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Captain's Story


     Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz recently declared it was one of his greatest regrets that the heroic deeds of united states submarine Crews in sinking four and one-half million tons of Japanese shipping necessarily went unpublished. Today the following story of one California skipper can be told.

Guam, Thursday, May 31, 1945

     If there's any such thing as a "typical" submarine skipper, Commander Russ. Kefauver is probably it. He is quiet spoken, of average build, in his mid-thirties. Kefauver is typical because he shares the Annapolis education that is the background of nearly every sub commander, a knack of finding enemy warships and putting them on the bottom, plus an ability to weld about him a crew that will go through hell for him--because they know he will lead the way.

     Kefauver is the kind of officer who calls enemy ships "jokers" but admits he gets just as scared as his mess stewards when depth charges blast too close.

     Kefauver's wife, Mary, and their three children--one of whom he has never seen--live at 2029 Highland Avenue, Vallejo, California. His father is Colonel L. A. Kefauver, a doctor, of fort Sill, Okla., and his mother is a New York City Health Department Attorney.
Kefauver admits the most exciting moment of his career--and his crewmen add a fervent "amen"--was like the fisherman's--"one he didn't get."

     Tooling in his sleek submarine, as long as a football field, through a heavy fog on prowl for the enemy, Kefauver found himself looking down a destroyer's throat when the fog suddenly lifted. Philo "Squeaky" Nendick, Quartermaster Second Class, of Fefgus Falls, Minn., was on deck when it happened. "I saw his gun barrels raise and the turrets turning our way." said Nendick. "I hauled for the hatch. I guess he wasn't a thousand yards away."


     Kefauver pitched a couple of torpedoes at the Jap. They missed, but threw off the enemy gunners enough to give Kefauver a chance to dive to the safety of deep water. Then began an excellent cross-section of just what depth-charging can mean, with everybody just "holding on." Motor Machinist Mate Second Class, Andrew Stalma, New Castle Pennsylvania, in the Forward Engine Room  said: "Why it seemed like a hundred depth charges came down on us". Signalmen Second Class James Kirkland, Portland Oregon, on watch at a control wheel said: "I guess my fingerprints are still on that wheel." In the After Torpedo Room, Fireman First Class A. E. Frappier, Saugus, Mass., and Electrician Second Class F. U. Teague, Granite Falls, N.C., "just sat waiting--plenty scared" while shoes from the overhead rack tumbled down on them.


     But like every tough spot where Americans are concerned, somebody's humor cut the tension. this time S. G. Hager, Ashland, Kentucky, a red-bearded Radio Technician Second Class, did it for the Control Room boys. Hager heaved a mock sigh when the thunderous deluge of the explosions stopped, complaining "he got away." In moments like that everybody swears to himself that he will never make another
war patrol--but they change their mind again in pleasure of the toughest kind of job well done, like the time Kefauver  surfaced his sub in the midst of an oil slick that had been a Jap warship a few minutes earlier.


     That too, occurred on a hazy day and again Kefauver found himself staring through his periscope at an enemy vessel approaching dead ahead. "Commence firing!" Kefauver ordered, then slammed down his periscope for a minute or two wait "that seemed like a week" until the "fish" hit or silence says they missed. "There was a real whoom that time" Kefauver said. When he went up again for a look, the vessel was gone. Then, as in his custom, he gleefully told his boys over the loudspeaker: "We've done it again!"


     And it was Fireman First Class William Katt, an 18 year old, 245 pound, six-foot-four husky, who went over the side in chilling water to bring back proof off the kill. Katt stroked through the oil slick to retrieve a pair of oars. Boys like Katt and like Motor Machinist Mate First Class J. R. Clint, San Diego, Calif., make up the sub crews. The boys in Commander Kefauver's crew still tell about the time Clint pulled Machinist Mate first Class Roland Sirois, Waterbury Conn., to safety when a wave left Sirois dangling in the water by a slim hand hold off of Japan's shore.

     It's boys like these who have sunk over 1,100 Japanese ships. They are the ones who put real meaning in the rollicking submarine song which boasts; "We'll cause a commotion, down under the ocean, when we hit that Nipponese shore."