Ottis “Cowboy” Penton: World War II vet

Published 12:20 am Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ottis Penton of Carriere made his career in the military, serving in combat on submarines through World War II.

At the age of 17 with an eleventh grade education, Penton left Carriere in 1932 to go to Hattiesburg to join the United States Navy. He served for 30 years, two months and 12 days, rising consistently through the ranks, and retiring in 1962 as an E-7 Chief Petty Officer, the highest ranking for that position at the time.

Penton was one of the first group of Chief Petty Officers to be promoted to the E-7 ranking, said his son, Mike Penton.

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Ottis Penton was a member of Submarine Squadron Three, said his son Mike. Any naval officers assigned to a submarine in the South Pacific was designated a member of Squadron Three.

Ottis Penton served on several naval vessels during WWII, including the S-26, the USS Saury, the CSD-21 (Salmon), the USS Guavina, and the USS Seahorse for a total of ten battle patrols.

Ottis Penton served on the S-26 for four years before being transferred to the USS Saury in 1942. Less than 90 days after Penton left the S-26, it was lost in battle with all hands, said his son Mike.

“My father was one of the lucky ones. The submarine force had the highest casualty rate of all forces during World War II. There were 375 officers and 3,171 enlisted men on 52 submarines lost during that war,” Mike Penton said.

In 1944, as a member of the crew of the USS Guavina, Ottis Penton received a Letter of Commendation from the Commander of the 13th Air Force on Second Patrol for gallantry displayed in the rescue of Air Force members. Mike Penton said the commendation was for the rescue of about a dozen B-12 pilots.

Ottis Penton served as the “Chief of the Boat on the USS Guavina, where he reported directly to the Captain and the Executive Officer and was responsible for the performance of all the enlisted men and Chiefs for the safe operation of the boat,” said Mike Penton.

Mike said his father also was a boxer and participated in many boxing matches on behalf of his ship when he was stationed at Pearl Harbor, starting when he was on the USS California. Ottis Penton boxed as a middleweight, and was undefeated for the various ships on which he was stationed.

Ottis Penton got his nickname, “Cowboy”, from the work he did for his brother-in-law, who was a Navy Chief. The brother-in-law loaned money to enlisted men, who were to repay the money by payday. “Cowboy” would collect the outstanding loans from those who would not pay, although Mike Penton says most men did not want to cross the “Cowboy”.

Ottis Penton retired from the military in 1956, before being recalled in 1960 to serve on the USS Sperry during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In October of 1964, he received an Honorable Discharge from Naval Service. He received numerous ribbons and medals during his career, including a Commendation Ribbon, a World War II Victory Medal, an Asiatic Pacific Ribbon with one star, a Phillipine Defense Ribbon with one star, a Phillipine Liberation Ribbon with one star, and a Submarine Combat Insignia with two silver stars.

After retiring from the military, Ottis Penton decided to remain on the West Coast, not wanting to leave his shipmates in the Pacific, said Mike Penton.

Ottis Penton died in 1989, and is buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in Point Loma, San Diego County, Calif.