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Elegy for WWII American Submariners on Eternal Patrol

by Pete Gunn

"…by their work and courage, handed down to us a free country. So they gave their bodies to the commonwealth and received, each for his own memory, praise that will never die and with it the grandest of all sepulchers, not that in which their mortal bones are laid, but a home in the minds of men where their glory remains fresh to stir to speech or action as the occasion may require. " Pericles-Funeral oration over the Athenian dead in the Peloponnesian War (430 BC)

The solemn bell tolls the knell of lost boats,
Our heads are bowed in a silent salute,
While the hulls lie resting in ocean's moats
Marking these solemn sites and standing mute.

No orders come from the conning towers;
No seaman will lift his voice to complain;
No mess calls go down; no calls for showers;
Nothing's there to disturb Poseidon's reign.

Ours is the voice that honors the boats by name
And walks hand-in-hand with the ring of the bell.
The names are unique; the bell sings the same Song.
Tell the story-remember them well!

No spark of love fires will again burn,
No children come to seek their father's care,
No sweethearts run to greet the sailor's return,
No wife to steal a kiss, no life to share.

The lives they missed; the sweethearts not wed,
The children not sired, grandchildren not kissed,
The laughter, the love, the kiss on the forehead.
Many years have passed and still they are missed.

What submarines were lost? Ask us-we know
Their hulls lie deep in the depths below.
Our humble charge is to remember them proud.
With reverence, we sing their names out loud.

Shark I, the S-27, Sealion,
The Sculpin, the Capelin, the Scorpion,
The S-28, the Amberjack,
The S-39, and the Grayback,
The Flier, S-44, the Herring,
S-26, S-36, the Grayling,
The Seawolf, the Pickerel, the Darter,
The Golet, the Wahoo, the Harder,
The R-12, the Growler, the Runner,
The Grenadier, the Shark II, the Bonefish,
The Corvina, the Tullibee, the Swordfish,
The Grampus, the Cisco, the Dorado,
The Gudgeon, The Grunion, the Pompano.
The Scamp, the Snook, the Tang, Trigger, the Trout,
The Escolar, the Albacore, the Argonaut,
The Perch, the Kete, Triton, the Rabalo,
The Barbel, The Bullhead, and Lagarto.

The Wall of Honor stands tall and proud
To remind us to rise and tell the crowd.
That every name has a story to tell:
The farm boy from Kansas, the cabby from New Rochelle.

Though embattled, it was not at this Wall they stood.
They fired not one shot heard around the world.
But on the world's oceans they made their stand
And fought the foe on a foreign seastrand.

Reported lost at sea that's all we can tell.
Their spirits forever roam freely there
Washed by times healing grace where they fell.
They're the Sons of Freedom and we're their heirs.

On eternal patrol, they're together all alone.
They lie peaceful at rest; the last watch is done.
We know not where they made their last descent;
This Wall of Honor is their monument.

We stand at the WWII Memorial with pride
And salute you, the submariners who died.
We, your brothers, will not bid you farewell.
Our bell will always toll its faithful knell.

So we toll the bell for you who lie in state
In the oceans deep. It is not your fate
To be forgotten. You are remembered well
With the tolling of our bell, bell, bell, bell.

-- "Pete" Gunn-Jan 2004 USSVI-Groton Base