11 August 2016
They saw this coming.
The eastern chapter of the U.S. Submarine Veterans of World War II organization will disband at the end of this year due to declining membership and activity.
Members of the organization — not to be confused with the U.S. Submarine Veterans Groton Base — were not surprised by the news, said J. "Deen" Brown, commander of the chapter.
"They understand it. It's been expected primarily because of our age group," Brown, of Oakdale, said by phone Wednesday.
The majority of World War II veterans are in their 90s, and they are dying at a rate of about 430 per day, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The National World War II Museum in New Orleans estimates that by 2036, there will be no living WWII vets left, while VA projections go until 2043.
There are 9,563 World War II veterans in Connecticut, according to Department of Veterans' Affairs data, and in 10 years, that number is expected to dwindle to 900.
Brown said the eastern chapter is a "spinoff" of the national organization that disbanded in 2012 for similar reasons.
He estimated that the eastern chapter has between 80 and 90 members who are from the local area but it also has members all over the country. Many of them are also members of Subvets.
The chapter officially will disband and close on Dec. 30.
It's expected that the organization will have funds left over when it closes, and Brown said members will decide later this year which organization or organizations they will donate the leftover money to.
The group has volunteered its time to do maintenance work on the World War II National Submarine Memorial in Groton and participates in many local Navy celebrations including the anniversary of the Battle of Midway — known as the turning point of World War II in the Pacific — held at the historic ship Nautilus.
Brown, a retired master chief, was assigned to the USS Trout (SS-202) as a radioman during the Battle of Midway. He said his submarine's mission was to help form a barrier line southwest of the island of Midway to prevent Japanese troop transports from getting close enough to the island to offload.
He recalled there being "something like" 12 troop transports carrying more than 5,000 soldiers.
"We had to prevent them from getting close, which they never managed to do because our Air Force held them off," he said, explaining that he spent between two weeks and 18 days "waiting and waiting and waiting for the Japanese to come and, of course, they didn't."