Forever the Submariner

D.C. Schultz, Guest Columnist

This past week my older brother (your editor’s Uncle Kenny) and his youngest daughter and grandsons – all from Minnesota – visited the Houston area and spent time with his oldest daughter and my family.

Along with the time spent catching up, having some special meals, and showing them around, the daughters had scheduled a trip to Galveston for a couple of nights at a lodge, some fishing in the gulf, and a visit to the Naval History Museum.

At the Museum they have two actual retired Navy ships open for touring, the USS Stewart (DE-238) and the USS Cavalla (SS-244).   

Our main interest was the Cavalla. It was a submarine of a similar class that Kenny served on way back in the early 1960’s. In fact, he served on three different boats (all heading on deployments), all of that same era, because, in his words, “I joined the Navy to see the world, not to sit tied up to a dock in San Diego”.

And see the world he did: Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippine Islands, multiple ports in Japan, of course, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and San Diego. Stories upon stories.   

This 82-year-old forever submariner, with a bad back, tender feet and legs and uses a cane, led us on a tour through the unbelievably (and I stress unbelievably) cramped submarine. I could see it in his eyes, hear it in his voice, and I watched the muscle memory kick in as he went from one part of the boat to another, and explained what went on in each.  

He showed us where he would have bunked. Right above a stored torpedo on a suspended cot. He explained the duty schedule and the need for cross training for almost every job on the boat.

He moved as if it was yesterday. The rest of us didn’t. We struggled through the hatches, and were amazed by the number of valves, tight spaces, and the lack of any creature comforts. And at one point he told us the boat stayed submerged for 40-pus days, only coming near enough to the surface to recharge the electric batteries in order to stay submerged. No fresh air, no sunlight for 40-plus days. And 80 guys in this “culvert” with both ends closed. 

As an enlisted man, he earned his Dolphins in less than four years, without the benefit of any formal training. Those Dolphins meant he was qualified to be a submariner, and still would be in my eyes.

I wouldn’t have traded those hours observing my brother reliving his USN glory days. It was something to experience, respect, and cherish.


The Brandon Valley Journal


The Brandon Valley Journal
1404 E. Cedar St.
Brandon, SD 57005
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