USS IDAHO Crew Honors 99-Year-Old U.S. Navy Veteran Who Served on World War II Submarine and Died this Week
Fri Jan 27th, 2023
27 Jan 2023 by Laura White Barton, Marketing & Public Affairs Chair, USS IDAHO Commissioning Committee
WEISER, ID -- The visiting crew of the USS IDAHO paid tribune to the late Clark Syme at an assembly at Weiser High School yesterday. Clark Syme served on the USS Dace (SS 247) submarine during World War II and in the process, sacrificed much of his hearing and found his life at risk. Mr Syme was 99 and passed away just two days before the assembly that honored his service to the U.S. Navy, the United States, and his community of Weiser. Coincidentally, he passed away on Tuesday afternoon, 24 Jan. as the USS IDAHO crew was visiting the Idaho Veterans Garden in Caldwell, Idaho.
Former Nampa Mayor Tom Dale spoke to members of the Syme family, the assembled students, USS IDAHO crew, and members of the Boise Base of the U.S. Submarine Veterans, Inc. "We are here today to honor a brave and wonderful man who risked his life serving our country during World War II. And after the war, he poured his life into his home and yours -- the community of Weiser." Dale continued, "He was a World War II Navy submarine veteran. He served as the mayor of Weiser and as a city councilman. He ran a successful electrical business for 62 years. He was a dearly loved father, grandfather, and great grandfather. He is a hero."
Doug Brinkman, commander of the Boise Base of the U.S. Submarine Veterans, Inc., posthumously presented Clark Syme with the Holland Award. Clark's son Greg accepted the award on his late father's behalf. The award is usually given at the 50-year anniversary of when a sailor earns his or her dolphin pin, qualifying the sailor as a submariner. Clark Syme received it posthumously for his 78th anniversary as a submariner.
Clark Syme was born in Payette in 1923 and herded sheep before enlisting in the U.S. Navy in 1943 during World War II. For the first few months, he didn’t leave his home state of Idaho. Then the Navy sent him from Payette north to Lake Pend Oreille, near Sandpoint and Coeur d’Alene. At the time, the Farragut Naval Training Center was the largest city in Idaho and the second largest naval training center in the United States. Its specialty was sonar technology for submarines.
Clark Syme volunteered to serve aboard a Naval submarine and was assigned to a submarine named the USS Dace, SS 247. He was a gunner’s mate, which means that he operated the .50-caliber machine gun and. At one point he was firing at two Japanese boats. The five-inch gun firing near him was so loud that it blew out his earplugs and broke his eardrum. He lost 65 percent of his hearing in one ear as a result of that battle.
Clark Syme would say that the scariest point in his Naval career was when his submarine needed to dive to avoid a Japanese destroyer -- which is similar to the U.S. Navy’s PT boat. Clark Syme’s submarine had sunk four or five Japanese freighters and was being attacked by the Japanese destroyer. To get away from the destroyer, Clark Syme’s submarine drove 350 feet below the ocean’s surface for twenty-one and a half hours. It is not safe to drop that far down for so long, but they had no choice but to wait until the coast was clear to go back to the surface.
Clark Syme told the Weiser Signal American, “They dropped 76 depth charges; we were down there for so long, we began running out of oxygen. We were weak and didn’t know if we were going to make it.”
Clark Syme lived through the incident and was discharged from the Navy in April 1946. He settled in Weiser with his childhood sweetheart, Elaine. For more than seven decades since, Clark Syme served Weiser as mayor and a city council member. He became a successful businessman and served on the boards of the Weiser Memorial Hospital and the Weiser Community and Senior Center.
This article will be updated as memorial information is disclosed. Read more about Clark Syme's life in a 2014 article published by the Weiser Signal American.