When the submarine Wahoo left Midway in September 1943, it was already one of the most famous submarines of World War II.
Under the command of Dudley W. "Mushmouth" Morton, the Wahoo had become, among other things, the first sub to wipe out an entire enemy convoy on its own. Morton, as savvy as he was aggressive, already had three Navy Crosses. Onboard the Wahoo, he had taken out more than a dozen ships.
The sub was headed on a dangerous mission into the Sea of Japan, and was to keep radio silence until it was nearly back to Midway in late October. That was the last anyone heard of the famous sub for more than 60 years.
On Friday, members of the sub's namesake — the Cold War-era USS Wahoo — honored their predecessors in a ceremony at Patriots Point.
"It had a brilliant war record," retired Vice Adm. Albert J. Baciocco Jr. said. "It was a distinguished ship with a distinguished crew."
Baciocco and other former crewmen of the second Wahoo had long planned to install a bench honoring their ship at the Cold War Submarine Memorial, and decided to include the crew of the first Wahoo. As it turns out, it was a timely honor.
Last year, the original Wahoo was found in 200 feet of water near the mouth of the Sea of Japan. Tom Young, who served with Baciocco on the second Wahoo, attended the memorial service in Hawaii for that, and met three men who had been stationed on the first Wahoo up until its last tour. Young also gave Morton's son two paintings of the first Wahoo as a gift from the second Wahoo's crew.
The inscription on the marble bench was just a further tip of the cap to their predecessors.
In brief remarks Friday, retired Navy chaplain Keith Wooster said the inscription — "In honor of our shipmates on Eternal Patrol" — was important because no one knew exactly what submarines did, and their heroism has in part been lost.
"We thought it would be a nice thought," Young of New Hampshire said.
The Wahoo's end remained a mystery until researchers found reference to it in the records of the Japanese military. Apparently, the Wahoo was spotted by a Japanese plane about a month after it left Midway. In enemy territory and without support, the Wahoo was attacked by air and by sea.
After several hours of fighting, the Japanese sank the sub using depth charges and aerial bombs.
The Navy has no plans to raise the sub from the spot where it has rested for 64 years. That is just the way of the silent service.