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By Heidi Shaffer, Published July 02 2009

Gratitude surfaces for submarine vet: Fargo honors former USS Robalo crewman

In June of 1944, the captain of the USS Robalo asked David Zier and 12 other crewmen to stay back in port as the submarine went out on its third mission.

It was common practice for a few of the men to get leave while the ship went out, but the Robalo never returned to port after striking a mine and sinking July 26, 1944.

“I can’t thank the captain enough,” Zier joked Wednesday as he was honored by local leaders and veterans at the USS Robalo memorial located in Fargo’s Lindenwood Park.

Zier is one of the only remaining survivors of the ill-fated submarine.

“I can’t tell you how grateful I am to be here with all of these people at this memorial,” Zier said.

Zier, 84, traveled with his four children from his home in Wilmington, Del., this week to see the memorial for the first time.

“He asked us last year to organize a trip, and here we are,” said his son Dan Zier.

Mayor Dennis Walaker welcomed Zier to Fargo saying, “Memorials like this are very important to each and every one of us.”

Duane Sand, commander of the Submarine Veterans of North Dakota, thanked Zier for his service and spoke of the camaraderie shared by many of the submarine veterans.

“We have a brotherhood of people … who want to keep the submarine tradition alive,” Sand said.

The Robalo memorial, which was finished in 2004, is engraved with the story of the submarine and names of the crewmen lost when it sank. Each state has a monument of one of the 52 submarines sunk in World War II.

Zier said his favorite part of the memorial is the picture of a surfacing submarine engraved in the stone monument.

“This has always been my favorite picture,” he said.

Zier’s family thanked the Fargo veterans and leaders for their help organizing Wednesday’s event.

“It’s nice to know that there’s people and places in this country that still care about this,” Dan Zier said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heidi Shaffer at (701) 235-7311