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NEWS | Jan. 24, 2024

Alaska Naval Militia, U.S. Navy Reserve pay tribute to S-26 submariners

By Balinda O’Neal Alaska National Guard Public Affairs

In a solemn gathering at the U.S. Navy Reserve Center on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, sailors from the Alaska Naval Militia and U.S. Navy Reserve assembled Jan. 24, to pay homage to their fallen comrades lost 82 years ago.

On Jan. 24, 1942, the S-26 (SS 131), a U.S. Navy S-class submarine, was lost in the Gulf of Panama, marking an emotional chapter in naval history. 
 
“Since the establishment of our Navy’s submarine service, 65 submarines have been lost in service,” said Capt. (AK) Jason Woodward, Alaska Naval Militia commander, setting a tone of respect and reflection, while welcoming guests to the ceremony. “More than 4,000 of our shipmates remain ‘On Eternal Patrol.’”

The tribute included a poignant Two Bell Ceremony, a tradition that evolved from early naval history when the ship’s bell was used to signal various evolutions in the daily routine aboard a ship, transitioning over time to become a solemn ritual to honor departed shipmates.

Lt. Cmdr. (AK) David Allen, Alaska Naval Militia chief of staff, narrated, "The toll of the ship's bell reminds us of the reverence we owe to our departed shipmates."
 
After the ringing of the final bell and the playing of Taps, the ceremony transitioned outside with a flag raising ceremony, despite single-digit temperatures.

“Throughout my naval career, there's always been traditions and transitions, and this is an opportunity to remember the people that we [are] standing on their shoulders," said Allen. "They made us what we are today, and they had to watch before us.”

Woodward expressed his appreciation for younger sailors and shipmates to witness the invaluable contributions of those who have served in the Silent Service.

The term "Silent Service" is a nickname often used to refer to the silent and unseen presence of submarines as they carry out their missions, which historically have included intelligence gathering, surveillance, and strategic deterrence.
 
The Alaska Naval Militia, as the naval component of the Alaska Organized Militia, plays a crucial role in Alaska's defense and emergency response capabilities. Their presence among the ranks at this remembrance event underscores the unity and shared commitment across naval components to honor the sacrifices made by submariners throughout history.
 
Guests from the State of Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, including the Office of Veterans Affairs, and Alaska Air and Army National Guard, also stood in solidarity.
 
According to Woodward, the S-26 wreck lies upright on the seabed and is protected as a war grave. The S-26 and the 46 men who went down with her remain on eternal patrol.