EARL D. HACKMAN, JR., LT, USN

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Earl Hackman, Jr. '43

Date of birth: October 10, 1919

Date of death: August 6, 1945

Age: 25

Lucky Bag

From the 1943 Lucky Bag:


Loss

1943 Hackman 1.jpg

Earl was lost when USS Bullhead (SS 332) was sunk, probably by Japanese aircraft, on or around August 6, 1945, in the Java Sea.

His wife was listed as next of kin; he was also survived by his son, Chuck.

Remembrance

From the July 2017 issue of Shipmate:

Chuck Hackman of Arnold, MD, was only five months old when his father was killed on the submarine USS BULLHEAD that sank with all 84 crew on board off the coast of Bali on 6 August 1945 as a result of a Japanese bomber pilot. His father, Lieutenant Earl Hackman, Jr. ’43 was the torpedo and gunnery officer. Last year [2016], Chuck returned to the area of the wreck in the South China Sea to lay a wreath and have some closure. The following is his account of the emotional experience.

1 March 2016

Last night was one of the most emotional times of my life. The ship’s master, Captain Vorland, arranged for a wreath ceremony at approximated 2109 when the MS CRYSTAL SERENITY passed less than a mile away from the site of the wreck of the submarine USS BULLHEAD off the northeast coast of Bali. The captain made a slight course change earlier so that we could get several miles closer than the scheduled route. The water in this area is about 300 feet deep.

When we made the reservation for this cruise, one of the reasons to go was the fact that the ship would pass through the parts of Southeast Asia where my father, Lieutenant Earl D Hackman, Jr. ’43 sailed in 1945. On their third and final war patrol, they departed Freemantle, Australia, in late July for the South China Sea.

They were cruising off the northeast coast of Bali when a Japanese bomber pilot spotted them on the surface. The pilot report that he dropped two bombs that were direct hits, and he saw an extensive debris field. He filed a report with the coordinates of the sinking, which the Navy found after the war. The sinking was on 6 August 1945, the same day the US dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and two weeks before the war ended. The BULLHEAD was the last U.S. ship lost in the war.

I contacted the CEO of Crystal Cruises in December to ask for the permission of the captain to drop a wreath over the side when we passed through this area. They have a policy that nothing can be thrown overboard. I was contacted by several people in their Los Angles headquarters, and they said they were looking into the legal requirements of the international agreements they have signed to not impact the environment. They told me just before we left home that our request was approved by the captain.

I was only five months old when my father died. My grandparents never really recovered from the loss of their only son. My mother remarried when I was three and went on with her life, and as a result I have three brothers that are very important to me.

When we were nearing Bali on Sunday, I started feeling the presence of my father. I have been thinking about him, my mother and grandparents a lot this week. Even though we never met, my life has been significantly influenced by him.

We met with Captain Vorland on several occasions to talk about the arrangements. We met with the protestant clergyman to plan the ceremony. The ship’s florist prepared a 16-inch wreath of beautiful orchids that probably weighed ten pounds. The wreath had to be all flowers and fully biodegradable.

We met in the ballroom at the back of the ship for the ceremony. With the captain were two other senior officers, the lead singer, orchestra leader, pastor and his wife and Reg and Elizabeth Finn, a couple that we met the first night on board that happened to live in Fremantle, Australia.

After singing the hymn “Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” the pastor led us in prayers, then I made some remarks. We then went outside to the stern of the ship on the 6th deck. The orchestra leader played taps on his bugle, which was a very emotional conclusion to the ceremony. After taking some pictures, Sam and I went to the rail on the port quarter when we neared about as close as we could get to the likely location of the USS BULLHEAD and we dropped the wreath into the ships wake. It floated and then disappeared into the darkness.

Last night’s wreath ceremony is right up there with our wedding day and the days my children were born. The evening was way beyond expectations.

Career

Rank:

  • LT(jg) as of May 1, 1943
  • LT as of July 1, 1944


Note: One site lists him as the Executive Officer of the boat, but he was the Torpedo and Gunnery Officer (per email from his son on December 5, 2018).


Class of 1943

Earl is one of 83 members of the Class of 1943 in Memorial Hall.