Friday, September 30, 2005

USS Pargo Comes Aboard

USS Pargo crew opts for Razorback reunion
Vets swap tales, tour sub docked in NLR


The Eight World War II veterans maneuvered, stretched and contorted their bodies through tight openings inside the USS Razorback submarine Thursday, reminiscing about their experiences fending off the enemy and spending weeks at a time submerged hundreds of feet deep.

"We came here to see this beauty," said Robert Williams, 84, of Hingham, Mass., as he climbed aboard the boat docked on the Arkansas River bank in North Little Rock. Williams made the trip to Arkansas to attend the 30th reunion of the crew that manned the USS Pargo, a Gato-class submarine commissioned in 1943. The Pargo was submerged in the Sea of Japan when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. The crew members meet in a different location each year.

Last year, 16 crewmen from the Pargo attended the annual reunion. That number, however, has dwindled recently as veterans pass away.

"I’ve made the last eight," said former petty officer Tom West of Ames, Iowa, who at 79, is the youngest of the group. "I really look forward to it."

Joined by their wives and children, the men have traveled from Florida, Pennsylvania and Texas to see one another again in a state that is the home of one of their fellow crew members, Max Sears. Sears, 80, lives in Hot Springs.

Wearing a red floral pattern shirt and khaki slacks, he gave a tour of the USS Razorback, a submarine that shares many similarities with the USS Pargo. The Pargo was scrapped in 1961, according to archives.

Trading stories and laughing, the veterans meandered through the sleeping quarters and the communications station while stopping near the tiny cafeteria and kitchen.

"We had a great cook," yelled Vince Soleo, 83, of Pensacola, Fla. "He wasn’t that good," Sears replied. "Aww, he made the best baked beans," Soleo, a former motor machinist, countered.

The camaraderie among the men was evident, the bonds strengthened through the years by their voluntary service aboard an engineering marvel. James Barnes, a maritime maintenance chief at the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum in North Little Rock, says that submariners are a close-knit group. The few he has seen come through North Little Rock jump at any opportunity to reminisce about life aboard a submarine.

"For them, it’s kind of like going home," he said. "During World War II, there was only about 50,000 submarine sailors and support people. ... I never met these guys before and we were standing here talking like we were old shipmates."

For the men’s wives, however, all of the tales remain abstract. With a cool breeze whipping around Mary Lou Hewett, she smiled minutes after touring the submarine with her husband, Les. "We have all heard these stories," said Hewett of Arlington, Texas. "Every time I hear one of them they are a little more embellished. But it makes you very proud of what they achieved."

Soleo said, for at least two hours, he was allowed to be 22 again. "It brings back a lot of memories," he said.

This story was published Friday, September 30, 2005

Sunday, September 25, 2005

New Artifact on Display - Submarine Model

AIMM is pleased to announce the arrival and display of the first of three submarine models being produced by Cold War Submarines for the museum.

This first model shows Razorback almost exactly as she appears today, with her tall "North Atlantic" sail, which was installed at the San Francisco Naval Shipyard in 1961-62.

As you can see, the detail on this model is absolutely incredible.

A future model will show Razorback in her World War II configuration, complete with deck guns and exposed periscope shears. A third model will show Razorback in her "interim" guise, with the "step sail" installed in 1952 (and replaced with the "North Atlantic" sail).

Cold War Submarines specializes in building submarine models that are truely "museum quality".

Saturday, September 17, 2005

394 Salutes the Victims of Katrina- Flags Half Mast

Monday, September 12, 2005

New Books Arrive at AIMM Museum Store

A new shipment of books has arrived from the Submarine Research Center in Silverdale, WA.

We now have the following books in stock:

  • Of Wives and Submarines
    • A novel of USS Razorback in the 1950s, the men who made up her crew and the wives left behind.
    • Fiction
    • $15.95
  • Submarine Skullduggery
    • 25 of the best pranks, gags, jokes and tricks ever committed by submariners.
    • Non-Fiction
    • $8.95
  • Steep Angles and Deep Dives
    • 18 deep dives that went wrong, from the memories of the submariners who fought to get their boats back under control.
    • Non-Fiction
    • $15.95
  • Submarine Cuisine
    • Maxim's of Paris has nothing on the delicious food served aboard American submarines. The Navy's best chefs bring you their secret recipies, refined over many years.
    • Non-Fiction
    • $17.95
Stop by the AIMM museum building, just a few hundred yard from USS Razorback to pick up all these fine books.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Katrina Update from HNSA

Historic Naval Ships Association
409 Main Street
Smithfield, Virginia 23430-1375
(757) 356-9422 FAX (757) 356-9433
7 September 2005



Hurricane Katrina was not a welcome guest for our folks in the Gulf region. During the early morning hours of August 29, 2005 she came ashore. I had the good fortune to be able to leave telephone messages at both locations, and hoped to hear good news from both Maury Drummond at KIDD and from Bill Tunnell at ALABAMA. Maury got back to me rather quickly telling me that they had come through the storm in very good shape and even had power on the ship from a generator and anticipated being up and running within a week. The news from Bill regarding ALABAMA was not so good.

“The ALABAMA suffered immense damage from the hurricane. A storm surge of at least ten feet coupled with triple digit winds dealt the Park a crippling blow. The surge was the largest ever recorded in Mobile Bay.

Initial damage assessments show that ALABAMA had shifted position and was/is listing eight degrees to port. The aft concrete gangway leading up to the ship has been critically damaged. The Aircraft Pavilion suffered significant damage and is most likely a total loss. Many aircraft and displays inside the Pavilion have been severely damaged. The submarine USS DRUM, because of her positioning apparently suffered little, if any, damage.

