Cavalla SSK-244

Patch History
by Zeke Zellmer


World War II: 1944 – 1946

The initial Cavalla Symbol was designed, at the Skipper’s request, by the Communication Officer. Cavalla was a small fish found in Caribbean and South American (Spanish) waters; therefore, the Sombrero. Had to make the small fish warlike, thus the torpedo tucked under the fin. With that guidance and the Encyclopedia Britanica outline of the fish, our Yeoman, P. Rizelli, provided a pen and ink drawing of the initial Symbol. (He may have sublet the project.) The Skipper, LCDR H. Kossler , approved the symbol. This was in January 1944, before commissioning. The Symbol was black and white. The New London Day made cuts of the Symbol for use in printing the ship’s stationery and the commissioning party program. The Submarine Base did the printing.


The Cavalla Flag was received after the 3rd patrol; it was a surprise gift to the Communication Officer from a young Wisconsin lady, Ethyle Hahn. The Flag was in blue and gold; the Symbol was its centerpiece. It was flown after the 4th and 5th patrols.

When the museum is built, the original flag will be presented to it. For the 50th Anniversary Reunion in 1994, the original flag had Japanese naval and marine ensigns added representing the Japanese ships sunk by Cavalla.


Cavalla took a dingo pup along for the 3rd patrol. It made a mess of the Skipper’s stateroom and was exiled to the After Torpedo Room where she was loved, but continued to be a nuisance. Moving torpedoes and skids to clean up soon ceases to be fun; the pup was untrainable! The Cavalla Symbol was stenciled on the blanket that the pup wore when, after the patrol, she was escorted ashore never to return. Photo, taken in Fremantle Australia, shows Tom Denegre with the pup and its canvas blanket.



The Symbol and Japanese Flags for ships sunk were painted on the sail when Cavalla returned to Pearl Harbor after witnessing the surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay. They remained there as Cavalla returned to New London. Phil "Turtle" Urban, Charles Aylmer, and Nelson Hoffman are in the photo, which was taken in Pearl Harbor.


No patches with the Symbol were made during the war because of security restrictions. No request was made to higher authority to approve the Symbol.


Post WWII: 195? – to Date.

Woodie Wert had an SS Patch made by one of the workers at Mare Island Shipyard. This was probably in the early 50’s. The Patch was hand painted and departed from the black and white original in that it was colored. For one of the early reunions of Cavalla’s WWII Shipmates, colored patches were made. This was probably done by Rudy Cieplenski. This Patch is still used by the WWII Shipmates.




For the 50th Anniversary Reunion in 1994, Japanese naval and merchant ensigns were added to the original Cavalla Flag (in frame on wall). In 2002, a new and larger Cavalla Flag was presented to the Cavalla Historical Foundation for use in ceremonial functions. The new flag was made by the same lady who, fifty-eight years earlier, made the original Cavalla Flag. Ethyle (Hahn) Beletsky, now an octogenarian, was assisted by another octogenarian, Lorna Highducheck.


The Cold War: 1951 – 1954.

Cavalla was re-commissioned as an SS in 1951, served a year plus, and was then decommissioned, overhauled and modified. Max Duncan, the Commanding Officer, ’51-’52, identified this patch as the one used during that first re-commissioning period for Cavalla. Decommissioned in 1952, Cavalla was re-commissioned in July ’53 as an SS. Whether this patch was also used in ’53 and ’54, I do not know.




The Cold War: 1954 - 1958

When converted to an SSK in February 1954, the crew probably had little or no clue as to the original Cavalla Symbol though they may have known of the 1951 patch This new Patch was created. The vertical fish/submarine is gone. The centerpiece is a horizontal submarine with headphones and with arms holding a torpedo; it depicted Cavalla’s new role as an SSK. Don Hammersmark showed me the patch he had gotten when he served aboard from 1956 to 1958; he said that it was one of the last available.



The Cold War: 1958 – 1959.

This second SSK patch was developed in the latter half of ’58. It is the only 244 Patch that I have been able to document as having received approval from higher authority. That document is at the Naval Historical Center. Admiral R. L. J. Long approved the design on 3 September 1958. In less than a year, the patch was obsolete when Cavalla was again designated SS.



One Patch Left Over?

From ’59 to ‘63, Cavalla was designated an "SS."

The patch at left appears to be modified from the SSK Patch though it could have been a modification of the SS Patch used in ’51 & ’52. Note that on this SS Patch there are no headphones, the torpedo warhead is not red, and the circles are red not gold.

When I was on reserve training duty in 1963 and had a day on Cavalla, I was given a patch. I didn’t label it, just put it in my collection. Today, I’m uncertain which patch I received, the one at left or the other in my collection that has now been identified by Max Duncan as the patch used in ’51-’52. Perhaps the one at left was used in the ’59-’63 period. Can anyone identify when this patch was used?


The Cold War: 1963 – 1968.

On 1 July 1963, Cavalla was designated an "AGSS." On 29 February 1964, the 5th Birthday (20th Anniversary) of Cavalla was celebrated. Cavalla was at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. The program I received, when attending the celebration, had the AGSS Symbol shown. It was a simple black and white sketch patterned after the SSK Symbol, complete with headphones.

Al Lansdowne who served on Cavalla in ’66 & ’67 as an EMC said that no AGSS Patches were available when he was on board; they used the SSK patch.  I have subsequently received information from Jack Haley, Joe Zorbach, and Chuck Harrison that their patches were the SS patch that was used in 1951.  Jack served on Cavalla in '59-'61 as an FN, Joe in ’63-65as a CS3 (SS), Chuck served in ’66-’68; as the Ops/Nav Officer.

Thus far, no one has reported that there ever had been an AGSS Patch. It would appear that whatever left over patches were available were used, SS or SSK. If you served during the ‘63-’68 period, let me know what patch you had. Maybe someone had the "patch left over" described earlier in this article.

In Service, In Reserve ’68-’69.

In 1968, Cavalla was decommissioned and placed in reserve and assigned to the Houston Naval Reserve Division 9-95 for training. This symbol is the same as the one directly above except for the inscription. Note it also has the clearly defined anchor chain about the "neck" and "tail." The chains relate back to the SS Patch used in 1951 and 1952 and which were more clearly shown in the SSK Patch of ’58.



The Cold War and the Nuclear Era: 1973 – 1997.

Plank Owner Jim Burke advises that during the 1971-72 construction of the nuclear powered Cavalla (SSN 684), the crew held a contest to develop a Patch design. This was during the era when the Navy desired a more professional look and had decreed that "cartoon characters" could no longer be used. The crew, however, voted overwhelmingly for a design that used a modified SSK patch, overlaying on it the symbol of an atom. The commissioning commanding officer, CDR Bruce De Mars, was successful in convincing the brass to approve, for "historical reasons," the adoption of this descendant of the 244 Patches.


After Thought: 29 February 2004 --- 60 Years and 15 Birthdays after Cavalla’s Commissioning.

The only common feature that survived from the original Cavalla Symbol through the SSN Patch is the torpedo, tucked under a fin or an arm. All patches after the original symbol dropped the "fish" design for a submarine and in the process, the torpedo was held by an arm (or two arms), not by a fin.

Any further information on the timing, usage, and design of the symbol/patches will be welcomed. In particular, information on the timing of the patch shown under the heading "One Patch Left Over?" is needed. If you have a patch not shown above, I would appreciate a color photo of it or if you have an extra patch, it would be welcome and would be given to the Museum when it is built between Cavalla and Stewart.

Is there a missing link or two out there? Let me know.

Zeke Zellmer
Communication Officer, 1944-1945
© 2004 Zeke Zellmer

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