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Ballston Spa memorial honors New Yorkers who died in subs

Saturday, May 19, 2012
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Patrick Subcliff and Charles McCormack of CBM Fabrication finish installing a 20-foot scale model of the USS Albany at the New York state submariners memorial in Ballston Spa on Friday.
Patrick Subcliff and Charles McCormack of CBM Fabrication finish installing a 20-foot scale model of the USS Albany at the New York state submariners memorial in Ballston Spa on Friday.

— After eight years of effort by local submarine veterans, a unique memorial to New Yorkers who died in Navy submarines will be dedicated Sunday morning.

An attention-grabbing 20-foot scale model of the nuclear submarine USS Albany was installed at the memorial site off Route 50 on Friday, to go along with a granite memorial that contains 447 names of those lost at sea.

Most of those listed died in submarine combat during World War II. Of the 65 subs lost since 1900, 52 went down during World War II. The last subs lost were the nuclear-powered USS Thresher in 1963 and USS Scorpion in 1968.

“This memorial is the first and only commemorating the submariners from a single state,” said Al Singleman Jr. of Rotterdam, who has headed the memorial effort.

A dedication ceremony will take place at 11 a.m. Sunday. U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, is expected to attend, as are representatives of other elected officials. Navy Capt. Jeffrey Hughes, a former base commander at the Kesselring nuclear training site in West Milton, will be the keynote speaker.

The site is on Route 50 next to the Ballston Spa Public Library and is also accessible through the village’s Veterans Memorial Park on Low Street.

The presence of the Kesselring site — where hundreds of sailors at a time are trained to operate shipboard nuclear reactors — is a big part of why the memorial was built in Ballston Spa, rather than somewhere else. “Over 130,000 naval personnel have passed through here since 1954,” Singleman said.

The monument cost about $60,000, all of which was raised privately. Singleman said the Ballston Spa American Legion and Veterans of Foreign War posts both provided significant help, and many businesses have made donations or given discounts.

CBM Fabrication of Ballston Lake donated the materials and labor to build the replica submarine. It is made of fiberglass and steel, painted black and weighs 600 pounds.

“We worked on it for three or four months, off and on,” said CBM Fabrication owner Charles McCormack. “We do a lot of work for Kesselring and for Knolls Atomic [Power Laboratory], and we wanted to do our part. It was a fun project. The guys enjoyed it.”

The idea of a local memorial to those lost on submarines was hatched during a national submarine veterans convention held in Saratoga Springs in 2004. The village granted permission for the site’s use in 2010, and ground was broken a year ago.

A bricked path leads to the memorial and contains the names or messages of sponsors who bought brick pavers.

“After eight years, wow,” Singleman said as he surveyed the nearly completed project Friday.

Like others who organized the memorial, Singleman is a submarine service veteran, having served from 1968 to 1975 aboard the USS Francis Scott Key. He’s chairman of the Albany-Saratoga Sub Vets Memorial Foundation.

Another organizer, Jack Carroll of Saratoga Springs, spent 20 years below the sea and 14 years — four separate tours — as a master chief at the West Milton site. Like many who served there, the Long Island native settled in the area after his Navy days were done.

Carroll, 76, said submariners have a common bond that led to the memorial.

“You talk to a submariner, they are extremely proud,” he said. “You ask any submariner, their proudest day is the day they’re awarded their dolphin.”

The dolphin insignia is awarded to submariners who have completed a year of training.

An image of the dolphin, along with images of the ballistic missile service insignia and images of three historic submarines, appears on the granite monument that contains the names of the dead.

There are currently 447 names listed in alphabetical order, but about 20 names that have come to light more recently will be added later, Singleman said.

The USS Albany, the attack submarine on which the scale model is based, remains in active service. It is 362 feet long, approximately 18 times the size of the replica now installed in Ballston Spa.

 
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