Happy Birthday Bubblehead 1

One of the things you learn quickly about the military is the endless stream of nicknames attached to the people, equipment and all manner of things unique to the recipient of the toast. The Navy is not unique but it certainly has no shortages of slang and identifiers.  These all help to separate the various groups within its ranks. If you ride a surface ship, there is a good chance that you have been called a skimmer at some point in your life. The boys and girls associated with the air wings are mostly called “airdales”

But a unique name exists for our submariners: Bubblehead. I have been around submariners for over forty years and have heard a million different explanations for the term. Like most sea stories, the origin is somewhat questionable. I have never really found a place that says that it was born on a specific day or linked to a specific event. Some of the many descriptions can be found at a blog of a similar name:

http://bubbleheads.blogspot.com/2010/04/origin-of-species.html

If you look up the term in the dictionary, its not at all complimentary : A stupid person, esp one who is frivolous and flighty.

Now I have been around these strange creatures for most of my adult life and I can assure you that there are a few who might fit the description. But the few tiumes that I have observed that phenomena is when they were just back from a liberty port and I am quite certain alcohol was involved.

American submarine history started a long time ago but the official start date coincides with the purchase of the submarine Holland on April 11, 1900. The start of the journey was slow and filled with all kinds of obstacles and enemies. But it was a joy ride from one of the least Bubbleheaded men of his day that helped to strengthen the future for submarines. President Theodore Roosevelt himself took a ride on an early version and as a result recognized the unique possibilities of the fledgling service. He assured a tradition of support through his backing of their credible service for sea time and a bonus for taking rhe risk to serve on them.

I will admit that the extra money was a nice incentive. But dead men can’t spend it and there are many who rode their boats to an early grave that are proof of that fact. April 10, 1963 stands out as a perfect example of what the cost of riding a boat can be. The sea is unforgiving in its ways. Submariners are the best of the best but even they sometimes will be overcome by the power of the deep.

On this day, we celebrate all things submarine. The incredible adventures we remember and the incredible boredom we overcame. The ports and the people, the sights and the sounds, the brave and the bold. But mostly the bubbleheads we knew. I am honored to be among one of the few that ever earned the title.

Happy Birthday Bubbleheads.

defying the sea

Mister Mac

Obituary: McKeesport PA (1795 – ????) 1

mckeesport11

I am an American.

I was born in an all American town that was vital and full of hope for the future. Sadly, now that town is a shell of its former glory. It is a perfect example of what happens when poor leadership and a collective inability to adapt to change run rampant. My town provided steel for a nation being built and a country that defended freedom around the world. Now it sits nearly deserted next to the two rivers that flow past the remains of its former glory. The most prevalent sound in many of its formerly beautiful neighborhoods is gunfire and the most horrible sight is the dilapidated houses that in many cases have been stripped of the only thing of value left – the plumbing. More horrible still are the lives that are forever impacted by this tragedy.

It was only a generation ago that this proud city provided jobs and education for its citizens. Immigrants had come from all over the world to pull the ore from the ground in the surrounding hills and shovel the raw materials into the furnaces that created the iron and steel. These people built America as surely as the many other communities that made up this growing country. Our fathers went off to fight the wars against tyranny and our mothers took their places in the mills and factories. When the war ended, they continued to build and they brought my generation into the waiting world.

Growing up, we waved our little flags as the parade marched by. Gold Star Mothers and families were treated with a reverence that was unmistakable un virtually untouchable. We were so important the Senator Kennedy came to town for a visit on his way to the Presidency. We all cried when he was killed and his statue still stands near the empty waterfront.

I suppose there are a lot of reasons why the decay started. From the time we were kids, people started taking God out of schools and public places. As we grew, government began to be the enemy and rebellion was in the air everywhere you looked. Abortion for convenience replaced abstinence and self-control. Everyone was suddenly more worried about their rights and not enough about their responsibilities. Unions fought companies and political division was bolstered by crime and bribery. Greed on everyone’s part fueled the fires of disaster. The end came with more of a whimper rather than a bang. We drilled for disasters all through school but no one remotely predicted the ultimate disaster that would bring the city to her knees and ultimately to this ignoble state.

This divisive cancer kills cities. But truthfully, left unchecked, it kills whole regions and even countries. We still have a chance America. We can put aside the bitterness and reject those who profit from our division. They are not interested in an America where unfettered growth can once more flourish. They are only interested in their own power and controlling you. The city I grew up in had every advantage. Physically, spiritually, financially, opportunity, location, everything. Yet within one generation, it is nearly without hope and should stand as a stark warning to America. This can happen anywhere.

Mister Mac

“These are the times that try men’s souls” 2

“In time of crisis when the future is in the balance, we come to understand, with full recognition and devotion, what this Nation is, and what we owe to it.”

fdr1

75 Years ago the nation found itself in a very bad state.

This is a copy of President Roosevelt’s Address over the radio in celebration of Washington’s Birthday, February 23,1942. America was being beaten back in the South Pacific and the Philippines and the country had not yet been mobilized to fight in a way that was equal to the task.  

