Spritz Navy

The crew of the Scorpion submarine were trained in the school of Charlie Spritz. Below are some memories of “Spritz Navy”.

The following is dedicated to my Dad and all of his shipmatcs who sacrificed their lives in United States Navy Submarines during World War II ...
by Lorie F. Allen

The “Volunteers” of Spritz’s Navy

An average of 9 out of every 107 applicants were accepted for two weeks of preliminary testing at the Navy’s National Submarine Training School in New London. Connecticut.(I) Of that select group of nine, 25 to 30% were rejected before the program began, based upon tests given to determine who was physically and mentally fit for submarine duty.(2) Vision tests (night vision being crucial) were first to be passed. Finally, there were many physically demanding tests. One was enduring 55 pounds of pressure (three times that of sea level) in a tiny chamber designed to simulate a submarine at a depth of 100 feet, amid a sizzling 130 degrees. Glistening with sweat, the men would swallow hard, popping their ears. The heat made breathing difficult, increasing the psychological strain. Any sign of panic or undue stress, led to failure. The last and one of the most rigorously stressful of the physical tests was a 100’ ascent from the bottom of the submarine escape towcr, (where two voluntccrs had died) involving thc disciplined and proper use of the “Momsen Lung”. The “water works tests” caused many not to be selected when they exhibited signs of panic or lack of discipline. Before the war, only 200 were enrolled at the Submarine School at any given time.

The training school master was Chief Torpedoman Charles Spritz, a former Bronx policeman, a veteran master diver and the navy’s version of the marine master sergeant. Spritz expected impeccable grooming and regulation clothing at all times. In addition to universal military disciplines while on assigmuent, no smoking or talking were allowed. There was no standing, sitting, or walking anywhere on the basc. Every move was in fast time, and in the words of one of the instructors, “The way he ran that place was like a concentration camp.”(2)

He never married, didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, and he devoted his life to governing the daily routines of the trainees and other CPO instructors themselves mostly 20 year veterans of deep sea diving and submarines. Many were convinced that he had gone a little crazy alter a deep-sea diving accident in the 1930s, and it seems he was universally hated for his constant haranguing and punishments dealt for the slightest infractions of rules.

Spnitz would blare axioms until they were fixed in the subconscious: “Around here there’s only one daily prayer—you’ll commit it to memory: ‘0 Lord, help us to keep our big mouths shut until we know what we are talking about!’.. .There is room for anything on a submarine--except a mistake.”(3) Learning to use all the complicated equipment is extremely difficult, as is learning to work together; so is the captain’s task of welding his 75 man crew into a fighting unit. The successful submarine is one in which teamwork is perfect, and only practice creates this teamwork.(4)

Although most graduated from New London detesting Spritz, the teamwork he achieved was a major factor in the success of submarines in days to come. Said one veteran, “He molded into us the discipline needed.”, and another, “He instilled fear into those he commanded. but only that fear of making a mistake that could cost not only your life but all the lives of your ship-mates.”(3)

This rather small pool of volunteers who passed the preliminary tests and made it into the program had to meet exceedingly tough criteria. They had to possess a certain work ethic and I.Q.. One submariner said. “Two-thirds of my company were college grads or had gone to college for two or three years. The Navy was looking for someone who would study and who was devoted to duty.”(3) Each enlisted had to be studious and capable of committing to memory every one of the thousands of valves, gears, pipes, switches, and hatches inside the complex underseas war-ships. Lectures and assignments kept lights burning into the night, as the men devoured such 200-page tomes as “Submarine Operations”, “Diesel Engines”, “Electricity”, “Submarine Tactical Instructions”, “Storage Batteries”, and “Torpedoes”. In school laboratories, every man spent exhaustive hours tearing down and putting together practically every item making up a submarine. Each had to draw from memory accurate diagrams of more than thirty electrical. mechanical, and pneumatic systems in the boats. Each also had to train unerringly to perform not only his own specialty aboard but that of every other crewman, with precision. Thus, even the sub’s cook had to be able to fire a torpedo, to start an engine, and to dive the submarine. That ability at times could spell the difference between disaster and safety for the vessel. Every Monday morning, each trainee took written tests; any who failed two exams, or showed an inability to learn rapidly enough, were quietly returned to the surface fleet. Every week, someone else would be missing. This mechanical aptitude was only one characteristic of the “typical submariner” being sought by the Navy.(3)

Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, a WWI submariner who rose to commander-in-chief of the Pacific sub fleet during World War II, said. “The tasks of diving, attack and surfacing take scores of interlocking motions by dozens of crewmen with split-second timing, but more is required of submariners. They must be alert without being brittle, interested in their shipmates without being nosy, respect privacy without being reclusive, talk without being gabby, and be friendly without being tail-waggers --- in short, round pegs for very closely machined round holes. The wrong kind of man aboard a sub can be an insufferable thorn in the sides of shipmates. He can, emotionally, cause almost as much damage as an enemy depth bomb .... In no other branch of military service are men required to remain away from normal human contacts as long as submariners assigned to lengthy patrols that demand long hours --- sometimes days at depths far below the least glimmer of sunlight and far away from the natural feel and smell of natural air. Moreover, these conditions must be endured with good cheer in overcrowded, sometimes ill-smelling, dew-dripping, steel compartments. Those whose tempers or temperaments cannot stand the strain are soon eliminated.” Teamwork was paramount, and a unique camaraderie normally existed within sub crews, as well as a mystique about this elite cadre of men on secret missions, sailors who under no circumstances could discuss their operational orders.(3)

So rigorous was the selection and training process for Submarine School, during the course of World War II, only 2,000 officers and 22,000 enlisted volunteers, highly qualified men, graduated from “Spritz’s Navy”, out of over 250,000 men who had applied for entry into the Navy’s Silent Service. (2), (5)

