In 1937, a group of Americans created an organization called Foster Parents Plan for Children in Spain to assist youngsters affected by the Spanish Civil War. As conflict spread across Europe in the 1940s, the group changed its name to Foster Parents Plan for War Children and began working with families in England. When the war ended, the program expanded its services to include countries such as France, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Greece, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and even China. Like many of today’s charities, Foster Parents Plan offered sponsors the opportunity to “adopt” a child by providing financial assistance.
On 21 December 1945, USS GREENFISH (SS-351) was launched at Electric Boat Company’s shipyard in Groton, CT; she was commissioned just over six months later, on 7 June 1946. Although World War II was over by then, the boat’s operational life was far from boring: she spent two years with the Atlantic Fleet before her GUPPY (Greater Underwater Propulsion Power) conversion, then shifted to Pearl Harbor to work with the forces supporting troops in the Korean conflict. In 1952 she entered Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard for her first major overhaul. It was during this time that GREENFISH’s crew learned about Foster Parents Plan. As a boat, they “adopted” a Dutch boy, Arthur Keith, whose father had been killed in the war. They crew supported the boy and his mother until 1956, when the family was able to get back on their feet. It was such a positive experience that the crew agreed unanimously to adopt a second child. This time they were matched with Washyl Lewyckyj, a 12-year-old Polish boy who lived in western Germany; that relationship would continue until April of 1961. As soon as the boat was notified that Washyl no longer needed their help, they contacted the Foster Parents Plan to ask for a third child. The organization was more than happy to oblige, matching the crew with a seven-year-old Chinese girl living in Hong Kong.
GREENFISH didn’t publicize the adoptions, nor did the crew ever get to meet the children they supported. But they did exchange letters, gifts, and photos with all three, creating strong relationships that lasted many years.