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Cavs Learn From U.S. Submarine Veterans

US Submarine Veterans Rick Pettit (left) and Jack Jeffries speak to CHS students about their submarine experiences.

Students in Mr. Butch Phaneuf’s 20th Century America class were visited by United States Submarine Veterans Jack Jeffries and Rick Pettit in December. Petitt served on the James Madison and John C. Calhoun - both ballistic missile boats. Jeffries served on the U.S.S. Angler - one of the last diesel boats, and the Nathaniel Greene - a Polaris missile boat. Jeffries was also one decision away from serving on the Scorpion - a fast attack boat that was lost with all hands just after he decided against joining the crew. All these subs with the exception of the Angler were nuclear powered boats. The gentlemen, who are part of the United States Submarine Veterans, Inc., shared many of their experiences with the students.

Senior Will Fussy commented, “Their visit related to what we were doing in class because they were veterans of the war we were learning about. What moved me most was when they told the story about a Russian submarine stuck on the bottom and these guys could have saved them but Russians would not grant them permission and all the men on that sub died.”

America’s submarine Cold Warriors, unlike the Army and Air Force, did not practice against simulated Soviet forces but against actual Soviet submarines on a regular basis - without the Soviet's permission and usually without their knowledge. There are known instances of collisions between U.S. and Soviet submarines, but of course they are officially denied by both governments. These men held the line in the one leg of the nuclear triad for which the Soviets had no real answer.

The veterans told the class that all submariners are a family no matter what country they are from. They also described life on a submarine and the constant learning and training that takes place. They are given special training in what they called “damage control;” repairing leaks and putting out fires, two of the worst threats to submarine life. “I went through fire training and I didn’t like it!” said Pettit. “When you see flames come up your pants, it’s not a good day!”

“We were learning about maritime adventures and they expanded our knowledge of seafaring vessels,” said Emily Plack, sophomore, and senior Nick Benedetto. “We enjoyed learning about their life on the submarines and travels to all the different places.”

The United States Submarine Veterans, Inc. website https://www.ussvi.org/home.asp states their purpose is to "Perpetuate the memory of our shipmates who gave their lives in the pursuit of their duties while serving their country. That their dedication, deeds and supreme sacrifice be a constant source of motivation toward greater accomplishments. Pledge loyalty and patriotism to the United States of America and its Constitution.” The website also gives information about submarines and memorials, veteran membership, a Today In History link, lost boats and boat reunions, and a wall of honor.

Fussy concluded, “What I enjoyed most about the visit from the submariners was that they put stories to the history that we were learning. They helped us put a picture and a more in-depth perspective on the history we were learning.”

Written by: Paula White and Butch Phaneuf
Posted: Jan 10, 2014 by Paula White

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