Just as mysterious as their service were most of their deaths. Most of the underseas sailors who never came back vanished completely. For the years since WWII, the nation has known little of the sacrifice of these gallant submariners, including the living and those still Missing In Action. Much of their work remained “classified” until only a few years ago. From a percentage point of view. six submariners died for every non-submariner killed in action, and only a handful of survivors lived to tell about our submariners lost in battle.(3)

In the annals of United States military history, few were more courageous, none took more risk, none suffered a higher casualty rate and none had the devastating effect on the enemy’s morale as did the U.S. Navy’s Silent Service in World War II. These men were unlike the crews of any other naval vessels. No naval career was as dangerous. For years after the war, the nation knew little of the sacrifice of these men, but they never objected and never claimed to be owed anything. Rather, they remained within the code of their service long after the war(3) -- in silent tribute to their lost shipmates after fighting the greatest undersea war in history

Lloyd Charles McKenzie, a veteran of the U.S.S. Stewart (DD-224) in the Asiatic Navy, graduated third in his class, of 18 men, from Chief Sprilz’s Submarine School in New London, April 15, 1940. He was assigned to the U.S.S. TRITON, a new class of U.S. submarine with many annotations, becoming a member of her initial crew. After her commissioning in August, 1940, TRITON was transferred to the Pacific to be in the forefront of the Navy’s defense efforts before the attack on Pearl Harbor. He remained with TRiTON, part of her battle-wise crew, until she fell to depth charges in combat with three Japanese destroyers on her sixth war patrol, March 15, 1943. TRITON and crew rest at a depth of 18,000 feet. in the Pacific. in the Caroline Basin, north of the island of New Guinea.

U.S.S. TRITON is credited with having destroyed 18 ships of the Japanese Empire and damaging 6 others before her loss.(6) TRITON is also credited as being the first United States submarine to sink a Japanese ship by deck gun in World War II. Lloyd McKenzie was “first loader” of that deck gun crew. According to a living surviving TRITON shipmate who was not assigned to TRITON’s final war patrol, Lloyd McKenzie was promoted to Chief Torpedoman, and thrown into the Brisbane River as part of his initiation to TMC, two days before the departure for that fatal sixth war patrol. No official U.S. Navy record of his promotion to TMC has ever been found.

Lloyd McKenzie is one of 3617 submarine shipmates, on 52 U.S. submarines, from World War II, who remain on eternal patrol. They are in the unending line of patriots that have defended our nation with their lives so that we might live in a free country. Americans must always remember that our Freedom has not been established without an extremely high cost.

Their resting places are known only to the almighty.


(1) Torpedoman, Ron Smith, U.S.S. Seal, SS-183, 1990.

(2) United States Submarine Memorial and Library, Groton, Connecticut, 1995.

(3) Back From the Deep, Carl LAVO, U.S. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, p. viii, pp 11-24, 1994.

(4) Victory at Sea - The Submarine, The Ridge Press, Incorporated, New York, New York, p. 23, pp 57-58, 1959.

(5) Navy & Marine Corps World War H Commemorative Committee Report, Summer 1995, p. 13.

(6) U.S. Submarine Attacks During World War II, John 0. Alden, United States Naval Institute Press, 1989.


SUNDAY, DEC. 14, 1975

EMBERS OF faded memories glow anew whenever those congregate who served in the United States Submarine Service during World War II, inevitably the talk turns to New London, Conn.. and “Spritz’ Navy”.

Spritz’ Navy, a navy within the U.S. Navy, ranked among the most unusual in seafaring annals, it never put to sea, It never fired a shot, it offered about as much romance as a bowl of cold mush, and was commanded with an autocracy approaching despotism by a chief petty officer--a non-commissioned enlisted man. Yet, Spritz’ Navy represented one of the finest assemblages of fighting men in the world, holding forth on American submarines beneath the swells of the Pacific from Honshu to Singapore and Cutch Harbor to Australia.

As “admiral” of Spritz’ Navy, Chief Torpedoman’s Mate Charles

(Charley) Spritz was responsible for indoctrinating, approving and assembling more than 20,000 enlisted men into classes for submarine schooling.

My introduction to the skipper of Spritz Navy occurred in early summer 1944. I was a 17-year-old seaman, and, like all others who serve in submarines, had volunteered for duty, passed preliminary physical and psychological tests, and was sent with 11 others for schooling to the U.S. Submarine Base at New London.

None of us knew Spritz. And none of us was aware of Spritz’ Navy until the driver of the Navy bus that met us at the train in New London to take us to the base referred to it wryly, but with a trace of empathy.

Before the bus had rolled to a stop in front of the base administration building, a stern-faced chief petty officer in his early 50s seemed to materialize on the landing in the bus doorway and a raspy, guttural bellow echoed the length of the nearly empty vehicle.

“End of the line, sailors! Grab your gear and fall in on the sidewalk, facing the flagpole!”

No one had to introduce us. We knew we had just made Spritz’ acquaintance.

We stood at attention while Spritz walked the length of the line, stopping before each man and eyeing him from white hat to shoe soles. Occasionally. he turned and spoke to a yeoman second class, who was to be ever-present with his paper-filled clipboard during our tour of duty in Spritz’s Navy, always standing a pace behind the chief, like a shadow.

"You men came here to learn to be submarine sailors,” Spritz barked. A tinge of the Bronx edged his words. “We’ll find out about that!”

His dark eyes bored into those of each man as he spoke. The thrust of his distinctly cleft chin accentuated a large firm mouth with prominent, uneven teeth, and his leonine head and square face were marked with a large Roman nose. Just short of 6 feet, he bristled with authority and he was immaculately regulation. His blues were pressed to razor sharpness. The triple chevrons, torpedo, rocker and crow of the chief petty officer stood out on his right arm, and

he wore so many hash marks they mode me think of a gold picket fence. The emblems of the master deep sea diver and ordnance specialist were neatly flat stitched on his uniform along with the twin dolphins and conning tower insignia of the qualified submariner. Oddly, he displayed no service ribbons.

