282 TUNNY Launching Bottle

Background / History

Arrival

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Museum

Arrival: The bottle surfaces

I received the following email message in March 2002:

Dear Sir:
I'm writing you concerning your web page on the USS Tunny. I came across your site while doing a search on the name of this sub. It has been of some interest to me since about four or five years ago.
Awhile back, a veteran in the Marine Corp. moved into our neighborhood. He had served in WW 2, along with his brother. My brother and I worked in his shop with him and helped in his upkeep of his house, since his health was failing. In return for our services he gave us an interesting piece of history to put in our room we had just redecorated in a WW 2 theme.
He had given us a christening bottle of a submarine. It is a broken champagne bottle, housed in a sterling silver decorative covering. It has the name, date, sponsor, and launching place of the sub, USS Tunny. The bottle itself rests in another decorative box made of several woods. It also has the original ribbon still with it. It is a very impressive set.
Our friend said he found it in an attic of a house many years ago that he was demolishing. He tried to locate the owner, or anybody who knew about it, but was unsuccessful. He kept it at his home, and eventually gave it to me and my brother.
Again, it's the bottle from the original Tunny launched in 1941. If you have any interest in this, feel free to write me back at this e-mail address.
Thank you for your time!

Sincerely,
A. Lentz

Of course, I responded enthusiastically. I said if he sent me the bottle, I would take pictures and share it with the whole crew. I received another message:

Tom,
I am writing to tell you, that we are looking to send you the christening bottle. We think that you are the right person to display this item. We were very impressed with your web site. All the stories, history and pride it displayed were what drew us to write to you. I hope it goes well with the other items in your collection. It is a beautiful piece of history. I'm sure you will be pleased with it when you finally see it.
We are really looking forward to finally "getting it back" to the crew and people it belongs with. We really just need an address to send it to. We can figure out shipping costs later. Do you have any suggestions or preferences on how or with whom it is sent? If not, I can figure something out.
On the origin of the bottle, I don't have much else to tell. The man that gave it to us passed away last year. He only shared that he found it in a house that they were demolishing. He thought it was in the attic, although he thought it may also have been in walls. I will see what else his wife may remember about the bottle, or the time it was discovered.
Hope that this helps at least a little. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

The bottle arrived (in April 2002).

It is really cool. It shined up really well. One thing you can't see from the photos...The silver bottle that you see is an outer "bottle shaped" covering (presumably to protect the sponsor's hands from broken glass) and the real champagne bottle was inside that silver casing. Inside the silver case there is a green paper (champagne) label and many small pieces of broken glass. I made no effort to remove or examine the glass fragments or paper label. But you can easily hear parts rattling around.

Here are some pictures for you (click on the thumbnail to see a larger image).

A giant Tunny THANK YOU to the Lentz family for taking the time and effort to share this item with us.

Here is the box from the outside. I presume the "V" is for "Victory" since this was built in 1942.

The box is in incredibly good shape.

There is a lock on the box to close / lock it closed (near the top of the V). The key was included with the box.

Here is the label plate that is mounted on the box lid.

Open the box and what do you see?

A large bright yellow and blue sash with a silver bottle shaped container.

The silver "outer bottle" container has a label plate. This cleaned up so nicely. Shiny like new.

Pick up the bottle and you can hear glass rattling around inside.

The bottle has holes (for the champagne to flow out?). These are shaped like little stars. They are perfect and very patriotic looking.

In this picture, you can pretty well see the dent on the bottle from the launching SMASH!

I tied the sash back onto the bottle to show you what it looks like in all its glory. A remarkable artifact from WWII, and a real TUNNY treasure!

Options: Keep it? Give it away? Or, what?

I never intended to keep this box and bottle. I intially thought to drive (250 miles to Muskogee, OK) to the cool Batfish submarine park and WWII Museum at my first opportunity. I thought it would be best to donate the items to that museum. I have been there twice, and I am impressed with their collection of WWII submarine items and how it is laid out.

Bottom line, this thing is too cool for me to keep. It belongs on display.

