Yuma war vets build tribute to favorite submarine
February 7th, 2009 @ 8:34am
by Associated Press
Neighbors will be relieved to know that a bunch of winter visitors weren't crazy when they talked about building a submarine in a friend's garage.
Construction began three years ago at Al Durkee's house. After countless nights and weekends of the guys working together, their creation is finally ready for the public eye.
But don't expect the USS Barbel (SS-580) to be hitting the water anytime soon. The only floating this submarine has in its future is making its debut as a float - in a Wellton parade.
``I don't even know how to explain how proud we are of it,'' said Vern Smith, one of the builders. ``We were certain it was going to get finished. There was no doubt about that. We just put our minds to it and got it started.''
The band of friends who built this 23-foot replica of a historic submarine know the real military vehicles very well. They are all former submariners who belong to the Barbel Base Chapter of U.S. Submarine Veterans Inc. The local club boasts 38 members, including three men who served during World War II. Quite a few members are veterans of the Korean War.
About 15 of those members will be at the float's side as the submarine graces its first parade Saturday morning in Wellton in celebration of Pioneer Day.
Members got the idea to built a submarine float for local parades after seeing clubs around the country have fun with similar projects. But enjoying a satisfying and challenging project is only the beginning. Smith said the floats also amount to a wonderful way to honor those who have served their nation deep in the ocean's depths, plus maybe find more veterans or inspire a new submariner or two.
``We think this could be a great recruiting tool,'' he said, adding that he'd love to share his military stories with young folks.
The club modeled their submarine float after the organization's namesake submarine.
To make their float, the guys needed one big piece that offered the general shape of a sub. They found just that in a belly tank from a bomber plane, discovered at a salvage yard in Utah.
About 15 members worked on the float over the past three years, getting together two days a week during the winter. Most of the time they were hammering and sawing away for about five hours each time.
The rest of the submarine is made from wood, fiberglass and Styrofoam, while the propeller was a five-blade window fan in another life.
``The rudder is moveable, too, and the prop will move as the float goes down the street,'' Smith said. ``It's just been thrilling to see how it's all come together.''
But don't think this float has just one mission in store. The veteran submariners plan to share their creation in quite a few more local parades, with the possibility of taking it to other areas in the region.