Submarine veterans remember the lost

Representatives of the Topeka-Jefferson City U.S. Submarine Veterans Base salute the American flag during a rendition of the national anthem Saturday.

    Members of the Topeka-Jefferson City U.S. Submarine Veterans Base held a candlelight ceremony at Branson Landing Saturday night to remember the 65 American submarines that have been sunk during wartime.

    During the ceremony, the name of each sub was read, along with the date it sank, the number of sailors who lost their lives when it floundered and the number of sailors who survived.

    After each portion was read,  a bell was rung twice and the veterans conducting the ceremony extinguished an electric candle sitting atop a model submarine on the table before them.

    “That’s to symbolize that it’s no longer with us,” said George Arnold, “chief on boat” of the group. “Its candle has been snuffed out.”

    Although 65 American war submarines have been lost in the nation’s history, the group actually extinguished candles on 66 models. The extra represents the sailors who died in incidents during which the sub itself was not lost, according to the chapter’s base commander, Ed Irwin.

    Irwin said the ceremony, known as “The Tolling of the Boats,” was developed by World War II veterans after that conflict ended.

    “It’s a moving ceremony,” he said. “These men should not be forgotten. We’re just trying to keep the memories of the guys who sacrificed themselves alive.”

    Arnold said the ceremony is both a memorial service and a “celebration.”

    Arnold said this is the group’s second year conducting the event in Branson, but that they have done it all over the country for years.

    “We’re able to do it pretty much every month,” he said.

    Saturday’s ceremony included live music and a rendition of “Taps” by submarine veteran Paul Hobbs.

    Hobbs said he is also a member of Bugles Across America, a nonprofit organization that ensures every military veteran is able to have “Taps” played live at his or her funeral.

    For more information on the Topeka-Jefferson City submarine veterans, visit the groups Web page at ussvi.org/base/Topeka-JeffersonCity.asp.

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