USS Bluegill (SS-242) WW2
Other Life Stories:
In honor and loving memory of
George Folta after 3rd War Patrol (1944), courtesy of Hugh Story; as a Captain and then later in life, courtesy of Don Gentry.; and then in an interview at USS Cavalla to film The Silent Service (2000), dressed again as a WW2 Lieutenant, courtesy of Neal Stevens.
Captain George William Folta, Jr., U.S.N. (Ret.) passed away on December 26, 2003 on the island of Bermuda after a long and wonderful life. He was 84.
Captain Folta was born in Juneau, Alaska on February 4, 1919 to Judge George William Folta Sr. and Marion Sutton. Captain Folta graduated from Juneau High School in 1936. He then spent a year working in the mines in Alaska before attending the University of Washington. After one year at the UW, he accepted an appointment to the United States Naval Academy. He graduated with the Class of 1942 on December 19, 1941. He was immediately assigned to USS AYLWIN (DD355) which was part of two critical sea battles in the Pacific; the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway. In 1943 Captain George Folta was sent to submarine school in New London, Connecticut. He was then assigned to the USS BLUEGILL (SS242) which set out to patrol the Southwest Pacific. Captain Folta successfully made all six war patrols with the BLUEGILL. At the end of World War II, Captain Folta attended U.S. Naval Post Graduate School, before becoming the Executive Officer of USS MEDREGAL (SS480). His next duty at sea was as chief engineer of the USS ANTIETAM (CVA36). The ANTIETAM was the first aircraft carrier to have a "canted", or angled deck in the world. Following his duty aboard the Antietam, Captain Folta served as Head of the Bureau of Ships Program in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations . In 1958 he became operations officer and later executive officer of the USS BOSTON (CAG 1), the first guided missile ship in the world. In 1960 he was given command of the USS JOHN HOOD (DD 655). After another tour of duty in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, he served as Commander of the New London Test and Evaluation Detachment. In 1965 Captain Folta took command of the USS MONTICELLO (LSD35) and took part in the Vietnam War, transporting Marines and weaponry. He finished his career with Navy at Ship Building and Conversion in Washington D.C. During this time he obtained a Masters Degree in Financial Management from George Washington University. He then retired from the Navy in 1969.
After his Navy career, Captain Folta, worked for Raytheon Sub-Signal and then for Equitable Life Insurance. In 1972 he and his family moved to Seattle where he worked for the State of Washington in Building and Construction-Safety Inspection Division. In 1982 he was appointed Chief Inspector for Boiler and Pressure Systems for Washington State. In 1985 he retired. After a short retirement he went back to work for the City of Seattle as a pressure system safety inspector. He happily worked there until age 80 when he formally retired.
In his retirement Captain Folta wrote many stories, and was published several times. He leaves behind his wife of 38 years, Arline Berrigan Folta, his son, George William Folta III and wife Jodi, his son Peter Berrigan Folta and wife Lori, and his daughter Jane Garney, as well as three grandchildren; brother Richard Folta, Saipan and sister Claire Wipperman, Anchorage, Alaska.
He will always be remembered as a kind gentleman and loving companion to his wife, as a loving and caring father to his children, and as a well respected and well liked man to his friends and colleagues.
A private, family service will be held this month and then Captain Folta will be buried at sea with full military honors. Published in print on 1/6/2004. [Contributed to the USS Bluegill website by Don Gentry]
It is with great personal sadness that I [Don Gentry, 12/29/2003] announce the passing of my good friend George Folta Captain, USN Retired.
George served as an officer aboard the USS Bluegill SS-242 for all her war patrols and put her out of commission as her XO. George retired as a full Captain after having served a long career spanning WWII, Korea and Viet Nam. Like most of our distinguished WWII veterans, he served quietly and proudly and since has never done anything to draw attention to himself.
His nickname on the boat was "Igloo" having grown up in Alaska - a name his former skipper, Eric Barr continues to use to this day. George told me about the time not long ago when he and Captain Barr met in Texas at the Cavalla to be filmed and interviewed for the History Channel's 4-part Silent Service series (they both appear in "The Captains"). Sometime during that trip they found themselves overlooking a waterway watching a medium sized vessel steam toward them and Captain Barr nudged George and asked, "Igloo, what do you make for the angle on the bow?" For a moment, George had goosebumps.
I remember the first time I saw George, he was addressing the annual meeting of boiler inspectors in the state of Washington (he was the state's Chief Inspector). I was a rookie inspector watching him approach the podium and as he adjusted the mike, it fell from it's cradle but not far enough not to pick up his clear utterance of "SHIT!" I remember thinking, "what is this guy... a boat sailor?" and it would be years later before I would find that that was the case.
Time went by and I had become the Chief Inspector in Seattle and I was hiring. Who walks through the door but George looking for a job to fill in his "idle time." Like all the candidates, George endured the mundane/predicable oral interview questions and when I asked the last one, "What can you tell us that will convince us that you are the best man for the job?", George, in his trademark deadpan said, "Well, I'm not so sure I *AM* the best man for the job!" After I stopped laughing, he was hired.
In our boiler inspection unit, we had a coffee pot and we all chipped in and took turns making the black and bitter. Without fail, whenever it was George's week to "have the duty," I reminded him that he - a full Captain - was making coffee for an enlisted man (me). His response to me was usually digitally delivered :-)
As a kid, I was always interested in ham radio. Growing up in Detroit, I spent most of my time working on cars and never found the time to get off the dime on getting my ham license. Once George came to work with me, he gave me the bug again (he had been licensed for about 50 years by then and had, as always, great stories to tell). Well, I got my license soon thereafter and George and I communicated many times both by CW (Morse) and voice. In my basement I have a One KW amplifier and a beam antenna that George generously sent my way. As boat sailors, we distinguish our departed shipmates with the status of being on Eternal Patrol. In the ham world, the term Silent Key is used. George has more than earned both.
George has written a few stories about his time aboard the Bluegill, several have been published in magazines such as Sea Classics. Just recently, I added a story of his on the BBS (just before Christmas) called "How Cutie Saved Our Christmas Eve" - a story that took place on the Bluegill in a very dangerous place. He was both a skilled writer and speaker often resulting in an involuntary smile on the listener's face in admiration of his talent.
Most of all, he was generous of himself - kind to all and loved by those that knew him. A tall man, with presence and rugged square jaw that often surrendered to an unprovoked smile and one who left you wishing there was time for just one more story.
George left us on Christmas Day. I will miss him always. Goodbye my friend... Sailor, Rest Your Oar!
See also George Folta's article "Fateful Encounter Off Sonsoral".
As a cute parting note, when a former shipmate of George Folta's tried to contact him through this web site early in 2001, I told him George had just become a movie star for the History Channel (see photograph, above). George got back to me and said, "Many thanks for making me out a movie star. I don't understand why I haven't been nominated for an 'Oscar!' Gratefully, George Folta" - Webmaster
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