Members of the local Wahoo Base Chapter of the U.S. Submarine Veterans Inc. will be guests of honor at a celebration honoring the 114thth anniversary of the U.S. Navy submarine force from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday, April 9 at Fresno State.
The free, public event will be near the university’s U.S. Submarine Memorial, located on the Maple Mall, south of the Satellite Student Union, where 65 tulip trees stand in commemoration of the crews of lost U.S. submarines.
The ceremony will include a procession across campus by the veterans and students led by the Air Force ROTC and a tolling of the lost vessels. The submarines’ names, how they were lost and the number of men lost are announced by students as a bell is tolled. A marker at the base of each tulip tree also presents this information.
The submarine force had the highest loss of any Navy unit. One of every five men serving on operating submarines lost his life.
In celebration of the anniversary, 114 small American flags will be displayed to recognize the founding of the submarine force in 1900 and a veteran will cut a commemorative cake using a ceremonial sword.
In 2002, Fresno State was the first university in the nation to create a memorial honoring lost submarines and crew members. Fifty-four tulip trees were planted along the Maple Mall honoring 52 U.S. submarines and 3,505 men who were lost in World War II and two other submarines and 228 men lost since 1945.
The United States Submarine Veterans of World War II and the Wahoo Base of the United States Submarine Veterans Inc. sponsored that inaugural observance along with Fresno State.
In 2003, tribute was paid to the first five American submarines lost in the 20th century with five more trees. In 2004, the university dedicated six more tulip trees to honor six lost submarines and crew members.
A granite marker sits at the south end of the mall, just outside the Joyal Administration Building where Wednesday’s ceremony will be held. The inscription reads:
“These trees are dedicated to the memory of those United States Navy Submarines who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we might live in freedom.”
The event will begin with a procession of colors by the Air Force ROTC from the Free Speech Area near the Henry Madden Library past the Memorial Fountain located in Memorial Court to the mall between the Speech Arts and Joyal buildings. The submarine veterans and students will join in the procession and the public is invited to participate in the memorial march.
The ceremony will conclude with a cake cutting by the oldest and youngest qualified submariners present.
“The oldest passes a piece to the youngest to represent passing tradition and knowledge from one generation to another,” said Robyn Gutierrez, coordinator of the Veterans Services office at Fresno State, a co-sponsor with University Student Union Productions and the Student Veterans Organization with the Wahoo Base Chapter.
Lori Alamano, administrative assistant to the chief of the Fresno State Police Department, will sing the National Anthem and Bernie Vinovrski, vice president of Enrollment Services, will provide the welcome.
Guests can enter a raffle for free admission to the National Historic Landmark, the USS Pampanito, docked at Pier 45 of Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.
For more information, contact Jonathan Rumsey, president of the Student
Veterans Organization, at email@example.com.
(University Communications news assistant Ashlie Day contributed to this report.)