Submarine bell gets new luster
The rescued Pearl Harbor memento finds a home at the USS Bowfin
THE 100-POUND bell from a submarine at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack in 1941 is destined for a place of honor at the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, rather than the trash dump.
Brett Ogata, information specialist with the Army, says the bell, which belonged to the USS Narwhal, was part of a scrap metal shipment his uncle was supposed to have taken to the junk yard in 1978.
"It was supposed to have been melted down and sold," Ogata said last week, "until my uncle rescued it."
"He realized that it was worth more intact than melted down," said the 1984 Mililani High School graduate.
Ogata, who served in the Navy for 10 years, said the bell had been stored at his grandmother's home in Pearl City.
"Having served in the Navy on a the cruiser USS Long Beach," he added, "I know the importance of a ship's bell."
He contacted officials at the Bowfin museum, next to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Brett Ogata plans to donate the USS Narwhal bell to the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park next week.
Nancy Richards, the museum's curator, said it was "exciting news" that her organization might be getting the bell. "It's the rightful place for that bell," Richards added.
The museum already has on display four other ship's bells, salvaged from the USS Bowfin, USS Wahoo, USS Snook and the S-9, which was commissioned in 1922.
The Narwhal was one of four submarines stationed at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The other three were the USS Dolphin, USS Tautog and the USS Cachalot. A total of 161 naval vessels were at Pearl Harbor or within three miles of Oahu when Japanese fighters and dive bombers attacked the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor.
Ogata said there were three submarines with the name Narwhal, which refers to a gray and white Arctic whale.
"The bell my uncle rescued was from the second Narwhal," Ogata said.
It was launched at Portsmouth Navy Yard on Dec. 17, 1929, originally designated V-5 and given the number SC-1. The Narwhal was commissioned May 15, 1930, and placed under the command of Lt. Cmdr. John H. Brown Jr.
Ogata said it was "an American incarnation of the World War I German 'cruiser submarine' concept. Along with its sister ship Nautilus, Narwhal was a huge boat, 371 feet long (59 feet longer than a Gato-class submarine), mounting a pair of 6-inch guns on single open mounts.
It was given its name in 1931, Ogata said, with the traditional sequential hull number (SS-167).
During the 1941 Japanese aerial attack, Ogata said, Narwhal's gunners were credited with an assist in shooting down two Japanese torpedo planes. Narwhal was undamaged in the attack, since it was docked at Pearl Harbor's submarine base, which was ignored by Japanese bombers.
Narwhal left Pearl Harbor on its first war patrol on Feb. 2, 1942, with Naval Reserve Lt. Cmdr. Charles W. Wilkins in command, Ogata said.
He said the submarine spent two days on a reconnaissance of Wake Island before continuing to the Ityukyu Islands. On Feb. 28, the Narwhal was credited with damaging the 6,515-ton Maju Maru, and six days later it sank the 1,241-ton Taki Maru in the East China Sea.
After 15 patrols, the Narwhal was decommissioned in 1945 and sold for scrap metal. However, its two 6-inch guns are still on display at the New London Submarine Base in Groton, Conn.
Meanwhile, Bowfin museum officials have posted six photos on the Web (http://oneternal patrol.com) of what is believed to be the wreck of the USS Wahoo (SS-238), taken on July 28 and 29 by a Russian team diving in the Soya-LaPerouse Strait, at the last known location of the Wahoo.
Charles Hinman, Bowfin's education director, said the Wahoo Project intends to dive at the site after all proper diplomatic procedures have been followed.
The Bowfin museum is expected to play a crucial role in recording the resting place of one of the Navy's most famous World War II submarines, the USS Wahoo. The submarine, skippered by Cmdr. Dudley "Mush" Morton, was lost in Russian waters just north of Hokkaido, the northernmost Japanese island, in 1943.
Hinman said Morton's grandnephew Bryan MacKinnon approached the museum earlier this year and asked if it was willing to be a repository for materials gathered during the search.
Hinman said that it is unlawful to take any artifacts or relics from any sunken Navy vessel.
Instead, MacKinnon's Wahoo Project wants the Bowfin Museum to store "all materials used in the search, ranging from photographs to drawings and video recordings."