Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Story of Evelyn Borden Usrey's Life!

"This Day in History"

September 22, 1924

Today, 91 years ago, Evelyn Borden was born in Fall River, Massachusetts.  She grew up during the Great Depression that gripped the country; in 1936, her father, Clinton, passed away.  Her mother, Edith, raised Evelyn along with her sister, Alice, and brothers, Charles, Ernest, and Robert.  Eventually Edith remarried.  In the 1940s, Evelyn's stepfather worked in a naval shipyard in Kittery, Maine.

"We had fun growing up.  We didn't have any money or anything, but we had fun.  But one thing we always had was the river or the ocean.  We could always go fishing."
--Evelyn Borden Usrey, interview by AIMM June 17, 2014.

December 7, 1941, Evelyn was home in the midst of her senior year of high school when World War II broke out in the United States. 

"We listened to the radio.  In our movies they had news reels.  And a group of us in high school used to get together and sew for the Red Cross to go overseas just before we were in the war.  So, we were all aware of what was going on, but the bombing of Pearl Harbor was a big shock."
--Evelyn Borden Usrey, interview by AIMM June 17, 2014.

She graduated from Somerset High School May of 1942 in Somerset, Massachusetts.  After she graduated from high school, Evelyn was told she had to help her family financially with two younger brothers still at home. So she moved to Kittery, Maine.

September 1942, Evelyn moved to Kittery, Maine, to work, as a civilian, at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.  The shipyard had almost 25,000 civilians working in the yards during World War II when over 70 submarines were constructed at the yard.  Evelyn worked in the Supply Department.  She was in charge of ensuring each submarine being constructed and submarines on patrol had the supplies that they required. 

USS Balao (SS 285) was the first submarine being built in Portsmouth when Evelyn arrived.  From her office window she watched the WAVES going into the submarines to build the boats. Note: WAVES were Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.  WAVES were the manpower behind building submarines during World War II.  The men were gone.  The few men that served in the shipyard were officers.  One of the officers gave her a tour of the submarine, Balao.  She remembers on this tour that they enjoyed coffee and cigarettes in the officers quarters.  

Evelyn stated, "After you've seen one, you've seen them all."  Her memories of the other submarines from Portsmouth seemed to blur together.  While, USS Razorback (SS 394) was built in Portsmouth, by 1944, Evelyn has supplied over 50 submarines, so she did not have any specific memories about Razorback.

One aspect of working in Portsmouth that Evelyn remembered fondly was that of commissioning parties held for the submarine crew members.  She remembers that these parties consisted of drinking, eating, and dancing.  The commissioning parties had good food, like butter, which was a high commodity during the food rationing of World War II.

"I never jitterbugged in my life, and neither did my date, but some of my friends dared us to get out there and get into the contest.  And we won! We just did our own thing.  It was fun." 
--Evelyn Borden Usrey, interview by AIMM June 17, 2014.

Evelyn also explained that they had barbecues, cookouts, and weenie roasts on the beach with Sailors and Marines, just not at the same time.  "The only way you mix a Marine and a Sailor is if they're both in the same family," according to Evelyn.  Also these dinners on the beach had to end before night fell.  Living on the coast, there were strict instructions about lighting after dark.  The town had to "blackout."  This included using blackout curtains before any lights could be turned on in the house.  The streetlights allowed only a small amount of light in a narrow area.  All of this prevented any enemy vessels from seeing the structures on the coast.

The "blackouts" were not the only thing in the shipyard work that reminded Evelyn that the United States was in the midst of war.  Evelyn remembers, spring of 1945, that while she was supplying submarines already serving in the war, there was one submarine that was sixty days overdue and presumed lost at sea.  Unfortunately, Evelyn's friend was married to a man aboard this submarine that was presumed lost.  Often, her friend requested information, and due to the sensitive information Evelyn was unable to tell her friend anything.  June of 1945, while Evelyn was close to a nervous breakdown due to her knowledge of this lost submarine, she left the shipyard to join the Navy.

Evelyn served as a civilian in the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard from September 1942 till June of 1945.  Little did she know that seventy years later she would be able to visit one of these Portsmouth submarines again.  The museum staff, volunteers, and former Razorback crew members were always happy to see Evelyn visit and enjoy her stories from the yards.  

September 3, 2015, Evelyn Borden Usrey went home to be with the Lord.  Everyone connected with the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum were very saddened with this news.  We were all so happy that we were able to have met and gotten to know Evelyn the last few years.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

N5R: On-Air Special Event November-Five-Romeo

"Museum Update"

September 2, 2015

September 2, 2015, the United States observed the 70th anniversary of the formal surrender of the Empire of Japan, marking the end of World War II.  Many people know that the documents of surrender were signed aboard the battleship USS Missouri (BB 63), in Tokyo Bay.

What is lesser known is that there were other Allied Navy ships in Tokyo Bay to witness the surrender.  There were 255 Allied ships in Tokyo Bay including ten battleships, forty-eight destroyers, and twelve submarines. Of the U.S. ships present at the surrender, four are currently museumships: USS Missouri (BB 63), USS Iowa (BB 61), USS Cavalla (SS 244), and USS Razorback (SS 394).

John, Don, and Joseph in the submarine's radio room.

A small group of hams conducted an on-air special event to commemorate this anniversary of the surrender from on board the submarine Razorback on September 2, 2015, from 12:00 through 22:00.
The special event call sign was November-Five-Romeo (N5R).  

The group of hams set up their equipment in the submarine's radio room and broadcast from the submarine's whip wire and antenna.  Throughout the broadcast the radio operators, John and Don, were able to successful connect with 39 people.  Connections were made with 18 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.

A special thanks to John and Don for coming to the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum and hosting the On-Air Special!  Also, thank you Joseph Mathis for working as the AIMM staff member coordinating this great event.

