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Ben Bastura - Keeper of the Flame
On March 29, 2003, the submarine family lost one of their most beloved members. Mr. Bastura never wore silver or gold dolphins but made tireless contributions to the preservation of submarine artifacts and thus, submarine history, and he did so to a measure never before accomplished by a single individual - that is most significant. Thank you Mr. Bastura, and as you know, we have strong traditions in the submarine family one of which is a tireless effort to never forget those that came before us - with great emphasis and recognition given to those that gave all. It is in that tradition that your memory - and the acknowledgment of your efforts - will be preserved for as long as one of us remains able to do so.

John Wynn's BBS Message on Ben's Passing

Bernard A. "Ben" Bastura
Middletown, Connecticut
1933 - 2003

It is with the very deepest regret that I must inform you of the passing of our dear friend and mentor, Ben Bastura...

Ben passed away yesterday from natural causes at his Submarine Library and Museum in Middletown, Connecticut.

Ben had long been a supporter of the Submarine Force. Many years ago in 1954 Ben and his brother took up a hobby of Submarines. Even though he never served a day on Submarines. What started as a hobby evolved into a major collection of Submarine history, and memorabilia. Ben has been an incredible source of reference and material. He has been maintaining files on all Submarines for many years. Many members of SUBVETS, and people across the country would contact Ben for information or pictures, or history. He was a great source of reference and information on the Submarine Force.

In addition to single handedly operating the Submarine Museum in his own home, he was also an author, who was greatly involved in the writing of the History of the Submarine Veterans of WWII. Ben was an Associate member of the SUBVETS WWII, and also Lockwood Internet Base.

Ben's last wishes were as simple and straighforward as his life was....His ONLY request was to be creamated and have his ashes scattered on Long Island Sound...

His wish did not specify a submarine, but given his life's work and his Honorable Discharge from the Army, I hope and pray that his ashes might be carried by one of our newest and fastest Fast Attack submarines....There could be no more fitting tribute to our lost National Treasure, Bernard Bastura...

There is a port of no return where ship?s may ride at anchor for a little space.
And then some starless night the cable slips leaving only an eddy at the mooring place.
Gulls vear no longer, Sailor rest your oars, no tangled wreckage will be washed ashore.
Shipmate Bastura rest your oars!

Very Respectfully,

John Wynn
John Carcioppolo

Robert "Dex" Armstrong's BBS Post


John Wynn phoned this evening to inform me of the death of Ben Bastura. Anyone who has ever been “gut punched” and had his breath taken away will know how I felt. All of us who ever wore Dolphins lost a friend.

If you never had the honor of meeting this gentle man you missed one of life’s’ wonderful experiences. Patriotism and loving respect for the ships’ and men of the United States Submarine Service ran through the heart of this soft spoken, self appointed guardian of our heritage, with every stroke of the heart that finally gave out. The expression, “To know him was to love him” was never more aptly applied to an individual. The honor of receiving a soft handshake from this man burns brightly in my memory tonight.

Tonight Ben’s porch light that has served as the navigation beacon for the most personal and lovingly assembled collection of U.S. Submarine memorabilia and historical information does not burn. People flying by his modest home and entering Middletown, Connecticut have no way of knowing that contained within the walls of that simple frame home is a tribute to men who went to sea in submersibles, that formed one man’s lifes work Ben ran the whole thing out of a cigar box.

Try to visualize someone devoting his entire home (bedrooms, living room, dining room, every inch of hallway space, kitchen, and even the bathroom), to house and display our heritage and hallmarks of our history…a kind man who had the sparkle of goodness in his eyes…a man who radiated kindness and gentility from as pure an American soul as was ever assembled by the Eternal Master of Good Works.

I cried tonight because I will miss him. Knowing him was a gift John Wynn gave me. At this stage in my life, it takes a helluva lot to awe and amaze me…but it would take a soul so cynical and jaded that the person was past salvage, to visit Bens’ home and not be awed. Ben was an unnoticed, unheralded and unrewarded national treasure. If modern science could reproduce the Bastura heart, the world would be an infinitely better place.

All you old bluejackets rump buffing barstools at the “Goddess of The Main Induction” Bar at the head of the Silver Pier, send some idiot E-3 to go find Ben….He served in the Army, but tell the first Sergeant that Ben has a middle rack on one of those raggedy boats over at the Silver Pier. Tell him Ben will always belong to us…Any man who personally carved one of every class of boat the U.S. Navy ever sent to sea…one he carved out of a creosote soaked railroad crosstie will always have a place in the hearts of the men he beloved and honored…Somebody in the Sub Force would do us all a great favor if they could find a way to award Ben Silver Dolphins. No man did more to honor all they represent.

