Posts Tagged ‘USS Argonaut’

Shirley Temple and her (short) Submarine History

And now for something completely different... | Posted by Rebekah
Feb 11 2014

Saw the news this morning of child actress Shirley Temple-Black’s passing. Another golden age icon gone.

While I’m reading all these news reports about Temple, I’m noticing that one of her many accomplishments that’s being (I’m sure inadvertently) overlooked is her support for the military, before and during WWII.  It’s not surprising really, as many stars at that time did anything they could, and many did it quietly, with no press releases or announcements.  The only reason I stumbled across it was from a tiny photo.

USS Flier’s Chief Radioman was Walter Joseph “Bud” Klock, originally from St. Paul, Minnesota.  He joined the Navy to get training and work, but also support his single mom and little brother.  The Submarine Base in Honolulu was a far cry, in distance and environment, from his mother’s little apartment, and Klock wrote her frequently, sending all sorts of accounts of this things he was doing. (Two years into his hitch, he wrote home complaining that it was a cold 60 degrees in Honolulu that winter’s day.  I wonder what his mother, still in St. Paul, thought of that!)

Prior to WWII, servicemen like Klock, even aboard submarines, were allowed to take photos aboard, and write home talking about what they were doing and where they were serving, and Klock, armed with his old camera, sent dozens of photos home.  Sometime while he served on the massive ARGONAUT, Klock got to see a performance by Shirley Temple, and snapped a photo of her being escorted across the deck of his boat to send home.

After WWII started, letters from Klock became fewer and shorter.  Fewer because he could only send letters when he was in port, and shorter because the Navy had all sorts of rules against mentioning place names, ship and boat names, personal names of other servicemen, any information that could identify military tech in case a spy intercepted the letter (which, in the submarine force’s case, the entire boat was the latest technology, so nothing to see here!), and on and on and on. Some men complained that the only thing you could do was write, “As of today’s date, I’m somewhere in the world, doing something I can’t tell you, and I’m still breathing and healthy.  How are you?”

Klock sent his last letter home in mid-July, 1944, and died with the Flier on 13 August, 1944.  His mother and wife Velma, kept all of the letters, which were passed on to Klock’s nephew, whom Walter never had an opportunity to meet.

Klock’s nephew allowed me to see and transcribe these letters before their donation to the USS Silversides Submarine Museum in Muskegon, Michigan. While sorting them and putting them in chronological order, I found that fun little photo of Shirley Temple, in the late 1930’s (August 11, 1937: see update below), visiting the USS Argonaut (likely in Pearl Harbor, Honolulu).

Taken in the late 1930's when Temple was between 8 and 11 years old, then submariner Walter Joseph "Bud" Klock took this photo of Shirley visiting the USA's largest submarine at that time, the 358 foot Argonaut. To the left, the Argo next to a "standard" sized (between 207 and 240 feet) S-boat. The Fleet Boats of WWII were still largely in the planning stages, but would still be a good forty-six feet shorter than the Argo. Argo was lost with all hands on 10 January 1943. She would retain her "largest submarine" record until 1959 when the USS Triton (SSRN-586 ) and USS George Washington (SSBN-598) were commissioned, coming in at 447 (Smashing Argo's record) and 381 feet long, respectively. Photos courtesy of the family of Walter Klock.

 

Temple was thirteen when WWII began for the USA, and seventeen when it was over.  As an established celebrity, and moreover, a celebrity associated with positive, feel-good movies, she was valued as a morale booster for the country and the military. She worked for War Bond Drives, in both America and Canada, in her movies, making personal appearances, and serving and performing at the famed Hollywood Canteen.

