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Walter F. Mazzone, a top SEALAB officer, Dies at 96

Posted on August 7, 2014 by Ben Hellwarth

Captain Walter F. Mazzone, a veteran of harrowing World War II submarine patrols who later in his career became indispensable to the U.S.Navy’s SEALAB program, died today. He was 96 and had been in remarkably good health, living at his longtime home overlooking Mission Bay in San Diego and keeping up with lifelong favorite hobbies, like making works of stained glass and doing painstaking restorations of antique clocks.

Mazzone’s career took a fateful turn in the late 1950s when he was introduced to Captain George F. Bond, head of the Medical Research Laboratory at the U.S. Naval Submarine Base at New London, Conn., where Mazzone was working as a top administrator.

Captain Bond, the iconoclastic Navy doctor who would become the father the SEALAB program, was then starting a round of laboratory experiments at the base to figure out whether divers could stay down longer and reach greater depths than ever thought possible. Bond was aiming for historic breakthroughs in deep diving that would enable divers – “aquanauts,” as Bond liked to call them – to live and work for days at a time on the seabed in a properly equipped and pressurized base, something like the marine equivalent of a space station. This was revolutionary thinking at a time when conventional wisdom held that divers couldn’t go very deep, and their stays at any significant depth would have to be limited to a matter of minutes – not the hours, days, weeks and even months that Bond envisioned.

Fortunately for Bond, and for the history of diving, Mazzone was intrigued by Bond’s vision and by the physiological puzzles that would have to be solved. Not everyone was – indeed some in the Navy regarded Bond as somewhat of a crackpot. But Mazzone, an innately inquisitive man, got involved with running the early lab tests and would become Bond’s right-hand man throughout the 1960s until the final SEALAB came to an end in 1969. Without Mazzone, it’s unlikely that Bond would have gotten as far as he did with the SEALAB program or the advances in diving methods and technology that had a swift and lasting impact on military and civilian diving, and perhaps most notably on commercial diving operations.

While Bond was a charismatic visionary, an able scientist and an ardent spokesman for the cause of creating sea bases and equipping divers to reach greater depths, Mazzone took care of many of the details, such as those involved with running experiments on animals and later human volunteers to prove the concept of  ”saturation diving,” the key to the deep, long-duration dives that Bond hoped would make sea dwelling possible.Mazzone went on to play key roles in all three SEALAB sea trials, the first one off the coast of Bermuda, in 1964, and the second two off the coast of Southern California, in 1965 and 1969. He wore many hats throughout the project and while he could be tough, he was also a highly respected and trusted figure, sometimes affectionately called “Uncle Walter” by the SEALAB crews, whose lives were often quite literally in Mazzone’s hands. Mazzone put in long shifts on the surface, aboard vessels that served as SEALAB mission control, where he monitored life-support systems and hours-long decompression procedures, among other tasks critical to the safety of SEALAB aquanauts and to the success of the Navy’s newfangled undersea operations.

Even before Mazzone met George Bond and got involved with the nascent SEALAB program, he had made his mark as a young officer on submarines during World War II. His first war patrol, aboard the USS Puffer, became renowned in the cat-and-mouse annals of sub warfare after the diesel sub and its crew endured thirty-nine hellish hours of near continuous depth charging by Japanese destroyers in the Makassar Strait, around the eastern side of Borneo. Mazzone went on a second war patrol aboard Puffer and later transferred to the USS Crevalle, on which he made another five war patrols, including a bold mission into the Sea of Japan.

Born Jan. 19, 1918, Walt Mazzone was the son of Italian immigrants who settled in San Jose, Calif. His father worked in manufacturing jobs related to California canneries and his mother worked for department stores. Mazzone was determined to pursue a more white-collar career. With his sights set on medical school, Mazzone attended San Jose State College, not far from his family’s home. In college he was a boxer and graduated with a degree in biological and physical sciences in 1941, six months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entry into World War II.

So instead of heading to medical school, 23-year-old Walter was soon headed to war. He was among the first college graduates to be routed into an expedited three-month officer training program, bypassing the Navy’s traditional submarine school as part of an effort to speed up the process of getting officers onto boats, where they could then get the rest of their education on the job while at war. Mazzone did his officer training at Notre Dame and Columbia universities. He was commissioned as an ensign and assigned to the Puffer. His military awards include a Silver Star medal, Bronze Star medal with Combat “V” and a Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V”.

