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By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times

SAN DIEGO — Retired Navy Capt. Walter Mazzone, a decorated submarine officer in World War II and later a key figure in the development of deep-sea diving and submarine rescue procedures during the Cold War, has died at age 96.

Mazzone died Aug. 7 at his home in San Diego of congestive heart failure, according to his son, Robert, also a retired Navy captain.

As a submariner, Mazzone was involved in two of the war’s most harrowing undersea missions.

He endured more than 30 hours of depth-charging by Japanese destroyers in the Makassar Strait off Borneo in 1943 after his ship, the Puffer, attacked a Japanese merchant ship. It was considered the longest such assault in submarine history.

In 1944, Mazzone was torpedo and gunnery officer aboard the submarine Crevalle when it was ordered to retrieve secret documents from a Japanese-held island in the Philippines.

Along with getting the documents, the sub was charged with rescuing more than 40 women, children, and missionaries who had been hiding from the Japanese. One of the women was pregnant.

Mazzone is credited with bringing a goat aboard the submarine to provide milk for the children, including the newborn.

On the way back to Australia, the Crevalle was assigned to torpedo a Japanese convoy. A Japanese depth-charge attack damaged the Crevalle but Mazzone’s expertise kept the submarine under control and allowed it to escape.

The incident — not including the goat — was later made into an episode of the 1957 television show “The Silent Service,” which dramatized submarine missions of World War II.

Mazzone, then a commander, was interviewed at the end of the episode.”I don’t think anybody who was aboard the Crevalle will ever forget our floating nursery,” he said.

For his war service, Mazzone was awarded a Silver Star, Bronze Star with Combat V, and a Navy Commendation Medal with Combat V. He went on seven combat patrols.

Walter Francis Mazzone was born Jan. 19, 1918, in San Jose, Calif. He attended San Jose State University, where he was a boxer and football player and graduated in June 1941. He had planned to become a doctor but instead joined the Navy in the early days of the war.

After the war he remained in the Navy reserves and received a doctor of pharmacy degree from the University of Southern California before going to work in his uncle’s pharmacy in San Jose. In 1950, he was re-called to active duty and sent to Japan.

Later he was assigned to the Naval Medical Research Laboratory and joined the effort to enhance the Navy’s deep-sea diving capability. With the Cold War underway, U.S. officials believed that maintaining superiority in diving and submarine capability was key to thwarting the Soviet Union at sea.

He became project manager for the Sealab program that sought to test how humans could adapt to long periods on the seafloor. Tests were done at sea-bottom locations off Bermuda, La Jolla, Calif., and San Clemente Island, Calif.

Among other innovations, Mazzone and Lt. Harris Steinke in 1961 ascended to the surface off Key West, Fla., from a depth of 318 feet, a record at the time, using a new escape device.

At Sealab, Mazzone was known as a taskmaster, unwilling to accept anything but perfection, given that lives were at risk.

“He was a tough man to work for — but a good man,” said Bob Barth, who worked with Mazzone. “He was fair, honest, and direct. Every detail was important to him.”

The head of Sealab was Capt. George Bond but Mazzone, with an innate inquisitiveness and a zeal for details, provided the guidance that led to its innovations, according to Ben Hellwarth, author of “Sealab: America’s Forgotten Quest to Live and Work on the Ocean Floor,” published in 2012.

“Without Mazzone, it’s unlikely that Bond would have gotten as far as he did with the Sealab program,” Hellwarth wrote recently, “or the advances in diving methods and technology that had a swift and lasting impact on military and civilian diving.”

Mazzone retired from the Navy in 1970 and worked at the Navy’s Ocean Systems Center in Point Loma, Calif., for a decade before becoming program manager for Navy contracts at Science Applications International Corp., a military contractor in La Jolla. He retired from Science Applications in 2002.

Mazzone’s wife, Lucie Margaret Oldham Mazzone, died in 2012. He is survived by their son, two grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

Photo via WikiCommons

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Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.