This speech was important in outlining the way the country would go to war. It highlighted our continued support of our struggling allies, a rejection of the isolationist calls within the country and even a broad based appeal to labor not to strike against the companies building the ships, planes and materials needed to fight this war.

These are his words appealing to the nation:

“Washington’s Birthday is a most appropriate occasion for us to talk with each other about things as they are today and things as we know-they shall be in the future.

For eight years General Washington and his Continental Army were faced continually with formidable odds and recurring defeats. Supplies and equipment were lacking. In a sense, every winter was a Valley Forge.

Throughout the Thirteen States there existed fifth columnists-selfish men, jealous men, fearful men, who proclaimed that Washington’s cause was hopeless, that he should ask for a negotiated peace.

Washington’s conduct in those hard times has provided the model for all Americans ever since-a model of moral stamina. He held to his course, as it had been charted in the Declaration of Independence. He and the brave men who served with him knew that no man’s life or fortune was secure without freedom and free institutions.

The present great struggle has taught us increasingly that freedom of person and security of property anywhere in the world depend upon the security of the rights and obligations of liberty and justice everywhere in the world

This war is a new kind of war. It is different from all other wars of the past, not only in its methods and weapons but also in its geography. It is warfare in terms of every continent, every island, every sea, every air lane in the world.

That is the reason why I have asked you to take out and spread before you the map of the whole earth, and to follow with me the references which I shall make to the world-encircling battle lines of this war.

Many questions will, I fear, remain unanswered; but I know you will realize I cannot cover everything in any one report to the people.

The broad oceans which have been heralded in the past as our protection from attack have become endless battlefields on which we are constantly being challenged by our enemies.

We must all understand and face the hard fact that our job now is to fight at distances which extend all the way around the globe.

We fight at these vast distances because that is where our enemies are. Until our flow of supplies gives us clear superiority we must keep on striking our enemies wherever and whenever we can meet them, even if, for a while, we have to yield ground. Actually we are taking a heavy toll of the enemy every day that goes by.

We must fight at these vast distances to protect our supply lines and our lines of communication with our Allies-protect these lines from the enemies who are bending every ounce of their strength, striving against time, to cut them. The object of the Nazis and the Japanese is to separate the United States, Britain, China, and Russia, and to isolate them one from another, so that each will be surrounded and cut off from sources of supplies and reinforcements. It is the old familiar Axis policy of “divide and conquer”.

There are those who still think in terms of the days of sailing ships. They advise us to pull our warships and our planes and our merchant ships into our own home waters and concentrate solely on last-ditch defense. But let me illustrate what would happen if we followed such foolish advice.

Look at your map. Look at the vast area of China, with its millions of fighting men. Look at the vast area of Russia, with its powerful armies and proven military might. Look at the British Isles, Australia, New Zealand, the Dutch Indies, India, the Near East, and the continent of Africa, with their resources of raw materials and of peoples determined to resist Axis domination. Look at North America, Central America, and South America.

It is obvious what would happen if all these great reservoirs of power were cut off from each other either by enemy action or by self-imposed isolation:

  1. We could no longer send aid of any kind to China-to the brave people who, for nearly five years, have withstood Japanese assault, destroyed hundreds of thousands of Japanese soldiers and vast quantities of Japanese war munitions. It is essential that we help China in her magnificent defense and in her inevitable counteroffensive-for that is one important element in the ultimate defeat of Japan.
  2. If we lost communication with the southwest Pacific, all of that area, including Australia and New Zealand, would fall under Japanese domination. Japan could then release great numbers of ships and men to launch attacks on a large scale against the coasts of the Western Hemisphere, including Alaska. At the same time she could immediately extend her conquests to India and through the Indian Ocean to Africa and the Near East.
  3. If we were to stop sending munitions to the British and the Russians in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf areas, we would help the Nazis to overrun Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Persia, Egypt, and the Suez Canal, the whole coast of north Africa, and the whole coast of west Africa-putting Germany within easy striking distance of South America.
  4. If, by such a fatuous policy, we ceased to protect the North Atlantic supply line to Britain and to Russia, we would help to cripple the splendid counteroffensive by Russia against the Nazis, and we would help to deprive Britain of essential food supplies and munitions.

Those Americans who believed that we could live under the illusion of isolationism wanted the American eagle to imitate the tactics of the ostrich. Now, many of those same people, afraid that we may be sticking our necks out, want our national bird to be turned into a turtle. But we prefer to retain the eagle as it is-flying high and striking hard.

I know that I speak for the mass of the American people when I say that we reject the turtle policy and will continue increasingly the policy of carrying the war to the enemy in distant lands and distant waters-as far as possible from our own home grounds.

There are four main lines of communication now being traveled by our ships-the North Atlantic, the South Atlantic, the Indian Ocean, and the South Pacific. These routes are not one-way streets, for the ships which carry our troops and munitions out-bound bring back essential raw materials which we require for our own use.

The maintenance of these vital lines is a very tough job. It is a job which requires tremendous daring, tremendous resourcefulness, and, above all, tremendous production of planes and tanks and guns and of the ships to carry them. And I speak again for the American people when I say that we can and will do that job.

The defense of the world-wide lines of communication demands relatively safe use by us of the sea and of the air along the various routes; and this, in turn, depends upon control by the United Nations of the strategic bases along those routes.

