November 10, 2005

Memorial Day

Filed under: — Chap @ 3:05 am

This post is not mine; it’s from a Naval Submarine League email, and passed on to you. Chief Cunnally has an excellent website about the submarine Crevalle.

The war patrols Hank Munson commanded were desperate and heroic things. A commanding officer doesn’t normally return to a ship he commanded–bad etiquette, you know, for the current skipper. This is an additional reason for the reticence CAPT Munson’s son notices below.

A World War II Submarine Skipper’s Son Remembers him on Veterans Day :

On 24 June 1943, The USS CREVALLE (SS) 291 a brand new Fleet Boat Submarine was commissioned in the United States Navy with a thoroughly war experienced Lieutenant Commander Henry G. Munson serving as her first commanding officer. Captain Munson had recently returned from the War in the Pacific after making six war patrols on board the USS S-38. He went on to Skipper Crevalle through several War Patrols in the Pacific. The attached remembrance is by his son Chris Munson who resides in Northern Virginia. The irony of it all is that I was a young 19 year old Seaman on Crevalle when she visited Washington back in 1960.

–ETC (SS) Ret John “Bud” Cunnally Jr..

Hank’s Son Recalls

It was the rarest of days for me – a day out of the dreaded 5th grade, and a day spent with my father, whom you knew as Hank, and I knew only as Dad. But what made it even more exciting was that we were headed down to the Washington Channel docks to see a certain ship with a weird name. A ship that had fought a war long ago and come home with her captain and crew, and now years later was making a port call to Washington. And we had almost missed it – a short notice in the Alexandria Gazette about a submarine coming to town, that was all. Dad was quiet as he drove us towards the docks. It was a gray day, and the water and fish smells were strong. We drove over the Potomac, then along the waterfront, past tenements and fish markets. Parking near a ferry terminal, I remember stepping over lines and hoses as we made our way along the dock. All this was a familiar landscape to a Navy kid, but a ship like this I had never seen, much less thought to go inside. Suddenly, around a shack and there, low and gray and rather used-looking, lay my father’s submarine – the USS Crevalle. A more mysterious and curious thing I had never seen. And my father, who I had thought would be thrilled and talkative, was quiet and reserved, almost shy. Like approaching a lady with whom one had had earlier adventures, and not sure how she would be now, he seemed to be holding back. Perhaps thinking which visions of those times and challenges would come back to the present. Or perhaps what war memories and regrets he might be reviewing – things he never shared but I know crossed his mind from time to time. They had to return; those memories were too big to remain dormant. But he didn’t speak them, then or ever, at least not to me. But we walked her length together alongside, from the dented bow with ribs showing under her skin, to the conning tower with its odd appendages, and on to the stern where the simple-style letters spelled out “USS Crevalle”. There was no one around. No guard no starched Marine or swaggering Shore Patrol, not even a city cop. Just a small ship. But there was a gangplank in place, and we stepped aboard, and walked to a hatchway behind the coning tower. It was covered with some kind of awning. We peered down the ladder, and then I smelled it. The mix of diesel and coffee cologne you guys frequent wafted up through the hatch. There were lights on, and the rumble of machinery, and the sound of a radio. She was alive after all.

‘Hello aboard’ hailed my Dad – and this was immediately answered by a friendly challenge – ‘Sorry sir, no visitors until 1300………’ the voice trailed off as a friendly face below straightened in sight of my father’s Captain’s uniform. You know, I always thought my father’s informality around folk in uniform was not in keeping with what I saw in the movies. He was always friendly, interested and talkative, especially with enlisted men. And this was no exception, in a moment all was smiles and ‘of course sir, please come down and would you care for a cup of coffee?’ I had hot chocolate, and we sat in the galley of a living submarine, while I took it in, and while Dad slowly explained who he was, and that he was here to show his son around a real fighting ship. The Chief made us right at home, and we were given the tour through the boat. To me it was a blur of pipes, dials and levers. To my Dad – he had every fitting memorized, and their proper positions ‘Had to’, he explained – the intricacies were familiar and routine. The boat was immaculate – I remember him saying that to the Chief, who grinned in response. In every compartment we saw the same pride and skill in keeping a war veteran in E condition. We even were allowed up into the conning tower, where I was able to line up the attack scope on the U.S. Capital dome in the distance. What else would you expect his son to do?

We spent an hour on her. There were only a handful of crew onboard – the rest were off in town being submariners. I think the shock of a Captain prowling the boat wore off pretty quick as word passed – and not on the intercom, of who this Captain really was. Men came up and said hello. And were very, very proud of their boat, and her First Captain. We signed the log retrieved from the Yeoman’s shack, and spent a little more time below, taking in the sights, and smells. For Hank, there must have been memories of men rushing back and forth, of silence shattered by explosions, of long hours of quiet waiting – then moments of exhilarating near-terror as the attack was closed. And prayerful rest after, and thoughts of loved ones they would live to embrace again, when the sea and Crevalle brought them home.

Rest your oars, men of Crevalle. The days of conflict are past, the waters are quiet again. Rest, and Godspeed.

Chris Munson

October, 2005

The younger Munson apparently works with maps (per a comment here). His dad was a high school physics teacher–that’s what the great Captain Munson did, after commanding Rasher and sinking the most tonnage in any patrol in WWII, after war patrols on three boats, after spectacular mining operations off of Indochina so close to the Japanese they tried to flash recognition signals at him. His students had no idea of the heroism and leadership resident in the man in their classroom.

Thanks for the remembrance.

7 Responses to “Memorial Day”

  1. Vigilis Says:

    Fabulous, Chap. Submarines…always silent and strange (that Munson attained a Captain’s, not admiral’s uniform).

  2. Dusty Says:

    Thanks for the post, Chap, and thank you.

  3. Lubber's Line Says:

    Chap, Thanks for the story and especially the close, in that many a veteran who provided great and heroic service to our country are more often than not the humblest or us in later life.

  4. Clyde Says:

    Not sure HAnk Munson did command on teh most tonnage-productive single patrol of WWII or not, but since my copy of SILENT VICTORY popped up after being lost in a box for some time, i can check.

    Just read a memoir by one of Munson’s junior officers on Crevalle (Ruhe), which offers an interesting look at the last patrol of Crevalle under Munson’s command. He was apparently badly in need of rest at that point and behaving pretty erratically. He oviously recovered…

  5. Chris Munson Says:

    Yup, Dad recovered alright. Rasher was waiting for a skipper, Hank needed to get home to spawn me, and the rest is history. Check out Red Scorpion by Peter T. Sasgen. That was Dad’s 9th and last patrol.

    Chris Munson

  6. Al Dempster Says:

    I was only to glad to be Hank’s yeoman on CREVALLE during commissioning and the first two war

    patrols and his recommendation to his relief to advance me to Chief Petty Officer as soon as I

    obtained time in rate which occured on our third patrol. He always his crew in mind and even broke

    radio silence to see if a returning subnmarine could arrange for a rondezvous to pick me up as I was

    diagnosed with acute appendicitis which occured on Jan 12, 1944 with the USS CABRILLA

  7. John DeBellis Says:

    My father in law, TWE “Luke” Bowdler, spoke very highly of Hank, not only as an officer, but as a friend. He was on the first 3 war patrols of the Crevalle as well as the Rasher’s 5th. They all deserve our respect and admiration.

Trackback URL for Memorial Day:


Powered by WordPress (c) 2002-2009 Chap G.