After the war, Mazzone returned to his studies by enrolling and the University of Southern California, where he graduated in June 1948 with a bachelor of science degree in pharmaceutical chemistry. But pharmacy work soon made him restless and in 1949 he joined the Navy’s newly formed Medical Service Corps, just in time for the Korean War, and was stationed in Occupied Japan at the newly commissioned U.S. Naval Hospital at Yokosuka. After the war Mazzone worked out of an office in Brooklyn, New York, and within five years became a high-ranking manager in the Armed Services Medical Procurement Agency, where he was responsible for big budgets and vast supplies of blood, blood derivatives, drugs and chemicals.

Mazzone might never have gone to New London or met George Bond if not for a craving for a Nedick’s hot dog. One day at lunch, he and his boss left their office near the Brooklyn shipyard and hopped a subway over to lower Manhattan. While walking near the venerable hot dog stand Mazzone ran into a former submarine medical officer who wondered aloud why Mazzone was not working in some capacity for the Submarine Service, given his distinguished wartime experience and interest in the boats. Mazzone agreed, and the officer apparently pulled some strings because Mazzone soon received orders to head the school of submarine medicine at the U.S. Naval Submarine Base at New London, where most American submariners got their specialized training.

In the fall of 1958, not long after arriving at New London, Mazzone first crossed paths with George Bond at the base’s Medical Research Laboratory and heard Bond talking about the need to do research focused on figuring out whether it would be physiologically possible, and also practical, to house divers in pressurized undersea bases. Mazzone was not easily impressed, but he was struck by Bond’s can-do bravado and a partnership was born that would produce game-changing advances – and adventures – in the science and medicine of deep diving. In the early 1960s, eager for more knowledge about the challenges they faced as they geared up for the first SEALAB trial, Mazzone made time to earn a master’s degree in environmental physiology from Harvard’s School of Public Health.

From the SEALAB program’s very beginning to its tragic, premature end, Mazzone was at the center of it all. After retiring from the Navy in the 1970s he went on to a long and productive career in private industry. The garage at the San Diego home where he had lived since about 1970 doubled as a workshop for his stained glass and clock repair hobbies. Only recently did Mazzone curtail his annual motor home trips. His wife of 67 years, the former Lucie Oldham, died in 2012. The couple’s only child, Robert Walter, is a retired naval officer.

Posted July 29, 2014

Brad Mooney passed away on 30 May in Austin Texas.  Burial will be in Arlington National Cemetery in the next few weeks.


 Please find the obituary @ BELOW  http://www.bottomgun.com/bbs2/forums/thread-view.asp?tid=15007&posts=1  

Posted July 29, 2014

Admiral Charles Robert "Chuck" Larson, USN, Ret.

20 November 1936 - 26 July 2014

 Former Naval Academy Superintendent Charles Larson dies after battle with leukemia. Adm. Charles R. Larson, a former superintendent of the Naval Academy and one-time candidate for lieutenant governor in Maryland, died Saturday morning at his home in Annapolis. There will be a Protestant Funeral Service for Admiral Charles Robert "Chuck" Larson, USN (Ret), USNA Class of 1958, on Wednesday, 30 July 2014@ 1000 in the Main Chapel followed by a full military burial in the Naval Academy Cemetery.  ADM Larson served as Superintendent of the Naval Academy twice, from August 1983--August 1986 and again from August 1994-June 1998.http://www.capitalgazette.com/news/annapolis/former-naval-academy-superintendent-charles-larson-dies-after-battle-with/article_83740d24-bfed-5335-b6ea-e0786b4849bd.html?mode=jqm  

Posted July 22, 2014

Robert "Bob" Hamilton, 57, passed away peacefully in his Franklin home early Friday morning, July 18, 2014. He had been the director of communications for Electric Boat for over eight years after a long and passionate career in journalism. He is survived and fondly remembered by his wife of 32 years, Kathryn; sons, Nicholas and Jonathan; daughter, Laura; daughter-in-law, Amber; his beloved grandchildren, Isaac and Kelsea; and loving dogs. A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 26, at Christian Fellowship Church, 140 Pudding Hill Road, Route 97, Scotland, CT 06264. All are welcome to attend. There are no calling hours. In lieu of flowers, the Hamiltons request that donations be made to the CFC Scholarship Fund. For further details, please visit www.potterfuneralhome.com.  Published in The Day on July 22, 2014.

 Posted June 30, 2014

Captain David D. Middleton, USN (Ret.), US Naval Academy Class of 1961, died June 20, 2014. Death resulted from massive trauma to his head from a fall while hiking on Little D'Arcy Island in Canada. During his career in the Navy, Dave commanded USS NATHAN HALE SSBN 623 (Blue) and Submarine Base Bangor Washington.

Services for Dave were held on Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at 11:00 a.m. at Forest Lawn Cemetery (Hillside Cemetery) in Bremerton, WA.