Old Gringo…Harrison…Capt. Beach...buy Ben a beer and find him a barmaid to give him shoulder rub…he’s one of us. God bless you Ben…you sir, left a big hole in the hearts of all of us on whose shoulder you rested your gentle hand. I, sir, hope that wherever you are, flowers have arrived and the spring breezes met you when you tossed your lines over. God…tell Saint Peter to announce, ”Bastura arriving”, get a clean white hat on that topside watch…and tell our beloved shipmate those he left behind have the “cigar box watch”.

CTTCS R.D. Starnes's BBS Post


The Final Patrol

I have one consolation that lives with me today.
That God is near to them, in his own special way.
So God in all Your mercy, keep near Thyself the soul,
Of every Submariner, still on his final patrol.

Lord, this departed shipmate with HONORARY dolphins on his chest is part of an outfit known as the best.
Make him welcome and take him by the hand. You'll find without a doubt he was the best in all the land.
So, heavenly Father add his name to the roll of our departed shipmates still on patrol.
Let them know that we who survive will always keep their memories alive.

Sailor, Rest Your Oar. And thanks for your unselfish service
to keep the history of the Submarine Service alive.
May God be with you and your family in this time of needed comfort.
The Starnes Family.

Bill Whalen's BBS Post

"Say That He Loved Old Ships"

Say that he loved old ships; write nothing more
Upon the stone above his resting place;
and they who read will know he loved the roar
Of breakers white as starlight, shadow lace
Of purple twilights on a quiet sea,
First ridge of daybreak in a waiting sky,
The wings of gulls that beat eternally
An haunt old harbours with their silver cry,
Speak softly now, his heart has earned its rest,
This heart that knew each alien star by name,
Knew passion of the waves against the breast
When clouds swept down the sea and lightning's flame
Tore skies asunder with swift finger tiips;
Write nothing more; say that "he loved old ships".

-- Daniel Whitehead Hickey

So What Happens Now?

Per Ben's wishes, his collection will be donated to St. Mary's Submarine Museum. As more is learned about the whereabouts of Ben's collection, it will be posted here.

[On 8/4/2003, Ben's ashes were committed to the sea - JW]

So long Ben.... (photo from John Wynn, 6/2003)

Related Sources

USSVI National Website

Photo Album
(click on photos for larger size)

  Ben Bastura

  Ben Bastura

  Ben and John Wynn

  Ben John Carcioppolo

  Bill Linne and Ben

  John Wynn, Ben, Dex Armstong

  Ben Bastura

  Ben's Life Member certificate for Lockwood Internet Base, USSVI

  Ben Bastura Submarine Library and Museum

Shipmates Pay Tribute

  Ron Wert
This goes to show that we should not put off doing the things we want. I had/have plans to go to the Groton Base Back to Submarine School. I had collected several cases of copier paper from the local paper mill to drop off for Ben's use. Never got to meet him. I've missed out on meeting a man that I wanted to meet ever since I heard of him. I guess I'll have to wait on that meeting for a while. I hope Ben is treated as well by God as Ben treated us. Smooth Sailing and God Bless You, Ben

  Ron "Warshot" Smith
I have lost a friend and the Submarine Service has lost a champion. Rest in peace Ben.

  Bill Kreher
The submarine force has lost one of it's strongest supporters. May the Navy, who you supported for so long, grant you burial at sea from a submarine. Rest in peace, Ben.

  Fred P.
Ron [in reponse to a post by Ron Wert], I will be at the Return to Sub School in May and was also going to Ben's after. I waited to long. I have had conversations with him and recieved some pictures of Cavalla's patches from him. This Submariner thanks you for your devotion to our world. "Ben, Rest Your Oar"

  Joe Roche
Every now and then, a man passes by quietly, leaving little or no wake. He’s unlike the others. He has a passion, a desire. He doesn’t need the pomp and circumstance others crave. He gives himself completely and selflessly to the memory of others. Ben will be remembered by the submarine community for a very long time. My only regret was, in never having the honor of meeting him. Ben left a long wake behind him. It goes out to the horizon. God Bless you Ben…Rest in peace. Hand Salute!

  Ray "Olgoat" Stone
This is truly sad news. We've lost an institution with Ben's passing, as he was most assuredly, the 'Keeper of the Flame' of our proud heritage. His spirit though, will live on through all of the many contributions that he has made to the submarine service. I think it is a fitting tribute that his life's work, his fine library with all of his research, will continue to inspire and inform both young and old for generations to come. God bless you Ben for your devoted, dedicated service.

  John Kill
One of the most interesting persons that I have ever met. May his wish come true. Lord take him into your harms and hold him. May he march with his friends and sail with us for ever.

  Gil Shaddock
"REST YOUR OARS". "THANK You" for your interest in our Submarine Service. "Hand Salute", "Two"

  John Bay
I have had correspondence with the man on a few occasions and found him to be every bit a gentleman. My only regret is I never got to meet him in person or see his collection.

