Thursday, February 14, 2008

USS Los Angeles embarks with a piece of submarine history

Photo Caption: PEARL HARBOR, HI--Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Joe R. Campa Jr. and Sailors from USS Los Angeles (SSN 688) pose with a cribbage board that belonged to Medal of Honor recipient and World War II prisoner of war Rear Admiral Richard H. "Dick" O'Kane. The more than sixty-year-old cribbage board came into the possession of the Pacific Submarine Force and it became tradition to pass the cribbage board to the oldest submarine in the Fleet. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Perez.

From Commander Submarine Force Pacific:

PEARL HARBOR, HI--The United States Navy is steeped in customs, courtesies and rituals. There’s the Navy Birthday Ball, the newly commissioned officer’s wetting down and the referral to a ship as “she.” But there’s also a U.S. submarine tradition that a few, other than submariners, knew about until now…it’s the guardian of the cribbage board.

The nuclear-powered attack submarine, USS Los Angeles (SSN 688) recently departed its homeport of Pearl Harbor, Tuesday, May 7, for a Western Pacific deployment. This time the submarine deployed with a cribbage board that belonged to Medal of Honor recipient and World War II prisoner of war Rear Admiral Richard H. “Dick” O’Kane.

Rear Admiral O’Kane was awarded the Medal of Honor for his daring attacks on two Japanese convoys while in command of the World War II submarine USS Tang (SS 306) during its fifth and final patrol in 1944. His citation states, “With ships bearing down from all sides, he charged the enemy at high speed, exploding the tanker in a burst of flame, smashing the transport dead in the water, and blasting the destroyer with a mighty roar which rocked the Tang from stem to stern. Expending his last two torpedoes into the remnants of a once powerful convoy before his own ship went down.” After his submarine was sunk, the Japanese captured then-Commander O’Kane who spent the rest of the war in secret captivity.

After it was cleaned and restored, the more than sixty-year-old cribbage board came into the possession of the Pacific Submarine Force and the tradition of passing the cribbage board from the oldest submarine to the next was started. O’Kane’s wife Ernestine was the sponsor of the second submarine named USS Tang (SS 563), the original keeper of the board. Tang was stricken from the Navy Vessel Register in 1987.

USS Kamehameha (SSN 642) was the longest commissioned of the oldest submarines to safeguard the board. Kamehameha was decommissioned in 2002 after nearly 37 years of service. The game board then went to USS Parche (SSN 683). Parche was the namesake of one of the most highly decorated subs to serve in the Pacific Fleet during WWII. Although Parche decommissioned in July 2005, the cribbage board was finally sent to USS Los Angeles this year.

“It’s an honor to deploy with O’Kane’s cribbage board,” said USS Los Angeles Commanding Officer Erik Burian. “Embarking with a piece of submarine history is a constant reminder of the legacy that we will continue. My crew and I enjoy passing time playing cribbage while not on duty and we are proud that we can carry on the tradition.”

Card games were a favorite form of entertainment for submariners while on deployment during World War II and cribbage was a popular game on USS Wahoo (SS-238) with Executive Officer O’Kane and his Commanding Officer, World War II legend Dudley “Mush” Morton.

Cribbage lore among submariners is that while patrolling in the shallow waters of the Yellow Sea during its fourth war patrol, Morton dealt O’Kane a perfect 29, the highest possible score for combinations in a single cribbage deal. The crew felt that it was a lucky omen and Wahoo sank two Japanese freighters that night.

Three days later, while patrolling off the Korean coast south of Chinnampo, Morton dealt a 28- point hand to O’Kane. They sank two freighters that day and another one the following day.

Although, USS Los Angeles has no plans to torpedo any freighters while deployed, it will be maintaining its presence in the Western Pacific.

“We have the newest technology on the oldest U.S. submarine,” said Burian. “I have complete confidence in my crew to get the job done.”

Every time a Sailor is qualified, Burian reads a different passage from Theodore Roscoe’s United States Submarine Operations in World War II.

“It helps to keep the crew grounded and to stay focused on the big picture,” said Burian.

USS Los Angeles, the fourth naval ship to be named after the City of Los Angeles, is the lead ship of her class. Designed as a follow-on to the sturgeon class submarines built during the 1960s, the Los Angeles class incorporated improved sound quieting and a larger propulsion plant than previous classes. Its many capabilities include wartime functions of undersea warfare, surface warfare, strike warfare, mining operations, special forces delivery, reconnaissance, carrier battle group support and escort, and intelligence collection. Her missiles can reach targets on 75 percent of the Earth’s land surface.

Original article

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