A Long County man, General William Bacon, went to a watery grave nearly 70 years ago, but one group plans to remember his ultimate sacrifice and that of other World War II submariners.
Bacon, a petty officer, despite his first name, died June 12, 1943, when the United States Navy sub to which he was assigned, the USS R-12, foundered off the coast of Key West, Fla., during a training mission.
Online memorial organization On Eternal Patrol, affiliated with USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park in Honolulu, Hawaii, near Pearl Harbor, is searching for Bacon’s surviving relatives.
The group hopes to acquire a photograph and more information about the sailor, who was 20 years old when he died. On Eternal Patrol currently is putting together a photographic directory to remember those men in “the silent service” like Bacon who gave their lives while serving their nation.
The site lists approximately 3,630 men “who are known to have been lost while in service in the U.S. Submarine Force during World War II,” according to www.oneternalpatrol.com. Each man has his own personal memorial page and more than 2,300 men have photos on their pages, according to the website.
On Eternal Patrol volunteer researcher Cliff Clark of Montgomery, Ala., called the Courier to offer Bacon’s story in hopes of locating the sailor’s surviving family members.
“This man died years and years ago and the boat was just found,” he said.
Bacon’s submarine, the USS R-12, recently was discovered in 600 feet of water off the coast of Key West, Fla., by an exploration team led by Tim Taylor aboard the expedition vessel RV Tiburon, according to On Eternal Patrol.
Bacon, along with 40 other American sailors and two Brazilian naval officers, went down with the sub. The two Brazilians reportedly were on board to observe a torpedo-firing exercise, Clark said.
“A research team is supposed to go down to Key West next year to look at the sub and see what made it sink,” he said. “The original theory was that it was shot down, torpedoed, by PT boats. Now, they assume what might have happened is that the forward torpedo door didn’t close and the submarine took on water and sank. Apparently all the sailors are still on it; no one escaped from it. There’s a good story to be uncovered once we get all this information. And I think they’re going to do a TV documentary.”
Clark said he, too, had a relative who died in World War II.
“My uncle was lost on a submarine over by Okinawa,” Clark said. “The family knew he was lost on a submarine but we didn’t know all the details.”
Clark said he found his uncle’s name posted on an online memorial roster after visiting a museum in Charleston, S.C. The listing gave his family more details of his uncle’s service and death. He now hopes to do the same for others through his research for On Eternal Patrol.
“It helps provide closure,” he said.
Clark located one of Bacon’s distant cousins, Pamela Gantt of Glennville. Gantt said she plans to speak with elderly family members and their children, those in their 60s, to see if they have more information about Bacon. She told Clark she would try to locate a photograph of her cousin.
Bacon was the son of the late Ruth Stubbs Bacon of Glennville, according to Clark.
For more information, contact Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org or 334-324-6067 or email Charles Hinman at info@OnEternalPatrol.com.