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    The O’Kane Cribbage Board Is Passed Down

    The O’Kane Cribbage Board Is Passed Down

    Photo By Petty Officer 1st Class Michael B Zingaro | 191022-N-KB401-0021 JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM Oct. 22, 2019 -- Cmdr. Benjamin J....... read more read more

    PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (NNS) — Sailors assigned to the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarines USS Olympia (SSN 717) and USS Chicago (SSN 721) gathered on the historic submarine piers at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for a barbecue, camaraderie, and to carry on the tradition of passing on the O’Kane cribbage board, Oct 22.

    The O’Kane cribbage board is handed down to each oldest fast-attack submarine in the Pacific Fleet. Olympia is preparing for inactivation and will no longer be the oldest fast-attack submarine in the Pacific Theater — that title now belongs to Chicago.

    “Having O’Kane’s personal cribbage board onboard USS Olympia, especially with what its history means to the submarine force, truly was an honor,” said Cmdr. Benjamin J. Selph, commanding officer, USS Olympia.

    The legend of the cribbage board began during a patrol in the Yellow Sea by USS Wahoo (SS 283) in April of 1943. Lt. Richard “Dick” O’Kane, Wahoo’s executive officer, was playing a game of cribbage with the commanding officer, Lt. Cmdr. Dudley Morton, to pass the time before a difficult mission.

    Morton dealt O’Kane a perfect cribbage hand of 29 — the odds of which are 1 in 216,580. The crew would take this extremely rare hand as an omen of good luck. The following day, Wahoo sunk two Japanese freighters.

    Two days later, Morton and O’Kane played another game of cribbage in the wardroom. This time Morton dealt O’Kane a hand of 28 — these odds being 1 in 15,625. Morton was furious, vowing to never play O’Kane again, according to O’Kane’s book, “Wahoo: The Patrols of America’s Famous WWII Submarine.” The hand proved to be another stroke of good luck as later another enemy freighter was spotted and promptly sunk. Wahoo ended up being one of the most successful submarines during World War II.

    O’Kane’s luck with the board would continue as he took it with him to become the commanding officer of USS Tang (SS 306). Tang would go on to set the record of most ships sunk on a patrol. O’Kane received the Medal of Honor for his actions while commanding Tang.

    On Oct. 25, 1944, Tang was sunk by its own torpedo. Only nine Sailors survived, O’Kane being one of them. The survivors were picked up by a Japanese frigate and taken as prisoners of war. The original board went down with the submarine.

    The crew of the second Tang (SS 563) would present Admiral O’Kane with a replacement board upon his retirement in 1957.

    When O’Kane passed away Feb. 16, 1994, his wife Ernestine wanted his memory to live on. She had his Medal of Honor, Prisoner of War Medal, and the cards from the perfect hand, signed by the crew of Wahoo, to be given to the Bowfin Submarine Museum.

    His cribbage board, however, would be given to USS Kamehameha (SSBN 642) because it was the oldest submarine in the fleet. From there it would be passed on to USS Parche (SSN 683), USS Los Angeles (SSN 688), USS Bremerton (SSN 698), USS Olympia (SSN 717) and now USS Chicago (SSN 721).

    Before the board was passed from Olympia to Chicago, the commanding and executive officers of the boats played a friendly game against each another.

    “I know my crew is really looking forward to playing me and the chief of the boat,” said Cmdr. Chance Litton, commanding officer, USS Chicago. “Playing on this board is to participate in the history of the submarine fleet here in Hawaii. It really is a great honor.”

    Each submarine crew that has been in possession of the O’Kane cribbage board has had the opportunity to play games on the cribbage board while underway.

    As the festivities started winding down, Rear Adm. Blake Converse, commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, arrived on the pier and oversaw the board’s official handoff prior to Olympia’s departure for decommissioning.

    “My crew is the best crew in the Navy,” said Selph. “We are tight-knit, we’ve earned sea experience through tenacious discipline and it’s what’s required when you operate the oldest SSN that we have. It has been a fantastic experience and one that I will treasure for the rest of my life.”

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 11.08.2019
    Date Posted: 11.12.2019 19:03
    Story ID: 351195
    Location: PEARL HARBOR, HI, US 

    Web Views: 940
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