  Mike Eacho
Ben was a fine gentleman and a friend to the entire submarine community. I am happy I had the prviledge of meeting him. He will be missed by us all. Fair winds and following seas, Ben.

  Norm Strang
Had the privilege of visiting Ben's Museum and meeting him in the 70's. He provided me with the History of the 3 Patrols the Charr made and also some pictures I didn't have. For that I will be ever grateful. I regret that the contact I had after that first meeting was very limited. SAILOR REST YOUR OARS--MAY GOD BLESS AND COMFORT THOSE YOU LOVED

  Bille Linne
I'm in shock! When Cowboy and I visited Ben's phenominal museum last year, Benny was as spry as either of us! The Submarine Force has lost one of it's strongest supporters and finest gentlemen. Ben Bastura may you rest in peace. It was my honor and privilege to make your acquaintance. HAND SALUTE!

  John "Chainfall" Pryzbyla
Rest your oars, Benny. I'm going to miss your fights and arguments. They were fun.

  Bruce Broseker
Ben was a man whose kindness was only matched by his passion for the submarine service. He will be missed by all who knew him (myself included), and all whom didn't should pity thier inaction. With deepest regret and regards, Bruce

  Bob "Spider" Spide
I am proud to have met Ben at his Middletown Museum and especially to have been his sponsor for Associate Member of USSVI and LIB. Rest in peace, Historian, Author and devoted friend. May you now rest your oar with those on eternal patrol that you so memorialized through your dedicated efforts. My sincere regrets and condolences,

  John and Terry Ackerman
Peace be with you Ben.

  Tom Ferguson
It is a relativly short drive from Ben's home to the Sub base, having grown up in Windsor. I made that trip more times than I can remember. Please gather as many Sub Vets and as many active duty and Sub School students as possible and give this man that devoted his life to all that wore the "FISH" past and present a proper send off.Ben, you are going to get that patrol that you always dreamed of.Thank you my friend.... and may God bless you ...You were the patron saint of all of us that rode the boats.

  Doc Gardner
A rare treasure in this life. A treasures memory for the future. Rest in Peace Ben, you have made us all better by knowing of you and your work.

  Harry Parker
God bless you and keep you safe Ben, and may he privide you with a little house for yourself in which to continue on with your work. I am sure one day some young sailor on a "Seawolf Class" will look over his shoulder while underway, having felt your energy present. If he is lucky he will have met you and have personal rememberance, if not, he will still be lucky to sail with your spirit on that "Seawolf Ride" that was your wish. Thanks again Ben for your undying energy and effort towards making sacred something that a small band of old Rag Hats would have sold their souls to do. It gives physical presence for others to see, to something each and every Submariner holds near and dear in his heart.

  Dave Holland
I am very sorry to learn of Ben's passing. I had the great pleasure of spending time with him and his fabulous collection four times over the past few years, and we corresponded often. He provided much information in support of my work on the USS Conger history and newsletter. If I raised a question he would research his files and send me the information in a few days and he never asked anything in return. He was a gentleman and a friend and I will sorely miss him.

  Jack Hester
Last year sometime I sent Ben a small donation and promptly forgot about it. Lo and behold come Xmas time, my wife asked me one day, "Who is Ben Bastura?" I asked why and she replied, "We just received a Xmas card from him." So, I guess that answer's her question. Ben Bastura, a man who always had a moment for an old sub sailor. Soldier, you never served in a submarine but the world has lost a genuine man and we will be the worse for the loss.

  Bill Lary
I didn't realize that I was that busy. I just got off the phone with DEX, he asked me something about Ben and when I answered in the negative, he told me that he passed away 2 or 3 weeks ago.

Where the hell was I?

I guess I'm not in the loop any more, my apologies Ben.

I fully regret that I didn't take that saturday off last month and come visit you - hell I even live in Connecticut and I couldn't take one simple, short little trip down to visit you, and I can't let my excuses of "chores" or foster kids this and that relieve me of my own personal let down, it's all strictly my fault for not going to check out your gift. From what I hear it was my loss and now it's an even bigger loss.

We've lost, probably the largest contributor to keeping the history of our service alive, and for all that boat sailors do to perpetuate the memory of our comrades and our service, you out did a division of us with your "hobby". I for one will surely miss what I didn't get to see.

I hear that your collection will be sent to Georgia, well that's good, with all the stuff in Groton, I believe it would have gotten pigeon holed, thus lost to future generations. Now it means that I have a lot farther trip to take to see it, I just won't have you as the curator to explain it all and give it the life that I've been told that you gave it.

Rest in peace Mr. Bastura and know that we all appreciate the service you gave this country, both in your service in the Army (TDY from your boat service) and in keeping the USSVI creed...


Rest in peace "shipmate",

Attention on deck...

Hand Salute...





Billy Bob Lary