After completing nineteen daring deployments over a stunning thirty year career, The U.S.S. Parche, the most decorated boat in U.S. Navy history, lowered her colors for the last time in the fall of 2004.
Parche (pronounced PAR-chee) was the last of the Navy’s thirty-seven Sturgeon-class attack submarines to be decommissioned. During her career, Parche earned an unprecedented nine Presidential Unit Citations. Additonally, the sub was awarded ten Navy Unit Commendations and thirteen Navy Expeditionary Medals. Parche also holds the U.S. record for submerged endurance.
During one of the boat’s legendary deployments in 1982, under the leadership of Captain Peter Graef, Parche maintained submersion for an amazing 124 days before resurfacing.
Demonstrating its remarkable endurance, Parche came close to breaking its own record in 2002, when the boat and her crew completed a 121-day submerged deployment.
Many former crewmembers expressed the desire to commemorate Parche after learning she was going to be taken out of active duty after thirty years of service, but one man stepped forward and took up the challenge. In anticipation of Parche’s decommissioning ceremony, Senior Chief Petty Officer Shaun Peirsel, who served on board Parche from May of 2000 until August of this year, spearheaded an effort to have a special commemorative coin made to honor the service of the boat and her crew. “I wanted to do something special to honor the ship’s history and to help carry on her name,” Peirsel said. “The coin seemed to me to be the best way to make it happen.”
With this goal in mind, Peirsel began to sketch out the coin’s design. In early 2004, he set out to find a company capable of transforming his vision into reality. After months of scouring the internet, he made contact with Northwest Territorial Mint. Working closely with the company’s design team, he was able to create a unique commemorative coin worthy of Parche’s proud heritage.
More than just a symbol of Parche, the 1,100 coins produced by Northwest Territorial Mint exclusively for the boat’s decommissioning were made from metal taken directly from the Parche itself. Eighty-seven of the original 1,100 coins that were produced at Northwest Territorial Mint’s facility in Auburn, Washington were presented in August of 2005 to the members of Parche’s final crew. These eighty-seven coins contained a special reverse and were inscribed with the names of the respective crew members.
The remaining 1,013 coins, which were distributed to Parche’s past crew members, featured a more generic reverse and were not inscribed with the names of the recipients. With the original coins distributed, Northwest Territorial Mint has announced plans to mint a second coin commemorating Parche. The new coins will be struck using the same die as the original but will not contain any metal from the boat.
The first Parche (SS 384) was commissioned in 1943 and earned acclaim during World War II as part of the Navy’s famous Pacific Submarine Force. During her five years of service, the boat earned two Presidential Unit Citations.
“All of us who served on Parche were aware of how important that first boat was,” said Peirsel. “We were proud to continue in that great tradition.”
The reverse of the coin that Peirsel helped to design bears the shield of the Parche, inscribed with the Latin phrase “Par Excellence,” the motto shared by both boats. Parche is depicted returning from her last mission on the coin’s obverse. Flying high above her deck are the Presidential Unit Citation and Navy Unit Commendation flags.
The new coin salutes Parche’s outstanding service to the Navy and the nation at large. As he considered the final commemorative coin, Chief Peirsel said “I hope it helps people come to appreciate Parche and how important the ship was to America’s naval history.”