Control of the air involves the simultaneous use of two types of planes-first, the long-range, heavy bomber; and, second, light bombers, dive bombers, torpedo planes, and short-range pursuit planes which are essential to the protection of the bases and of the bombers themselves.

Heavy bombers can fly under their own power from here to the southwest Pacific, but the smaller planes cannot. Therefore these lighter planes have to be packed in crates and sent on board cargo ships. Look at your map again and you will see that the route is long-and at many places perilous-either across the South Atlantic, around South Africa, or from California to the East Indies direct. A vessel can make a round trip by either route in about four months, or only three round trips in a whole year.

In spite of the length and difficulties of this transportation, I can tell you that we already have a large number of bombers and pursuit planes, manned by American pilots, which are now in daily contact with the enemy in the southwest Pacific. And thousands of American troops are today in that area engaged in operations not only in the air but on the ground as well.

In this battle area Japan has had an obvious initial advantage. For she could fly even her short-range planes to the points of attack by using many stepping stones open to her-bases in a multitude of Pacific islands and also bases on the China, Indo-China, Thailand, and Malay coasts.

Japanese troop transports could go south from Japan and China through the narrow China Sea, which can be protected by Japanese planes throughout its whole length.

I ask you to look at your maps again, particularly at that portion of the Pacific Ocean lying west of Hawaii. Before this war even started the Philippine Islands were already surrounded on three sides by Japanese power. On the west the Japanese were in possession of the coast of China and the coast of Indo-China, which had been yielded to them by the Vichy French. On the north are the islands of Japan themselves, reaching down almost to northern Luzon. On the east are the mandated islands, which

Japan had occupied exclusively and had fortified in absolute violation of her written word. These islands, hundreds of them, appear only as small dots on most maps. But they cover a large strategic area. Guam lies in the middle of them-a lone outpost, which we never fortified.

Under the Washington Treaty of 1921 we had solemnly agreed not to add to the fortification of the Philippine Islands. We had no safe naval base there, so we could not use the islands for extensive naval operations.

Immediately after this war started the Japanese forces moved down on either side of the Philippines to numerous points south of them-thereby completely encircling the islands from north, south, east, and west.

It is that complete encirclement, with control of the air by Japanese land-based aircraft, which has prevented us from sending substantial reinforcements of men and material to the gallant defenders of the Philippines. For 40 years it has always been our strategy-a strategy born of necessity-that in the event of a full-scale attack on the islands by Japan we should fight a delaying action-attempting to retire slowly into Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor.

We knew that the war as a whole would have to be fought and won by a process of attrition against Japan itself. We knew all along that, with our greater resources, we could out-build Japan and ultimately overwhelm her on sea, on land, and in the air. We knew that, to obtain our objective, many varieties of operations would be necessary in areas other than the Philippines.

Nothing that has occurred in the past two months has caused us to revise this basic strategy-except that the defense put up by General MacArthur has magnificently exceeded the previous estimates, and he and his men are gaining eternal glory therefor.

MacArthur’s army of Filipinos and Americans, and the forces of the United Nations in China, in Burma, and the Netherland East Indies, are all together fulfilling the same essential task. They are making Japan pay an increasingly terrible price for her ambitious attempts to seize control of the whole Asiatic world. Every Japanese transport sunk off Java is one less transport that they can use to carry reinforcements to their army opposing General MacArthur in Luzon.

It has been said that Japanese gains in the Philippines were made possible only by the success of their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. I tell you that this is not so.

Even if the attack had not been made, your map will show that it would have been a hopeless operation for us to send the fleet to the Philippines through thousands of miles of ocean, while all those island bases were under the sole control of the Japanese.

The consequences of the attack on Pearl Harbor-serious as they were-have been wildly exaggerated in other ways. These exaggerations come originally from Axis propagandists; but they have been repeated, I regret to say, by Americans in and out of public life.

You and I have the utmost contempt for Americans, who, since Pearl Harbor, have whispered or announced “off the record” that there was no longer any Pacific Fleet-that the fleet was all sunk or destroyed on December 7-that more than 1,000 of our planes were destroyed on the ground. They have suggested slyly that the Government has withheld the truth about casualties-that eleven or twelve thousand men were killed at Pearl Harbor instead of the figures as officially announced. They have been served the enemy propagandists by spreading the incredible story that shiploads of bodies of our honored American dead were about to arrive in New York Harbor to be put in a common grave.

Almost every Axis broadcast directly quotes Americans who, by speech or in the press, make damnable misstatements such as these.

The American people realize that in many cases details of military operations cannot be disclosed until we are absolutely certain that the announcement will not give to the enemy military information which he does not already possess.

Your Government has unmistakable confidence in your ability to hear the worst, without flinching or losing heart. You must, in turn, have complete confidence that your Government is keeping nothing from you except information that will help the enemy in his attempt to destroy us. In a democracy there is always a solemn pact of truth between government and the people; but there must also always be a full use of discretion-and that word “discretion” applies to the critics of government as well.

This is war. The American people want to know, and will be told, the general trend of how the war is going. But they do not wish to help the enemy any more than our fighting forces do; and they will pay little attention to the rumor mongers and poison peddlers in our midst.

