COLUMBIA — Navy veteran Harold Mauller said it is not easy for him to find sailors in Columbia to talk with about his time serving on a submarine.
Mauller, an 84-year-old World War II veteran, had an opportunity to talk about submarines with three USS Columbia crew members Friday.
The crew members, Cmdr. Craig Blakely, Master Chief Don Williams and Petty Officer Charles Laymon, attended the 16th annual reception of Columbia’s namesake partnership with the USS Columbia, which was held at Boone Tavern & Restaurant.
“I am always thrilled to meet them,” Mauller said. He said he has been waiting for this moment since last year's reception.
Inspired by his own experience serving on submarines, Mauller is one of the Columbia Submarine Committee members who has been maintaining the partnership.
Mauller decided at 16 to join the Navy after Pearl Harbor was attacked. He needed to wait six months until he turned 17, when he could join the military without parental consent.
He originally wanted to become a PT boat sailor, but Mauller said he checked a wrong box on his application. This is how he mistakenly chose to become a submariner.
He did not know anything about submarines until he arrived at Pearl Harbor for training. Since then, his interest has always stayed with submarines, even after his retirement from the Navy.
Mauller spent about 30 minutes of the 90-minute event speaking with Laymon, a sonar technician.
“It is a little different talking to someone who was actually in the fights that I read from the books,” Laymon said. “It holds more meaning when it's coming out of someone's mouth.”
Laymon said he especially liked Mauller's wartime patrol story about confronting the enemy at Midway.
Laymon said he expects Mauller to deliver his “vivid” World War II experiences to next year’s USS Columbia delegations as well.
The reunion has been an annual tradition during Memorial Day weekend since the submarine was christened in September 1994.
The three USS Columbia crew members will stay in Columbia until Tuesday and plan to attend the Memorial Day parade.
"It is like an annual family reunion," Mauller said. "I like to have them again like I have been doing for 16 years."