Wilbur E. Tarbell, Post 109

Post History

The Wilbur E. Tarbell Post #109 was organized after the Second World War, and its charter meeting held on March 15, 1951. On May 7, 1956, the post was officially incorporated and the name chosen in memory of Wilbur E. Tarbell. Mr. Tarbell, son of Mr. and Mrs. Maurice Tarbell, was the Town of Windham’s only casualty of WWII.

Wilbur E. Tarbell Photo courtesy Mary Ann Horaj

Born on August 18th 1920 in Mapleton, Maine, Wilbur Tarbell was the only son of Maurice and Elva (Dimock) Tarbell.  His only sibling was his sister Fielda. When he was 21 months old, the family moved to southern New Hampshire.  Although they did not live permanently in Windham until 1932, they were frequent visitors. Wilbur went to school in Pelham, Warner and Salem New Hampshire.  While attending Woodbury High in Salem, he represented the school, his junior and senior years, in YMCA basketball tournaments, which hosted the best players in the region.  He graduated from Woodbury in 1938 a three sport letterman.


Wilbur enlisted in the Navy on January 21, 1942.  After boot camp, he joined the submarine service.  An average of 9 out of every 100 applicants was selected for the preliminary testing at the Navy’s National Submarine Training School near New London, Connecticut.  Of that select group, 25 to 30% were rejected before the program even began, based on tests given to determine who was physically and mentally fit for submarine duty.  The submarine service during World War Two was the most dangerous duty in the military with a casualty rate around 20%. 


On October 5, 1942, Wilbur was assigned as Electrician’s mate 3rd class to the newly commissioned USS Scorpion 278, one of the new Gato class of submarines.. Gato-class boats carried the brunt of the U.S. submarine war early in World War II.  The diesel –electric submarines of this class were some of the most heavily armed submarines of the war.  World War II subs were basically surface ships that could travel underwater for a limited time. Diesel engines gave them high surface speed and long range, but speed and range were severely reduced underwater, where they relied on electric motors powered by relatively short-lived storage batteries. Recharging the storage batteries meant surfacing to run the air-breathing diesels. Even combat patrols routinely involved 90 percent (or more) surface operations. 


USS Scorpion (SS-278), Photo On Eternal Patrol - Lost Subs of World War II, 1944


After returning home for Christmas leave and to attend his sister Fielda's wedding in Windham in December of 1942, EM1 Tarbell and the crew of the Scorpion began operations that would include four combat patrols in the Atlantic and Pacific - including Midway and Pearl Harbor - from 1942 until February of 1944. Acording to the Naval History and Heritage Command, "In her first three patrols, Scorpion sank ten ships, for a total of 24,100 tons, and damaged two more, for 16,000 tons. Her first war patrol was in the approaches to Tokyo in April 1943. Here she sank two freighters, four sampans and two patrol craft. In addition, she damaged a freighter. On her second patrol, conducted in the Yellow Sea, she sank two freighters. Her third patrol was made in the Mariana Islands, and resulted in damage to a tanker."



The Scorpion was last seen and heard from on January 6 of 1944 after a rendevouz with the USS Herring 233, with attempts on the sixteenth of the following month to warn her and her sister Gato class USS Steelhead 280 of suspected enemy submarine activity in their vicinity. As of February 24, 1944, no report had been received by Midway from the Scorpio, and she was reported presumed lost on March 6, 1944. Subsequent information from the Japanese government after the war indicates that the loss was not likely to have been the result of a direct submarine attack while there are reports of newly laid mine lines across the entrance to the Yellow Sea around the time of the disappearance.


USS Scorpion (SS-278), Photo U.S. Navy, 1944


Submarines that do not return from patrol are often referred to as being "on eternal patrol" by sailors, and accordingly there are a series of memorials called the "Still on Patrol" markers throughout the United States.  The marker for the USS Scorpio is in Elberton, Georgia at the intersection of Bobby Brown Park Road and Ranger Drive.


By Brian Scott, October 19, 2014


Next to the marker is a stone tablet containing a roll call of the sailors on the USS Scorpio at the time of her disappearance.


Shipmates on Eternal Patrol in USS Scorpion (SS-278).
Lost February 1sty, 1944
East China Sea

James S. Alexander, EM@/Charles W. Appleton, SC3/Lorren L. Bausman, SC1/ Hollis F. Bell, S1/Robert T. Brown, LTjg/Rufus H. Bynum, QM1/ Robert J. Chamberlain, EM2/ Harold F. Christman, S1/ Jack E. Clough, TM2/ Theodore T. Cornelius, MoMMC/Joseph W. Cunningham, RMC/ Lawrence W. Deane, TM3/ Raymond P. Dews, SM1/ Vincent R. Drake, ENS/Robert B. Drake, LTjg/Ernest L. Echorst TM2/Richmond H. Ellis, LTjg/Edward J. English, MoMM1/Lee M. Faber, S1/James A. Fasnacht, QM2/Lyle D. Faustman, MoMM1/Nearest Ferguson, SM3/William A. Flaherty, Jr. QMC/John F. Glazier, GM2/Paul L. Harvey, EM2/Robert D. Harvey, Jr., F3/Jean T. Heidenrich, TM1/Carl P. Heinz, MoMM1/Frank E. Hood, S2/Carl M. Hund, GMC/Robert E. Hutchinson, TM3/George E. Ingram, MoMM2/Robert L. Jacobs, S2/Nicholas L. Koster, MoMMC/E. Krawczykowicz, MoMM3/Walter C. Labarthe, MoMM2/Robert W. Lloyd, MoMM2/Lawrence A. Manganello, CCS/Stanley E. Matthews, RM1/Russell K. McMillan, MoMM1/Frank A. McNally, Jr., RT2/Paul J. Miller, Jr., EM2/Howard W. Morgan, QM2/Lyle E. Mosbey, EM2/Canterbury B. Pierce, Lt (XO)/ Robert M. Rairden, YN3/Wilbert L. Randolph EM1/Jack P. Rawlings, EMC/Frederick J. Robillard, S1/Thomas E. Roche, TM2/Albert V. Rowe, S2/Bill Saunders, S1/Maximilian G. Schmidt, CDR (CO)/Daniel A. Seaman, MoMM1/William I. Sears, EM1/Mark W. Setvate, TM3/James Sharke, F1/Irvin S. Shapiro, PhM1/Paul D. Shea, MoMM3/Russell O. Sink, MoMM3/Samuel R. Skelton, TM3/Donald E. Smith, RM3/Joseph F. Smith, TM3/Charles R. Spears, MoMMC/Edgar A. Sturges, MoMM1/Wilbur E. Tarbell, EM1/Jack Townsend, RM3/Raymond V. Udick, TM1/Jack L. Voorhees, TM2/Rudolph F. Weidenhach, FC3/Robert R. Williford, MoMM3/Raymond J. Wise, Jr., LT/Robert L. Womack, MoMM2/Karl Zimmerman, RM1


By Brian Scott, October 19, 2014


Today, Wilbur Tarbell is commemorate through the naming of our post, and also in the Windham Cemetery on the Plain which bears a plaque over its gates in his name and a grave marking his worldly passage
American Legion Post 109 was honored to be joined by Wilbur's sister Freida and her family for the 2019 Memorial Day ceremony at the Windham Cemetery on the Plain, a ceremony in which Electricians Mate Tarbell's service to his country was once more commemorated.

The family of Wilbur E. Tarbell Photo courtesy Mary Ann Horaj

Kim Monterio's reporting contributed to this post.