To pass from the realm of rumor and poison to the field of facts: The number of our officers and men killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7 was 2,340, and the number wounded was 946. Of all the combatant ships based on Pearl Harbor-battleships, heavy cruisers, light cruisers, aircraft carriers, destroyers, and submarines-only 3 were permanently put out of commission.

Very many of the ships of the Pacific Fleet were not even in Pearl Harbor. Some of those that were there were hit very slightly; and others that were damaged have either rejoined the fleet by now or are still undergoing repairs. When those repairs are completed the ships will be more efficient fighting machines than they were before.

The report that we lost more than a thousand airplanes at Pearl Harbor is as baseless as the other weird rumors. The Japanese do not know just how many planes they destroyed that day, and I am not going to tell them. But I can say that to date-and including Pearl Harbor-we have destroyed considerably more Japanese planes than they have destroyed of ours.

We have most certainly suffered losses-from Hitler’s U-boats in the Atlantic as well as from the Japanese in the Pacific-and we shall suffer more of them before the turn of the tide. But, speaking for the United States of America, let me say once and for all to the people of the world: We Americans have been compelled to yield ground, but we will regain it. We and the other United Nations are committed to the destruction of the militarism of Japan and Germany. We are daily increasing our strength. Soon we, and not our enemies, will have the offensive; we, not they, will win the final battles; and, we, not they, will make the final peace.

Conquered nations in Europe know what the yoke of the Nazis is like. And the people of Korea and of Manchuria know in their flesh the harsh despotism of Japan. All of the people of Asia know that if there is to be an honorable and decent future for any of them or for us that future depends on victory by the United Nations over the forces of Axis enslavement.

If a just and durable peace is to be attained, or even if all of us are merely to save our own skins, there is one thought for us here at home to keep uppermost-the fulfillment of our special task of production.

Germany, Italy, and Japan are very close to their maximum output of planes, guns, tanks, and ships. The United Nations are not-especially the United States of America.

Our first job then is to build up production so that the United Nations can maintain control of the seas and attain control of the air-not merely a slight superiority, but an overwhelming superiority.

On January 6 of this year I set certain definite goals of production for airplanes, tanks, guns, and ships. The Axis propagandists called them fantastic. Tonight, nearly two months later, and after a careful survey of progress by Donald Nelson and others charged with responsibility for our production, I can tell you that those goals will be attained.

In every part of the country, experts in production and the men and women at work in the plants are giving loyal service. With few exceptions, labor, capital, and farming realize that this is no time either to make undue profits or to gain special advantages, one over the other.

We are calling for new plants and additions to old plants and for plant conversion to war needs. We are seeking more men and more women to run them. We are working longer hours. We are coming to realize that one extra plane or extra tank or extra gun or extra ship completed tomorrow may, in a few months, turn the tide on some distant battlefield; it may make the difference between life and death for some of our fighting men.

We know now that if we lose this war it will be generations or even centuries before our concept on of democracy can live again. And we can lose this war only if we slow up our effort or if we waste our ammunition sniping at each other. Here are three high purposes for every American:

First. We shall not stop work for a single day. If any dispute arises we shall keep on working while the dispute is solved by mediation, conciliation or arbitration-until the war is won.

Second. We shall not demand special gains or special privileges or advantages for any one group or occupation.

Third. We shall give up conveniences and modify the routine of our lives if our country asks us to do so. We will do it cheerfully, remembering that the common enemy seeks to destroy every home and every freedom in every part of our land.

This generation of Americans has come to realize, with a present and personal realization, that there is something larger and more important than the life of any individual or of any individual group-something for which a man will sacrifice, and gladly sacrifice, not only his pleasures, not only his goods, not only his associations with those he loves, but his life itself. In time of crisis when the future is in the balance, we come to understand, with full recognition and devotion, what this Nation is, and what we owe to it.

The Axis propagandists have tried in various evil ways to destroy our determination and our morale. Failing in that, they are now trying to destroy our confidence in our own allies. They say that the British are finished-that the Russians and Chinese are about to quit. Patriotic and sensible Americans will reject these absurdities. And instead of listening to any of this crude propaganda, they will recall some of the things that Nazis and Japanese have said and are still saying about us.

Ever since this Nation became the arsenal of democracy-ever since enactment of lend-lease-there has been one persistent theme through all Axis propaganda.

This theme has been that Americans are admittedly rich, and that Americans have considerable industrial power-but that Americans are soft and decadent, that they cannot and will not unite and work and fight.

From Berlin, Rome, and Tokyo we have been described as a nation of weaklings-“playboys”-who would hire British soldiers, or Russian soldiers, or Chinese soldiers to do our fighting for us.

Let them repeat that now.

Let them tell that to General MacArthur and his men.

Let them tell that to the sailors who today are hitting hard in the far waters of the Pacific.

Let them tell that to the boys in the flying fortresses.

Let them tell that to the marines.

The United Nations constitute an association of independent peoples of equal dignity and importance. The United Nations are dedicated to a common cause. We share equally and with equal zeal the anguish and awful sacrifices of war. In the partnership of our common enterprise we must share in a unified plan in which all of us must play our several parts, each of us being equally indispensable and dependent one on the other.

