GROTON, Conn. – The Holland Club inducted 51 new members in a ceremony held in Dealey Theater onboard Naval Submarine Base (SUBASE) New London, recognizing half a century of qualification in submarines, June 1.

The Holland Club, named after John P. Holland, designer of the first U.S. Navy submarine, is an exclusive group within the U.S. Submarine Veterans Organization (SUBVETS) for veterans who have been qualified in submarines for 50 years or longer.

Commander, Undersea Warfighting Development Center, Rear Admiral Leonard "Butch" Dollaga was the guest speaker and presented the induction certificates to the new members. Seated in the theater balcony were students from Naval Submarine School (SUBSCOL), proudly wearing their dress white uniforms. At the end of the ceremony, the students rose to attention and recited the Sailors Creed in unison. Holland Club members said it was inspiring to see young men and women preparing to entire the world’s greatest submarine fleet.

"It reminds me of when I walked around here when I was in submarine school," said Machinist’s Mate (Nuclear) 1st Class Philip ‘PQ’ Johnson, a newly-inducted Holland Club member. "They’ve got excellent careers ahead, depending on what they want to put into it they’ll get out of it plus a thousand. They’ll learn a lot about life, a lot about how to dedicate, how to be accountable, how to take care of business, and take protect your fellow shipmates."

Johnson shared one of his favorite memories during his service in which he visited the North Pole and beheld arctic sunlight.

"One of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life was when we went up to the North Pole," said Johnson. "And we surfaced at the North Pole. We got off the boat, we had a barber pole with us, we also had a case of beer we snuck up with us. We popped the lids on it and it was slush! We licked the beer. It was minus 40 degrees! But the most beautiful thing I saw was while we were running under the ice. The ice was about five foot thick, and we scoped up through the sun. We saw all these colors I’ve never seen. We go in the con—I was always in engineering spaces, being an engineer—we go in the con and they allowed us to look through the periscope. Looking through that periscope and seeing that prism of light was just an awesome of sight."

A notable feature of the event was the attendance of three World War II veterans, two of whom, Motor Machinists 2nd Class Anthony Enos and Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class Donn Law, received certificates of achievement recognizing them for 75 years of submarine qualification from U.S. Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-2). A third, Radioman 3rd Class Cecil Burner, was inducted into the Holland Club and recounted some of his adventures in the Pacific War serving on USS Segundo (SS 398).

"We captured the Japanese submarine 401 and we took it to Tokyo harbor for the surrender," said Burner, who enlisted at age 15 by faking his birth certificate. "Then Admiral Fillmore put his flag on it and took it to Pearl Harbor! That carries a lot of weight. I was on radar duty that night when we picked it up. I could not figure out what the devil it was, because we’d never seen anything like it before. It had three seaplanes inside it. It was a submarine aircraft carrier! The only one in the world."

Submariners undergo rigorous training and experience things few other people do. Because of this they think of their community as a brotherhood in which one who becomes a Submariner is always a Submariner. Submarine crews are small and tight-knit, Sailors who serve together often become life-long friends and stay in touch, often in organizations such as SUBVETS or the Holland Club.

Connecticut Media Group