“You men may have passed some tests wherever you come from,” he snapped, “But that don’t mean you’re gonna make it here! You’re just get-tin’ started!”

With the exactness of a submerged approach of an enemy target, Spritz outlined his commandments. They were to be observed to the letter. From that moment we knew we would have to work our way out of Spritz’ Navy.

We were to be clean-shaven and wear regulation haircuts, spit-shined shoes, clean dungarees, dress blues and whites. Bunks were to be mode properly and there was to be no stray gear. Each morning before quarters and colors, Spritz inspected all personnel and barracks.

We also discovered that before we were to be admitted to submarine school we would be subjected to extensive individual and collective psychological, aptitude, and physical testing, underwater escape training, and demonstrating our ability to endure the pressure and closeness of the compression chamber. When we weren’t engaged in testing at various intervals during the day, we were assigned to work details collecting garbage, cleaning grease traps, polishing barracks GI cans with steel wool and other chores of lesser allure.

“You may, or may not, be church gain’ people. That’s your business.” Spritz snorted. “Around here, there’s only one daily prayer. You’ll commit it to memory: ‘0 Lord, Help Us To Keep Our Big Mouths Shut Until We Know What We Are Talking About.”

He also advised that we would be last in chow line daily at all three meals. Smoking was permitted only when the smoking lamp was lighted and that was when the order was passed by Spritz, who neither drank nor smoked. Neither were we to walk, sit, lie, lounge or stand on the grass at any time, anywhere on the

base. One man would fall out and count cadence while his companions marched. Talking and smoking absolutely were forbidden while assigned to a working party.

Liberty was granted one day a week, either Saturday or Sunday, contingent on passing Spritz’ inspection and no recorded infractians of his rules. A broken eommandment meant restriction and extra duty. Extra duty meant not only additional work assignments after regular working hours, but removing all your gear from your locker, stowing it properly in your seabag and reporting to an isolated barracks in which all the light bulbs were blue. Appropriately, the barracks was known as the “Blue Room.” A bunk was assigned, gear stowed and roll call was held on the hour throughout the night. A half-hour before regular 5 a.m. reveille. “Blue Roam” guests were awakened to return to their own barracks, restow their gear in their lockers and make ready for Spritz’ personal inspection before the normal work day began.

“There’s room for anything on a submarine -- except a mistake," Spritz admonished at every opportunity. The admonition also was posted in bold black letters on signs in every classroom.

“If you men wanno drink, that’s your business.” Spritz condescended, then added: “But don’t bring your problems to me because you gotta two-quart imagination and a two-pint capacity and not enough sense to know why you’re hung over like the belly of a 30-year cook. You’ll report for full duty during regular working hours!”

Yet, there was another side to the commander of Spritz’ Navy. The salty old chief, who then had served in submarines 24 of the 32 years he had been in the Navy, also doubled as father confessor to many and intermediary between enlisted men and commissioned officers. When he detected a man he believed might crack under the strain of long patrol, he took him aside, as he did with five among the group with which I arrived at New London, and saw to it that each man returned to his previous surface unit without stigma.

Spritz contended he could tell whether or not a man would make a submariner by looking at his neck. If soap and water were in order, Spritz held the man wouldn’t make the grade. Cleanliness, and what it indicated. were prized next to perfection, in his mind.

One morning while inspecting those hopefully bound for Saturday liberty. I was directed to step forward. I complied.with that sinking feeling that accompanies being singled out among your peers.

“Is that uniform regulation?” Spritz demanded -- and I trembled.

“No, sir,” I muttered, groping for an excuse. The base cleaners had misplaced my government issue blues. Rather than spend liberty on the base, I elected to risk standing inspection in new tailor-made bell bottom blues that had cost me the better part of two months pay.

“Look at this man!” Spritz bellowed. “He looks like a submarine sailor should. Whassa matter with you people?”

I was granted liberty, the incident was closed, and for a fleeting moment I could have sworn I detected a hint of a smile that deepened the road map of wrinkles at the corners of his dark eyes.

Spritz contended that those who had learned self-reliance by having to shift for themselves made the best submariners; the worst, those who had been babied at home. His own circumstances undoubtedly contributed to his philosophy and penchant for perfection.

A sister, Mrs. Alice Pera of Great Barrington, Mass., was to recall years later that Spritz was "very unhappy” at home and that “the family was concerned about him. He just didn’t seem to fit anywhere. He was a misfit socially, I suppose.

Spritz was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, but the family moved soon after to New York City, where he was reared. He was a “very poor student,” and was out of the house at 17” when he joined the Navy with his parents’ consent, Mrs. Pera recalled.

That would explain why. despite his autocratic demeanor and unrelenting rules portending perfection, many sensed that he still remembered that he also once was a young submariner making the same blunders we did.

Spritz never married. The Navy was his life. He left the base only once a month briefly to visit friends and go to the bank. Yet, those close to him confided that during occasional moments of somber reflection he spoke fondly of an English nurse who was killed during the German V-2 rocket blitz of London.

I never again saw Spritz after he came to the barracks where we had been assembled upon completing school and assigned to submarine relief crew duty in the Pacific. He had come to say goodby, wish us well, and in the event we had forgotten within a matter of days, one last time reminded us that, “There’s room for anything aboard a submarine--except a mistake."

During the years after peace once again had come, an incident or topic of casual conversation would trigger reminiscences of Spritz and what it had meant to have served in “Spritz’ Navy.” To be sure, Spritz instilled fear in those he commanded, but only that fear of making a mistake that could cost not only your own life but the lives of your shipmates. He also imbued those around him with dedication to the task ahead and confidence stemming from knowing and doing your job well. Esprit de corps was second to none, resulting from his dogmatic insistence that everyone understand the spirit and letter of teamwork and cooperation and that a submarine without it is no more than “a bastard cousin to a foundering whale.”

A letter I received in mid-1973 revived the words of John Buchan, Lord Tweedsmuir. To paraphrase Buchan: “Our roll of those committed to duty, honor, country is long, but it bears the name of no worthier figure.”

