Ensign W. Bernard Carlson, Jr. USN
Thanks for your interest in the story of my father, W. Bernard Carlson, Jr., who served on the Crevalle and R-6 during World War II. I agree that it is remarkable that he was an officer when he was only twenty years old. Here's what I know from family lore, but I would be glad for your advice as to any sources I might use to expand the story - I am a historian after all!
My father was born in 1924 in a small city, Olean, in upstate New York. When Pearl Harbor was bombed in December 1941, he was in the middle of his senior year at the local high school. I suspect there must have been serious discussions throughout that fall, because as soon as the U.S. declared war, my grandfather, who had served in the infantry in World War I and had been gassed in France, told my father that he should join the Navy. By January 1942, my father had withdrawn from Olean High and was enrolled in the University of Notre Dame. At Notre Dame, my father joined the NROTC program.
My guess is that my father was at Notre Dame through 1942, and at some point in 1943, he was transferred from the NROTC program to the Submarine School in New London...
My father always emphasized that he only saw action in the Atlantic.
Note from the webmasters: It should be noted from official USN histories that neither Crevalle nor the R-6 made a war patrol in the Atlantic.
When presented with a Dream Sheet asking where he might like to serve, his response, as a kid from a small town, was that all of the assignments looked great and he couldn't choose among them; in true Navy fashion, he was assigned to the Atlantic and not some exotic location.
The Wikipedia entry for the Crevalle indicates that this particular boat was only in the New London area from June-October 1943 before seeing action in the Pacific. Hence, if my father served on Crevalle, he must have done so before it left for Australia and then moved to the R-6 where he served until the end of the War. He did tell us about the R-6 being the first boat to test the snorkel apparatus.
Note from the webmasters: According to records available it looks like Ensign Carlson left the Crevalle on or before September 1, 1943 when she departed for Coco Solo, Panama. Whether he reported directly to the R-6 at that time is still unknown. It is known that R-6 was working out of Submarine Base New London at that time as a training submarine.
Looking at the plans for R-boats on PigBoats.COM, I am amazed by the close quarters, the officers and men really lived and fought together. It must have been a powerful experience for a very young officer like my father. The plans also only show three bunks for officers yet there were five officers; did they "hot bunk" or was there at least separate quarters for the skipper?
Note from the webmasters: The commanding officer would have been the only officer to have his own bunk. The number of berths available for officers during the war is unknown at this time. By WW II crew sizes had increased over the original designed complement from 20 years earlier.
In the summer of 1945, my father was mustered out and enrolled in the Law School at Columbia University where he graduated in 1948. Notre Dame gave individuals like father whose education was interrupted by the war bachelor's degrees in 1945, but it's true my father never graduated from high school! He went on to practice law in downtown Manhattan for twenty-five years, raised five children in suburban New Jersey, and passed away in 1975.
When you grow up with a story like that of my father, you tend to treat it as normal, and so I appreciate you making me aware how extraordinary it was that he was a commissioned officer serving on sub at the young age of twenty.
If I find additional photos of my father serving on subs, I will certainly share them with you.
Please note that this photo is THE PRIVATE PROPERTY OF THE GARGANO FAMILY AND MAY NOT BE USED WITHOUT THEIR EXPRESSED PERMISSION.
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