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Hundreds Honor Submarine Crews Lost in World War II

The Navy pays tribute in Seal Beach to the more than 3,600 sailors who gave their lives. A bell tolls for each of the 52 warships that sank.

May 27, 2003|Mike Anton | Times Staff Writer

Along Pacific Coast Highway, the beach filled Monday with holiday revelers and the air was thick with the smell of bonfires.

A few miles inland, at the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station, 52-year-old Patrick Gorman recalled the smells he associates with Memorial Day. Sweat and diesel fuel. As a child, it meant that Gorman's father, Michael, had returned home from weeks or months under the sea.

"He went through what he did so I didn't have to," said Gorman, who was among several hundred people -- sailors and veterans, widows and surviving children -- who gathered Monday at the U.S. Submarine Veterans of WWII Memorial at the weapons station.

For the 26th year, the service honored the more than 3,600 sailors who gave their lives during the war as part of the Navy's "silent service."

The late Michael Gorman was among 21 sailors who had survived the sinking of the Sculpin in the South Pacific. He spent 22 months as a Japanese prisoner, returning home after the war and making the Navy his career.

"My son, his grandson, is 17 years old, the same age he was when he joined," Gorman said.

As a silver bell tolled for each of the 52 submarines that were lost during WWII, a flag was placed before a monument inscribed with the names of those who served aboard.

The Shark and the Argonaut. The Amberjack, Triton, Dorado and Trout. All were subs on which no crew member survived.

A wreath of flowers shaped like an anchor was passed from monument to monument as a bagpipe wailed. Thirteen widows tossed flowers into a reflecting pond. Taps was played.

Alan Bradfield, president of the Los Angeles-area chapter of the submarine veterans group, reminded the crowd the nation's war dead in Iraq are merely the latest to make the "ultimate sacrifice" for their country.

He read from a poem written by a Costa Mesa man to honor those who serve -- and made that sacrifice -- on submarines.

Silent service knows such men as, come back up, go down again, never knowing if and when their final mission will be then.

"Each grave represents a story of tremendous grief, enormous loss and unfilled dreams," Capt. Robert A. Mirick, the weapons station commander, told the crowd. "The day will come when no one is left who knew them. But the day will never come when America forgets her war dead."

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