The letter advised that Chief Tarpedoman’s Mate Charles Spritz. USN (Ret.), was admitted May 28, 1957 to the U.S. Naval Home in Philadelphia, Pa., and died there Nov. 3. 1970.





The Scorpion (SS-278)

In 1999, Fred Gahimer wrote:

“One of my wife’s brothers, Stanley Matthews, was a radioman aboard the Scorpion submarine (SS-278) in January 1944 when it disappeared and was presumed lost with a crew of 77 in the South China Sea. We have, over time, located other families of crewmen. In our conversations the common thread was that they did not feel closure. There was no body to bury. A cemetery marker gave us a place to visit and mourn, but we seemed cheated because we were unable to share our crewmen’s experiences because of the wartime censorship of correspondence.

I finally decided that what we needed was a history of the sub, and a brief history of each of the crewmen to record for succeeding generations that their crewman didn’t just join the Navy and die, but had a life, albeit short, crammed with rigorous training, exciting and perilous patrols against the Japanese, and festive shore leaves in Hawaii between patrols. I have compiled such a history which I have titled, “Scorpion Diary,” because it is virtually a day-by-day record of the activities on the sub. It consists mostly of the detailed Patrol Reports, the Deck Logs, and some background information.”

This section of the website is dedicated to the 77 crewmen of the USS Scorpion and their loved ones.

For the complete Scorpion Diary, see the following:

USS Scorpion Diary

2 Samuel 22:4-20

   I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and have been saved from my enemies. The waves of death swirled about me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me.
   In my distress I called to the Lord; I called out to my God.
From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears.
The earth trembled and quaked, the foundations of the heavens shook; they trembled because he was angry. Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it.
   He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his canopy around him— the dark rain clouds of the sky. Out of the brightness of his presence bolts of lightning blazed forth.
   The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded. He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them. The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at the rebuke of the Lord, at the blast of breath from his nostrils. He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.
   He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.
Launch of the Scorpion (SS-278), 20 July 1942.
Maximilian Gmelich Schmidt, Commander (Commanding Officer) of the Scorpion (SS-278) at the time of her loss. http://www.navsource.org/archives/08/08278.htm
Google Earth satellite photo of the East China & Yellow Seas, where the Scorpion’s (SS-278) last approximate position based during post-war debriefings. This position is thought to be the final resting place of the Scorpion and her crew.
The Daily Chronicle (De Kalb, IL), Wed., March 22, 1944
The News (Frederick Maryland) Wed., March 22, 1944
The Daily Chronicle (De Kalb, IL), Fri., Jan 25, 1946


Listing of Scorpion radiomen by patrol:

Radiomen by Patrol

US Navy rates and pay:

US Navy Rates and Pay

Example Scorpion casualty card:

Bill Saunders casualty card







Stan Matthews

Stan served in the Navy, as did his father, Herbert, and his brothers Jim and Herb. He trained as a radioman, and when America entered World War II he was assigned to the submarine Scorpion in the China Sea. He was  a dedicated son and loving brother, who sent a large portion of his Navy earnings home to help the family make ends meet. In February 1944, the Scorpion was lost at sea, and so Stanley, at the age of 20, and his fellow crew members are now on eternal patrol.

Stanley Edward Matthews was born to Herbert L. and Goldie (Reeder) Matthews on May 17, 1923.

Stan Matthews

He was the fourth child of eight, and learned at an early age about responsibility, and caring for family members.

L-R: Mary, Anne, Stan, and Jim Matthews

With a large family and modest income, Herbert and Goldie expected and depended on their older children to help keep house and help raise the younger children. And like all families of that time period, they struggled through the great depression, and they learned that by working together and pooling resources, they could get by.

And so it was that in September 1940, at the age of 17, Stan dropped out of high school and enlisted in the Naval Reserves to help support the family. His father, Herbert, and older brother Jim were already serving in the Navy. His father was aboard the USS Sacramento (PG-19), a gunboat commissioned in 1914, but used at that time at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center for training Naval Reserves. Jim was aboard the USS Memphis (CL-13), a light cruiser commissioned in 1925, and at that time operating on the east coast of the United States.

Stan Matthews enlistment photo

Stan was learning to be a radioman at the Indianapolis Armory, and he was able to go home on weekends.

During his time in the Navy, Stan wrote many letters to family members. Eighteen of these letters still exist, and provide a unique glimpse into Stan’s personality, and his love and devotion to his family.

On December 19, 1940, Stan wrote a letter from the Naval Armory in Indianapolis to his father, Herbert, who was laid up in the St. Luc Hospital in Montreal, Canada. Prior to this, Herbert had dislocated his shoulder by a shore-leave accident (fell down a gangway) and was still in the hospital recovering. Stan wrote to wish his father well and a Merry Christmas. He tells his father that he’s making decent grades and expected to be deployed to a ship or a plane in a month or so.

On January 8, 1941, Stan wrote another letter to his father, who was now back on the USS Sacramento in Boston saying he was glad Herbert was released from the hospital that Tuesday. He also discussed the radioman test he would be taking soon and expected to pass.

On January 13, 1941, Stan wrote to his brother Jim who was aboard the USS Memphis. He told Jim that the following day he would take the final radioman exam. He mentioned that some of the graduates will be sent to Jacksonville, FL to become airmen. He mentioned that he hoped his father would get discharged due to the injury so he could return home to be with his mother, who was worried with her husband and two eldest sons gone.

On January 23, 1941, Stan wrote from the Naval Armory in Indianapolis to his brother Jim on the USS Memphis. Stan informed Jim that he had passed the test with good grades and was shipping out to Norfolk, VA. He again said he hoped his father would be home soon, and mentioned that he (Stan) had replastered and painted a bathroom in the Matthews home the previous weekend to make it nicer for the family. Stan also told of an accident he was in as he returned to the armory. His friend was driving Stan in his car and was speeding and crashed into a truck. No one was injured but the car and truck were heavily damaged. Stan rode to the armory with policemen who had come to the scene.