Author: Allison Hiblong

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Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Benny's Peacemakers

"Submarine Honor Guard"

"Benny's Peacemakers"

“Cease offensive operations against Japanese forces.  Continue search and patrols.  Maintain defensive and internal security measures at highest level and beware of treachery or last moment attacks by enemy forces or individuals.” –Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Chief of Naval Operations, August 14, 1945.

This message was sent to all United States naval units in the Pacific Fleet.  The commander of the Submarine Force Pacific Fleet, Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, then relayed the message to his submarines.

Excerpt from the diary of USS Razorback (SS 394) crew member Atkinson.  AIMM Permanent Collection.

August 30, 1945, twelve United States Navy submarines rendezvoused with task group “Benny’s Peacemakers” to participate in the formal surrender of the Empire of Japan in Tokyo Bay, Japan.

"Benny" referred to Commander Raymond Henry "Benny" Bass.  Bass, a native Arkansan, graduated from the Naval Academy in 1931 and served in the United States Navy until 1959.  During World War II, Bass was a submarine commander throughout the war.  When the “Cease Fire” was given, Commander Bass commanded the submarine USS Runner (SS 476).  He was put in command of twelve submarines, “Benny’s Peacemakers,” to witness the end of World War II.

Excerpt from the diary of USS Razorback (SS 394) crew member Atkinson.  AIMM Permanent Collection.

“Benny’s Peacemakers” tied up alongside the submarine tender USS Proteus (AS 19) on August 31, 1945.

Proteus was commissioned into the United States Navy on January 31, 1944.  She served in Midway and Guam completing voyage repairs and refitted submarines.  Proteus became the flagship of a twenty six ship support group that steamed off the coast of Honshu, Japan, until August 26, 1945.  Two days later, the submarine tender anchored in Sagami Wan to support submarines.  August 31, 1945, Proteus and “Benny’s Peacemakers” anchored off Yokosuka Navy Yard, in Yokosuka Ko, Japan.

Excerpt from USS Razorback (SS 394) September 1945 deck log.  

USS Razorback (SS 394) crew members listening to the live broadcast of the surrender ceremony.  Raines's photograph collection.  AIMM permanent collection.

The ceremony began at 9:02 a.m. on September 2, 1945. The ceremony was broadcast throughout the world and lasted twenty three minutes.  The ceremony ended with the following statement.

"Let us pray that peace be now restored to the world and that God will preserve it always. These proceedings are closed!" -  General MacArthur, September 2, 1945.

With those words the Second Great War was finally over.

"Admiral Lockwood returning from formal surrender on the Missouri.  He is Chief of all subs operating in Pacific area." -- Marion Raines.  Raines's photograph aboard USS Razorback (SS 394) September 2, 1945.  AIMM permanent collection.

Author: Allison Hiblong

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Tuesday, September 01, 2015

USS Tigrone (SS 419)

"Submarine Honor Guard"

USS Tigrone (SS 419)

USS Tigrone (SS 419) was a Tench-class submarine built at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.  She was commissioned into the United States navy on October 25, 1944.  The submarine arrived in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on February 16, 1945, ready to serve in the Pacific Fleet.

USS Tigrone (SS 419) launched on July 20, 1944.  United States Navy photograph.

During World War II, the submarine served three war patrols.  She patrolled the South China Sea, Hainan coast, Batan Island, and off of Honshū, Japan.  May 19 to July 3, 1945, Tigrone’s second war patrol, the submarine served lifeguard duty where she rescued a total of 30 aviators.  The final war patrol, she again served lifeguard duty off of Japan’s mainland.  August 15, 1945, orders were received to “Cease Fire.”  August 31, 1945, Tigrone moored in Tokyo Bay to be present during the formal surrender of the Empire of Japan.

October of 1945, after the war ended, Tigrone visited Washington, D.C. for Navy Day.  In December, she was prepared for inactivation.  The submarine was decommissioned on March 30, 1946.  The Navy chose to reclassify Tigrone as a radar picket submarine (SSR 419).  She was then recommissioned on November 1, 1948. 

USS Tigrone (SSR 419) as a Radar Picket Submarine, 1951.  United States Navy photograph.

From 1949 to 1957, Tigrone evaluated new radar equipment and techniques for long range air defense in the Arctic, Atlantic, Caribbean, and Mediterranean.  Again, the submarine was decommissioned from service on August 1, 1957.

Tigrone was redesignated back to SS 419 and recommissioned on March 10, 1962.  After refresher training, the submarine operated in the Mediterranean Sea.  She then served for the Submarine School in the United States.

Again the submarine went through a new designation as an auxiliary submarine (AGSS 419) in December of 1963.  The next year, Tigrone was fitted with an experimental sonar unit and operated with the Naval Underwater Sound Laboratory and the Submarine School. 

USS Tigrone (SS 419) underway March 15, 1967.  Photograph courtesy of Carlos Manuel Estrela.

In 1965, Tigrone went through a major overhaul and modification by the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.  The submarine’s torpedo tubes were removed, the two forward compartments were sound isolated, and a new experimental sonar system was installed.  The Underwater Sound Laboratory used the submarine for research and development. Tigrone and British submarine HMS Grampus worked together for a joint American-British oceanographic operation in 1972. Tigrone continued in research activities until she was decommissioned on June 27, 1975.   In October of 1976, the submarine was sunk as a target.

Postal Cover to commemorate the joint United States and British sonar operations, April 26, 1972.

When the submarine was decommissioned, she was the oldest submarine still in commission by the United States Navy.  Tigrone actively served the Navy for twenty three years, eight months, and twenty two days.  In 1975, she was the last unit of the submarine force that had taken part in combat action in World War II, where she earned two battle stars. 

Author: Allison Hiblong

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