USS CAVALLA SS-244
Honoring the Dead and Saving a Historic Ship
IS Project Administrator Jeff Morris served in the submarine branch of the U.S. Navy during 1963-70, including a tours of duty on the USS Threadfin, a conventional submarine, and the USS Stonewall Jackson, a nuclear-powered submarine. Today, he volunteers on weekends to restore the USS Cavalla, a legendary submarine in American naval history.
"Submariners are an elite, highly cross-trained and very proud group," he explains. They also have a very proud history, according to Morris. In World War II, they comprised only 2 percent of the navy; yet sank about 70 percent of all enemy tonnage. However, they paid a high price, suffering roughly 25 percent casualties -- the highest casualty rate of any service in the war.
Morris, who belongs to the Dallas Base of SubVets, Inc., says the group starts every meeting with a moment of silence to honor their dead. The Cavalla, which survived heavy combat duty, recently was threatening by peacetime indifference. When Jeff and other members of the group heard that the Cavalla might be scrapped, they volunteered to help restore her.
In 1944, the Cavalla sneaked into the middle of a Japanese Combined Fleet and sank the Shokaku, one of the aircraft carriers used in the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Cavalla's action helped force the Japanese navy to retreat to Okinawa, a major turning point in the war. During the war, the Cavalla also sank a destroyer and two freighters and helped protect American pilots. She was present in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese formally surrendered and continued to serve in the Cold War years.
In 1971, the Cavalla was retired from service as a war memorial at Seawolf Park in Galveston. Over the years, her condition deteriorated and funds to maintain her dried up. In 1998, the Galveston Park Board seriously considered scrapping her to make way for a recreation-vehicle park. Jeff's group, SubVets, Inc., and another group, WW II Submarine Veterans, helped save her and are busy restoring her.
"If there are any sub vets at DART, they are welcome to contact me for more info," Morris says. He can be reached by e-mail or at 214-749-3109.
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