The Daily News
14, 1998 12:10 AM CDT
GALVESTON -- During World War II,
Ron Smith depended on stealth as
he rode in the belly of a
patrolling submarine. But today,
the president of the San Jacinto
chapter of U.S. Submarine
Veterans of World War II says the
group is frustrated over a
silent-running park board of
Heads of the
veterans group say they've heard
nothing about the future of the
World War II-era boats it
contracts with the park board to
display at Seawolf Park.
In September, trustees
mentioned temporarily closing the
displays as one option for
dealing with the park's history
of operating at a deficit and
damage inflicted by Tropical
The veterans say the last they
heard, the board was considering
a consultant's recommendation to
pump $1.5 million into the park,
including long-overdue repairs to
the naval displays.
Park board members say
something must be done to bring
the park back into the black.
Last year, the board lost $58,000
on the park, and losses are
expected to mount this year.
"We have to come up with
some kind of way to make those
things profitable," said
Raymond Lewis Jr., chairman of
the park board. "If we do in
fact make a large-scale
investment restoring those
things, they will have to pay for
Smith said other cities have
profited with submarine exhibits.
He said the veterans' group's
records show the naval exhibit
had brought $1 million to the
park board during its 27-year
tenure at the park.
"There are very few World
War II submarines left, somewhere
around 10 to 12 around the United
States, and they're doing real
well for the entities which
exhibit and maintain them - San
Francisco, Pearl Harbor and
Mobile," he said.
But maintenance of the exhibit
has been ignored, Smith said, as
evidenced by the submarine's
The poor condition of the USS
Cavalla forced the group to
conduct annual memorial services
in April on the submarine's good
side - across the street from the
"We made a deal with the
park board, and they agreed to
display it, and all they've done
is let it go downhill," he
said. "They haven't
maintained it, and they haven't
Lewis said the future of
Seawolf Park would be an issue at
coming meetings of the park board
and its operations committee.
"I can understand some of
the veterans being
concerned," Lewis said.
"I was in the military
myself, and my father was in
World War II, and I understand
how passionate people can be
about these things.
"If the veterans have
some ideas on how to do this, I
welcome them to our next meeting
to tell us how to proceed,"
The ex-submariners say they
will be there in force and that
they plan to march through
Galveston on Nov. 10 to bring
attention to the naval exhibit.
"This is not a tourist
attraction," Smith said.
"It's a memorial to 3,700
submariners who died in World War