To complete the background information on the bottle, I asked TUNNY Homepage vistors if thay knew anything about the bottle's history. I asked about:

ABOUT THE 282 CREW

I was subsequently contacted by several 282 sailors with various good suggestions about where the bottle should be kept. They told me that the Sponsor should get it, or some said that a museum in Mare Island perhaps, or their Captain. I was overwhelemed with suggestions, and some outright demands from their crew. I decided:

1. If the sponsor is alive, I will send her the bottle.

2. Otherwise I am going to loan it to a museum. (I contacted the Smithsonian first). As a backup, I knew the WWII Batfish museum in Muskogee would display it.

3. No voting, no more ideas please, no more suggestions.

I soon became frustrated corresponding with 282 crewmembers who have never written to me before, all proposing to make this decision for me. I was amazed that these suggestions come from people who had contributed NOTHING to the substance of this web site. Seems like the story where everybody wants to eat the bread, but nobody helped bake it. No 282 crewmember had loaned me anything personal or valuable to digitally photograph and add value to the web pages.

By comparison, when I visited the Horse and Cow, I often saw 282 and 682 TUNNY items I would like to own, even only long enough to take a picture. I didn't pry them off the walls because I thought they were my birthright. I respected the fact that somebody gave the item to the caretaker because of faith the item would be safe there. So it was in this case.

I know I offended some people, and I am sorry for that. I didn't know how else to acquire the breathing space to ask for your respect in this, and future decisions. There were so many good ideas, but we could only select one. I felt that the sponsor had first rights to the bottle, after that - it belonged to "nobody" individually. That is only my humble personal opinion, but it guided the decision.

Subsequently, the complaining slowly died down. And (1) sailor from 282 even sent me a CD with his submarine photos archived. but that was all I received. The topic got very quiet.

ABOUT THE SPONSOR

I never heard one word about the 282 TUNNY's Sponsor, or her first Commanding Officer. No clue as to their current locations.

I have a real soft spot in my heart for 682 TUNNY's sponsor, Mrs. Lola Aiken. Therefore, I would gladly send (or deliver) the bottle to the 282 Sponsor (Mrs. Virginia Crisp)... If I only knew where she was or how to contact her. But this information never came. I waited. The question was published on our web site, around the clock and across the globe to our crew and vistors, but nothing came in.

Patiently waiting. Nothing. For two years. Then I gave up on this option.

ABOUT THE SMITHSONIAN

I sent the Smithsonian a link to this web page, asked if they wanted the bottle. Here is their email reply:

Your online correspondence of May 23 concerning the christening bottle for the USS Tunny, SS282 has been received in this office for response.

The Smithsonian Institution has no interest in acquiring this artifact nor can we provide any information concerning its history. We believe that your idea of sharing it with a submarine museum is a good one.

Thank you for your interest in the Smithsonian Institution.

ABOUT THE MUSEUM

I like the Batfish museum because:

Museum and Delivery

In March 2004, I packed up my wife, kids and stepkids and we drove 250 miles to the Batfish and War Memorial Museum in Muskogee, OK.

We walked in, I told the nice lady what we had brought, and gave it to her. She wrote down my name and address, and that was it. She didn't call the Mayor, she didn't give me a letter. She did seem very grateful, and she described to me 2 museum locations where the bottle might be displayed. I didn't have a response, just glad that it would be there.

And that was the end of my time with the bottle.

Of course we (my family) hung around the museum, looked at the items on display, proud that we had contributed to it. We toured the Batfish, too, but my kids had been here previously, so they were just going through the motions for Dad. Of course, I was giddy. "Hey, Brian, hold this mircophone and say Dive, Dive. OK, now try it with your hand in the air, like you're really saying something. Great. Hmm, try that again..."

I didn't see many more items from either the 282 or 682 in the museum. I hope you'll stop by there and look at the many submarine items they've displayed, and also look up the 282 bottle. Let me know when you do this and what your impressions are. Love to hear from yall.

Thanks.

-Tom

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