Posted by: arbeam | March 18, 2013

USS Triton SS-201 Ship’s Bell

Triton BellWhen USS TRITON (SS-201) was lost in 1943, her bell was not on board. But for decades no one knew exactly where it was. In a 26 April 2011 story in the Virginian-Pilot entitled “Missing for Decades, World War II Sub’s Lost Bell Surfaces,” Kate Wiltrout describes its recovery.

“Rhonda Savage was always curious about the brass submarine bell.

“Inscribed ‘U.S.S. Triton,’ it was the centerpiece of a handmade, glass-topped end table in a relative’s home near Reno, Nev. Visitors weren’t supposed to ring it, but sometimes they couldn’t help themselves. The shiny artifact beckoned. “Thanks to Savage’s curiosity, the 14-inch diameter bell—technically government property, missing for more than four decades—is once again in proper hands.

“An Internet search Savage did last month turned up a 2-year-old Virginian-Pilot story about the missing Triton bell and the efforts of former crew members to find it. Within days, Savage, who lives in Bakersfield, Calif., had gotten in touch with Harold Weston in Virginia Beach.

“Weston, 79, is a retired master chief petty officer who served as chief of the boat on the second Triton, a nuclear-powered sub that in 1960 became the first submerged vessel to circumnavigate the Earth.

“He had been searching for the bell for years. It had special significance because it came from an earlier submarine named Triton that was sunk by the Japanese in the Pacific Ocean in March 1943, with 74 crewmen aboard.

“The first Triton didn’t have its original bell when it sank. According to lore, the U.S. Navy removed them all after the attack on Pearl Harbor. That lessened the risk of a bell accidentally ringing and giving away the sub’s position to enemy ships.

“That made the bell a powerful symbol for Weston’s Cold War crew. When the nuclear submarine reached the vicinity of the Admiralty Islands, near where the first Triton likely was sunk, the crew fired three water slugs, simulating live torpedoes, in salute. They tolled the original bell, now with the second Triton, to honor the Triton sailors who never came home.

“Jeanine Allen, who was 3 years old in 1943 when her father died aboard the Triton, has long wanted to see the bell. She’s certain her father, who was a chief torpedoman’s mate, touched the bell many times during his service aboard the submarine. She wanted to touch it, too.

“Reading about Allen, Savage knew she had to get the bell back to the Navy. She contacted Weston and told him retrieving it might be tricky. Its owner, a former Navy reservist who served aboard a submarine tender in the 1960s, might not be willing to part with it. And she didn’t want him to know she was the one who’d revealed the bell’s location.

“Weston didn’t care how the man had come into possession of the bell; he just wanted it back. So he and a retired admiral who’d once served on the Triton drafted a letter to Savage’s contact. We know you have the bell, they wrote. It’s government property. Please return it so it can be displayed in the Triton barracks at Great Lakes Naval Station in Illinois.

“The man agreed to give up the bell. On Saturday, Robert Rawlins, a former Triton commanding officer, drove from his Northern California home to the outskirts of Reno to retrieve the bell. “He will hold it until next year’s Triton reunion, then ensure it’s displayed at Great Lakes, where enlisted sailors go through boot camp.

“ ‘The opportunity these people will have to actually see the bell for the first time, and to be able to touch a piece of history, is just an amazing thing,’ Savage said. ‘You can’t really put it into words; there’s going to be so much emotion. I’m just glad it’s going to be going home, and it’s going to be in the right hands.’ ”

“Weston couldn’t be happier. He hopes Savage will attend next year’s reunion as an honored guest. And he can’t wait to watch Allen finally rest her fingers on the same cold brass that her father touched decades ago. “ ‘My efforts were for her,’ ” Weston said.

Note: On 17 May 2012 TRITON’s bell was formally welcomed into its new home at Great Lakes. Sadly, Jeanine Allen, who had so wanted to touch the bell, passed away in March, although she did know the bell had been found. But Allen would certainly agree with 95-year-old Elna McKenzie Roop who lost her husband and the father of her first two children, Torpedoman 1st Class Lloyd McKenzie when TRITON went down. “It has brought a lot of closure,” she said.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: