Posted on

Veteran Spotlight: Bruce Terrell United States Navy

June 2022

Today we will be spotlighting Bruce Terrell.

Bruce served in the US Navy from 1971 to 1979 and completed his service as an MM1(SS) Nuclear Machinist’s Mate, Submarine Qualified. After his Naval Service, Bruce relocated to the Central Coast.

Bruce told us “The Navy provided the training and experience to allow me to work in the civilian sector doing much the same job as I did in the Navy. The discipline and perspective that I gained from the Navy and from serving on a submarine have greatly enhanced my personal life, both at work, as a father/grandfather, and my faith life.”

Bruce’s first two years in the Navy were spent primarily in one of the Navy’s more elite set of schools, Naval Nuclear Power School and at the Submarine Prototype S1W, with a short stint on the USS Sperry Submarine Tender (AS12). Upon completion of these schools, Bruce was retained as an instructor at the Prototype for the next two years. After that, he was assigned to the USS Sam Rayburn (SSBN-635) for the final four years of his service. The Sam Rayburn was armed with 16 ICBM missiles (each with multiple nuclear warheads) as well as torpedoes.
Bruce explained, “Our job was to remain submerged and undetected for months at a time as part of the nuclear deterrent against the USSR during the Cold War. Our typical patrol zone was in the North Atlantic Ocean in the vicinity of the Arctic Circle.” Bruce’s specific job was to operate and maintain the nuclear power plant on the submarine.

Bruce recalls, “Life aboard a ballistic missile submarine involved being submerged for two to three months at a time without surfacing and essentially cut off from the world, (except for war messages). It was an interesting and exciting time of my life. Everything involved tight quarters, from where you slept to where you worked. The time spent underwater was at times monotonous, but at other times dangerous. The food was good, the comradery excellent, and the pride of being a Submariner lasts a lifetime.” Bruce was awarded his Submarine Dolphins, and the Sam Rayburn was awarded the Battle Efficiency award twice during his time onboard.

After completing his service, Bruce worked at Diablo Canyon Power Plant for thirty years, allowing him to continue the path he forged in the Navy. While working at Diablo, Bruce completed his bachelor’s degree in Nuclear Engineering Technology.

Bruce is currently actively involved as a volunteer at his Church as well as the community at large and more recently attended a reunion for crewmembers of the Sam Rayburn.

Thank you for your service!

Posted on

Veteran Spotlight: Spencer Stimler United States Navy

May 2022

Today we are spotlighting Central Coast WWII Veteran, Spencer “Spence” Stimler.

Spence served in the Navy from 1942 – 1946, Electronics Technician’s Mate 1st Class (SS). He was assigned to the USS Pampanito, a submarine where he served as a radio technician from June 1944 until the end of WWII, September 1945.

Spence was born in 1923 in Minnesota, and enlisted in the Navy a year after high school graduation to avoid being drafted into the Army. He wanted to become a Naval Aviator, but he was told he could not fly due to a medical condition.

When asked if he enjoyed math, Spence told his recruiter that it was one of his favorite subjects, so he enlisted in the Eddy program. The Eddy test was the common name for a test given throughout World War II identifying men with the capability and aptitude for being trained in the enlisted ranks as electronics maintenance technicians in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps. He successfully passed the test and was immediately promoted to Petty Officer 3rd class.

After boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois, Spence completed numerous training schools and was promoted to Electronics Technician’s Mate 2nd Class. Shortly after Spence and two buddies were put on a destroyer to Pearl Harbor. From there, they took a submarine tender, USS Proteus, AS-19, to Midway. Spence was assigned to the Pampanito, SS-383, and qualified in submarines in June 1944.

The Pampanito made six patrols in the Pacific during WWII, with Spence on board for five, sinking six Imperial Japanese ships and damaging four. The Pampanito was at Pearl Harbor when the war ended and returned to Mare Island at Vallejo, California for decommissioning. It is now on display at the San Francisco Maritime National Park with daily tours to the public.

On Spence’s second patrol, the Pampanito sunk the SS Rakuyo Maru, which was transporting British and Australian prisoners of war from Singapore to Japan. The Japanese left the POWs in the water and three days later, Pampanito returned to the area and rescued 73 men. Spence said it was already tight with 92 on board, so taking on an additional 73 made it very cramped.

Spence recalls a story of another Navy veteran, Vic Radcliff, who served on the USS Guavina, SS-362, and was on the same Honor Flight as Spence several years ago. Spence heard Vic describing to other Honor Flight guests the time he was topside on his submarine and watched a Japanese tanker sink. When they compared notes, it turned out that while Vic watched the tanker sink from the Guavina, Spence watched the same tanker sink through the periscope of the Pampanito. They did not know each other at the time but met on the same Honor Flight 70 years later.

Spence became involved with SLO SubVets and received his Holland Club certificate from SLO SubVets Base Commander Bob Baker on July 14, 2007. This award signifies that the person qualified in submarines over 50 years ago. Spence has since been recognized again when he received his 75-Year Holland Club certificate in 2019.

Thank you for your service.

Posted on

Veteran Spotlight: Jim Murphy, U.S. Marines

Veteran Spotlight on Jim Murphy USMC

Today we are spotlighting Central Coast Veteran, Jim Murphy.

Jim served in the US Marine Corps, 1st Marine Division, Korea and Vietnam from 1951 to 1971, completing his service as a Major. He was a “jack of all trades” with a long and storied military career starting as an enlistee Diesel Mechanic, progressing through positions of responsibility related to engineering, logistics, supply, and training instructor to name a few.

After serving 13 months in Korea, Jim received a direct commission to Second Lieutenant. Later, Jim was the only Marine on the Attack Transport Ship USS Henrico (APA-45), assigned as the Combat Cargo Officer and qualifying as Officer of the Deck while on board. Jim served In Vietnam for 14 months as an Assistant Division Engineer. After twenty years as a marine, and slotted for second deployment to Vietnam, he retired to care for his ailing parents. He completed his military career at 20 years and 26 days.

After working at Leisure World and pursuing a college degree, Jim became Director of Facilities for the seventh largest school district in California. Nine years later, he moved to the Central Coast for a faculty position at Cal Poly in what was then the College of Engineering. Jim retired from the College of Business at Cal Poly after thirteen years.

Jim’s wife of 58 years, Myra Wallace Murphy, was also a veteran, serving as a Navy WAVE and at one time out-ranked Jim. They met in 1956 while he was attending Naval Justice School. Myra delivered twins while on active duty (a first!) and left the Navy shortly after the birth.
While stationed in Korea working as a mechanic, the platoon commander approached Jim and asked him if he could type? It just so happened Jim took typing in high school, and he was a better speller than the Lieutenant. This led to a temporary commission as 2nd Lieutenant. When he came back to Camp Pendleton as a staff sergeant, he was awarded a temp commission as 2nd Lieutenant at age 20.

While reflecting on his military career, he noted a lack of counsel from his senior officers leading to missed opportunities. Jim used this as a life lesson to regularly counsel his subordinates in his civilian work life. This forged a respect and friendship with his employees lasting far into his years of retirement.

Post military life, Jim belonged to two chapters: Military Order of the World Wars (MOWW) as the most recent commander and a member and officer of the local chapter of the Military Officers Association.

Thank you for your service.

Posted on

Veteran Spotlight U.S. Army Veteran Don Mueller

Don Mueller

The Museum has launched a new social media series, Central Coast Veterans Memorial Museum. This series supports our continued efforts to honor and remember our local veterans, with a focus on the job(s) they performed while in service. Check it out:

Today we will be spotlighting Don Mueller. Don served in the U.S. Army from 1954 to 1957.

“My military service taught me a number of things that served me well in civilian life. A strong sense of responsibility, self-discipline, and living up to my commitments.”

Mueller served in Mannheim, Germany with the 2nd Armored Division, from June 1955 until June 1957. The last year of the German occupation was in 1955, after WW2. He worked on tanks as a turret artillery repairman. He repaired all functions of the tank turret, including removing and replacing worn gun tubes.

He was assigned temporary duty to the British zone in northern Germany, sent to assist in the 7th Army tank gunnery exercises. The British base was on the site of the former Nazi extermination camp Bergen-Belsen where he saw some very disturbing sights.

In the fall of 1956, during the Hungarian uprising against the Soviet Union, the 2nd Armored Division was alerted for possible movement to the Czech border to support the Hungarians. This did not end up happening.

Mueller retired from the Army in 1957, with the rank of Corporal. He was awarded the German Occupation Medal, Overseas Service Medal, and Good Conduct Medal.

After his service Don went to work and owned a retail business in San Luis Obispo for many years. Mueller has been a volunteer with the Central Coast Veterans Memorial Museum for the past 15 years. He is a member of the 2nd Armored Division Association and American Legion Post #66 in San Luis Obispo.

Thank you Don for your service!