The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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September 7, 2013

St. Peter WWII vet attends commission ceremony for Navy's newest sub

Bolton & Menk founder ran four war patrols on two different subs

There were a lot of people in Norfolk, Va., Saturday for the commissioning of the new submarine, the USS Minnesota.

But only one knew what it was like to serve on a war submarine back in the day, back when submarines were king.

"One guy told me, 'You’re the oldest guy who has crawled up and down these ladders,'" said 90-year-old Martin Menk of St. Peter, who was on hand for the christening ceremony of the United States' newest submarine, the USS Minnesota. "He said, 'My mother came down here but she’s only 84.'"

Menk, the founder of the venerable Bolton & Menk engineering firm in Mankato, was invited to the ceremony by the captain of the new submarine.

This new sub is a far cry from the subs of Menk's era.

The new sub, a nuclear sub, will be the third naval vessel named after the north star state.

USS Minnesota is a large submarine, 377 feet long to be exact. It weighs nearly 8,000 tons, and can swim along at a clip of about 25 knots. Being a nuclear sub, it will produce its own fuel from the reactor on board.

Menk says he was in awe of the sub, and when asked to compare it to the ones he served on, he that wasn't even possible. In his day, he said, they couldn't stay under water for more than a day, and they used shower stalls to store potatoes.

"I was talking to a guy last night in charge of purifying the air," Menk said. "They stay down 89 days. When we stayed down 20 hours, we were near the panic point.

He was also impressed with the reverse osmosis system that generates fresh water from sea water, and the sub's technology.

"You just can't even compare it," he said of the new ship and the ships that he served on.

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