We are here today to remember and salute the 3,617 American submariners that lost their lives in World War ll and the crewman of the submarine you see here, USS Cavalla SS-244.
We are dedicated to the restoration of this boat because she represents one of the few remaining "Living Memorials" to our fellow Submariners that gave their lives for the freedoms we know today.
Cavalla is an outstanding example as a Memorial because she earned the Presidential Unit Citation during World War II for sinking the mighty Japanese aircraft carrier Shokaku. Shokaku was one of the carriers that participated in the dastardly attack on the U S Navy and America on the morning of December 7th, 1941.
Cavalla, under the operation of her courageous crew extracted a great measure of retribution from a savage enemy. And, amazing as it may seem, you or I or anyone can experience a real-life connection with these historic events. We can touch the very tubes that launched the torpedoes that sank Shokaku. You can almost feel like "You were there" at that moment. Yes, this is the actual boat, those are the actual tubes and among us are some of the men that were actually there.
That, my friends, is LIVING HISTORY
American Submarines paid a heavy price for that victory, the highest mortality rate of any branch of the US Military during that war.
While we talk of that price, Three Thousand Six hundred and seventeen, realize that those are not just numbers but PEOPLE, real people just like you and me with the same desires, hopes and fears we all have. They overcame those fears and gave up their future hopes and dreams that we might overcome a strong, viscous enemy. These were not ordinary people either but the best we had, physically and mentally. Handpicked from thousands of volunteers for their superior abilities.
When the bell tolls remember also that virtually every living World War ll Submariner can look at that list, point to one or more boats and say, "There but for the grace of God go I", a fortunate assignment to one boat rather than another, or a lucky timely transfer.
When we Toll the Bell for them please join me in remembering these men, as I do, on a personal level. My good friend Warren Lewis, just 18, we had a lot of fun together. Warren went down on Herring. Or D.D. Rector, my partner in a 1933 Plymouth convertible in Honolulu. DD went down on Tang. He was 19 years old. Or Bill Partin, an old man at 23, who was killed on Sculpin as they fought it out on the surface with a Jap Destroyer. Bill had a son that he never saw.
So, as you hear the bell toll, close your eyes and think of a handsome young man, with a great sense of humor, full of fun, enjoying a great adventure, with his whole life before him because each and everyone of those numbers represents just such a man
Thank you and God bless you and yours and America, this great country we call home.