Sunday, May 13, 2007

Memories shared by Batfish crew members

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Muskogee Phoenix
By Bess Warren
May 13, 2007



The last few remaining crew members who served on the USS Batfish during World War II gathered Saturday to honor all lost submarines and their crew members at the Muskogee War Memorial Park.

As recited during the service, a segment of the U.S. Navy branched out to become the Submarine Force in the 1940s. It was during this time that the USS Batfish was built and made her first war patrol.

Members of the original crew were present at the service, although there are only around 15 members left.

“We’re getting to that point where we are getting scarce,” Dick “Hershey” Hosler said.

Hosler, 85, of Endwell, N.Y., was a Torpedo Man Class II, on the Batfish in World War II. Before serving on the Batfish, Hosler was stationed on another submarine named Sandlance along with Jake Fife, who was the executive officer. Fife was made commander of the Batfish upon its completion and was transferred along with five other Sandlance crew members. Hosler was one of those five.

“The big thing for this ship was making history by sinking three subs in three days,” Hosler said. “It gave the Navy the impression that the best way to get a sub was with another submarine.”

All members of the 6th War Patrol of the Batfish received a presidential citation for the sinking of three Japanese submarines during the war. Hosler received that one as well as one while serving on the Sandlance.

“They were both very successful runs,” Hosler said.

The final members of this historical crew gathered on the ship again to take photographs and reminisce about their tenure on the boat.

Virgil “Blackie” Lawrence, 84, Modesto, Calif., recalled a close call one day aboard the submarine. Lawrence had loaded a special, sound-seeking torpedo into a chute. When the torpedo moved out, it only went 8 to 10 inches before stopping.

“It was stuck,” Lawrence said. “If we closed the door it would slam into the detonator and could have blown the other door off and could have flooded the room.”

Being the obedient serviceman, Lawrence followed his commander’s instructions and moved all the other crew members out of the room hesitantly closed the door, which ended up being successful.

“I cleared the room and shut the door before I could faint,” he said. “The captain had more brains than me. He had to make a decision.”

Each veteran had their own unique story, and the camaraderie was evident as they huddled together on the lawns of the park and listened attentively to each person’s recollection of their time aboard the Batfish.

The memorial service, hosted by the U.S. Submarine Veterans World War II and the U.S. Submarine Veterans Inc., included a roll call of 52 lost boats with each one being recognized with a bell toll and a placing of the flag on each memorial monument. The service was concluded with the sounding of the diving alarm and a gun salute by the VFW Post 474.

The USS Batfish is open to the public weekdays and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays noon to 4 p.m. with a small admission fee. For more information, call 682-6294 or visit www.ussbatfish.com.


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