How we nearly lost a Texas Treasure
The short version

1998: The Restoration Effort Kicks Into High Gear

The USS Cavalla is assigned to the Texas Submarine Veterans of World War II. They have an agreement with the Galveston Park Board of Trustees whereby the Park Board maintains and manages the submarine. This works to the benefit of both, increasing tourism and adding cultural quality to the Houston-Galveston area, and maintaining a war memorial for the 52 submarines and 3,617 submariners lost in World War II. Over the years, however, Cavalla has been severely neglected and was in danger of being pulled by the Navy. Many claim the Park Board has never allotted significant funds toward preserving Cavalla and the condition of the submarine gradually deteriorated. The area SUBVETS were not active participants for many years. The revenues generated by the naval display have dropped steadily.

There was talk that the submarine would be removed from Seawolf Park.

Neal Stevens, a concerned submarine and history buff, met with the director of the Park Board, Lou Muller, in June of 1998. Muller said they needed to do a lot of work on Cavalla but money was tight. He did give assurance that Galveston had not given up on Cavalla. "We have some funds earmarked for basic restorations" that would encompass her most pressing needs.

Then, on October 6, a copy of the meeting minutes revealed that the Galveston Park Board was taking steps to scrap Cavalla and make way for an RV park (read this report). A tersely worded update went up on the Cavalla Website and Ron Martini's Submarine BBS. This rallied submariners, veterans, and concerned Americans across the nation. Submarine veterans Ron Smith, Dave Stoops, and Gil Raynor met with Stevens and other interested residents to discuss action. Stevens and Subvet John Fredricks attended an Oct. 20 Park Board meeting and requested they delay if not reverse their decision to abandon Cavalla. Due in large part to the numerous faxes and e-mails the Park Board  received from submarine vets and Americans during the week, they agreed (read this report).

During the Oct. 20 meeting, the Park Board suggested the Cavalla backers demonstrate some commitment and support from the vets and community. The Cavalla Website begin raising money for restoration through volunteer donations. After the meeting, the energized supporters outlined a plan to start an Internet pledge page, organize field days, write articles for the local papers, and create a set of historical displays covering the history of Cavalla. The local SUBVETS vowed to become active and aggressive. WWII Subvet Ron Smith organized a "Save the Cavalla" Rally. Neal Stevens wrote an essay (Scrapping the Cavalla like demolishing the Alamo) that was published in the Editorial section of the Houston Chronicle and caught the eye of local philanthropist George Strake.

Capt. Alford, former commander of two nuclear submarines, gave the keynote speech at the first Cavalla Rally. Through the direct involvement of Park Board Assistant Director Renée Adame, the Cavalla Historical Foundation was formed. The group enlisted retired Naval Captain Zeb Alford as their spokesman. Field days have attracted volunteers from Dallas, Minnesota, California, and Louisiana. The Sea Cadets junior naval league has volunteered time and service. Seawolf Park is now the scene of a sleep-over program for the first time ever. The volunteers have raised over $30,000 from individuals, with most donations under $30. All-Crews Cavalla Reunions were held in 2000, 2002, and another is scheduled for April 2004.

The Galveston Park Board has responded to this resurgence of interest in Texas’ only memorial submarine by voting to commit $50,000 towards the replacement of the deck. In addition, the Park Board responded to the request to increase spending on the submarine display by earmarking 50% of the gate receipts for maintenance.

Perhaps the biggest stroke of luck has been the hiring of Master Chief Petty Officer John McMichael USN, (ret.) as full time curator. Progress has taken a huge upswing under his experienced hand.

Enthusiasm between the Park Board and the volunteers is growing as they align their goals. The objective: to make Cavalla a memorial Texas can be proud of.

Updates January 1998 - Feb 1999

Cavalla in 1999


Cavalla in 2003


Cavalla News and current update

June 25,  2003: SUBMARINE MEMORIAL PLAZA PHASE I - pictures and details from architect's presentation


Nov 1998 through May 25, 2003

Saving Cavalla is a big job. Want to join us?

Pitch in a few dollars: CAVALLA PLEDGE PAGE
Come out and polish some brass: CAVALLA FIELD DAYS
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