In 1998 I joined the U.S. Navy and took the job as a Submarine Sonar Technician. My first submarine was the USS Louisiana (SSBN-743) Gold. An SSBN type of submarine has two crews, a Blue and a Gold, and each crew has the boat for approximately 100 days or so. I was assigned to the Gold crew.
The Sonar Chief on the Blue crew was Chief John Bishop. Now the reason I am talking about Chief Bishop in this Memorial Day post is because Chief Bishop lost his father on a submarine that never returned home. On June 5th, 1968 the USS Scorpion was declared lost at sea. It was later determined that she sank on May 22nd of the same year. All 99 members of her crew were lost. Chief John Bishop’s father was among the crew that was lost. Chief Walter Bishop was not just any crew member though. He was the Chief of the Boat or as we call them, COB. The COB is the senior enlisted person on the boat and answers directly to the Commanding Officer and is basically a liaison between the enlisted community and the Commanding Officer.
When Chief John Bishop was selected the be advanced to the rank of Chief Petty Officer a ceremony was held for the “pinning”. The pinning is when a newly selected Chief gets his/her anchors pinned on. At the pinning ceremony John’s wife Darlene took his shiny set of dolphins (submarine warfare pin) off his chest and replaced them with an older, more tarnished set of dolphins. This is significant because as it turns out, this older set of dolphins actually had once belonged to John’s dad, Chief Walter Bishop.
On or about May 19th, 1968 Scorpion and her crew pulled in to Spain and three crew members disembarked the boat and flew back to the US. One of those crew members had recently qualified in submarines and the COB had given him his set of dolphins as is sometimes customary, kind of like passing the torch.
When I first heard this story I was amazed at how those dolphins found their way back to the son of the man who once wore them. From thousands of miles, hundreds of feet below the surface and after nearly forty years, those dolphins returned home and were once again being worn by a Chief Bishop.
As we celebrate this Memorial Day this year. I would ask that you pick one family to think about each year who has been affected by the loss of a soldier or sailor. By doing this it will give this holiday much more meaning.
To the crew of the USS Scorpion I say rest in peace men. Fair winds and fowling seas.
Happy Memorial Day!