Friday, May 05, 2006

Memorial Service to Honor USS Lagarto Crew

Families of crew members serving on the ill-fated World War II submarine USS Lagarto (SS 371) will gather May 6 in Manitowoc, Wis., to honor the men whose submarine went missing six decades ago and was only recently located by divers. Rear Adm. Jeffrey B. Cassias, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet's submarine force, will serve as the keynote speaker at the ceremony held at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc, where Lagarto was built. Jamie MacLeod, a British wreck diver who located the Lagarto wreck in the Gulf of Thailand last year, will also be on hand.
USS Lagarto (SS 371)
For 60 years, crew members' families did not know the exact circumstances surrounding the 86 submariners who perished. Lagarto was last heard from May 3, 1945, as it was preparing to attack a Japanese convoy under heavy escort. Japanese war records later revealed that the minelayer Hatsutaka reported sinking a U.S. submarine at roughly the same time and location. In May 2005, MacLeod and a group of commercial divers found Lagarto in the Gulf of Thailand sitting upright in 225 feet of water. A large rupture in the port side bow area confirmed that Lagarto had apparently been struck by a depth charge. But there was something else that MacLeod's team noticed that caught their attention: an open torpedo tube door, with an empty torpedo tube. It seemed to suggest that Lagarto had gone down fighting.62-year old Arthur H. Keeney III of Engelhard, N.C., said the discovery of Lagarto has given him a new connection to a father he never knew. "It has made my father's high school and Academy yearbooks and other family memorabilia more alive and personal," said Keeney. "Moreover, I'm pleased for my mother, who, now 84, can reflect on the earlier stages of her life when Bud was part of it." Keeney said he�s looking forward to meeting with other Lagarto family members at the upcoming ceremony. "I will truly enjoy meeting other people, particularly the children, who are kin to other Sailors who knew my father and who also gave their lives in service to our country," he said. Sailors from the staff of Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, have flown U.S. flags over the World War II Submarine Memorial at Pearl Harbor for this event. Cassias will present the flags to family members at the May 6 ceremony. "We owe a great debt to these men, and to all of the World War II submariners," said Cassias. "In the world's darkest hour, they faced the greatest risks and demonstrated the most noble courage to preserve the freedom of our nation." Last May, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle signed a proclamation making May 3, the day the submarine was presumed sunk, as USS Lagarto Remembrance Day in perpetuity. Museum personnel are making plans to record oral histories of veterans and the surviving family members. Lagarto was one of 52 submarines lost on patrol during World War II.

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