We have unified command and cooperation and comradeship. We Americans will contribute unified production and unified acceptance of sacrifice and of effort. That means a national unity that can know no limitations of race or creed or selfish politics. The American people expect that much from themselves. And the American people will find ways and means of expressing their determination to their enemies, including the Japanese admiral who has said that he will dictate the terms of peace here in the White House.

We of the United Nations are agreed on certain broad principles in the kind of peace we seek. The Atlantic charter applies not only to the parts of the world that border the Atlantic but to the whole world; disarmament of aggressors, self-determination of nations and peoples, and the “four freedoms”-freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

The British and the Russian people have known the full fury of Nazi onslaught. There have been times when the fate of London and Moscow was in serious doubt. But there was never the slightest question that either the British or the Russians would yield. And today all the United Nations salute the superb Russian Army as it celebrates the twenty-fourth anniversary of its first assembly.

Though their homeland was overrun, the Dutch people are still fighting stubbornly and powerfully overseas.

The great Chinese people have suffered grievous losses; Chungking has been almost wiped out of existence, yet it remains the capital of an unbeatable China.

That is the conquering spirit which prevails throughout the United Nations in this war.

The task that we Americans now face will test us to the uttermost.

Never before have we been called upon for such a prodigious effort.

Never before have we had so little time in which to do so much

“These are the times that try men’s souls.”

Tom Paine wrote those words on a drumhead, by the light of a campfire. That was when Washington’s little army of ragged, rugged men was retreating across New Jersey, having tasted nothing bat defeat.

And General Washington ordered that these great words written by Tom Paine be read to the men of every regiment in the Continental Army, and this was the assurance given to the first American armed forces:

“The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will in this crisis shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us: That the harder the sacrifice, the more glorious the triumph.”

So spoke Americans in the year 1776. So speak Americans today!”

Mister Mac

The Submariner’s Lament; When you understand 1

theleansubmariner

When you understand

This was a post that I put up on Facebook in 2014. It has been shared over 8500 times in the time it has been on Facebook

I am grateful for the feedback already sent

On February 16, 2017, it came to my attention that the story has been cut and pasted with unauthorized alterations and no attribution. I never copyrighted the post or the material but rest assured that it is still my intellectual property. I have shared this freely with the submarine community. All I ask in return is that it not be altered and credit be given where possible.

Mister Mac

When you understand 2

View original post

The Birth of the First Civilian Submarine Reply

This was an early post on theleansubmariner (2011) that has been updated with new content and pictures. 100 years ago, the Germans experimented with the first commercial submarine Deutschland commanded by Captain Paul Koenig. König was a captain in the German merchant navy. In 1916 during World War I, he became a reserve Kapitänleutnant in the Imperial German Navy.

Later in 1916, König became commanding officer of the merchant submarine Deutschland. He took it on two patrols to the United States for commercial purposes. He arrived at Baltimore on July 10, 1916, with a cargo of dyestuffs. While in the United States he was interviewed by newspapermen, was even the recipient of vaudeville offers, was welcomed by mayor of Baltimore and officials. On August 2 he sailed on the return voyage, later making a second voyage and putting in at New London, Connecticut.

He received the Iron Cross 1st class the same year. Following his return after the second journey, König wrote a book called Voyage of the Deutschland, which was heavily publicized, as it was intended to be used as propaganda.

König then became commanding officer of a Sperrbrechergruppe (group of blockade runners; 1917), and later was an executive at Norddeutscher Lloyd (1919–1931). He died at Gnadau, on September 9, 1933, where he is buried.

theleansubmariner

020214-4

The Birth of the First Civilian Submarine

While we were on our last trip, I stopped by a used book  store and found a book that had been a part of my life growing up. In my Grandfather’s library was a collection of books called “Source Records of the  Great War”. These books were collected documents about the events that were  part of World War 1 from the viewpoint of the actual participants.
Unfortunately, out of all of the books, only the year 1916 was in the store. While I was reading it last night, I uncovered a piece of submarine history  that I was not aware of despite years of reading and presenting submarine  talks. An even happened in 1916 that had the potential to change the way submarines could be used in the future.

On July 9, 1916 the captain of the German submarine Deutschland,  Paul Koenig…

View original post 1,172 more words

Denizens of the Deep – the bond between submarines and their crews 3

failure is not an option

From the very beginning of submarines, the vessels have been compared to a steel coffin or a sewer pipe closed on both ends. But to the men who have sailed on them and especially to the men (and now women) who built them and then drove them below the waves into a sea of uncertainty, they gain an almost mystical property. These underwater “denizens of the deep” become an all-encompassing force that changes a person forever. There is a bond that builds between crew and boat that lasts well beyond most other bonds.

Not all who sail on them love them. From the moment you come aboard the boat it presents a challenge to the physical and mental capabilities of the sailors who operate them. You are the newbie, the non-qual. All of the school and learning you have done to date means nothing to the boat or to the men who have been there before. You will only become part of the crew by giving up a part of you and becoming a part of the force that makes the boat operate at her best. There is nothing less than perfection expected form each sailor in the qualification and many hours of sleep will be sacrificed along the way to earning your “fish”. But it’s not even that simple. While you are learning, you must also contribute.