On February 16, 1941, Stan wrote home to his mother from the USS Texas in Puerto Rico. The USS Texas (BB-35) was a New York-class battleship commissioned in 1914. He had sailed from Norfolk, VA to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and then on to the Calebra Island in the Virgin Islands. He mentioned passing by the Memphis in Calebra Island but was unable to get off and see Jim before the Memphis left for Boston.

Stan Matthews

He described Cuba this way:

“I am in Maya Guez, Puerto Rico now. It is a pretty good-sized town. When you walk down the street you can see coconuts in the trees. The people speak Spanish, so I can’t understand them. Little girls and boys play in the streets without no clothes on. Every time you turn around the little boy says “Give me one cent”. Ha ha. That’s about the only English words they know. I bought a lot of different fruits here yesterday. You can buy 6 oranges for a nickel, some will give you 8 or more for a nickel. Coconut and pineapple are 2 for a nickel. You can jew these people down to give you 3 or 4 for a nickel. Bananas are 2 for a penny. The men who sell these try to gyp you but if you talk up, you usually gyp them. Yesterday I walked up to a man who sold fruit. I couldn’t understand him, but I got what I wanted. I held up a nickel and pointed to the oranges. He knew what I wanted and he held up two oranges. I shook my head “no” and held up 6 fingers. He had a worried look, but gave me 6 oranges.”

He asked about how the family members were doing, and asked his mom if she would send crossword puzzles from the news.

After leaving Maya Guez, Puerto Rico, the USS Texas sailed to St. Thomas, of the Virgin Islands.

On February 23, 1941, Stan wrote home again to his mother from the USS Texas, now underway to Norfolk, VA. He mentioned that he just bought a fountain pen for his letter-writing. He informed Goldie that his Commanding Officer told him he’d be transferring to another ship soon and asked if Stan had any preference. Stan asked if he could be transferred to the Memphis to be with his brother Jim. The Commanding Officer said he felt Stan should be on the Memphis then, and would see what he could do. Stan commented that the ship was pitching very badly in rough seas and Stan was getting seasick.

Stan described the training on the ship:

“They have about 4 scout planes on the ship, and boy are they nifty. The other day a pilot took up a plane and dived at the ship to give the antiaircraft crew some practice on aiming. He would go up until he looked as small as a bird then dive straight at the ship. It looked like he was going to hit us, but he pulled out of it about 20 feet above the masts. Sometimes he would even come down so low he would circle around the mast.”

On February 26, 1941, Stan wrote home again from the USS Texas, now moored at Norfolk, VA. He thanked his mother for her letter and crossword puzzles, which he said gave him something to do to pass the time away. He asked if she received the money he sent home. He asked about the family members, and mentioned that he was surprised his father wasn’t home yet. He said he would write his father since he hadn’t written him thinking he was headed home.

He described his life on Norfolk this way:

“We are in dry dock now. Yesterday all hands scrubbed the ship from the keel to the water line. Well, I had better stop for right now to eat dinner. I’ll finish after dinner. Our meals are pretty good if you’re there when the chow begins. If you’re not there it’s all gone before you get there.”

He asked his mom if she was getting along alright on the money he was sending, and asked his mom to ask his family members to write.

On March 4, 1941, he wrote home from the USS Texas. He told his mom he was sending two-thirds of his pay home to her:

“Mom if you need any more money than what I am sending you, just write and tell. I know how hard it was for you to get along when I was home. I hope to have over $100 saved when I come home. I get $60 a month. I am sending you $40 a month. I have $20 a month, and so I am saving $15 of that. I hardly ever spend over $4 or $5 a month. Sometimes only $2 or $3. I’ve got 7 more months yet. So I figure I should have at least $100. I’ll sure need that for clothes and school.”

He mentioned that the USS Texas is headed to Tiajardo Roads, Puerto Rico. Again he asked his mom to ask others to write.

On March 21, 1941, Stan wrote home from the USS Texas

USS Texas
March 21, 1941

Dear Mom,
Yesterday I got paid again. I am sending you $20.

I wrote dad a letter yesterday.

I am the only reserve who came from the radio school to the Texas that has been qualified for messenger duty. I am my own boss, now. The rest never passed the test Mr. Webb gave us.

We are enroute to Norfork again I think. Hardly anyone knows where we're going. The Memphis, Cincinnati, and Milwaukee (cruisers) are with us. The Arkansas a battleship and 3 destroyers, an aircraft carrier (Ranger), and 2 submarines (Squalus, and I don't know the other one) are all with us.

It's quite a sight. The Squalus was the submarine that sunk. They repaired it and named it the Sailfish. They always rename a ship that was sunk and had to be built over.

It looks as if I'll be in England before long. Since the US is going to send ships with supplies over there we have to go to guard the convoy. At least that's what I hear. It may be a dead rumor. About everything is anyway.

It seems funny to be so near Jim and yet not able to see him. He anchored at Fajardo Roads, where the Texas was, but I never got a chance to see him.

Hey, Mom, you haven't sent me Mary's address yet. Tell Herb he had better write or I will get the ghosts in the attic to haunt him. Ha ha. Herbie will probably hear the Lewis-Simon fight so he can write about it. I might hear it over the radio. Here's hoping Simon wins. Ask Herb to write me about the basketball tournament. In other words I want some news on things going on. Ha ha.

Well, so long.

With love,

P.S. I'll see Jim yet. Ha ha. Maybe.

On March 27, 1941, Stan wrote home again from the USS Texas stating they were in Norfolk getting the ship ready for wartime use “They are putting in steel portholes. Painting it a smoke color. Taking off lifeboats and putting on life rafts. They’re getting rid of all stuff that isn’t necessary.”

He mentioned that he’s not planning to remain in the Navy after his year is up.

