PCU Massachusetts Crew’s Namesake Visit Leaves Lasting Impression
09 July 2021
Sailors assigned to the Virginia-Class attack submarine Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Massachusetts (SSN 798) traveled to Boston, July 2-5 to participate in community relations events in their namesake state.
Namesake visits serve as a unique opportunity for Sailors to connect with the local community, share their stories and learn about the culture, customs, history and heritage of the place their unit represents.
The Sailors began their visit by stopping in Freehold, New Jersey to honor Baker 2nd Class Phil Dorf, a World War II Veteran who served aboard Battleship Massachusetts (BB 59) and is part of the legacy of the ship’s namesake.
“Meeting Mr. Dorf was an honor,” said Seaman Michael Pacanins, a culinary specialist (CS) aboard PCU Massachusetts. “Being the newest CS on the boat and meeting a [WWII veteran] who served on the same namesake was an honor. I feel like something meaningful has been passed on.”
The team met with Dorf, his wife, Etta, daughter, Geraldine and granddaughter, April, and spent time talking about the recipes that Dorf created while he was a baker aboard Massachusetts. The recipes were used to bolster the morale of the crew on particularly hard days during the war.
The submariners continued on to Fall River, Massachusetts, where they met with historians and toured Battleship Massachusetts to learn about the history of the ship during WWII.
“The first stop on the tour was the bakery where we saw ‘P Dorf worked here’ written above the doorway,” said Chief Petty Officer Rishi Chhatpar, the leading yeoman for PCU Massachusetts. “Pacanins was thrilled to see that.”
The tour included the galley, chief’s quarters and offered the Sailors a chance to climb into the turret and manually adjust one of the six-inch guns with a wrench – a necessary task that was performed during WWII.
“At first, it was physically challenging,” said Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class (Nuclear) Nicholas Silva, assigned to PCU Massachusetts. “By developing a cadence, we created a teamwork system to ensure the wrench was snug before turning it, then bringing back to the reset position to turn it again, and again.”
When the team received word to “hold,” they exited the turret. They were excited to see the gun was lowered.
The Sailors continued to Boston where they toured Fenway Park and met with Boston’s Mayor, Kim Janey, during a ceremony in front of City Hall.
“When the emcee announced us and where we’re from, I got goosebumps,” said Chhatpar. “Standing on the stage in the City of Boston on the 4th of July representing our boat and the people of Massachusetts was a thrill.”
The final stop on their visit was aboard USS Constitution where they had the opportunity to sail with the crew, mingle with the crowd and talk about PCU Massachusetts.
Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class (Nuclear) Donovan London, assigned to PCU Massachusetts had the unique experience of climbing the shroud aboard Constitution.
“I felt the tension of each individual rope through my hands and could feel the strain on my body as I steadied myself against the slight rocking of the ship,” said London. “I reached the top and could see the Boston skyline, surrounding boats and all the people below on the gun deck.”
The team disembarked Constitution with certificates that named them honorary crew members.
“In the Navy, we’re bound by history and tradition,” said Chhatpar. “Visiting the state of Massachusetts, sharing our story of PCU Massachusetts and her historic namesake with the people we met, solidifies what history is about. This has been a trip I won’t soon forget.”
The submarine is the ninth ship to be named after Massachusetts and is currently stationed in Newport News, Virginia. The commissioning date has not yet been announced.