Many on hand to celebrate 117th anniversary of U.S. Navy submarine service

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GROTON -- Bells ringing usually means the end of a submariner's watch, but that wasn't the case Tuesday in Groton. There was plenty of sunshine, and a little breeze, to celebrate a big birthday.

There's an old adage that says,"The sun always shines on Nautilus." And shine it did, with a little breeze at the first permanent continental sub base – created after the Navy purchased an experimental submarine from John Holland - 117 years ago.

Bud Atkins has spent 16 years underwater, as part of 50 years of service, he’s part of the Holland Club. Atkins retired as Command Master Chief in 1988. "It’s a great service, and you have great friends, and the guys are very intelligent," said Atkins.

In all that time, the sub base has certainly seen some action, but not unlike what they saw here 100 years ago – when the submarines were called into service, as the U.S. entered World War I.

According to Captain Paul Whitescarver, "The very presence of a capable undersea fleet such as ours, gives the aggressor pause, because they can’t see our subs on station - they have to operate as if they are there."

Among the pomp and circumstance, many Navy Veterans, soaking in the celebration.And as the ceremony ends, another bell is rung, not to end a watch, but to continue one, and start a new year of service for the submarine force.