“Don’t worry about me staying in 4 years. I’ve had enough right now. I won’t have to stay in over my one year. They are letting us out. Unless war’s going on. My time is up September 28, 1941. They called us into the executive office and told us.”

He’d apparently been told that he’d not be transferring to the Memphis and commented that he’ll probably not see Jim until he’s out of the Navy.

He commented that he’s heard the younger children, like Herb, are growing quite a bit and you can feel his dismay that he’s missing out on that.

On April 5, 1941, Stan wrote home to send his pay, and informed Goldie:

“They passed a law now that all men in the Naval Reserve who were called to active duty would have to stay on active duty to the end of their enlistment or the duration of the war. The ones who volunteered like me, Jim and Moody will be able to get out at the end of our active duty. So I guess I was pretty lucky in getting in this radio school.”

On April 11, 1941, Stan wrote to his father, still in the Navy:

USS Texas
Newport Rhode Island
April 11, 1941

Dear Dad,

I received your letter today. The Texas isn't so bad. It's pretty crowded right now. We have pretty good meals. They serve us cafeteria style. All we do is sit down and the mess cook waits on us. It sure is a lot better than standing in line.

I guess the North Carolina is pretty big. The Texas is only 600 and some feet long. They are building the Alabama at Norfolk Naval Yard area and it doesn't look much like a ship right now. I think they are going to make the North Carolina the flagship of the Atlantic Fleet. The Texas is the flagship now. The radiomen really have a lot of work to do since they have control of the circuits.

Fajardo Road is a town in Puerto Rico. It isn't very big though. They raise a lot of sugar cane there.

I was hoping we would go to New York City so I could see the Statue of Liberty, but we passed it on the way to Newport, here. A lot of rich people, like the Vanderbilts, have summer homes here. They say this part of the country is the most healthiest. I haven't seen Jim yet, but I've been pretty near him. The Memphis pulled in at Newport, Monday morning and pulled out Monday at noon. No boats were running between the Texas and the Memphis so I wasn't able to see him.

Tomorrow I think we are pulling out for Boston. At least that's what I heard the officers talking about. They don't tell the enlisted men where we are going, because it is supposed to be secret movements.

He told me in one of his letters he had had liberty with you several times. He also told me Herb was getting big. I finally got one letter from Herb. I haven't received any letters from Mary yet.

I guess I'll be an uncle pretty soon. Ha ha. Things sure have changed a lot in the past year.

I think I can hold my rate. The test at the armory was a lot easier than what the test they will give us is.

I'll bet you look like something in glasses. Ha ha. I guess it's better wearing glasses than straining your eyes trying to see without them.

Don't worry about me getting hitched to any Puerto Rican. I'll still take the good old American girl. Ha ha.

I haven't got much of a suntan because they made us wear a full uniform above decks, since the Adm. was aboard.

I write home about once a week. It's pretty hard to think of anything to write about. But I figure if she even hears from me or anybody else it cheers her up a lot. She sure has been brave to see so many of the family leave. First it was Mary, then Jim, then you, and finally me. Annie stays home with her a lot though. At least she did when I left.

I didn't hear the Tony Musta fight, but I heard the one between Louis and Abe Simon. That was a pretty good fight too. I guess Louis is losing its punch. They all do after a time.

When are you going home?

I hear the reserves who are called to active duty would have to stay in the duration of the war or to the end of their enlistment. Did Lieut. Cmdr. Rockwell, come aboard the Sacramento? Several of the boys on the ship saw the Sacramento when it was at the scene of the Squalus, where it sank.

We copy press news over our circuits, so we get the news first rate. According to yesterday's news the British bombed Berlin. One of the best bombing raids of the war. Also the paper said the Nazi's had small Greek forces trapped. But the Greeks are fooling them. They are capturing Nazi's from the rear. The British have a number of troops in southern Greece. The Greeks are gradually getting behind the Nazi's and in that way might trap them. I sure am hoping it will work. Maybe you heard this news, if you didn't you do now. Ha ha.

Well, I had better be closing so I can get this letter in the mailbox.

Your son,

On April 17, Stan wrote home from his new assignment, the submarine S-14. The submarine USS S-14 (or USS SS-119) was originally commissioned in 1921, then decommissioned in 1935. With World War II clouds looming on the horizon, USS S-14 was recommissioned on 10 December 1940. Following duty along the northeast coast of the United States, and a visit to the Panama Canal Zone, the S-boat operated out of Saint Thomas in the United States Virgin Islands from 31 October 1941 to 1 December 1941.

Submarine base
New London, Connecticut
April 17, 1941

Dear Mom,

Well, Mom I was transferred, but to the wrong boat. Instead of transferring me to the Memphis, they transferred me to the USS S-14, a submarine.

Oh well, I get $5 more a month I think. If I qualify I get $80 a month. But I won't be in long enough to qualify, maybe.

Boy these submarines are really crowded. They have only 44 men on the S-14. The Texas had about 1500 men. The S-14 has 1 chief radioman and 1 striker and 3 rated men counting me. The Texas had 6 chief radiomen and 5 strike men and 60 rated men.

I like this submarine duty though. We wear dungarees instead of the regular uniform. We stay in dock about all the time.

They told me about 10:45 AM April 15 that I was being transferred to submarine duty. At 1 PM I had to be ready to leave. I had to take the bus to Providence Rhode Island and from there I took the train to New London, Connecticut where I'm at now. I would have written you sooner, but I had the writing materials on my seabag.

When you get submarine duty you have 2 bunks and lockers. When you're at your home port you have a bunk and locker in the submarine crew's barracks ashore. When you're at another port you use the locker and bunk onboard. Since the subs are so small and machinery makes it so crowded when a few men get in there. I don't have nothing to do but sit around. Hardly any messages come over. I'm studying electricity and radio so I can get a job at RCA when I finish school. At the armory back in Indianapolis we just learned how to operate and receive, but I want to learn how to fix them and put them together.

The guys on the sub sure are swell compared with the guys on the Texas. Well, I had better close now.

