Commander, Submarine Group Two

Photo of USS California (BB 44). Photo courtesy of the
Navy History and Heritage Command.

Former Battleship California
Sailor is a Submariner at Heart

CASTLE ROCK, Wash. (NNS) -- For one 88-year-old World War II veteran, the dream of serving in the submarine force continued when he received a USS California (SSN 781) hat Jan. 27.

The Castle Rock native served aboard USS California (BB 44), the fifth ship to be named after its namesake state, 68 years ago.

"My grandfather and I had heard about the commissioning of USS California, and I personally wanted to give him a USS California ship's hat before he passes on," said Brian Wool, Robert Schaffran's grandson.

Wool added that he wanted to give his grandfather a memento from the submarine force that would tie his grandfather's service aboard the battleship California and the latest submarine to be named after the Golden State.

When Schaffran first entered the U.S. Navy, he wanted to serve in the submarine force, but was denied because of his height, according to Wool.

"Although he wanted to join the submarine force, he was too tall at the time which led to his subsequent tour on board USS California," said Wool, who followed his grandfather's lead and also served in the U.S. Navy for 11 years.

Schaffran remembered fondly when he initially went to the recruiting office to enlist in the U.S. Navy, because he had to duck through the doorway to meet with the recruiter.

"My friend was also interested in serving aboard submarines at that time, but he was six feet six inches tall," said Schaffran. "That essentially marked the end of our career aspirations to serve aboard submarines."

Schaffran added that despite not serving under the sea, he would always cherish his experiences serving in the U.S. Navy.

"There are a lot of experiences that I will always cherish that I went through while aboard USS California, not just in battle, but also on the way home from the war," said Schaffran. "Many times I have wished that I had Uncle Sam's money to take me to all of the places I had been while in the U.S. Navy."

Wool reflected on his grandfather's service while aboard the Battleship California.

"My grandfather was like so many young men of that era; he had not finished school when Pearl Harbor was attacked and joined the Navy soon after," said Wool. "He was sent to Idaho for boot camp and then sent to Seattle to be stationed on the USS California BB-44 as a deck seaman in 7th division."

Wool said that BB-44 arrived in Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for repair and modernization after Pearl Harbor, but rejoined the rest of the fleet for action in mid-1944.