Our Secretary, Matt Baumgarten, was the featured speaker at the Bench Dedication at the Cold War Memorial on Saturday, Oct 2nd 2021. The following is the text of Matt’s speech:
Greetings and salutations my fellow shipmates, and a warm Navy welcome to the spouses, families and friends that have accompanied you here today. You are all great Americans and true Patriots. Of this you should be extremely proud. And what better place for us to convene today than at Patriot’s Point, here in beautiful Charleston S.C.
We gather together today to formally dedicate the USS James K. Polk’s memorial bench located here in this magnificent Cold War Submarine memorial park.
I want to thank the people who were critical in making this bench dedication possible through their tireless efforts to have this beautiful memorial fabricated and installed: EM1 Lew Leal, Captain Jim Lyons, Captain Jim Pillsbury, the Board of the JKPVA, and most importantly, the Donors. I will not name names. You know who you are.
Whether you served on board the Jimmy K, submerged and cruising along at 4 knots to nowhere, standing at the ready to deliver intercontinental ballistic missiles with multiple independent re-entry warheads or you served on-board her, sneaking up on some unsuspecting foreign land delivering America’s finest and bravest special operations warfighters, the United States Navy SEALs, you are part of a very special family; a very special breed of human being that is knuckle headed yet brilliant ,cunning and clever, introvert or wiseass, yet all silent killers from the deep.
For 33 years the James K. Polk sailed the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and then the Mediterranean Sea. Occasionally she spent time on a cradle in a drydock, getting fresh zoomie rods inserted in her tea kettle or a pair of underwater garages welded to her back, just so she could go back underwater and do her very special job. A job that can only be accomplished by men, and now women, that are specially trained, highly skilled and extremely motivated at not being found by their enemies for weeks or months on end. What a weird way to earn a living folks. And not much of a living it was.
I joined the crew of the James K. Polk in May 1992. I was fresh out of Nuke School and the Submarine Officer Basic Course and was so excited to hit the deck plates running. I knew walking across the brow for the very first time, just a few miles from where we stand right now, up the Cooper River, at Naval Submarine Base Charleston, that this was going to be a tough run. But never in my mind did I ever imagine the lifelong friendships that I was going to make. The true thing about these friendships, is that you may have served three months with a shipmate or three years, it doesn’t matter. One underway together and the bond is there forever.
Standing here some 29+ years later, I would give my right arm to get underway one more time and take her down deep. There is not a thrill in this world to me that matches hearing the sound of the klaxon diving alarm blaring out its unique sound and the COW saying “Dive, Dive” over the 1MC. It may have taken hundreds of procedural steps and many long hours of preparation to finally get out to the dive point, but hearing the air escaping the main ballast tank vents, and then feeling the boat slip beneath the waves, bow down, picking up speed, and then finally settling at the ordered depth in that surreal tranquil undersea world that we all called home for some period of our young lives, was all worth the effort.
The beauty of our James K. Polk Veterans Association, is that once a year we gather together to see our former shipmates, make a few new shipmates and to relive the days of our youth.
No one can tell a better story, 3 times in one weekend I might add, than a submarine sailor.
One day not too long ago at one of these gatherings in Myrtle Beach, an idea was brought forth about raising money to have a memorial bench created to honor the Jimmy K. I don’t recall the price, but it wasn’t cheap. The amazing thing about this bench is not the fact that it looks freaking awesome, or that it is the best-looking bench in the entire park here, the amazing thing is that we raised the money in just a few days. The excitement, the love for and the commitment to the Polk legacy shined ever so bright that week.
We are very fortunate that the sail from our beloved boat has been saved and will live on for many years to come in Albuquerque. Not many submariners ever get to touch a major part of their boat ever again in their lives, but we do. Getting the sail saved, moved, and put in-place was the work of a few shipmates.
And now, thanks to the efforts of a few more of our shipmates, we have this beautiful bench to visit and reflect upon the days we sailed together onboard the USS James K. Polk SSBN 645 and SSN 645.
Thank you for coming today. Thank you for listening. I am really looking forward to the Banquet tonight onboard the Yorktown. Our guest speaker is going to amazing.
And one last thing shipmates: never forget, the SS after all of our names, really stands for Submarine Strong.
