father passed away, never to see the movie " Pearl Harbor" nor give his recollections to the author of "Presumed Lost", Stephen L. Moore.
All memories of dad's experiences were gone, except for a few stories he had shared~ and they were few,as he seldom shared these stories with us.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, my father was stationed on the submarine, USS GRENADIER(SS210).
On April 12 the Grenadier departed Pearl Harbor for her second war patrol. On May 8, she torpedoed and sank one of her most important kills of the war, transport Taiyo Maru. shown to be more than just an ordinary transport: she was en route to the East Indies with a group of Japanese scientists, economists, and industrial experts bent on expediting the exploration of the conquered territory. their loss was a terrible blow to the enemy war effort.
It continued on~ Soon finding the Grenadier at her new base , Fremantle, Australia.
The battle-tired submarine departed Australia One last time on March 20, 1943, her last war patrol, heading for the Malay and Thai coasts.
Spotting two merchantmen ships and simultaneously spotted by Japanese plane, the sub crashed dived to between 120 and 130 feet. Just then, bombs rocked Grenadier and heeled her over 15-20 degrees. Power and lights failed completely and the fatally wounded the ship settled to the bottom at 267 feet. She tried to make repairs wile a fierce fire blazed in the maneuvering room.
After 13 hours of sweating it out on the bottom Grenadier managed to surface after dark to clear the boat of smoke and inspect the damage.The damage to her propulsion system was irreparable. Attempting to bring his boat close to shore so the crew could scuttle her and escape into the jungle , Cdr. Fitzgerald even tried to jury-rig a sail. But the long night's work proved futile. As dawn broke,22 April, Grenadier's weary crew sighted two Japanese ships heading for them. The crew began burning confidential documents prior to abandoning ship. A Japanese plane attacked the stricken submarine; but Grenadier, though dead in the water and to all appearances helpless, blazed away with machine guns. She hit the plane on it's second pass. As the damaged plane veered off, its torpedo landed about 200 yards from the boat and exploded.
Reluctantly, opening all vents, Grenadier's crew abandoned ship and watched her sink to her final resting place. A Japanese merchantman picked up 8 officers and 68 enlisted men and took them to Peneng, Malay States, where they were questioned, beaten, and starved before being sent to other prison camps in Japan.
The Grenadier was one of fifty-two submarines lost in WWII. Prisoners of War were taken by Japan from only seven of the boats. Five hundred and twenty-five Officers and men departed with their submarines on what would be their final war patrols. Only one hundred fifty-eight would ever see the United States again after the war~ My father was one of these men.
As I said, my father seldom spoke of his experiences, of December 7, 1941, or of being a Prisoner of War for two years in Japan.
It was only after his passing, watching the movie of Pearl Harbor and seeing the massive carnage and clean up that needed to take place, then returning to his station and being deployed~ It was kept within the young boys life, seldom mentioned.
As I celebrated my 60th birthday, 9 years after my father's passing, I was presented with the book compiled with memories of the Submarines taken in WWII. There to my surprise were in fact some of my father's pictures, he had been included in the memories of other buddies who shared the hidden stories, now on paper for me to read~
Just this past month my husband's sister moved into a new home. Her new neighbor, Fern, happens to be the wife of one of my father's friend, made in Prisoner camp so many years ago ~
I am looking forward to hearing some stories of these good friends who continued to keep bonded after their incredible experience after the war ~
Fern is now 90.
Post Script ~
My father returned home, and to continue in that "adventure" he set out to have.
He served a career in the United States Navy, retiring as Commander of Submarine Support Facility,
Point Loma, California. Not too far from where he started at Naval Training Center (NTC).
Information included from www.subnet.com/fleet/ss210.htm
and from preface of Presumed Lost by Stephen L. Moore http://www.nip.org/