, Newburyport, MA


November 9, 2012

In praise of my dad and all veterans

To the editor:

Recently I was speaking to my dad, Robert S. Wilbur, a lifelong Amesbury resident and 88-year-old World War II submarine veteran. For some reason, the conversation became centered on his final wishes. He wanted to ensure we mentioned his U.S. Navy service in his obituary. In his own words, “Other than you kids, that is what I am most proud of.” It occurred to me that no one should have to wait until their obituary to be recognized for their service to this country. So, Dad, this is for you…

Although his stories sometimes now run together, there is no doubt that his recollections are clear and bring him back almost 70 years ago. He was eager to join the Navy and enlisted upon graduation from Amesbury High in 1942. He completed rigorous submarine training in Newport, R.I., and was assigned to duty. My dad served on the USS Flounder, USS Blackfin and USS Perch. Crew members bonded quickly and often relied on their strong camaraderie to help them deal with the peril they faced. Friendships endure and he still receives an occasional call from a former crew member. An oft-repeated quote — “You don’t know scared until you’re under the ocean and being depth-charged by the enemy.” Particularly haunting for Dad at the time was learning a fellow sailor who subsequently manned Dad’s gunnery station (while Dad was injured) suffered fatal injuries from enemy fire.

Duty required that he could not divulge to his family the location of his patrols, but as a young man, he traveled to Australia, New Guinea and Hawaii.

The inherent danger of submarine service guaranteed he and his buddies were afforded special privileges when they went ashore for liberty. He stayed at The Royal Hawaiian when the U.S. Navy took control to use the hotel as a rest and recreation center for those serving in the Pacific Fleet. It was at Pearl Harbor that he got his infamous 8-inch hula girl tattoo on his upper arm ... she hasn’t aged as well as him, but it’s always a conversation-starter during those frequent blood pressure checks now that he is a senior!

Text Only | Photo Reprints

NDN Video
'Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' Sneak Peek GMA: Dog passes out from excitment to see owner Chapter Two: Designing for Naomi Watts Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Florida Keys Webcam Captures Turtles Hatching Morgan Freeman Sucks Down Helium on 'Tonight Show' Robin Wright Can Dance! (WATCH) She's Back! See Paris Hilton's New Carl's Jr. Ad Big Weekend For Atlanta Braves In Cooperstown - @TheBuzzeronFox Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director What's Got Jack Black Freaking Out at Comic-Con? Doctors Remove 232 Teeth From Teen's Mouth Bradley Cooper Explains His Voice in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years
Special Features
NRA Waterfront Plans