The Canteen was a restaurant/entertainment venue for servicemen regardless of race (this was a segregated time period in American History, so a racially integrated venue, even for working servicemen, was extremely unusual) that was staffed and headlined by Hollywood’s best and brightest.  Chaired by Bette Davis, who had no problems calling personal celebrity friends from all over Hollywood, including from multiple studios (something that got her in trouble once, but as usual, she quickly pointed out that if the Hollywood head’s had trouble with their stars working together, doing their bit for the boys in uniform, she’d have no choice but to follow their wishes…and then call a press conference!  Studio heads promptly decided they had no problem with it!) celebrity chefs, anything and everything to entertain the boys. At one point, apparently, when meat rations were too scarce for The Canteen, Davis even called DC to inform them that as the Canteen served servicemen, she should be allowed to get better rations to serve them.  DC made that happen. Temple was one of her regulars, holding signs pointing the way, serving punch or cake, and performing. (Check out the link for tons of pics and a great story about the Canteen.  It was really something!)

Image

A Teenage Shirley Temple serving cookies to the troops at the Canteen ca. 1942-43. The Canteen would close in 1944. Photo from silverscreenoasis.com

 

After the war, she married two WWII servicemen (the first marriage ended in divorce) which, all things considered, wasn’t all that uncommon.  She later became one of the first women to publicize her battles with breast cancer, and even became an American ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia.

A truly remarkable women, who, when she was a child, brought smiles one day to a submariner who snapped a picture for his mom, far away in St. Paul. Let this desire to serve men and women in uniform, also be a part of Shirley Temple’s remembered legacy.

(BTW, if anyone can help me date the Shirley Temple submarine photo, please contact me at ussflierproject@gmail.com  I’d love to be able to add some more context to the photo for its records)

The Argonaut’s story on this website (includes more candid photos courtesy of Walter Klock and his camera)

 

UPDATE:  Talking to another person who inherited another photograph of Shirley that same day on the Argonaut gave me some new ideas for web searches.  Thank goodness for online archives and newspaper archives.  We now have a date!  Shirley Temple visited the Argo at Pearl Harbor on August 11, 1937, when she would have been 9 years old (and a six-year veteran of the movie industry already!)  A sailor wrote an account of the visit and sent it to the Chicago Daily Herald, which printed it!  It’s an interesting little article, though as a writer, I had to laugh a little bit towards the end when he describes Temple.  It’s also an interesting note in that Temple was given an officer’s dolphin pin during her visit.  This almost NEVER happens.  I know of only a few times a civilian has been bestowed with a dolphin pin, and here one.  Enjoy!

Chicago Daily Herald, Friday, September 10, 1937, pg 8 column 2

“Bronco Forszen helps Entertain Shirley Temple

“Merlin (Bronco) Foszen, who is a member of the US Navy and is stationed at Pearl Harbor Hawaii, has written an interesting account of the recent visit of Shirley Temple to Pearl Harbor and the Submarine USS Argonaut, which gives a first hand picture of the most popular juvenile star of the movies.  Mr. Forszen’s story follows:”

“On Wednesday, August 11, 1937, the officers and enlisted men of the Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, T[erritory of] H[awaii]  were honored with a visit by Shirley Temple.

Miss Temple was due to arrive at 10:30 a.m and all Navy Children were invited to be present.  Several house before Miss Temple was scheduled ot arrive a strained and somewhat tenseness wrapped itself around the base.  Every sturdy man O’Warsman tried hard to conceal the fact that he was just a little thrilled at the thoughts of seeing the little star.  And as could be expected, most of them were down on the dock fully three quarters of an hour before she came.  At 10:35, she arrived, her car stopping a few yards from the gangway of the USS Argonaut, the submarine she was to visit.  She was immediately swarmed by move photographers, autograph hound, and ardent admirers.

Due military honors were bestowed on the little Colonel, as the boatswain piped the six side boys to a “hard salute” as she came across the gangway.  Genial Lt. Commander L.C. Walton, skipper of the Argonaut, on receiving his honored guest, presented her with a gold submarine insignia.  Following this came an informal inspection of the ship’s crew, and the topside.  Points of interest were explained by Captain Wilson, Miss Temple’s Naval Aid, and skipper Walton.

