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Memories of Edward Branin

This is me in Perth in late '44.

On our way from the states to Panama to join the war, we had some interesting experiences... I only rode the Bergall from her commissioning through her first war patrol then I transferred to the USS Caiman.

Here's some entries from my diary pages:

October 13, 1944 (the Bergall's first war patrol)

It's Friday the 13th - one day I'll never forget.

On watch from 0800 to 1200. No sooner was I relieved of the watch when Mr. Martin sighted four ships through the periscope. Right away they called Battle Stations! There was a large transport, one medium size oiler and two medium size escorts. The Captain picked out the transport and oiler as targets. We were mighty close to shore, maybe 3000 yards. We fired four fish (#1, #2, #3 and #4) at the transport and just as we were ready to fire on the oiler we dipped the periscope underwater and the Captain couldn't get a final gyro angle for the oiler.

As soon as we fired the torpedoes we had to "rig for depth charge". One of the escorts was less than 500 yards away and when we fired and he headed for our torpedo's wake and the Captain dove us right under him.

(editor's note: The early torpedoes used for this patrol were steam powered and would leave a tell-tale wake behind them pointing directly to the location of the sub that fired it!)

We heard his screws passing along the hull. We then heard #2 and #3 torpedo hit the transport with several explosions in between. The escort started dropping depth charges and making runs on us. Once he passed right over us without dropping anything. It took one minute and forty-five seconds for the first depth charge to hit. These depth charge attacks are terrible! It's so hot and there is no noise; every noise sounds like an earthquake.

The total depth charges that the two escorts dropped was about 138 with several airplanes dropping a couple apiece themselves. I was really scared.

We hit bottom once and broke off the JK sound head. What a feeling that gives you! I'll never forget this day!

We ran from the escorts for almost seven hours. This varsity team is O.K. but you sure catch a lot of hell. I said some prayers just after the attack and the good Lord must have heard them. If he was present in the Bergall today he sure had a ride on a submarine He'll never forget!

Secured from depth charge and silent running around 1600. I had the phones in the forward battery for about six hours. I gave the phones to the mess boys and crapped out on the deck in the forward torpedo room. I was chased out of there as they wanted to reload. Crapped out in my rack for a couple of hours.

Back on watch from 1800 to 20000. Surfaced at 1900. Chow down and as a reward was given a shot of 'Old Overholt'. Took a shower after coming off watch. That was a 'special treat'! The showers were kept on all night.

October 14, 1944

On watch at 0400. Everyone is still talking about what happened yesterday. We're out to sea in deep water.

Off watch and in the sack. It's kinda rough on the surface. They tried to raise the sound head but couldn't get it retracted. We must have damaged it when we hit bottom yesterday. They think the ship we sank was between 10 and 12 thousand tons. During the depth charge attack yesterday, I sat in the wardroom reading a Collier's magazine. I can't remember much of what I read, I was scared... everyone was... and every time they would drop a charge it would raise me off my seat. I learned to keep away from the sound gear as you could hear the sound man giving the Captain the info on the enemy destroyers. We really earned our sub pay on the 13th!

On July 15, 1955, Hugh (Bud) Trimble (also a former Bergall crew member) called me. During our conversation Bud suggested starting a reunion which would include the entire World War II Submarine Service of enlisted and officers. We agreed to start the ball rolling and from their efforts the annual reunion was founded.

Although trouble was encountered in getting the word out to the men in time, it was indeed gratifying when about 60 men attended the first reunion. Our first reunion was held at the Ambassador Hotel in Atlantic City from September 23rd to the 25th, 1955. Needless to say, the old submarine spirit was present and a fine time was had by all.

Here's a picture of the officers and committee of the first reunion, September 20, 1955.

Front row, left to right:
Joe Cronin (USS Flyingfish and USS Bang), Bill Herzog (USS Peto), Ed Branin (co-founder and 1956 President)(USS Bergall and USS Caiman), Hugh Trimble (Founder and 1955 President)(USS Bergall and USS Blenny), Joe Lebrizzi (USS Balao), Joe Ritter (USS Kingfish and USS Seadog), Jim Mitchell (USS Rock)

Second row, left to right:
Bob Link (USS Grayback, USS Growler and USS Threadfin), Bob White (USS Drum), Leonard English (USS Hoe), Bob McDonald (USS Gunnell and USS Spinax), Barry McDonald (USS Bluefish and USS Raton), Geny Isancsen (USS Bluefish), Hal Alman (USS Pentado)

Third row, left to right:
Paul Eurich (USS Halibut), Frank Kay (USS Gurnard), Ken Cochrane (USS Boarfish), Tom McDonald (USS Gato and USS Boarfish), Tyler Morris (USS Entimedor), John Merritt (USS Manta), Lyn Batson (USS Permit and USS Seadog)


Ed received his final orders in 2007.    A few of our guys attended the funeral, representing us and the Bergall crew...

" I attended Ed Branin's  memorial service and viewing October 4th, 2007 and delivered our Condolence card.  There must have been 20 or more WWll Subvets in attendance with a 2 man honor guard at the casket. It was a proper send off and I'm glad I went.   I also had a startling meeting with Ray Marshall. A group of Bubbleheads in full regalia were chatting in back of the room. I introduced myself as a Bergall Sailor and a guy said I m also a served on the Bergall. We exchanged name an time and the guy was Ray Marshall. I chided him for not being more active. He was part of a group that arrived by van and they left as soon as the formalities were completed and I was unable to continue our conversation." Abe Kern

"Warren G. Valero and Trudy Valero also went to Ed Branin's wake on Thursday in Marlton NJ. Ed was the founder of WWII Sub Vets. His number was 00001. There was an honor guard beside the casket of 2 sub vets at all times. They took turns every 10 minutes. 17 members of Sub Vets of WWII and Sub Vet Inc. attended in vests and hats and held services for Ed. Ed served on the Bergall SS320. burial was on Friday. Ed is now on eternal patrol."  Dick Pepperted

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