Thanks to all for attending the reunion this year in Charleston! We had around 120 attendees this year.
If you have not already done so, please fill out a short survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GC5T7HS
Don’t be a check valve, please share your photos with the rest of the crew via this link:
Want to see what you missed, or what trouble you got into, the photos can be viewed at this link:
OTTUZYUW RUCORGP0001 1851503-UUUU–RUCORGP.
O 0311503Z JUL 20
TO JKPVA MEM
SUBJ/UPDATE FOR ALL HANDS//
GENTEXT/REMARKS/1. ATTENTION ALL USS JAMES K POLK VETERANS
ASSOCIATION MEMBERS AND THOSE THAT ASPIRE TO BE A MEMBER OF THIS
PROFOUND AND DISTINGUISHED GROUP OF OUTSTANDING SUBMARINERS: DUE TO
THE CONTINUING COVID-19 PANDEMIC AND WITH AN ABSOLUTE NUCLEAR-GRADE
ABUNDANCE OF CAUTION, IT HAS BEEN DECIDED BY THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
THAT THE 2020 POLK REUNION SCHEDULED FOR 08OCT2020 TO 10OCT2020 IN
CHARLESTON S.C, HAS BEEN CANCELLED. THE PLAN NOW IS FOR THE 2021
REUNION TO BE HELD IN CHARLESTON. DATES TO BE PUBLISHED LATER THIS
2. VETERANS ASSOCIATION SENDS. “NUMBER 1 OF 41.”//
Last week at the 2019 reunion, the membership voted to raise the funds to place a bench at the Cold War Submarine reunion at the 2020 reunion. We received a lot of donations at the reunion, however, we still need to raise additional funds to bring this home. We are working on adding a new page to the site related to the bench. For those of you who were unable to attend and want to make a donation, there are two options right now:
You can donate any amount in your name or in memory of someone.
Follow this link to paypal to make a donation. Please follow up to with an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your information.
You can mail a check to:
USS James K. Polk Veterans
3704 Forsythe Court
Chesapeake, VA 23321
Make checks payable to: USS James K Polk Veterans Association
This year you will have the opportunity to participate in two tours.
First on Friday, we have made arrangements to take part in a private tour of the Battleship Wisconsin. The tour will run from 1300 to 1500. Parts of the tour will require the ability to climb and defend steep ladders. There will be a separate experience inside their Ship Experience Access Room (https://nauticus.org/ship-experience-access-room/) with a guide/docent for those with mobility issues. There is no cost for the private tour.
Second, there will be two tours of a submarine at Naval Base Norfolk on Saturday at 1300 and 1400 . Each tour is limited to 25 persons and requires the ability to climb and defend vertical ladders. Veterans will receive priority for these tours.
Sign up for the tours will be available at the check-in table.
The following was submitted by Glenn Little ETCS(SS) USN Retired:
JKP fired one A3 and 17 C-3 missiles during her time in service.
- 6-10-1966 A3 bird as an OT.
- 6-23-1966 A3 bird as an OT.
All that follow are C3
- On 1-13-1973 she fired one DASO bird.
- On 4-18-1975 she fired two birds for FOT-9. This was by the Gold crew when I was on board.
- On 8-29-1975 she fired two birds for FOT-14, this was by the Blue crew.
- On 4-24-1978 she fired four birds for OT-33.
- On 2-19-1979 she fired 4 birds for FOT-36.
- On 7-23-1983 she fired one DASO bird.
- On 4-9-1984 she fired two birds for Follow on OP test.
- On 3-9-1989 she fired one DASO bird.
The source of this information is http://www.astronautix.com/p/index.html
Look under Trident or Polaris for all of the launches.
If you wish to purchase photos from the banquet, the photographer provided the following information:
Access Code: USSPOLK
Costs: 4×6 – $5, 5×7 – $10, 8×10 – $20
If you have any questions, you can contact the photographer Donald at 843-504-8711
If you cannot attend the reunion this year, you can still win a museum quality submarine model by purchasing a raffle ticket here! Each ticket has TWO chances to win! The first winner will win a 1:350 scale model that will be customized for the winner (SSBN, SSN, nameplate). The second winner will win a 1:700 model (no customizations, sorry). Purchase 10 tickets and the electronic payment fee is waived!