On leaving the ship Shirley gave each of the side boys a snappy salute, and walked fearlessly into the surging crowd of women and children.  She was quickly freed and slipped in to an official car.  The car pulled away and the crowd quickly broke up.  But the little ray of sunshine and happiness hadn’t left as everyone one thought she had.  The reason for this was that she wanted to see the big submarine shove off and go to sea.  As the mechanical fish grew small in the distance, Miss Temple was taken to the Submarine Officer’s quarters.  Once there she had to go through the trying and tiring experience of being hostess to approximately seven hundred small children.  They touched her golden curls, felt her white silk dress, crowded around her, inspired by her presence, and no doubt longing and praying to trade places with her.

No amount of descriptive words can adequately describe the splendid character, vivacious personality and cool nonchalance that this internationally famous little girl possesses.  She could receive pompous military men, celebrated statesmen, pious clergymen, and stately demigods and still predominate the setting with her spakrling [sic] blue eyes, winsome smile, golden hair and above all, her outstanding, electrifying personality.

Miss Temple’s visit here made many children happy and relieved many men of heavy hearts and spirit.  No one could be dull or unhappy with an enchanting bundle of humanity like Shirley Temple around. 

I would like to thank both Mr. and Mrs. Temple for the honor and privilege they bestowed on the Naval Service by this visit.

On Eternal Patrol: USS Argonaut SS-166 Lost January 10, 1943

Lost Subs | Posted by Rebekah
Jan 10 2012

We’ll return to the Pearl Harbor story in a bit.  I love researching, and often find answers quickly to some questions, but the lead up to Pearl and resulting Blame Game have lead me down a bit of a rabbit hole and I’m really deep in.  I haven’t forgotten, but today, I’m starting the new year on the lost submarines of the US Navy and some unique stories.  I still will follow and bring to light more about Flier, but she had a number of remarkable sisters, whose stories also deserve to be told, and Pearl Harbor deserves a thorough post(s), and I have to thoroughly understand what I’m finding before I can write about it coherently, so I shall return to it soon

 

USS Argonaut was in a class by herself when she rolled down the ways on 10 November 1927.  The largest submarine yet built by the US Navy (and still the largest non-nuclear submarine built by the USA), she was designed to lay mines and have more powerful engines.  But like many good-idea-on-paper- projects, Argonaut and her sisters Narwhal and Nautilus, soon proved to be more problematic than they were worth.  While the minelaying devices were “ingenious” they were also “extremely complicated”. They also took up the final two compartments of the submarine.

Diving slowly, and cumbersome underwater, Argonaut and her sisters quickly became the only submarines of their class, and the submarine designers moved on to the Cachalot class boats, and soon, the Salmon class boats, working their way to the classic Fleet style submarine which would become the workhorse of WWII.

With such difficulties, Argonaut was moved to Pearl Harbor, and carried out routine duties, patrols, and participated in the Navy games.  A young officer, Richard “Dick” O’Kane came aboard in 1938 and qualified and served on Argonaut for four years.  (If you’re new to submarine history, just Google his name, as well as the names USS Wahoo and USS Tang—he had an interesting career!)

At the same time, a young radioman named Walter Klock, commonly called “Bud”, was assigned to the Argonaut for his first sub assignment.  Klock had a camera, and, prior to the WWII restrictions, photographed a bit of life on Argonaut, including what must have been a “Crossing of the Line” ceremony. This ceremony, which generally takes place any time a ship or sub crosses a main line, (Equator, Arctic/Antarctic circles, International Date Line, Prime Meridian, ect.) allows those men who have crossed said lines before to introduce the new guys, or “polliwogs” to it.  Prior to WWII on a submarine, this ceremony could get quite…interesting…and Klock sent home the photos to prove it.

Anyone recognize your ancestor?

 

On the left, may I present, ladies of King Neptune's Court. (Not sure about the other two...or the "ladies"...or anyone in this series of photos...) In the center...at least he looks like he's having fun. On the right...I don't know, and I don't know that I want to. I've heard guys say it takes a special kind of person to be a submariner...this might be proof! The Crossing of the Line Ceremony was already well established by 1938 when these series of photos were taken, and continued though WWII on some surface ships, though submarines could not risk being on surface for long enough to do this. Some captains banned them, some did small things, I've only heard of one sub doing a full on Neptune's Court and gauntlet INSIDE the submarine during WWII. Sometimes I wonder if they still do this sort of thing. Then I re-look at these and the other photos and think,...maybe what happens at sea, REALLY ought to stay there. Photos courtesy of family of Walter "Bud" Klock.

