From RON SMITH:
The story of the USS
Seawolf SS-197 memorial.
Early on the U.S. Submarine Veterans
of World War II established as one of their objectives the building of
a memorial to each of the 52 boats lost during the war. Each state picked
one with two left over so a couple of states got two. Texas got the SEAWOLF
In 1963 after a banner National Convention
in Dallas, (the one that Adm. Lockwood attended),
the state group started a downhill slide in membership and interest.
As the State Commander I thought it
might get some renewed interest if we undertook to build the memorial we
had accepted and were obligated to do. I 'ran it up the flagpole' and garnered
some support. We ran a contest for the best design for the monument. My
sons drawing was chosen. A simple rectangle base with a Torpedo on top.
We started talking it up in local papers
in Dallas with the help of Navy PR support, namely LTCMDR Jack Raskopf.
Jack became one of my best friends while working tirelessly for the cause.
The next step was to find a location. Several were mentioned, Dealy Plaza
in Dallas, the State Capital in Austin and the San Jacinto Battleground
State Park just east of Houston.
Nothing had been allowed on this site
since 1919 when the Masonic Order built some columns across the road north
of the great obelisk that rises out of the Texas coastal plains, higher
than the Washinton Monument, that commemorates the Texas victory against
the Mexican Army in 1836. The Battleship TEXAS was also allowed to park
there after WWII.
The Dallas Chapter had grown due to
the publicity we were getting but the Houston Chapter had grown even more.
They promised that they would get donations and free labor to build it
at the San Jacinto Battleground State Park. No small task considering that
only two other structures had been allowed there in it's entire history.
As fate would have it we had some really strong members.
We tried in vain to get into John Connaly
who was Governor of Texas and had recently been the Secretary of the Navy
under LBJ. Ford Motor Company owned Philco at that time and each state
was a separate entity in the sale of Philco products. One of our members,
Bill Rogers, was VP of Philco of Texas. Bill contacted the Ford lobbyist
in the LBJ administration in Washington, DC. Within a week I got a call
from Mike Meyers, Governor Connaly's Adm. Assistant that the governor would
like to meet with us. A time was agreed on and Bill Rogers, Joe Sanger
and I flew to Austin to keep the appointment. We were met at the airport
by Doug Nichols our state Sec/Treas who lived in Austin.
One of my favorite memories of this
was the four of us being ushered into the governor's office with our knees
shaking, until--- THERE ON THE WALL BEHIND JOHN CONNALY'S DESK WAS A HUGE
SET OF DOLPHINS.------ We knew we had it made then.
We told the governor that we wanted
to build this memorial to the USS SEAWOLF SS-197 at the San Jacinto Battleground
State park. He picked up the phone and told his secretary to get the Head
of the Texas Park system into his office. He came in less than five minutes.
Connaly said," Give these men whatever they want". We all shook hands,
thanked them and left.
Within two weeks, with some letters
and phone calls back and forth and a trip to the Battleground to pick the
site, we had a letter from the State of Texas Deeding us one and 1/4 acres
" In perpetuity for the location of a memorial to the USS SEAWOLF".
Led by Paul Stolpman, Houston Chapter President, the memorial was built
with donated material and labor from companies around Houston. We dedicated
it in 1967 with a crowd estimated at over 500 people.
The Seawolf Memorial still stands there,
just off the starboard bow of the Battleship TEXAS proudly telling the
history, accomplishments, and tragic loss of SEAWOLF forever etched
in Bronze. One must walk past it to get to the Battleship TEXAS.
There is no way to estimate the thousands
and thousands of people that have visited this memorial. Each Memorial
Day, U.S. Submarine Veterans of World War II hold a service there, and
now we are joined by our younger brothers from U.S. Submarines Veterans,
Inc. as we honor all submarines and submariners "STILL ON PATROL".
Ron Smith TMM2/C SS