Thursday, August 20, 2020

VJ Day Artifact Series (Part 1): "Legion of Swindlers" Certificate

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, we asked our colleagues at our sister museums for some interesting artifacts that highlight unique aspects of the Navy during the war. To kick it off, we have an artifact from the U.S. Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, Washington. 

USS Seawolf (SS 197) after an overhaul in 1944 (Naval History and Heritage Command)

By Mary Ryan
Curator, USNUM

The casualty rate for submariners during World War II — one in five lost— was the highest among all U.S. military branches. As submarine crews made hazardous war patrols in the Pacific, games and jokes offered a welcome distraction.

The officers of submarine USS Seawolf (SS 197) handcrafted this joke citation for executive officer Robert Risser in 1943. It bestowed the imaginary title of “Grand Swindler” on Risser, who apparently impressed and irritated his colleagues with his poker-playing prowess. No effort was spared by the certificate’s creators, from translating the title into French to attaching real playing cards to hand-painting the word “citation” (aboard a wartime-deployed submarine, no less).
Note the details and effort that went into making Risser's certificate (U.S. Naval Undersea Museum, NUM.1995.359.004)

I love everything about this one-of-a-kind artifact in our collection — its humor, cleverness, originality, and eye-catching design — but I especially enjoy the thoughtful message slipped into the last line, which belies the preceding admonishment. Knowing Risser was slated to take command of USS Flying Fish (SS 229) after this patrol, Risser’s fellow officers praised him for “[giving] so unstintingly of his valuable time and talents day in and day out without end.” Risser brought this same dedication to Flying Fish, where he earned the Navy Cross for a dangerous attack that sank two Japanese ships and ten small craft.
Robert D. Risser seen in 1958. He retired as at the rank of Captain in 1964. (Naval History and Heritage Command

1 comment:

Unknown said...

This man is a true patriot. Thank you for your service, sir!