USS CAVALLA SS-244
Someone must protect history of Cavalla
Ernest J. Zellmer
I served on CAVALLA during World War II from commissioning through her first five patrols. CAVALLAs sixth patrol ended in Tokyo Bay at the Surrender Ceremony. Along with my shipmates, I was pleased when CAVALLA was designated a memorial at Sea Wolf Park.
In 1987, I made a nostalgic visit to the ship that held so many exciting memories. Her toughness protected us from 103 Japanese depth charges thrown at us while the carrier SHOKAKU was sinking from our three torpedoes. However, the rust and evidence of souvenir hunters at work was depressing. If we had not come specifically to see CAVALLA, nothing in the area would have been made known her presence --- no directionalsigns, no publicity. The Parks "ship store" was closed for inventory and couldnt be opened for an old CAVALLA sailor wanting souvenirs for his grandchildren. We tried several stores in town for postcards or other souvenirs to no avail.
In the spring of 1994, CAVALLA sailors held a reunion in Galveston; it was CAVALLAs 50th anniversary. During our memorial service honoring departed shipmates, each of us went to his old battle station and told a favorite memory. Those old sea stories were captured on video tape; now, even while apart, we can hear comrades tales. We wished for similar stories from shipmates on eternal patrol.
There was gloom over our reunion --- CAVALLA was aging less gracefully than we, and we were in our 60s & 70s. At least we were taking care of ourselves. It was evident that whatever money CAVALLA "earned," little was reinvested to keep her fit.
This November, sixteen CAVALLAs shipmates held a reunion at the Submarine Base at Kings Bay, Georgia. (The base has an annual Memorial Service for Submariners who have given their lives for their country.) Because of Neal Stevens interest in the CAVALLA, we had invited him to join us. He brought the sad news that CAVALLAs future was in doubt.
The shipmates took several actions. Noting that Neal Stevens had taken the lead in working to save our ship, we voted that he would now be an honorary member of the CAVALLA crew, designated him as the ships Historian, and gave him authority to be our spokesman. Though few in number and scattered about the country, we surviving members of CAVALLA pledged to do whatever we could to help renew her life one more time.
She has done it before! CAVALLA went into mothballs after WW II. She was resurrected as a sonar research platform. Again decommissioned, she got a new life when converted to a submarine hunter-killer. Decommissioned again, CAVALLAs latest renewal made her a memorial at SeaWolf Park.
Today CAVALLA needs one more rebirth, one that can come with tender loving care. We are encouraged by the support that is developing to restore CAVALLA to a ship-shape condition and true memorial status. Our hopes, our support, and our appreciation are with the rescuers.
Capt. Ernest J. "Zeke" Zellmer, who retired from the
US Naval Reserves, lives in Satellite Beach, Florida.
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