Your son,

P.S. 5 1/2 more months yet. Love, Stan

On October 6, 1941, Stan wrote home to his parents. Apparently his father had been discharged by then and was back at home. He mentioned his visit home on his recent leave.

USS S 13
Cocosolo, Panama City
October 6, 1941

Dear Mom and Dad,

Well I finally got to Panama yesterday, after spending almost 18 days at sea. It is sure beautiful down here. This is quite a place. They have a sub base, a Naval Air Station, a Marine camp, and an army camp, all down here by Cocosolo. We are stationed down here now. They say we will probably be here from six months to a year. We will do most of our operating in the Pacific. It only takes about 4 or 5 hours to go through the Panama Canal.

By the way the YP 26 is down here. I guess you know about that boat. Ha ha. We left September 19th and got here October 5th.

How did Mary and her baby turn out. I got a letter from her yesterday dated September 18th, in it she said she would have her baby September the 21st.

I was really worried this last month.

I saw Moody Riggle in New London. I had 2 liberties with him then I left for Panama. He hasn't changed much except he's about 6' 3" tall now. He is going up for 3rd class Baker in January. He always did want to be a cook or baker. We seem to follow each other. He is on a submarine tender the USS Griffin. It sure is a big boat.

Have you heard from Jim lately. I haven't heard from him for at least 2 months. He never did answer my last letter. I'll write him tonight.

Boy I really hated to leave home again. I think Carl made the greatest change of all. Tell Annie that I've seen a lot of girls but none as beautiful as her. I hope she don't get the swell head now. Ha ha. By the way Mom you ain't so bad looking yourself. Tell Herb and the little kids to lay off too much Pepsi-Cola and candy and brush their teeth, because if I come home again and find them in the same condition, I'll really lay it on them. I don't mean maybe.

Well, me and Jim will have a lot of sea tales to tell when we get home. Of course he's been to a lot more places, but I've got a better line of bull. Ha ha.

This place is paradise compared to Bermuda. We have 2 swimming pools and a big gym. Nice big barracks. Almost all the married men bring their wives down. They live in houses on the base here. I hope you get this twenty dollars okay. They just paid us up to September the 17th. They still owe us 2 weeks yet.

Well, I had better close now.

With love,

P.S. Air mail cost $.15 from here to the USA. (My address is the same.)

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese fleet attacked Pearl Harbor. With the declaration of war, those like Stan were counted on to be on active duty through the duration of the war. For a detailed accounting of the USS Scorpion, see the “USS Scorpion Submarine” post.

On October 2, 1942, Stan reported for duty aboard the USS Scorpion from the submarine base in New London, CT.

USS Scorpion

It’s likely that Stan wrote home again many times between October 1941 and December 1943, but only three letters survive: November 28, 1942, December 16, 1943, and December 23, 1943.

On April 9, 1943, the USS Scorpion left the island of Midway for their first patrol.

On Monday, April 19, 1943, they laid mines down about 26 km off the east coast of Japan near Kamisu, Japan. The next day, about 130 km away, the Scorpion sank a Japanese gun boat, the MEIJI MARU No. 1.

On Friday, April 23, the Scorpion attacked 2 merchant ships being escorted by a Japanese destroyer. Inflicted damage and possibly sank 1 ship.

On Tuesday, April 27, the Scorpion attacked a freighter among four freighters and two destroyer escorts. Sank the largest freighter.

On Friday, April 30th, while retuning to Midway, the Scorpion encountered a large patrol vessel and attacked with guns and cannons. At one point, the Scorpion Lt. Cmdr. manning the gun was shot through the head and died. He was buried at sea.

On Saturday, May 1st, Stan was promoted to radioman 1st class.

On Friday, May 7, 1943, the Scorpion returned to Pearl Harbor, completing the first patrol. The results of the first patrol were that 2 large freighters were sunk (1 TAGA MARU class, 1 KIKRYU MARU class), 2 patrol vessels were sunk, and 4 Sampans were sunk (they discovered the Scorpion and were sunk to prevent their informing Japan). Three submarines were patrolling eastern Japan during this mission (Scorpion, Flying Fish, Pickerel), and the Pickerel did not return.

After returning to Pearl Harbor from their first war patrol, routine refit was accomplished by relief crew and submarine base repair force and the vessel was made ready for sea on 29 May.  The following major materiel alterations and changes were made:  (a) exterior periscope and mast supports secured to Conning Tower, (b) installed handlebar controls on 20 MM guns, (c) replaced 3″ gun with a 4″ gun, (d) installed additional ammunition lockers, (e) installed 50 cal. machine gun mounts.

USS Scorpion

On June 2, 1943, the USS Scorpion left the island of Midway for their second patrol.

While patrolling Saturday, July 3, the Scorpion encountered five freighters with a Japanese escort. Six torpedoes were fired and then as the Scorpion tried to dive in what it thought was 33 fathom deep water (198 ft), it struck bottom at 25 fathoms (150 ft). As a result, two close depth charges sounded near the Scorpion, followed by 5 more. The Japanese then dragged a chain over the Scorpion (to listen for metal, apparently) and sent another depth charge. The Scorpion began moving with evasive actions as depth charges exploded around it. It was believed that three of the freighters were damaged by the Scorpion.

On Wednesday, July 7, the Scorpion was attacked by a MITSU-BISHI type 96 bomber. A depth charge sounded in the distance. The Scorpion remained submerged the rest of the day.

On Thursday, July 15, the Scorpion returned to Midway, ending the second patrol. On Thursday, August 19, the Scorpion entered the sub base at Pearl Harbor.

On Wednesday, October 13, the Scorpion left Pearl Harbor for the third patrol. On Sunday, October 17, the Scorpion left Midway for the third patrol, which focused on the Marianas Islands.

On November 2, while exploring the island of Farallon de Pajaros, the USS Scorpion struck an uncharted pinnacle in the ocean bed. No damage was observed, so the USS Scorpion continued on.