Condolences may be sent to:
Phyllis Middleton
4825 NW Francis Drive
Silverdale, WA 98383

The family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Wounded Warriors Project or similar military support organizations.


Posted June 30, 2014

Vice Admiral Thomas J. Bigley, USN (Ret), 86, who died January 27, 2014, was buried with Full Military Honors at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday, June 17, 2014, following a Mass of Christian Burial celebrated at 12:45 p.m. in The Old Post Chapel, Ft. Myer, VA.

Thomas Joseph Bigley, born in Everett, MA on September 16, 1927, was the son of Mary Burns Bigley and William Charles Bigley. Upon graduation from Everett High School in 1945, he enlisted in the Navy; entered the Naval Academy on a Fleet Appointment a year later; and graduated in June 1950. His first assignment was to USS ENGLISH (DD 696) followed by four submarines: USS AMBERJACK (SS 522), USS ATULE (SS 403), and USS TANG (SS 563), and as commanding officer of USS BREAM (SS 243). He served on three submarine staffs and in the Bureau of Naval Personnel. In 1965 he received a Master of Arts degree from the American University School of International Service. After assignment as Aide to the Chief of Naval Operations (1965-67), he attended the National War College; served (1968-70) as Commanding Officer of the USS SAMPSON (DDG-10); and returned to Washington as Executive Assistant to the Vice Chief of Naval Operations. Selected for Rear Admiral in 1972, his first "flag" assignment was Director East Asia Pacific Region, Office of the Secretary of Defense (International Security Affairs).

In February 1975 he assumed command of the Middle East Force in the Persian Gulf/Arabian Sea/Indian Ocean, during which time he was active in negotiations that resulted in the continued presence of the U.S. Navy in Bahrain. In 2004, he was presented the Bahrain Order-First Class in appreciation for his efforts in strengthening the friendship and cooperation between the two countries. Promoted to Vice Admiral in 1976, he served as Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet (1976-78); Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Logistics (1978-79); Commander U. S. Second Fleet and NATO's Striking Fleet Atlantic (1979-81); and as Director for Plans and Policy (J-5), Joint Chiefs of Staff (1981-83). His decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal; the Navy Distinguished Service Medal; Legion of Merit (4); and the Navy Commendation Medal.

Retiring after 38 years in uniform, he joined Burdeshaw Associates, Ltd. as VP Navy Programs (1983-89) and Eastman Kodak Company Federal Systems Division in the Washington office as Manager, Navy Programs, and Director, Field Operations for Commercial & Government Systems (1989-1994). He was a member of the Navy Submarine League, Surface Navy Association, the U.S. Naval Academy and National War College Alumni Associations, and the Washington Institute of Foreign Affairs. He served as President of the American Bahraini Friendship Society and a Director Emeritus of the Navy League of the U.S. National Capital Council. Active for many years on the Sea Services Committee at the Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, he was also devoted to Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School.

Predeceased March 4, 2000 by his wife of nearly fifty years, Ann Harrington Bigley of Washington, DC; he is survived by his wife, Bela Block Bigley; his three daughters, Ann Bigley Robertson (James), Mary Bigley Jones (Gregg) and Katherine Bigley Christie (Stephen), five grandchildren and his sister, Jean Bigley Campbell.


Posted June 30, 2014

LCDR John P. Kennedy, U.S. Navy (Retired), 74, passed away peacefully surrounded by family and friends on 21 May 2014. He joins his beloved wife Sally, who preceded him by two months. John was born on 29 August, 1939 in Quincy, Mass. He served 30 years in the U.S. Navy before retiring in February 1988. He then worked for Newport News Shipbuilding until 2002.

John proudly served his country as an Enlisted, Warrant, and then Commissioned Officer amassing multiple successes, awards, and friends. Tours of duty included Submarines; Bream, Bluegill, Sea Dog, Tench, Tenders; Hunley, Canopus, Frank Cable, and Shore Tours at POMFLANT, COMSUBRON 2, and COMSUBLANT.

Qualified in submarines on the USS Bream (SS-243) in 1959 and was a LCDR when he left the Navy.

John will be greatly missed and remembered by all his valued friends who showed support with their time, well wishes, and prayers. He leaves behind to cherish his memory; daughter Patty Ann, her husband Duane, and Grandson John Decker of St. Johns, FL.; sister Janice, her husband Peter Mariano and niece Pamela, and nephew Dominic of Canton, Mass.; beloved friends Sharon, Meagan, Kathryn, and Morgan of Newport News, VA; and Shipmates and Friends too numerous to list here.

Full military honors burial service will be at Arlington National cemetery at a future date to be determined.


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