GROTON, Conn. – Naval Submarine Base (SUBASE) New London honored those who fought in two of World War II’s pivotal battles in a wreath laying event held aboard Historic Ship Nautilus (SSN 571), June 5.
The ceremony marked the 77th anniversary of the Battle of Midway and the D-Day invasion, two battles that turned the tide of the war for the United States and its allies. A special guest in attendance at the event was Jessica Hoadley, daughter of Master Chief Deen Brown, who served aboard USS Trout (SS 202) during the Battle of Midway.
"On May 29, 1942 in the days just before the epic battle that would become known as the Battle of Midway, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander-in-chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, wrote to Admiral Ernest J. King, the commander-in-chief, U.S. Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations," said Lt. Cmdr. Brad Boyd, officer-in-charge of Historic Ship Nautilus (SSN 571). "He relayed, and I’ll quote it: ‘We are actively preparing to greet our expected visitors with the kind of reception they deserve.’ That reception that Admiral Nimitz spoke of and the action of the Sailors and Marines who provided it, is one of our Nation's great World War II stories."
SUBASE New London Command Master Chief Raj Sodhi stepped up to the lectern to share Brown’s story with those in attendance.
"In June 1942, Deen Brown was a junior Radioman stationed aboard USS Trout (SS 202)," said Sodhi. "He had no idea that the three-day Battle of Midway, the turning point in the Pacific during WW II, would commence, June 4 at four in the morning. He knew only that as Trout left Pearl Harbor for Midway, just two of the submarine’s four engines were online. Trout continued to provide screening west of the island and the crew had their work cut out for them. The radiomen had to copy 25 words per minute of Morse code. No easy feat according to Master Chief Brown. This year Master Chief Brown has crossed the bar. We fondly remember his service and that of his shipmates seventy-seven years ago. They made the sacrifice that secured our Nation’s freedom and world peace, and left an enduring legacy for all of us to follow."
SUBASE New London Commanding Officer Capt. Todd Moore spoke of the high stakes in those early days of the war and the threat the Axis Powers posed to the United States and other democratic nations. Moore said in trying times the U.S. Armed Forces rose to the task and took the fight to the enemy.
"On December 7, 1941, when the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by Naval and Air Forces of the Empire of Japan, Nazi Germany was already waging war in Europe," said Moore. "Our Nation, much of the world and the very ideals of freedom and democracy were in peril. The attack on Pearl Harbor thrust us from a Nation on edge under isolationism, to become the world’s ‘Arsenal of Democracy.’ Communities came together as our country mobilized to meet the challenge of war, and our Armed Forces rushed to be both sword and shield."
At the climax of the ceremony, Moore and Sodhi escorted Hoadley to the brow of Nautilus to lay a wreath in the Thames River in memory of her father and other WWII veterans who have also passed away. Following the wreath laying, the trio stood at attention, Moore and Sodhi saluting, Hoadley with her hand over her heart, as the West Side Middle School band played "Taps." After the ceremony’s conclusion, the official party cut two cakes, one in honor of the Battle of Midway and the other honoring D-Day.
"The Navy was really his life," said Hoadley of her father. "He was in for 20 years and I think the War changed all those men who fought in it. He stayed very involved and in these ceremonies. He came here every year for this. He was very proud that he had gone from a farmer in Missouri to a Navy man."
Hoadley added her father was an important member of his community and stayed a part of the submarine community even after he ended active duty.
"He was a very proud man but he didn’t really talk much about the Navy personally, but from a more global perspective," said Hoadley. "He came over here to the Nautilus and gave lots of talks to the Sailors at the base. He worked at EB for 20 years, working in miniaturizing equipment for submarines. But honestly, none of us knew what my father did there. It was all secret to us! As the veterans got older, many of their minds and bodies were going, but my father had his health and mind up to the end. He would be 97 this week."
The events of World War II are now three quarters of a century removed from us, but the stories from those days and the epic men who fought and sometimes died in that war still remain fresh in America’s collective memory. Even as Master Chief Brown and his generation fade away, their sons and daughters like Hoadley and others carry on their legacy.