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My four years at the Naval Academy were some of the most enjoyable, and certainly memorable years of my adulthood. I never was an outstanding student, but with hard work stayed in the middle of my class. I was stronger in math and science, and weaker in English and English Literature. Because I was busy with some athletic endeavor all four years, I couldn't spare much time to sit around to talk and make friends. I did make friends, friends that have lasted through the years, but usually when I went up to my room from the chow hall I had to hit the books.

Unbeknown to me, I got off to a good start during the entrance physical exam when they test all the muscle groups of your body. In that respect I tested higher than anyone who'd entered the Academy up to that time. Plebe year I played football, boxed, and played Lacrosse When youngster year rolled around I'd had enough of boxing. I would have gotten better at the sport, but I figured the wear and tear on my body wasn't worth it, and shifted to wrestling, a decision that made me happy that I made the move. I didn't have enough brains to chance having them knocked out, boxing.

By the time I was a First Classman, I was Captain of the football team, and we beat Army 10-0. I was Captain of the wrestling team, we won the Eastern title. Navy also had a good Lacrosse season. Because of my hard work and team spirit, I was awarded the Naval Academy Athletic sword. That fall after the 1939 football season, I was invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation. At that time the Heisman was only five years old and the occasion did not have the hype it does today. Nile C. Kinnick, Jr. from the University of Iowa was the winner, over five other players, Tom Harmon, Michigan, Paul Christman, Missouri, George Cafego, Tennessee, and me. Each of the nominees had to give a five minute speech to the professional sports writers. It was a great trip for a farm boy from Illinois. My coach, Emery “Swede” Larson, took me to a Broadway show, and I thought I had gone to heaven. In those days the Navy did not have a paid football coach. It was usually an officer who had played the game at the Academy. In this case it was a Marine Captain, who coached us before he left for WW II. Besides being a nice guy, Coach Larson was a good coach who went on to coach six wins in a row against Army, before WWII took him in a different direction. Nile Kinnick was lost at sea a couple of years later while flying a Navy Fighter plane.

On the social side I didn't have time to date during the first two years. For my youngster year June week, I took a girl from Evanston. Second class year, it was a girl from Glyn Ellyn, Illinois. By my First class year, it was Jayne Clark. She came out for the Army-Navy Game as well. During the last two years I went to a few dances and usually took Scotti Fried from York, Pennsylvania. After graduation, I married Jayne and Scotti married my roommate George Kronmiller.

I didn't just compete in sports while I was at the Academy. During my First Class year, I was a Battalion Commander, and then a part of the staff as a four striper. I ended my Naval Academy military career back at the Battalion.
Apr 05, 2012 · Reply
How I went from being on the Surface to being Under the Sea by Allen A. Bergner, RADM, USN, (Ret.)

For me, it all started December 7, 1941. I was stationed aboard the Battleship USS WEST VIRGINIA (BB-48) out of Naval Base Pearl Harbor. The previous evening, Jayne, my wife, and I had attended a formal party at the Officers' Club. We stayed with some friends Ed and Boggie King, in Waikiki. A few minutes after seven in the morning, the telephone rang, and someone on the other end was yelling “we are under attack!” By the time Ed and I got down to the piers, the last of the planes were making a run on the remaining Battleships. WEST VIRGINIA was nested outboard of USS TENNESSEE (BB-43) on Battleship Row. As we boarded a liberty boat to get to the ship, another Zero made its run. Now they were heading over the Submarine Base and dropping torpedoes. By the time we got to the WEST VIRGINIA she was on the bottom of the harbor. With no gangway, we got aboard from the land side using the barrel of a five inch gun. The ship was a mess, after being hit by seven torpedoes and at least two 16” armor piercing bombs. The Skipper, Captain Bennion was dead, killed along with some two hundred of my shipmates.

It took 2 days just to put out the fires. At night we slept on the bleachers of a local ball park. Some of us were assigned temporary duty with the Army Coastal Defense to make sure they didn't shoot at any of our ships. A few days later, I was instructed to meet with our Executive Officer from the WEST VIRGINIA, at his temporary quarters at the ball field. After some small talk, he asked if I was still interested in submarines since earlier that year, I'd put in a request for Submarine School. I was still very interested. He told me to report to Admiral Withers, Commander, Submarine Forces, Pacific (COMSUBPAC) the next morning at 0800.

I arrived the next morning to see two of my classmates already there. The Admiral asked Tom McGrath if he had any preference for a ship. He wanted the USS POMPANO (SS-181), where Slade Cutter, an All-American Football player for Navy, was then Executive Officer. Captain Cutter left USS POMPANO a year before she was lost at sea. He went on to earn 4 Navy Crosses. Ed O'Brien wanted USS SEAWOLF (SS-197). When Admiral Withers got to me, I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Admiral, I don't know one submarine from another, so you just put me where you need an officer.” He let me know that John Murphy would be arriving in the morning in USS TAMBOR (SS-198), and needed me. I could not have known how fateful this decision would be. The POMPANO was lost at sea somewhere near Honshu, in September, 1943, and the SEAWOLF was accidentally sunk by friendly fire, October, 1944 somewhere in the Philippine sea. I was in a squadron of twelve ships, ten were lost, and I served on the other two. I could only wonder what fate had in store for me in the future.
Apr 05, 2012 · Reply