There were other times.  Shirley Temple visited the men of Argonaut as well, and Klock wrote to his mom about the many fine dances and other things to do in Hawaii.  A native Minnesotan from St. Paul, he stayed in Honolulu so long he said 60 degree Januarys were freezing him to death!

 

Shirley Temple and Argonaut next to an older S-boat (possibly the S-28, or S-26, it's hard to see). From the collection of Watler "Bud" Klock. UPDATE: For more on Shirley Temple and this visit to the Argo, see my post here.

Klock eventually moved on to the S-28 and was in San Diego in November1941, but his old boat remained behind.  The morning of December 7, she was on patrol near Midway Island, where she reported hearing many explosions.  Fearing that the Japanese were attacking Midway in addition to Pearl, HQ ordered Argo to take a close look, where she discovered two Japanese destroyers bombing the island, but doing little else.

Argonaut, with her difficulties, was not as suited to do the same patrolling that her Fleet sisters were assigned, but the Navy had special plans for them.  Shortly after Argo’s return following the attack on Pearl Harbor, she was shipped Stateside, where her minelaying equipment was removed, her troublesome engines replaced, and her new job revealed: troop transport.   Her large size made her and her sisters ideal for getting troops and supplies in and out of enemy controlled areas, and her first mission was urgent.  So urgent, that Argonaut had little time to drill before she, her crew, and their top secret guests headed out to sea.

 

On December 10, 1941, the Japanese invaded the small Makin Atoll (Now Butaritari Island) and took it over (no resistance made it easy).  It would be a seaplane base, extending Japanese reach over Allied held territories, and was fortified with about 160 troops, planes, machine guns and a few ships.  By August 1942, the US Navy, needing Japanese attention as splintered as possible during the initial landings on Guadalcanal and Tulagi, decided to send 211 Marines to Makin to destroy the fortification, take prisoners and gather intelligence.  Such a surprise attack required a submarine landing and pickup and the Nautilus and Argonaut, were ready (though barely).  121 Marines boarded the Argonaut, 90 on Nautilus, and on August 8, they left Pearl heading for Makin, near (modern) Papua New Guinea.

Taken from Argo's sister Nautilus, the Marines exercising on the sub decks in preparation for the raid, and the Marines disembarking on the morning of 17 August for their rafts and Malkin. Photos from National Archives

For five days, they pushed hard without diving, trying to make the best time possible and allowing the Marines to exercise on the deck.  But August 16, they sighted Makin, and at 3 am on August 17, the raid began.  The men on the Argonaut couldn’t do much after the Marines headed ashore on their rubber rafts except lay low, watch, and pray.  By 5:43 am they had their first message: “Everything lousy.”  Four minutes later: “Situation expected to be well in hand shortly.”

Nautilus, relying an order from the Marines, asked Argonaut to fire on a ship in the lagoon, but most of the day was spent just watching.

By 7 pm, the Marines were straggling back.  Initial information was good: they’d managed to destroy move of the Japanese garrison, and kill the vast majority of the soldiers stationed there.  But in other ways, it was a failure: no POWs and little intelligence. Several boats were reported having trouble working against the waves to get out to the Argonaut and Nautilus, and the submarines decided to stay on station another day looking for stragglers.  The next night, another four rubber boats, and a native boat with more Marines onboard came alongside.  Some of these Marines were seriously wounded and transferred to the Nautilus who, for this patrol only, had a doctor onboard.  Everyone arrived back in Pearl on 26 August.  Argonaut’s hasty prep work, however, had shown.  Between her arrival home and the 31st of August, her CO submitted over 58 work items that needed attention, including a serious leak from a fuel oil tank which would requite  a 6-7 week repair.

