The Naval Park in Buffalo is located on a Lake Erie inlet harbor just to the left of the skyway as you drive into Buffalo. You may have noticed that there are a couple of Navy ships anchored there as you have crossed the Skyway.
The biggest ship is the USS little Rock, a light cruiser. There is also a submarine there from WW ll, the S.S. Croaker. Every year on the Memorial Day weekend the local organization of Submariners holds a memorial service there by the S.S.Croaker.
They read through a list of all the submarines that have been lost since the beginning of U.S. submarines, including those lost in WW l, WW ll and since. They toll a bell for each one. They also give the fate of the crew for the boats lost in WW ll.
I sing with the Friends of Harmony. We are an all male Barbershop chorus that sings a cappella music. Every year for some time now they invite us to be part of their ceremony. At different times in their program we sing the National Anthem, The Navy Hymn, which you may know as Eternal Farther, Anchors Away, and America the Beautiful (complete with an original narration about what is beautiful about America, besides the amber waves of grain. At the end of the service we usually sing that song made popular by Louis Armstrong, "What a Wonderful World."
We consider it an honor to be invited every year to add to their memorial service. I am always amazed at the reading of the statistics. I often wish I had taken along a pencil and paper to take a few notes on what we are told. From memory I can tell you that the United States lost 52 submarines in World War ll, some in the Pacific and some n the Atlantic.
In most cases, but not all, when they lose a submarine they also lose the entire crew. There were times when survivors were rescued by the Japanese, but not all of those survived to be released at the end of hostilities. There were some that were rescued by the U.S. Navy. They stated that the U.S. submarines were responsible for 55 percent of all Japanese losses of war ships and merchant shipping.
I found it interesting to note that as they started listing lost boats chronologically, those lost when subs were first used in the early part of the 20th century took to the sea with them usually only about 19 or 20 men. As the dates got into the end of World War ll a subs crew was closer to 80 to 100 men. They must have gotten a lot bigger. I served in the Navy in the seas surrounding Japan and Korea in early 1946, just after World War ll. I was never on a submarine, but one Memorial Day occasion a few years ago I took a tour of the S.S. Croaker.
If you've ever lifted the hood of your car and wondered how they managed to get so much stuff located in so little space, you'd be even more amazed to tour a submarine.
The Memorial Day service that is held by the submariners is truly a stirring ceremony. Any relatives present representing sailors who were lost in the submarine service are presented with a rose, which they are invited to take home, or cast into the water as a tribute to their lost sailor at the end of the service, which many of them do.
Our chorus also performs at the Naval Park aboard the U.S.S Little Rock. This summer we will be giving two free concerts aboard the Little Rock, to which the public is invited.
They will be on the Wednesday evenings of July 6 and July 20. I believe they are scheduled for about 7 p.m. They set up chairs on deck for the occasion. I hope everyone had a pleasant Memorial Day holiday.
Richard Westlund is a Collins resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org