Endless days and nights beneath the darkness of the deep sea, you find yourself pushed and pulled at the same time. Pushed to contribute in achieving the mission and pulled in your own testing. There simply is no place for second best and you learn to hate the challenge while clinging on to every small victory. Line by line, you complete each level of achievement only to be given a newer and harder task. Respect is rare for a newbie and privileges even rarer. The pressure can be relentless but that pressure ensures that you will be ready to respond when called upon.

Each person must be stretched to the limit because in the end, the sea and the enemy beyond the edge of the horizon are unforgiving of mistakes. A missed valve could cause a catastrophe just as easily as an unseen mountain. Everything inside the hull has a risk of one kind or another and everything outside the hull presents a danger to the unprepared. No detail is too small and no amount of preparation is too much. There are no second chances when you are driving relatively blind in an ocean filled with the great unknowns.

The mission can be great or small but it is always faced with the same consequences if you fail. Unlike a normal job where missing a goal or schedule might mean an admonishment or a chance to do it over, the submarine only allows you the chance to get it right the first time,

One day, you reach the end of your checklist. You sit across the table from other men who have been tested and you reach down inside to remember every detail of every system and schematic you learned. You rattle off details about tank capacities, frequencies, weapons characteristics and hundreds of other details. After a long time they send you out into the passageway so that they can discuss your fate. Sometimes there will be a look up for some small detail that you missed. Sometimes you are judged not ready at all with a list of things to relearn. But on one special day, the leader of the board sys, “Congratulations. You have earned your dolphins.”

From that day you belong to a unique group of people. You become the teacher for the next person in line. You grow a unique bond with the boat that tested you and allowed you to meet the challenge. The boat becomes a part of your life in a way that will last as long as you live.

Now the test really begins. Will you be able to use that knowledge and skill under any circumstances? Will you discover that while you have learned much, there is still much more to learn? The sea learns too and so does your enemy. Both continue to probe for weaknesses every single day. This is a mighty warship after all and the war is never fully defined. You can talk about what you will do in a storm but until you ride the storm, you cannot predict how you and the boat will respond. You can practice countering an enemy but he has the ability and the skills to do the unexpected. Your survival is based on all of the crew responding with everything they have and the boat with all that is has. There is no second place in this undersea war.

A million miles and a thousand dives later, it’s time for the boat to come home. Like the grey haired old men who built her so long ago, she is tired and deserves a rest. The smooth lines of many years ago are slightly puckered with age. Driving to test depth and back again will do that to the old girl. She creaks a bit more when she dives but she still manages to put on a head of steam when she needs it for that last big run. But up ahead, she sees the pier waiting. There are men there with ropes ready to tie her down for the last time. Other people are waiting with wrenches and torches standing by to cut her apart and prepare her for the end. The bunks will all be stripped, the galley will close down forever and the power will come from long black lines attached to the shore that gave her birth. The periscope will soon be taken out and the memory of all the things she has seen will disappear into the mists of time. The phones and communications circuits will growl nor more. Slowly, the watch standers will rotate off, never to be replaced

On the saddest day ever, a band will play and her remaining crew will gather for a ceremony that all knew would come someday. There is no more somber a day than the day when the flag of the country she defended so well for all of those decades comes down for the last time. She has flown that flag at sea and in foreign ports all over the world reminding them of her mighty power and the power of the nation whose symbol she represents. She has lent that flag to the family members of shipmates who have gone before. Now it is her turn.

It’s hard to escape death. You can delay it, but in the end, the life that she represented is finally ended. The memories will last as long as there is a crewman alive who sailed her. But she will never again feel the salt air blowing waves across her bow. The angles and dangles she once performed will be nothing but a fading sea story. The rushing speed that you feel below your feet as the hull pierces the dark depths of the ocean will only live in the imaginations of those who have felt it. Her best stories will never be told out of respect for the boats and crews that take her place. But the grey old men know. They look at each other with faded eyesight and see a group of twenty something year olds who once mastered the ocean in a highly unconventional way.

As the USS San Francisco transitions to her new role preparing another generation for the challenges to come, I will always stand with pride when her name is called. I hope that any man or woman who has ever been a submariner can say the same about the boats they rode. It was my greatest honor to sail on board her and it was an even greater honor to sail with you all.

Mister Mac

USS San Francisco SSN 711 Alumni Association

alumni-association-1

 

What a great time to have been a submariner… Riding the 711 Boat 3

What a ride

b-_-711-sea-trials

Of all the adventures in my short life, the one that will always rise to the top is not just one single adventure, but a collection of adventures over a four year period that have one thing in common: They are all related to being a crewmember of the best submarine a man could ever hope for. The USS San Francisco (SSN 711) begins a journey towards her new life as a Moored Training Ship (MTS) on Friday November 4th. There are rumors that she might be delayed a bit, but her path now seems pretty clear. This mighty war ship will be partially dismantled and used to train the next generation of technicians and officers for their roles in the fleet.

