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Frank Swihel
Shadow Box

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At the Perch Base monthly meeting on October 12, 2019, an Arizona Pigboaters WWII Submarine Veterans flag and a shadow box were donated to the Base by LuAnn Thomas. She had no information to explain the materials, but she wanted to make sure they were given to a Navy group. In summary, the shadow box belonged to Frank Swihel, who served from 1962 to 1968. After leaving the Navy, he went to work in Nebraska for 31 years and retired to Surprise, AZ, perhaps as early as 2001, and passed on Eternal Patrol on June 15, 2018. A search of the Perch Base rosters, minutes, and newsletters did not indicate that he ever joined Perch Base or attended any meetings.

Frank Swihel Shadow Box photos, 10/12/2019

The Shadow Box.

Although we have no details, the shadow box presented to Frank Swihel, EM1(SS) "In Honor of Dedicated Service in the United States Submarine Service from 13 August 1962 to 24 May 1968" indicates stellar achievement for a 6-year enlistment.
Although we can't say that Frank "Walked On Water," we can say that he "walked above the water" and "walked below the water!" The first thing that jumped out was that there was a row of insignia (left to right) showing a Navy Scuba Diver, Navy SEAL, and Basic Parachutist qualifications. In addition to the Navy SEAL insignia, the left side of the shadow box included a 1958 judo brown belt and the right side included a 1963 First Degree karate black belt. Another spinoff of the SEAL background might be the rightmost ribbon, which is a pistol marksmanship ribbon.

Frank Swihel Shadow Box photos, 10/12/2019

(l-r) Navy Scuba Diver, Navy SEAL, & Basic Parachutist qualifications.

Frank Swihel Shadow Box photos, 10/12/2019

(l-r) National Defense medal (a.k.a, Geedunk ribbon for completing boot camp, Good Conduct medal (6-year,) & pistol marksmanship medal.

There are patches for 3 boats that Frank Swihel served on: the USS Cusk (SS-348), USS Halibut (SSN-587), and the USS Ulysses S. Grant (SSBN-631). He qualified on all 3 boats, which would be a challenge, and rode the Grant for 6 deterrent patrols. All 3 boats patrolled the Pacific during the period of time that Frank was in the Submarine Service. We don't know when Frank served on each boat, but of particular interest, the USS Halibut was a Special Operations boat, performing some exceptional espionage missions, including the discovery of the Soviet submarine K-129 and locating the Soviet communication cable to the Soviet mainland in the Sea of Okhotsk for Operation Ivy Bells, with other boats ultimately tapping the lines, but these missions would not have been during Frank's time on board.

Frank Swihel Shadow Box photos, 10/12/2019

USS Cusk (SS-348).

Frank Swihel Shadow Box photos, 10/12/2019

USS Halibut (SSN-587).

Frank Swihel Shadow Box photos, 10/12/2019

USS Ulysses S. Grant (SSBN-631).

The rating badges do not reveal a great deal of knowledge, but trace his progression from Seaman, to Electrician Mate Striker, Electrician Mate Third Class, Electrician Mate Second Class, and ultimately Electrician Mate First Class. Although he was in the Navy for almost 6 years, which might indicate that he was nuclear trained (aft "nuke" vs. forward EM), this does not appear to be likely since he was a EM striker. Nukes generally went directly to Nuke School from boot camp without striking for a rate. Further research based on LinkedIn, however, determined that he went to work for Nuclear Operations at the Omaha Public Power District, which would be the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Generating Station, and attained a Bachelor of Science degree in Nuclear Engineering.

There is one other insignia in the shadow box in the upper-right corner. I have not been able to determine what that insignia represents, or the significance. Perhaps one of our other members knows. The colors and sequence have the appearance of a Sea Service Deployment ribbon, but that was not issued for any service prior to August 15, 1974, which is well beyond Frank's time in service.

Frank Swihel Shadow Box photos, 10/12/2019

ANY HELP?

David Broyles, the Adjutant at American Legion Post 62 in Peoria AZ, was able to shed some light on how the shadow box came into our hands at Perch Base. After Frank Swihel passed away, his wife held on to it. She remarried sometime later to a gentleman without a military background. She decided it was time to give it away. Her new husband didn't think something like this should end up at Goodwill, so they brought it to Post 62. David Broyles wife, Angie, is a retired Air Force TSgt. She's known LuAnn for a long time. Because of LuAnn's sons and their naval background, she thought LuAnn might be able to get these items to someone who could better appreciate them and Luann found us.

The Arizona Pigboaters flag donation is unrelated to Frank Swihel's service. The Arizona Pigboaters was the Arizona chapter of the Submarine Veterans of World War II. They often met in combined meetings with Perch Base, until the member attrition precluded a separate organization. The November 2005 MidWatch newsletter (page 9) documents that the SubVets WWII, Arizona Pigboaters had voted to donate their flags and banners to Perch Base. David Broyles did not know how the flag ended up stored in a box in one of the American Legion Post 62's storage areas, but passed it on via LuAnn with the shadow box. It is probably not coincidental that Perch Base used to meet at the American Legion Post 62 from November 2001 until January 2005. When Perch Base started meeting in February 2005 at the American Legion Post 105, the flag was probably inadvertently left behind.

SAILOR, REST YOUR OAR! YOUR WATCH HAS ENDED.
Your Brothers of the 'Phin Have the Watch.
Fair Winds and Following Seas, Shipmate.

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