BREMERTON — Atop a case of coffee mugs inside the USS Bremerton’s wardroom, Richard O’Kane’s famed cribbage board plays on.
Like many submariners past and present, the World War II hero, as accomplished as any American submarine commander in history, played his share of cribbage. But during a particularly perilous mission aboard the USS Wahoo in 1943 — the sub heading to shallow, unknown parts of the Yellow Sea — he and sub commander Dudley “Mush” Morton started a game of cribbage. According to an article by local Navy League, it not only took the tension off but it served as an omen: O’Kane got a “perfect 29” hand.
The next ship he commanded, the USS Tang, ultimately sank, though it had managed on one patrol to sink more Japanese ships than any other during the war. Only nine, including O’Kane, survived, according to Navy records.
The next incarnation of the Tang presented O’Kane with a cribbage board that is used to this day, currently aboard the Bremerton.
The study board has been passed to the oldest submarine in the Pacific Fleet. O’Kane died in 1994. It has been aboard the USS Parche, the most highly decorated vessel in U.S. history — whose sail now sits outside the Naval Museum in downtown Bremerton — and the USS Los Angeles, which was decommissioned in 2011.
Thereafter, it was placed aboard the Bremerton, whose crew uses it often.
“We play on it. We figure he would have wanted us to,” said Commander Wes Bringham, captain of the Bremerton.
There, it will stay for roughly two more years, until the Bremerton herself is decommissioned.