NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- The crew of USS Mahan (DDG 72) helped fulfill the wishes of a retired World War II Sailor, April 10, by hosting him aboard the deck of a destroyer just one more time.
Retired Chief Sonar Technician William Schaen served in the Navy during World War II when he was 19 years old. Now at 85, Schaen crossed the brow one last time and was greeted by his shipmates; fellow sonar technicians, chief petty officers and other members of the crew.
"It's been longer than I can remember; probably 50 years since I was on one of these," said Schaen.
During the visit, sonar technicians guided Schaen and his wife, Olga, through a tour of the ship's anti-submarine equipment. Schaen, whose retirement from the Navy led to a career at the Naval Underwater Systems Laboratory, discussed how the systems have changed and developed throughout the years. He also got a chance to identify tonals and track underwater contacts.
"We've come a long way since we were listening to Morse code on record players," said Schaen.
Schaen shared his Navy experiences while showing the crew photographs and newspaper clippings. He described how his 19th birthday was interrupted by a German submarine attack.
In April 1944, while executing a North Atlantic barrier sweep aboard USS Hubbard (DE 211), Seaman Schaen and his shipmates received word that a destroyer in company, USS Davis (DE 136), had been attacked by a German submarine. Hubbard gave chase, dropping depth charges as she tracked the German submarine for several hours. By sunset, the German crew abandoned the badly damaged submarine and was picked up by the Hubbard.
After the war, Schaen served on USS Meredith (DD 890), USS Wilson (DD 847), USS Owens (DD 827), and USS Witek (DD 848). Today, he is an active member in VFW Post 475 in Delaware, where he serves as quartermaster.
"The crew showed so much interest in Mr. Schaen's experiences," said Cmdr. Adam Aycock, Mahan commanding officer. "We welcome every opportunity to open the lines of communication between generations of Sailors; this is our heritage."
The visit was concluded in the Chief's Mess where Schaen was presented with a homemade cake in celebration of his upcoming 86th birthday. After enjoying steaks and cakes, Schaen and his wife were escorted to the quarterdeck and were presented with a framed picture of Mahan and the ship's ball cap.
"This has been a day I'll never forget," said Schaen.
Schaen's wish was made possible by the Twilight Wish Foundation and the crew of Mahan. The ship is currently homeported at Naval Station Norfolk. Last year, Mahan completed a U.S. 6th Fleet deployment in support of maritime security and will deploy again in 2013.
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