Local Navy Club members tour U.S.S. Requin along with cross-state counterparts from Phila.
September 6, 2011
"Imagine having to sleep under a torpedo!"
"Imagine having to sleep under a torpedo!"
Members of the local chapter of the Navy Club recently visited a submarine, the U.S.S. Requin, which first became active in 1945. They were amazed at how cramped the living quarters were.
"They actually had racks (beds) under the torpedoes," Jim Bruder, of Carrick, commander of the local chapter, said.
"I don't know if I could have handled such close quarters for a long period of time. They had limited space and none of it was used for décor. It all was to get the job done. It took a special breed of person to operate on a submarine every day," said Nick Kravec, Navy Club member, of Baldwin borough.
"They were really boxed in. You couldn't have big guys on it," said member William Flail, of Lavelle, Pa., who belongs to a club chapter near his home.
There were nine visitors to the sub that day.
Mr. Bruder's chapter meets at 7:10 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month at VFW Post 1810 in Brentwood. The Navy Club is perhaps less well known than the American Legion or VFW and generally does not own buildings to be used as meeting places. It was chartered in 1940 and local chapters are called "ships" – like Jim's chapter, Navy Ship 720.
There were visitors from all over the state that day for what was called a "squadron" meeting to discuss bylaw changes and upcoming events. The visit to the sub was arranged as entertainment.
@"Today we have bigger subs and obviously a higher level of technology," Mr. Kravec said.
The Requin never actually engaged in combat. In September, 1963 it made its 5,000th dive. It was decommissioned in 1968.
Richard Busby, who, as Smacky the Clown, entertains children at throughout South Pittsburgh, was making children from other tours laugh that day. "He announced that he was selling the sub and asked everyone to get their bids in," Bruder said.
The group got to explore unrestored compartments and each had a peek through the periscope.
There are 27 members in the local club which was started in 2006. "We are a bunch of guys who have been there and done that," Mr. Kravec said. "We know the hatch from the head. We understand what we are saying, although others may not."
The group voices opinions to Congress, helps recruit sailors, visits hospitals and senior citizen facilities and helps charitable organizations.
The club's biggest claim to fame is in the mid-50s members dedicated the first memorial by any veterans' group in honor of those killed in the line of duty at Pearl Harbor, perhaps inspiring other organizations to create memorials, Mr. Bruder said.
Mr. Bruder is the state's senior executive officer and junior executive officer for the national organization. He served on a carrier during his tour of duty and worked for 25 years for Port Authority in the shipping and receiving department.
Another retiree, Mr. Flail, worked for 36 years as a car inspector/mechanic for a railroad. He was on a command ship during his time in the Navy in the mid-60s.
Mr. Kravec, an attorney, was on a destroyer from 1975 to 1979 and spent 16 years in the Reserves.
He likes visiting the Southwest Veterans' Home where he and his colleagues organize bingos. "We brighten the days for these guys. You come away with a good feeling. We would like to do more for similar places but the money isn't there from the dues."
Both Mr. Kravec and Mr. Bruder are concerned about the decline in membership which had reached a peak of 53 in 2006.
"Today's veterans are raising kids and doing family stuff. Less dues limits the amount of community service our club can do. We need fresh blood," Mr Kravec said.
Mr. Bruder is considering visiting malls to recruit membership. Mr. Kravec would like to have the club, perhaps with the help of another organization, sponsor an essay-writing contest in local schools and offer a cash prize.
Those interested in learning more about the club can contact Mr. Bruder at 412-884-0230 or 412-916-7466. Membership is offered to those who served in the Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Seabees. It costs $20. An associate membership costing $15 is for those who served in another branch of the service.