The boat was launched on October 27, 1979 in Newport News Shipyard

Just a few days before she was launched, I reenlisted in the Navy after an absence from active duty of a few years. I was newly divorced, tired of living from paycheck to paycheck and ready to try my hand at being a sailor again. The Navy was a life saver for me since the economy in our area was in a serious mess and the prospects of a great future were non-existent. Three things happened in the year that would follow. I would join the crew of the pre-commissioning ship San Francisco, Ronald Reagan would run for President and ultimately win, and I met and married my beautiful wife Debbie. These three events made the adjustments in my life that helped me to achieve many of my unfulfilled goals.

Plankowner

I missed the launching but didn’t miss anything else related to outfitting the ship. As a member of Auxiliary Division, I helped to put together the non-nuclear machinery thsat would support the ship’s operations and life. I discovered a love for developing and delivering training that would later transfer over to my achieving Master Training Specialist and a Bachelor of Science degree in Workforce Education Development. But I also learned to be a sailor and operate a ship that could do some amazing things.

He ain’t heavy, He’s my Brother

One of the other reasons this was a special assignment was that I was able to serve with my youngest brother Tom. We had a lot of crazy adventures together and one of my favorite memories was pinning my original pewter back Dolphins on Tom when he became qualified in submarines. I would later pin my San Francisco Dress Dolphins on my nephew Artie Anderson who followed in the family tradition of becoming a Submarine Auxiliary man. Tom’s son Theodore was a submariner as well but somehow we lost him to the Nuclear program. But we were very proud of each of them as they found their own paths.

711 in the Bay_606626945_n

In the 36 years San Francisco has played a role in defending this country, she has had her share of good fortune and stark terror.

One of the most memorable of course was the collision that occurred a number of years back. I asked the author of the book  Making a Submarine Officer – A story of the USS San Francisco (SSN 711)  Alex Fleming: for permission to post just a small part of that story.

Note:  You can order your own copy here:  https://www.amazon.com/Making-Submarine-Officer-story-Francisco-ebook/dp/B0052YQLWA

January 8th, 2005, 1142 hours, near the Caroline Islands

           : There is a low rumbling which sounds to some like “God crushing a beer can,” and the ship slows instantaneously from 30 knots to 4 knots. The boat is well stowed for sea, so there are no projectiles, but every single person is thrown forward into the nearest vertical object. The people in the chow line end up in a huge pile in middle level. Rome and Litty are on the starboard side of the Diesel in lower level and they land in a heap on the deck. The OOD is thrown out of control, shouting Emergency blow even as he hits his head on a computer screen. The DOOW, Senior Chief Hager, is up out of his chair to update a status board, and he is thrown onto the ships control panel, shattering a gauge. His chair is thrown forward, breaking his leg. The Quartermaster flies fifteen feet forward and lands on the stern planesman, breaking the back of his chair. The JOOD is thrown forward onto the fire control displays in front of him, hitting his head and neck. The men in the smoke pit land on the pumps directly in front of them, except for Ashley, who is thrown forward 20 feet and hits his head on a pump assembly. Every single plate of food is thrown all over the galley. In the wardroom, one officer shoves his fork through his lip, and the Captain watches as one of the mess cooks flies over his shoulder and lands on the flat screen TV on the forward bulkhead.

            The Captain is pinned in his chair, but quickly recovers and runs up to control to find out what happened. He gets there after the Chief of the Watch has already thrown the emergency blow handles, but the ship is not going up. The DOOW is back in his chair, not saying a word about his broken leg, shouting out depths. The ship has a down angle, and it is clear from indications that something serious has happened to the forward ballast tanks. Matt Priests quickly recovers from being slammed against his stateroom wall, and runs back to the ER as he hears an emergency report of “Flooding in the ER.” He knows this is the most serious situation that a ship can have, underwater, doing an emergency blow with flooding in the ER. No submarine can get positive buoyancy with the ER filling with water, and for a moment, Matt is sure that they are all going to die. He quickly finds that the report was an error, and the water is just a leak from a cracked freshwater pipe.

            The Captain and Chief Hager in control are still watching the depth gauge, waiting for it to show upward movement. Finally, after almost a minute, the ship begins to rise, breaking the surface at 1143:52. The next forty minutes are a chaos of emergency reports, calls for the Doc, people trying to respond to ten different casualties, and people trying to care for injured shipmates. In shaft alley, an electrician named Brain Barnes does not know what else to do, so he holds Joey Ashley’s hand and talks to him, waiting for Doc Akin to arrive.”

You will have to buy the book for the rest of the story. I will also be adding the book to my Now Read This section of the blog.

On Friday November 4th, the change will start taking place. It will probably not be dramatic except for all the ghosts who I am sure will be on the pier. I earlier had thought I would not be allowed to go because of my heart issues. But frankly, my heart has never been the same since I left the San Francisco. Service on board her changed my life. I am pretty sure a lot of other people can say the same. It will be my greatest honor to stand on her decks one last time.

Thanks to all those who kept her going all these years. I am proud to have been called shipmate and even prouder to call all of you my shipmates.

Mister Mac (AKA Big Mac)

big-mac-in-tr-ssn-711

Should I stay or should I go? 1

One of the questions asked so much in the recent lead up to the storm is “Should I stay or should I go”.

