Andrew Stalma, joined the Navy in June of 1942. The Navy sent him to Boot Camp at Newport,Rhode Island for the usual six weeks. Upon leaving Boot Camp as an Apprentice Seamen, Andy was assigned to Squad VR-3, a DC-3 Air Transport Squadron stationed at Kansas City Naval Air Base. On November 1, 1942, he was promoted to Seamen 2nd Class, while on a DC-3 refueling detail. Because the winters in the Kansas City area were very harsh, Andy decided it was time for a transfer.
He said; "Part of our job was to warm the planes up in the winter, and it was really cold out there. We heard strong rumors that the squad was moving out to Alaska soon. I thought 'man if it is cold here, what is it going to be like in Alaska!' The only transfer I could get was Submarine School, so I took it." The transfer went through, and they sent him to Submarine School at New London, Connecticut on January 16, 1943.
While attending Sub School, he choose a field of expertise in diesel mechanics. May 15, 1943, two days before graduating from diesel school, they promoted Andy to Fireman 3rd Class. They transferred him to Key West, Florida, where he was stationed on the USS R-4 (SS-81) training other men who were foreign naval officers. Many heroic deeds have gone unnoticed during WWII. MoMM 2nd Class Andrew Stalma had this particular experience while stationed at Key West, aboard the USS R-4.
"One of the most memorable things that happened to me in Key West, was in the Engine Room on the R-4. The R-boats were smaller vessels which had only two engines, one one the port and one on the starboard side. Near the port engine, was a large electrical panel, which contained controls and gauges. One day, as we were coming back from a training exercise, a rather nasty short developed in the electrical panel, which caused it to catch fire. I was just an oiler at the time, and my job was to throw out the clutches when we went on battery power, and then shut off the water valves. It was the throttlemen's job, to start and stop the engines whenever needed. At the time of the fire, I was in the engine room by myself. The throttlemen had both the engines running, because we were on our way in to port after having exercises all day. When the panel burst into flames, I hollered toward the after battery compartment, "FIRE IN THE ENGINE ROOM!" Then I shut the engines down, ran back, threw the clutches out, and shut the valves off myself. Next, grabbing a fire extinguisher, I put the fire out. Breathing in the engine room became difficult, because of the CO2 from the fire extinguisher. I went into the battery compartment, and saw that the others had the aft hatch open and had climbed out. I went up the ladder through the hatch and everyone else was topside! I couldn't figure out why nobody came to help me! I guess it was because the R-12 (SS-89) had been lost not to long before that, and the men worried that the same fate awaited us. The Captain on the R-12 had just prepared to let another officer take over the watch. The only ones that were topside were the captain, another officer, a Quarter Master and two Lookouts. The R-12 sank all too fast, and no one other then the men topside made it off her. At first, no one knew what had happened to the R-12 when she went down. Later, we learned that as the captain was about to turn over the watch to the other officer, the collision alarm sounded below. Whatever happened caused the forward battery compartment to flood, and the captain gave the order to blow the main ballast and close the hatches. It all happened so quick, that in a matter of fifteen seconds the R-12 disappeared beneath the sea. I figured they may have thought that one of the outer torpedo doors was shut when it really wasn't. When they opened the hatch on the tube, it would have started to flood the boat. All hands below, a total of forty-two men, were lost in 600 feet of water. They pronounced the cause of the sinking unknown. It may have been that all the men went topside on the R-4 when the fire started, figuring that it would sink also."
Dad was promoted three more times while stationed on the R-4. Firemen 2nd Class, on 10/01/43, Firemen 1st Class on 12/11/43, and Motor Machinist Mate 3rd Class, on 05/01/44. He was stationed at Key West on the R-4 for about one year, and was then transferred to the SS-414 (USS Springer), where he completed three successful war patrols. On November 1, 1944, while on the Springer, they promoted him to Motor Machinist Mate 2nd Class. After the war, when they decommissioned the Springer, dad was transferred to the SS-319 (Becuna) in January of 1946. He was only on the Becuna a few months when his father passed away. They gave him leave to go home to the funeral, and when he returned, the Becuna had already left port. They transferred him to the SS-401 (Sea Dog)on April 9, 1946, where he spent the next two years of his life. Before being discharged, he also spent a small amount of time on the SS-334 (Cabezon). He was discharged at theUnited States Naval Base at Alameda California, with many memories and proudly sporting the following medals and ribbons. RDS
Submarine Combat Insignia with Three Stars
Good Conduct Medal
WWII Victory Medal
Navy Occupation Medal
China Service Medal
Japanese Occupation Ribbon
Asiatic Pacific Ribbon
American Area Ribbon