Author Topic: A Naval Tradition  (Read 364 times)

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Offline besilarius

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A Naval Tradition
« on: September 24, 2019, 05:31:57 AM »
Mare Island Museum
16 hrs ·

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In the 2nd year of US involvement in World War II a submarine departed Midway Island for an audacious war patrol. The USS WAHOO (SS-238) was taking the war into Japanese home waters. The Mare Island built WAHOO was to be the first US submarine to enter the dangerous but target rich environment of the Yellow Sea. Tension within the boat was reported to be high as the submarine proceeded to its patrol area. Executive Officer (XO), Richard “Dick” O’Kane broke out a cribbage game board and challenged the commanding officer (CO), Commander Dudley “Mush” Morton to a game of cribbage. A Navy tradition and legend that lives to this day was about to be born.

Cribbage is a simple two-person card game and the cribbage board is used to keep score. As CO Morton and XO O’Kane squared off, Morton dealt O’Kane the highest possible cribbage hand, a “perfect 29.” The odds against such a hand were so high that the crew took it as a good omen, they were right. That night, the Wahoo sank two Japanese freighters. Three days later, in another game, Morton dealt a 28-point hand. The following day, they sunk two freighters and a third the next day. This fourth war patrol of the WAHOO continued to be highly successful and O’Kane’s cribbage board began to assume legendary status among the crew. Following WAHOO’s fifth patrol, she returned to Mare Island Naval Shipyard for overhaul and O’Kane and his cribbage board left the WAHOO so he could assume command of another Mare Island built submarine, the USS TANG (SS-306). WAHOO reentered the war zone in mid-August 1943 and two months later she was lost.

Meanwhile, TANG with O’Kane, and that cribbage board went on to become the single most successful submarine in US history until sunk by her own torpedo in a surface attack during 1944. O’Kane survived the sinking only to be rescued and interred in a Japanese prisoner of war camp until the end of the war. The cribbage board went down with the ship, but then in 1951 Portsmouth Naval Shipyard was set to launch a new submarine to be named TANG, the USS TANG (SS-563). Mrs. Richard H. O'Kane was selected as the Sponsor; and during the launch events Commander Richard H. O'Kane was presented with a new ceremonial cribbage board by the officers and crew of the new submarine. After Richard O’Kane died in Petaluma, California in 1994, that new cribbage board was presented to the oldest operating fast attack submarine in the Pacific.

The submarine was the Mare Island built USS KAMEHAMEHA (SSN-642). USS KAMEHAMEHA was the last surviving 41 for Freedom nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine and it had been converted from a missile boat to a special operations boat and designated a fast attack. When the KAMEHAMEHA was decommissioned, the cribbage board was then transferred to USS PARCHE (SSN 683), a former Mare Island based Ocean Engineering Boat. The PARCHE was decommissioned in 2005 and the cribbage board passed to the USS LOS ANGELES (SSN-688), again, the then oldest fast attack in the fleet.

To this day the cribbage board has continuously traveled beneath the oceans of the world aboard the oldest fast attack submarines in the fleet. On Sunday, September 8, 2019 the USS OLYMPIA (SSN-717) arrived back at Pearl Harbor with the cribbage board following her final patrol. OLYMPIA will soon be decommissioned and, when she is, the cribbage board will pass to yet another submarine continuing the tradition that dates to the WAHOO’s 4th World War II war patrol. That submarine is likely to be the USS CHICAGO (SSN-721), another Los Angeles Class nuclear powered submarine. The capability of these submarines with respect to every aspect of their design, weapons and technological capabilities would have undoubtedly fascinated and stunned WAHOO’s skipper, Cdr. Mush Morton, who has been on eternal patrol with his crew since they were sunk of the coast of Japan in 1943.

Come visit Mare Island’s historic Alden Park, St. Peter's Chapel, Naval Officers Mansions and the Mare Island Museum.


Don't know how widespread cribbage is these days.  On the old Farragut DDG-37, the captain, Mike Boorda and the Weapons Officer, Wesley Kramer, played it religiously every night the ship was underway.
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