Robert Perkins said it was an honor to be on the crew of the first ship to circumnavigate the world while submerged.
“But we were just doing our duty,” said Perkins, a radioman on the USS Triton (SSRN 586).
Led by Capt. Edward L. “Ned” Beach Jr., the Triton followed many of the routes taken by Ferdinand Magellan, cruising 46,000 miles in 84 days to complete the first submerged circumnavigation in 1960.
Fifty years later, the Submarine Force is celebrating that feat at the 110th Submarine Birthday Ball at Foxwoods Resort Casino tonight.
Beach’s wife, Ingrid, and crew members who were on the historic deployment will attend, including Perkins, who traveled from Florida. Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Rick West is the guest speaker for the ball.
“A lot of people never cross the equator. On that trip in 1960 we crossed it four times,” said Dave Boe, who served as a torpedoman.
“And we came away with experiences that affected us the rest of our lives,” added John Kuester, the submarine’s cook and baker.
Crew members from all stages of the submarine’s life and their family members are in southeastern Connecticut for the weekend to attend their reunion and the birthday ball. Many went to a Naval Submarine School graduation on Friday for a basic enlisted submarine class named after the Triton.
“To be a part of all of this, it really feels like we’re still part of the Navy,” Boe said. “It has brought back a lot of memories.”
Retired Adm. Henry “Hank” Chiles Jr., who served on the Triton from 1963-1966, told the class that they will “write the history of the next generation of the U.S. submarine service.”
“It’s a great responsibility,” he said. “You’re not just going to write it, you’ll make it, you’ll be a part of it. Your ship will be a part of you, just like Triton is for everyone sitting alongside you in this room.”
Each graduate received a certificate of completion and a commemorative coin celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Triton’s accomplishment.
“We’ll have other reunions, but this will be the top of the line,” said Henry Jackson, the reunion chairman who was on the crew in 1969 when the Triton was decommissioned. “For the Triton, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime event.”