story and photo
by Jerry Sinnamon
Randomly pick three World War II veterans from Southeastern CT to interview for Veteran’s Day and it is no surprise that all three have spent time in submarines. The surprise might be the variety of paths each took to first become a submariner.
The veterans were interviewed as they were preparing for their November 7th flight to Washington, DC to see the World War II Memorial, as well as, the Korean War and Vietnam War Memorials, as part the fourth CT Day of Honor. This flight of 100 World War II veterans from CT is conducted by the AmericanWarrior program, established in 2005 by State Representative Chris Coutu.
George Henson, 85, Gales Ferry, said he was a 16-year-old member of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in Wyoming when he enlisted in the Navy, in 1942. He said the greatest motivation for enlisting was finding consistent work. The motivation was so strong, he said, he had no trouble convincing Navy officials he was at least a year older than his actual birth date.
However, George said he soon discovered the consistent work came with plenty of action as he became a torpedoman in the submarine service and participated in eight combat patrols aboard the submarine USS Cabrilla.
“We were beat up with depth charges on each of our patrols, but the one that sticks in my mind is being hit with depth charges while at a depth of 700 feet in the Tula Sea, near the Samoan Islands. This is the one that caused me all my nightmares,” George said.
After the war, George stayed in the submarine service, eventually ending his career as Chief of the Boat of the USS Lafayette (SSBN 616) after sailing on 16 diesel and two nuclear powered submarines. All his time stationed in Southeastern CT during his 30 years with submarines led to his choosing this area to make his home.
During the preparatory meeting for the AmericanWarrior trip to Washington, George said he anticipated the trip would “bring back a lot of fond memories,” and give him a chance to finally see the Word War II Memorial, which has yet to see.
John Manuilow, 88, Brooklyn, has a similar story to George when it comes to his reasons for joining the Navy in 1942. “I was 20-years-old and mining coal in Ohio when I decided that joining the Navy had to be better than working in the mines,” John said.
After enlisting, John found himself heading underwater, rather than under the earth, as he volunteered for the submarine service. John became a torpedoman and participated in five combat patrols of the USS Silversides, considered to be “the most decorated surviving submarine from WWII.”
One of the more publically remembered events occurring on the Silversides was the appendectomy performed by the boat’s pharmacist mate on Christmas Eve, 1942. This was one of three appendectomies performed on submarines by Pharmacist Mates during the war, according to the Silversides history. While the event occurred on a Silversides patrol John was not part of, it is still very much part of the memory of all Silversides crew members.
After the war, John said he was discharged and returned to the Ohio coal mines for six days before he re-enlisted and spent the next 20 years serving six different diesel submarines, ending his career as a Torpedoman’s Mate First Class.
After retiring form the Navy, John worked at Electric Boat, eventually retiring to his home in Brooklyn.
John, who never visited Washington, DC, is enthused about the trip. “After all these years, I’m really looking forward to seeing Washington, DC. Sure I am interested in the various war memorials and we are treated really special for the day, I’m just glad I’m getting the chance to spend time in the national capital,” John said.
Fred Stone, 81, Gales Ferry, enlisted in the Navy in 1945 as a 17-year-old resident of Lawrence, MA. After boot camp he was assigned to the commissioned aircraft carrier, USS Midway (CVB-41). After serving on another carrier, the USS Roosevelt (CVB-43) for the balance of his enlistment, Fred, whose request to become a submariner kept being turned down, he accepted discharge when he turned 21.
However, he was out of the service for only two weeks, he said, when he decided it was time to return to Navy and convinced recruiters to have him assigned to the submarine service.
With that detail out of the way, Fred spent the next 17 years serving as an electrician on nine different diesel submarines. After retiring from the Navy, Fred was first employed at Electric Boat and later served as a maintenance worker at the Submarine Base.
While Fred has spent times in Washington during his enlistment, he has never seen the new World War II Memorial and is looking forward to the day in the nation’s capital.
All the veterans were quite willing to express their joy at the opportunity to join the AmericanWarrior flight, and each recited with glee many examples of midnight shenanigans on board ship. Although, they were quite reluctant about going into the details of their wartime service, other than to demonstrate and quietly express their pride in having served during World War II.