On the left, a returning Malkin Marine shows off the Japanese rifle he took, and ended up using to defend himself with. Center, sailors of the Argonaut read their mail that accumulated the three weeks they were out at sea. It's one of my favorite photos of the crew together. On the right, the Malkin Raiders and Argonaut crew retuning to Pearl. All photos National Archives

After repairs, she was sent to Brisbane, Australia, and from there she went out on her third war patrol on 2 January, 1943.  Before leaving Pearl, however, Argonaut’s crew decided to leave her bell behind, a move that would have interesting implications.

On 10 January 1943, Argonaut was in the Bismark Sea, and attacked five freighters and their escorts.  An American Army plane spotted her attack, and saw one of the escorting destroyers take a direct hit from Argo’s torpedoes.  The destroyers went on the offensive, launching a depth charge attack which apparently, destroyed Argonaut.  This attack perhaps broke her back (or rather, broke her keel, breaking her into two or more pieces. ) forcing Argo’s nose to break the surface for a moment.  The destroyers continued to fire at her until she slipped beneath the waves, never to surface again.  All 102 of her crew remain with her.

The Army plane, returning to his station, reported what he had seen, and also reported her loss, leading to Argo’s loss being reported relatively quickly by 26 February.  Due to his report, she was credited with damaging that destroyer, but after the war this score was revoked, since none of the ships in the convoy reported being damaged on 10 January.  It’s possible the torpedo was a premature explosion, which plagued many sub commanders early in the war.

Klock heard about the loss of his old boat while serving on his new one, Flier, in New London.  Since censorship of the war forbade all mentions of ship names, he normally could not tell his mother what had happened, but fate intervened.  A friend of his was going on leave back home, and Klock wrote a letter to his mother in plain language, hoping his friend could sneak it out and deposit it in the civilian post without the censors intervening.  It must have worked, for found among Mrs. Violet Klock’s papers was the following letter dated Easter, 1943: (Excerpt of full letter)

A friend of mine is flying out of the war zone tomorrow so I’m going to take a chance on getting this letter out.  Don’t repeat any of this or my name will be mud.  We are doing okay out here-the job gets rather tedious at times, but we are winning.  We sank four ships on our last two runs out.  We had one close call but nothing to become alarmed about.  That made a total of six sunk for this particular ship.  Not bad-huh? 

There isn’t much chance of me returning to the states for quite a while as we are operating out of a pretty hot spot.  But don’t worry about me—submarines are the safest thing to be on-we’ve only lost two or  three.  Incidentally, the one I as on for so long in Honolulu, the Argonaut got sunk.  She sunk [sic] several ships first though so paid her way fully.

The raid on Makin had unusual ramifications: the Japanese returned and REINFORCED the island with nearly four times the original troops the Raiders faced, forcing the Marines to return in November 1943 and thoroughly clean the place out.  The graves of the 18 Marines confirmed dead were found as well as the grave of one of the 12 Marines formerly listed as MIA.   Of the other 11, they were never located.  Eventually, records were found that show at least nine were captured by the Japanese and executed on Kwajalein Atoll.  The fate of the other two remains unknown.

Nearly 20 months after Argonaut’s loss, a Submarine Memorial Chapel was built and dedicated on the Submarine Base in Pearl.  (The story of how that got built is another whole post) The bell hanging in her steeple comes from Argonaut, and still rings today for services. As the bell is considered the “voice” or sometimes “soul” of a boat, it’s probably one of the more touching memorials a sub could ask for.

Finally, in honor of the lost Argonaut, a new Tench-class submarine was named in her honor:  USS Argonaut (II) SS-475 was commissioned on 15 January 1945, just over two years since the loss of her older sister.  Argo II actually made it to the Pacific theater for one patrol, rescuing a downed American pilot and sinking a 25-ton fishing vessel with her deck guns (for which she received no JANAC credit since they apparently didn’t consider anything lighter than 500 tons as a “ship”).  Argo II later served in the Atlantic during the 50’s and 60’s with the occasional Medditerranean deployment.  Sold to Canada in 1968, she served them a further six years as the HMS Rainbow before being scrapped in 1977.

 

After the war, Argonaut (I)  and her crew were assigned to the state of California for their memorial.  Dedicated in 2001, the USS Argonaut and USS Grampus combined memorial stands in the National Submarine Memorial West in Seal Beach, California.

