BANGOR, Wash. (NNS) — Sailors, veterans and civilians attended the “Tolling the Boats” ceremony hosted by Commander, Submarine Group Nine at Deterrent Park at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, May 26.
Originally established by the U.S. Submarine Veterans of World War II, the memorial ceremony honors the submariners who lost their lives in the line of duty. During the ceremony, the names of each of the U.S. submarines lost, along with the fate of its crew, are read aloud as a ship’s bell is tolled.
“We are here today to honor our veterans, to remember their courage and dedication, and to say thank you for those that gave the ultimate sacrifice,” said Cmdr. Paul Reinhardt, commanding officer, USS Alabama (SSBN 731) blue crew. “Tolling of the Boats reminds us of the debt of gratitude we owe to both our departed shipmates and submariners today, who defend our country, while serving silently under the sea.”
The U.S. submarine force suffered the highest percentage of losses of any branch of the armed forces during World War II.
Retired Master Chief Electronics Technician Richard L. Litscher, a member of United States Submarine Veterans, attended the ceremony. “Our credo is built on those who went before us,” Litscher said. “Our purpose is to perpetuate the memory of our shipmates who gave their lives in the pursuit of their duties while serving their country. That their dedication, deeds and supreme sacrifice be a constant source of motivation toward greater accomplishments.” Litscher graduated from boot camp in 1958 and retired after 20 years in the United States Navy. He served onboard multiple submarines including USS Trumpetfish (SS-425).
At the end of the ceremony, the names of the 52 submarines lost during World War II, along with the fate of its crew were read by retired Capt. Bill Rothert and Electronics Technician (Navigation) 1st Class Gerardo Hernandez. Rothert served on five submarines while on active duty from 1961 to 1985. Hernandez recently transferred from USS Texas (SSN-775) and is currently serving as an instructor at the Trident Training Facility in Bangor, Washington.
The “Tolling the Boats” ceremony has been held on Memorial Day weekend since 1977.