As I’ve said before, these reunions just seem
to find me. I never really have to search for an
interview. Now, it doesn’t happen every
time - only when I don’t have anything on my
schedule. It’s really kind of strange, and it
always astounds me. And my Green Bay trip
ended up providing my next destination.
I always bring a poster for the Veterans to sign as a reminder of my journey. I have several of them hanging in my office. While waiting for a cab in the lobby of the hotel, I decided to collect a few more signatures and noticed a man sitting alone wearing his submarine vest. That man was Jim Chavis, a submariner who served aboard the USS Pintado. He signed my poster, and we visited for a minute or so. Then it happened. He said, “Bret, you should come to Fredericksburg, Texas in December.
The crew of the USS Pintado will be there for the dedication of the Pintado’s conning tower at the museum.” I now had one more stop to make.
The trip was incredible! On Saturday the museum let all World War ll Veterans tour the facility before the grand opening scheduled for Monday. The crew of the Pintado arranged for me to go with them, and it was great. What a museum! Naturally, when we got in the building, we went straight for the submarine section. The whole place was unbelievable and extremely well laid out. It’s very large and filled with lots of information. The coolest part for me was just being in there with the crew. Touring that museum with the guys it’s dedicated to is something I’ll never forget.
The next day was the dedication of the USS Pintado. Since the Pintado was the reason for the trip, I'd like to educate you a little bit about the boat. A Pintado is a large mackerel-like fish found along the Florida coast and in the West Indies.
The USS Pintado made four war patrols from May, 1944, to August,1945. During that time the Pintado sank 13 ships, including 4 destroyers and damaged an aircraft carrier. On her last patrol she picked up 13 downed B-29 crewmembers who later named their next B-29 the USS Pintado. She earned the Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary skill and heroism on her first three war patrols. For many years her conning tower sat in the memorial garden at the Nimitz museum, and it now greets visitors in a more prominent spot located in front of the museum. That is the main reason the crew of the Pintado got together on this occasion.
Monday, December 7th was the grand opening of the new museum, with a special guest speaker - George H.W. Bush. It was a cold and misty day, but Jenny, Jack and I braved the elements along with about 4,000 other people. We can now say we’ve seen two United States Presidents. It was 35 years before I first saw a President in person. My son, on the other hand, only had to wait 11 months.
There was no better way to end 2009 than with a weekend trip to Fredericksburg, Texas. It's got little shops, antiques and cozy restaurants that really make a wife happy, and one very cool World War ll museum for me - a win/win for all parties involved. The weekend was a great success! I toured the museum, hung out with the crew of the USS Pintado and got a few interviews for the film. It was a wonderful experience made even more special by having my son along with me. At eleven months old, he’ll never remember the event but will be reminded of it and it’s importance often.