Although the pavilion and the Gift Shop were completely boarded for protection, the winds with a 108 mile-per-hour blast recorded at the Park, while the Wind Gauge was still operational, ripped the boards from both buildings. Breaches to the Pavilion are numerous. The Gift Shop glass walls were broken and as a result there was two feet of water in the building, which houses the Ticket Office, Gift Shop, Inventory Stock Room and the Snack Bar.

During the immediate aftermath, there was at least five feet of water in the Park as well as Battleship Parkway. Water was lapping at the bottom of the I-10 bridges and downtown Mobile had severe flooding.” They do have power from a generator and telephone communication. The water has receded and the big problem right now is getting the ship righted.

The entire Battleship family, which includes Park employees, Battleship Commission members, and especially her World War II crewmen, are optimistic about the Park’s recovery. Park officials have pledged a full restoration to make the Park bigger and better in light of this natural disaster.

From the Mobile Register – “ A Battleship Memorial Park official said damage inflicted by Hurricane Katrina on the park is worse than first believed and will likely reach $3 million.” We’re hoping to reopen the park by Veteran’s Day” said Bill Tunnell.

“ One factor involved in the increased cost of Katrina’s harm, Tunnell said, is that damage to about a dozen vintage military aircraft inside the pavilion is worse than originally believed. He estimated that it would cost between $250,000 and $500,000 to restore them.”

“A major factor in reopening the park will be the length of time needed to straighten up the World War II battleship USS Alabama, which was left listing about 8 degrees toward the shore by the storm surge, Tunnell said.” Bill goes on to say that “the two warships apparently sustained no structural damage from Kartina. He said, however, that the lights on a permanent cofferdam built around the battleship as part of the project were “blown away by the hurricane. Further, he said, “there was some damage to the cathodic protection system that inhibits corrosion to the underwater metal parts of the battleship and the cofferdam.”

“About 20 people, including park employees and their families, rode out Katrina inside the battleship, as has been a tradition going back some 40 years. Tunnell said those people who ride storms in the battleship volunteer to do so. He has said. “It’s the safest place in the area to be during a hurricane.”

“Tunnell said there was little, if any, damage to the Vietnam War Veterans Memorial and the Korean War Veterans Memorial at the park, which was flooded by the storm surge.”

Our hearts and prayers are with those that have suffered as a result of this catastrophic hurricane.

Jeffrey S. Nilsson
Executive Director

Monday, September 05, 2005

Hours Announcement

For more information contact:
Steve Nawojczyk (501) 340-5302

Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum and the USS Razorback Announce New Hours
(North Little Rock, AR – September 1, 2005) The USS Razorback will change the hours of tours effective Saturday, September 10. The new hours will be Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. until 6 p.m. The USS Razorback will be open on Labor Day from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.

The new hours will allow the volunteers and staff of the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum and the USS Razorback to work on the vessel. Special tours may still be arranged during the week for school groups by calling (501) 371-8320.

For more information call Steve Nawojczyk at (501) 340-5302 or the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum at (501) 371-8320.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Special Boat Team Member Comes Aboard

Christopher Schneider, EN2 (S WCC/FPJ) Special Boat Team 2 and his wife Kristy Wren of Virgina Beach, VA came aboard the Razorback/Muratreis today for a tour.

Kristy's father is a SubVet and Kristy was amazed at the size of the 394.

Christopher works in one of those fast little air boats that look so cool skimming across the water. He hopes to become a Navy SEAL soon.

Remembering those Lost

First Lady Janet Huckabee throws a bouquet of roses into the Arkansas River representing all of those who died in World War II. Mayor Hays, LT Brian Talton and Dr. Silas Johnson and Mrs. Huckabee all made remarks during the ceremony held yesterday to memorialize the end of the war.

Friday, September 02, 2005

The First Lady, Our Lady and the Colors

First Lady Janet Huckabee and the Navy Color Guard after today's event to mark the 60th anniversary of VJ day. Mayor Hays officially "inducted" Mrs. Huckabee into the NLR Navy. Welcome aboard Ma'am!

Ceremony a Success

The Ceremony held aboard the Razorback today was a great success. More about it and a slide show will be posted later.

Left to right: Greg Stitz chats with Dr. Silas Johnson, Sr. Pastor, Full Counsel Church while First Lady Janet Huckabee and Mayor Patrick Hays survey the crowd prior to the event.

Mayor Hays tells a little history about a huge event. The ceremony ended almost to the minute to the amount of time the actual surrender took. On the far right is Brian Talton, LT, USN who served as the emcee and also delivered a stirring talk about the U.S. Navy and his love for it.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Preparations Underway for Ceremony and Other Important Information

City Staffer Braye Cloud helps to dress the Razorback in preparation for the ceremony tomorrow recognizing the 60th anniversary of the surrender of Japan during World War II.
The event will begin at 11:30 aboard the 394.

Speakers include Brian Talton, LT USN and Mayor Patrick H. Hays. A U.S. Navy Honor Guard and members of the NLR Police Department Honor Guard will also particpate as will Mr. Bill Spainhour, Director of Bands for the North Little Rock School District. The event will conclude at noon.


Mayor Hays and Greg Zonner have directed that all proceeds from admissions today through Monday be designated as Hurricane Katrina Relief Funds.

The City of North Little Rock has opened its doors and homes to our friends and neighbors who have been displaced by Katrina.

Anyone from Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama are invited to tour the Razorback with their families or other members of their group free of charge.

Many churches in the area have answered the call and are providing meals, homes and friendly faces. Our school district has already begun enrolling children. Our local Boys and Girls Club and our city Parks and Recreation Department have pulled out all stops to meet the needs of the young people run away from their homes by this horrible disaster.

If you would like to help in our efforts please contact Margaret Powell at 501-340-5305.

Godspeed to our fellow citizens not very far south of us.