The obvious answer is to follow the directions of the emergency management officials. Much of the loss of life and deprivation after Katrina was too many people in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some of that can be blamed on the local and regional government of course. Before they took it down, I had a copy of the Emergency Management Plan for New Orleans. The section that talked about evacuation plans simply stated: To be developed.  The results were catastrophic and the affects can still be felt today.

I honestly believe however that many people stayed out of a lack of basic understanding of disaster management. For whatever reason, there was a belief that it wasn’t going to be that bad and if it was, the government was going to bail them out. If you read the BOLD WARNINGS on the Ready.gov web site however, even the most casual understanding would show you that the government will probably not be there right away. The proof is in their own words:

“You may need to survive on your own after an emergency. This means having your own food, water and other supplies in sufficient quantity to last for at least 72 hours. Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster but they cannot reach everyone immediately. You could get help in hours or it might take days.”   Or maybe longer if you want to be really honest. A big enough storm may cover a much wider area which will certainly tax the government’s ability to respond.

Whether you chose to stay or to go, you should still build a kit that fits either contingency. Things that might be valuable in a shelter in place might be cumbersome if you have to bug out. The time for deciding what is needed is well before the actual need to decide. Precious minutes might be wasted getting just the right things into place. This is where planning is of the utmost importance.

Bugging Out

I started building our bug out bag when we lived in Tornado Alley. The logic at the time was that if we had to evacuate in a hurry, I didn’t want to be gathering needed items. Using a workout gear bag (made of water resistant nylon) I assembled some basic food items, cooking gear used in camping, water containers for drinking, and tools.

 

img_1055

Mountain House freeze dried food is the most reliable and enjoyable of all the food I have tried. While I still have some MRE’s in rotation for my Shelter in Place plan, the freeze dried stays fresher longer, is lighter and has a a far superior taste. Add to that how easy it is to reconstitute. You can either boil the water or you can use the convenient heater packs (purchased separately) which require nothing but water. This kit includes a rain poncho which doubles as a makeshift tent. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to light a stove in the rain.

img_1056A fishing tackle box contains a large number of useful items for either Bug Out or Staying. The box is sealed which keeps the contents nice and dry. Most of the items are from camping or boating stores. A folding shovel, sturdy survival knife, axes and multiple butchering tools are ready to help address any number of emergencies. I have at least five different methods to light a fire including flint if need be.   A basic medical bag can address most first aid issues and don’t forget the extra seal canteens of water. Waterproof matches are a must and I keep them sealed in plastic bags just to be safe.

Leaving is not always an option

We are blessed to have a house with a walk out basement. In that basement is a finished room with three pretty solid walls and no direct exposure to the outside on any of the walls. The previous owners equipped it with a steel door so this was a natural choice for me to establish our Zombie Room. In one of the corners, I have a storage cabinet that holds the Bug Out Kid and the Shelter in Place materials. While I keep some of the more flammable items in a safer storage nearby, this cabinet has enough supplies to make sure we can go well beyond the 72 hours the government typically suggests. We live in the country and those extra supplies may be our lifeline until the crisis passes.

img_1054

Along with a rotating stock of MRE’s we recently shifted over to Mountain House’s “Just in Case” buckets. These sealed buckets have a 25 year shelf life. I imagine that they will out last either of us at this point in time. They are lightweight, rodent resistant, waterproof and easy to store. The buckets are also useable for other purposes once they are empty of their food.

img_1059

The cabinet is a great place for additional tools you might need and more medical supplies. We have a gas grill, a Coleman Stove, portable camping stoves and as a last resort prepackaged one time use grills. More sophisticated cookware for Shelter in Place is also kept here.

img_1060

img_1062

The orange bucket is filled with a number of things including toilet paper, duct tape, plastic tarps, extra dusk masks, and some protective coveralls. Elsewhere in the case are gas masks with filters suitable for ruse in the case of a chemical or nuclear fallout event. I pray that we will never have to use them but with Putin and his ministers rattling the nuclear saber once more, you just never know. (By the way, the orange bucket also doubles as a toilet… have a few close by just in case).

img_1065

Finally, what’s a good Zombie Room without a way to take out zombies? My hobby is shooting so I probably would have had most of these anyway. But we live in an area where law enforcement is limited and crime is just around the corner. My suggestion for most people is to have at least a shotgun. But it is not always practical to hunt with a shotgun and you may require something with a little more flexibility should the zombies rise.

A logical question is “what gun and caliber should I purchase?” My common answer is “one that you will actually use if you need it.” I prefer 9MM for my handguns and at least one rifle. My AR shoots 5.56 or .223. If you decide on an AR, make sure you get one chambered for the 5.56. It will handle both. These popular rounds will be worth their weight in gold if an actual catastrophe occurs.

The Plan

All of these things are quite useless if you don’t have a plan. Ready.gov has some good basic building blocks. The time to plan is not as the winds are passing 55 MPH or the water is rising above your front stoop. The time to plan is NOW.

Mister Mac

https://www.ready.gov/

http://www.cdc.gov/

https://www.fema.gov/

http://survivalcache.com/