Cavalla project gets grant

By Carter Thompson
The Daily News

Published March 24, 2003

GALVESTON — The Cavalla Historical Foundation has received a $250,000 grant to continue restoring the USS Cavalla, a decorated World War II submarine that played a key role in the United States Navy’s victory over Japan in the Pacific.

The grant is being made by the Burke Family Charitable Trust of Aptos, Calif. Trustee James G. Burke announced the grant award during a recent meeting of the Foundation’s Board of Directors at Seawolf Park on Pelican Island in Galveston, where the submarine is on permanent display.

Burke, himself a retired Navy submarine officer and member of the board of the Cavalla Historical Foundation, said members of the trust awarded the grant to support the restoration of the submarine and to encourage the educational programs at the Seawolf Park facility.

“The Cavalla and crew performed brave and valuable service in the Pacific, helping to position the American Navy for its victory over Japan in the battle of the Philippine Sea and, further, sinking one of the Japanese aircraft carriers, the Shokaku, that attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941,” Burke said.

“For the sake of history and the continuing education of Americans about the past, the Cavalla is worthy of preservation on her own merits. Here at Seawolf Park, Cavalla honors the 52 submarines, like her, that perished with their crews during the war.”

Cavalla Foundation board members said the grant means that work to restore the diesel-era submarine will be able to continue.

“Five years ago, the Cavalla was rusting to pieces and destined to be buried at sea as an artificial reef,” said board member Zeke Zellmer, a resident of Florida. Zellmer was the communications officer on the Cavalla for its maiden patrol out of Pearl Harbor in 1944. “The Cavalla Historical Foundation and the love of many volunteer supporters are bringing the Cavalla back from near death. Now, with the Burke Family Trust funds, we should be able to make another big step toward returning her to the shape she was in when on active duty during World War II and during the Cold War. Cavalla’s long-term future will be guaranteed when the people of Texas and especially those of Galveston and Houston think of her as ‘their’ submarine.”

Grant funds also will contribute to restoration work on the USS Stewart, (DE 238) a WWII destroyer escort also on display at Seawolf Park. The Stewart is one of only two such WWII destroyer escorts on display.

Board member Ernie Connor, a resident of Galveston and vice chairman of the Cavalla Historical Foundation, said work on the Cavalla has been performed by volunteers, many of them submarine crew veterans.

Funding has been provided by individual contributions, the Galveston Park Board of Trustees and from three Houston foundations.

Seawolf Park was established as a memorial in Galveston in 1970. The park was dedicated to the USS Seawolf, (SS 197), one of the 52 U.S. submarines that were lost during WWII.