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Former Sailors search for lost submarine's bell
By:USS Tritin Reunion Committee
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GROTON, Conn. - Veterans of war horse of the Pacific are seeking your help to ring in their reunions. The bell from USS Triton (SS 201) is missing.
At the start of World War II, USS Triton (SS 201) was one of the United States Navy submarines on patrol in the reaches of the Pacific Ocean. It was on patrol off Wake Island when Pearl Harbor was attacked, Dec. 7, 1941. On Dec. 8, 1941, Triton launched the submarine war against the enemy by firing the first torpedo to hit a Japanese destroyer. Triton was also the first U.S. Submarine to sink an enemy vessel by deck gunfire in World War II.
At the start of the war, all identifying insignia and ships' bells were removed from U.S. submarines to maintain secrecy and, in the case of bells, to maintain quiet running on war patrol. This was, of course, also true for Triton.
After patrolling in the vicinity of the Admiralty Islands, Triton failed to return to its' Australian port on the due date of April 3, 1943. Following the war, on the basis of inconclusive evidence, with her last officially recorded message on march 11, 1943, having been, "Have spotted five smokes ... am chasing ...," the Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee (JANAC), as administered by General Douglas MacArthur in Japan, judged that on March 15, 1943, Triton was sunk north of New Guinea in battle with the Imperial Japanese navy.
The Triton has never been found, and no one truly knows her exact location. All hands were lost with her. By the end of World War II, Triton had become one of 52 U.S. Navy submarines overdue and presumed lost.
After the war, the Triton bell and other equipment unique to the boat that had been removed at the beginning of the war, were found in San Diego in a locker where the items had been placed by the Navy for safekeeping during World War II.
In 1960, the bell, guarded by her first commanding officer, Admiral Willis A. Lent, was given a place of honor aboard her namesake, the new nuclear submarine, USS Triton (SSN 586), and taken on that submarine's epic submerged circumnavigation of the world that same year.
A ceremony was held aboard the submerged Triton when it reached the vicinity of the Admiralty Islands where the original Triton may have been sunk during World War II. The bell was tolled in memory of the lost warriors on USS Triton (SS 201); and three water slugs, simulating live torpedoes, were fired. It would be the last time the heavy brass bell (about 14 inches tall) would be heard by the crew of a U.S. Navy submarine.
In 1962, Triton was sent for a shipyard overhaul at General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton, Conn., that lasted two years. During that time, most likely when the submarine was first prepared for overhaul. The honored bell was removed from the sub. The bell's destination and whereabouts are unknown to this day.
If you have any information of the whereabouts of this submarine bell, deeply inscribed with the words "USS TRITON SS-201," contact the USS Triton (SSN 586)/(SS 201) Reunion Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (757) 481-5557.