On Monday, November 8, the Scorpion fired three torpedoes at a large steamer. The torpedoes missed and the Scorpion received 11 depth charges with the first 8 being very close.

On Saturday, November 13, the Scorpion sighted a convoy of two large freighters escorted by three ships. The Scorpion fired 4 bow tubes and at least one hit and likely sank a target. The USS Scorpion dived and received 9 depth charges, none close.

During the third patrol, the USS Scorpion experienced radar equipment failure and were constantly having to try to fix their equipment.

On Tuesday, November 30, the Scorpion returned to Midway, ending the third patrol. It was discovered the USS Scorpion had damage to the frame near the 5th and 6th torpedo tubes. On Sunday, December 5, the USS Scorpion entered the sub base at Pearl Harbor for repairs to the frame caused by striking the rocky pinnacle while submerged.

USS Scorpion
December 16, 1943

Dear Mom and Dad,

Received your letter today and was glad to hear from you again. I also got a letter from Betty Cobb. She is still in California. She works at the Consolidated Aircraft plant there. She doesn't care much for California.

I seen Moody now and then. He seems to be getting along as good as usual.

I haven't heard from Herb for a long time. I lost his address so I can't send him any letters. If you think of it, how's to send his address just in case he doesn't write for a while yet.

Yes, I got a letter from Jim. You got quite a kick the last time he went home. He said when he stepped in the door you thought it was me and Dad thought it was Herb. I guess there was quite a mix up.

I hardly think I will be home for Christmas. But I will be home one of these days.

Our communication officer wants to get me rated chief, next May, if he is still aboard or if I am still aboard. I don't know whether I will be so glad to have it or not. I am too young and haven't had enough experience. I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to hold down my job.

How is everyone a home? I hope none of you get the flu. I'm feeling pretty good and hope all of you are too.

Well, I must be closing since we can only write on 3 sheets.

With love,

P.S. Write soon.

Stan’s last surviving letter home was written on December 23, 1943 from the USS Scorpion. He wished everyone a Merry Christmas and commented that he’d like his brother Carl to invent an end to the war.

USS Scorpion
December 23, 1943

Dear Mom and Dad,

I received your letter today and was glad to hear from you again.

How is everyone at home enjoying the Christmas spirit? I sure wish I could be with all of you, but I guess that isn't possible this year.

I still haven't heard from Herb. I've received several from Jim, though.

I haven't received the package you sent, but I guess I'll get it soon, at least I hope so.

Is the flu very bad around home? I hope none of you get it.

Has Anna ever decide to join the Waac's or Wave's? Boy, if she does she's really in for something. I'll bet all the women in now are sorry they ever got in.

No, I haven't ever taken up much dancing. I ain't very interested in it, anyway. I'll bet if I had a nice, young girl like you, Mom, I could really learn to dance. Ha ha.

How have the kids been lately?

Jim tells me Carl is still trying to invent things. Tell him if he really wants to get on the good side of me, he had better invent a way to end this war right soon, so I can come home to stay.

Well, I can't think of much more to say, so I will close.

With love,

P.S. Write soon and tell the rest to write and I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas.

S.E. Matthews

On Wednesday, December 29, 1943, the USS Scorpion left Pearl Harbor for the fourth and final patrol. This patrol was targeted at the China and Yellow Seas.

On Monday, January 3, 1944, the USS Scorpion left Midway headed towards the patrol area.

On Wednesday, January 5, the USS Scorpion reported that a crewman had broken an arm, and requested a rendezvous with the submarine Herring which was passing through the area on its return to Pearl Harbor, and could take the injured crewman back to the hospital.  The rendezvous was made in the afternoon at 30° 7’N, 167° 30′ E.  The sea was very rough, and despite several attempts to transfer him via a rubber raft, it was determined that it was too dangerous to both the injured man and the submarines, and the transfer was abandoned, as well as the rubber raft.

On Thursday, January 6, 1944, the USS Herring sent a message reporting what had happened and stated “USS Scorpion reports case under control.”  The USS Scorpion was never heard from again.

When no report was received from her by February 24, Midway was directed to keep a watchful eye for her, and the USS Scorpion was directed to make a transmission.  Neither of these measures proved fruitful, and the USS Scorpion was reported on March 6, 1944 as presumed lost.  No information has been received since the war that the loss was due to enemy antisubmarine tactics.

In March, the families of Scorpion servicemen each received a telegram like the one to the parents of Paul Shea:

BRA 249 75 GOVT=WASHINGTON DC 18 748P 1944 MAR 18 PM 8 19




When the Gilbert and Marshall Islands were captured during the war, thousands of classified Japanese documents fell into the hands of the U.S. Navy.  Among these documents were some red-bordered “Notices to Mariners” showing the exact locations of Japanese minefields – vital information to U.S submarines.  The Navy set up a special unit to translate these documents.  The results were sent to submarine skippers in booklet form.  Among the notices was information that the Japanese had laid new and extensive minefields in the East China Sea.  However, it was much too late to help the USS Scorpion.  In the meantime, several submarines had made patrols in this area, crossing and recrossing the (unknown) minefields without incident.  It is probable that these mine lines were very thin, offering only about a ten percent threat to submarines at maximum, and steadily decreasing in effectiveness with the passage of time.  The USS Scorpion was lost soon after these mines were laid, at a time when they offered the greatest threat.  She could have been an operational casualty, but her area consisted of water shallow enough so that it might be expected that some men would have survived.  Since we know of no survivors, the most reasonable assumption is that she hit a mine and sank.

The USS Scorpion earned three battle stars for its war operations.

Stan Matthews, The Indianapolis News, April 6, 1944
Stan Matthews, The Indianapolis News, February 11, 1946

Stan died at the young age of 20, not living to see his 21st birthday. He was a dedicated son and brother, supporting his family to the end. He served in the US Navy for the last three and a half years of his short life, and in the end, like his crew mates and many other service men and women in World War II, gave his life in defense of our freedom.