SAN FRANCISCO — Jim Pappas walked through the museum doors and exclaimed, “That’s my brother!”
Pappas, 91, of Wood County immediately recognized his brother Paul as one of three crew members in large photographs in the USS Pampanito submarine museum at Pier 45 on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.
Pappas was in California recently to attend the wedding of his step-grandson Trent German, son of Lehi and Chris German of Kansas City.
He had not planned to visit the Pampanito but a decision was made to visit the museum, memorial and historic landmark on the morning of July 25 – with the wedding taking place that evening.
Pappas said he nearly “melted” when he saw the three crew members, with Paul in the middle of the life-size photographs, in the front of the museum.
Pappas said he had never seen the wartime photograph of his brother before and did not expect him to be so prominently displayed in the museum.
Parkersburg native Paul Pappas Jr. served six years in the U.S. Navy during World War II. All his time was spent on submarines, said Jim, who lives in Walker.
Paul was an electrician’s mate first class in the Navy.
The USS Pampanito is one of the U.S. submarines credited with helping to turn the tide of World War II in the Pacific. The submarine sank six Japanese ships and damaged four others, according to the San Francisco Maritime National Park Association, which operates the Pampanito.
Paul is mentioned in the book “USS Pampanito Killer-Angel” written by Gregory F. Michno, Jim said. On Sept. 12, 1944, the Pampanito unknowingly helped to sink two Japanese ships in a convoy carrying English and Australian prisoners of war, along with war production materials. The Pampanito returned to rescue 73 allied soldiers from the sea, Michno wrote.
The Pampanito, a National Historic Landmark, is dry-docked every seven years to inspect, paint and compete repairs to the hull, the association said. Much of the equipment on board the submarine has been restored to operation.
Jim said his brother attended Pampanito reunions.
Jim, with the assistance of his step-son-in-law Lehi German and step-grandson Eric German, was able to wind his way through the Pampanito’s compartments. He noticed the metal bars overhead which helped the crew members move about the submarine.
“We were treated great” by the Pampanito museum staff, Jim said. They saw the pipes, equipment, messroom and the bunks above the torpedoes, he said.
Paul, who is deceased, is three years older than Jim. After the war, they were in business together for many years in Parkersburg at Pappas Brothers Color Photography.
Jim served in the U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II.
Jim said he could describe his California trip in one word – “wow.”
To read more from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel, subscribe here.