The resting place of Argonaut and her crew has yet to be found.

 

Memorial page for USS Argonaut and the Malkin Raiders lost on Malkin

The Exhibit, Where was Flier 66 years ago today? | Posted by Rebekah
Nov 01 2010

Been an interesting time.

A couple of days ago, the family of Bob Klock, radioman of the Flier, mailed me their uncle’s letters from WWII (and even before!) detailing his time in the submarine force.  It appears that he and Crowley served on the USS S-28 together and bother transferred to the Flier.  Even more fascinating, some of these letters from the S-28 are dated before December 7, 1941.  I’m reading one right now, dated October 20, 1941:

“I don’t know if I’ll get any leave ot not–I’m trying my best.  Maybe around Christmas they’ll give me some.  If so, I’ll be home then–but don’t plan on it very much.  It is pretty hard to get leave off a submarine because we have so few men.”

How many things will change all too soon for this man.  The above letter was sent from San Diego on official S-28 stationary.  At that time, she was part of Experimental Group 2. The ones from the S-28 group span 1940-1942.  As you get older, the censor marks appear, indicating that “Bud’s” letter was opened, read, and passed as not revealing information that could be too sensitive.

This letter is dated December8, 1942, from the S-18  (so he must have changed submarines between October and December.)  Please remember the Bud is his mother’s older son, and she is, from what I can glean from the few letters I’ve fully read, a widow with her Navy son as the family supporter, so if it sounds almost like a letter to a spouse, that is why.

“The world has finally been thrown into a fiery chaos.  I know, darling, that I haven’t been a real good son, but, Mom, I’ll write as often as possible now.  I know you are going to worry but please try to keep it down to a minimum.

“If, by some  misfortune, the West Coast even gets bombed, I wonder if I coudl send Louise [note from me: his girlfriend at this time] home to stay with you.  In that way my mind would somewhat be relieved.  We are certainly getting along fine these days.

“Hope you aren’t working too hard, but then I guess work will keep one’s mind off of other things.  Say hello to Mr. Smith and the gang and tell them we’ll really give them hell.  If Bob [note:  his younger brother] has to come in tell him to try to get a commission in the army or navy (reserve).  I hope he won’t have to, though.

“I don’t know if this letter will reach you because of the censorship but I hope so.

“Now you be a good girl and don’t you dare worry to [sic] much because everything is okay.  Don’t believe too much you hear on the radio.  Hope you, Bobm and grandma are in the best of health.”

Your Loving Son, Bud.”

This letter was eventually passed by the censor and mailed on December 27.  I can only imagine his mother, Violet, was immensely relieved to finally hear from her oldest son.

So sad, reading these letters, knowing that Bud only has a little over two and a half years left.  His photo on ussflier.com is one of my favorites.  I wonder if that is Louise…

It’s strange, looking at these letters.  Klock served on the Argonaut, the S-28,, and the Flier, all of which were eventually lost.  He also apparently served on the S-18, which not only survived, but had no casualties.

Back to the deck log of the Flier,

She stayed out to sea with “No Administrative remarks” until October 31, around 4 pm.  So I included the Deck Log for October 31 and November 1 in today’s entry.

Deck Log for October 31, 1943. Flier returned from wherever she went and tied up to the dock at Electric Boat.

The Deck Log for November 1, 1943. HERE'S an interesting tidbit! Flier named temporary flagship of Sub Division 162 by Commander Burlingame was the CO of the Sub Division. If you happened to come to the Memorial Service, this little note is even more interesting, because Burlingame, (who looked a lot like the Gordon's Fisherman when at sea) was the commissioning CO of USS Silversides, the submarine that stood for Flier at the ceremony.

So thank you to the Klock family for opening this window into the world of Flier and indeed, the Submarine service of WWII on a personal level.  If you are interested in donating material for the eventual exhibit or for future researchers, please contact me a ussflierproject@gmail.com  We don’t have to keep things permanently.  Once these items have been digitized and cataloged, they’ll be returned to the Klock family, and I can do the same for any other Flier (or Silversides) family.