Post Number 633 – USS Casimir Pulaski SSBN 633 1

A salute to one of the many unsung heroes of the Cold War:

The USS Casimir Pulaski (SSBN-633)

USS Casimir Pulaski (SSBN-633), a James Madison-class ballistic missile submarine, was the second ship of the United States Navy to be named for Casimir Pulaski (1745–1779), a Polish general who served in the American Revolutionary War.

Lafayette Class Ballistic Missile Submarine: Laid down, 12 January 1963, at the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corp., Groton, CT.; Launched, 1 February 1964; Commissioned, USS Casimir Pulaski (SSBN 633), 14 August 1964; Decommissioned and struck from the Naval Register, 3 July 1994; Disposed of through the Nuclear Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program, 21 October 1994 at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, WA.

Specifications: Displacement, Surfaced: 7,250 t., Submerged: 8,250 t.; Length 425′ ; Beam 33′; Draft 32′; Speed, Surfaced/Submerged 20+ kts; Complement 120; Test depth 1,300′; Armament, 16 missile tubes, four 21″ torpedo tubes; Propulsion, S5W Pressurized Water Nuclear Reactor, two geared turbines at 15,000 shp, one propeller.

For a comprehensive in depth look at the 633 boat, click this link…

https://www.usscasimirpulaski.com/

 

Thanks to all who served on her and protected our nation during the Cold War

Mister Mac

The Patten Family and the USS Nevada (1941) 3

As it so often happens, I was looking through the archives and discovered an article that jumped off the pages at me. This article was found in a collection of Navy Department News Releases and was released seventy seven years ago today (September 7, 2018)

NAVY DEPARTMENT

HOLD FOR RELEASE

SUNDAY PAPERS, SEPTEMBER 7, 1941

FATHER TO JOIN SEVEN SONS IN THE U. S. NAVY

A sea meeting unique in the world’s naval history will take place on the quarterdeck of the USS NEVADA on Tuesday night with the central figure, strangely enough, a farmer from Ridgefield, Washington. Officers and crew of the big battleship drawn up at rigid attention for the impressive rite, Captain F. W. Scandland, U. S. Navy, the NEWADA’s commanding officer, will administer the Navy enlistment oath to the farmer– Clarence Floyd Patten, a man of about 50 years.

Standing just behind the principal in the ceremony, in which Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox in Washington will take part by radio, will be seven proud Sailors–Patten’s sons, Clarence, Jr., Myrne, Roy, Marvin, Allen, Gilbert and Bruce, all serving in the NEVADA’s fireroom. The elder Patten, not to be outdone by his sons, decided some time ago to follow the same urge which led them to the sea and into the service of their country and he will be enlisted as a fireman, first class.

Nor is the father the last of the Patten family who will enter the Navy. An eighth son, Wayne Henry Patten, just 16, about to become a sophomore at a Portland (Oregon) High School and with aspirations to become an aviator, plans to enlist when he becomes eligible on July 1, 1942. The NEVADA’s location for the ceremony will remain secret for reasons of Navy security, but the public will be enabled to hear the rites through the facilities of the National Broadcasting Company, which is to present it over its Blue Network from 7:00 to 7:15 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Secretary Knox will congratulate the elder Patten on the patriotism of his all-Navy family in a brief talk over a special hook-up linking Washington, D.C., with the NEVADA. All of the Patten brothers were born at Lake City, in Carroll County, Iowa, and the first to enter the Navy was Clarence Floyd Patten, Jr., now 25, who enlisted on July 1, 1937. The next was Myrne Roosevelt Patton, 22, who enlisted October 5, 1937.

Roy Hart Patten, 20, enlisted November 21, 1939; Marvin Kenneth Patten, 28, on January 3, 1940, exactly two weeks ahead of Allen Mayo Patten, 24; Gilbert Russell Patten, 29, on August 31, 1940, and Bruce Calvin Patten, 18, on December 12, 1940. Clarence, Myrne, Roy and Marvin all enlisted at Des Moines, Iowa; Allen at San Diego, California; Gilbert in Honolulu, T.H., and Bruce at Portland, Oregon.

In keeping with the Navy’s policy to bring together, whenever possible, brothers in the service, the seven Patten boys were put together in the NEVADA. In fact, all of them are stationed in the fireroom and occupy seven bunks together in a corner of one of the ship’s sleeping compartments.

(Photograph available in Photographic Section, Office of Public Relations.)

The Nevada wasn’t in her usual place when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor just a few month later. During the previous fleet maneuvers, she was delayed coming into port and the USS Arizona took her usual berth. This left the Nevada outboard of another ship and able to get underway once the attack occurred.

USS Nevada (BB-36), eldest (by a few months) of the battleships in Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, was hit by one torpedo during the last part of the Japanese torpedo planes’ attack. This opened a large hole in the ship’s port side below her two forward turrets. Her anti-torpedo protection, of a type back-fitted to the Navy’s older battleships, resisted the warhead’s explosion fairly well. However, serious leaks were started in the inmost bulkhead, allowing a considerable amount of water into the ship.

The damaged Nevada got underway at 0840, about a half-hour after she was torpedoed, backed clear of her berth, and began to steam down the channel toward the Navy Yard. The slowly moving battleship was an attractive target for Japanese dive bombers, which hit and near-missed her repeatedly, opening up her forecastle deck, causing more leaks in her hull, starting gasoline fires forward and other blazes in her superstructure and midships area. Now in serious trouble, Nevada was run aground on the Navy Yard side of the channel, just south of Ford Island.

As her crew fought her many fires, the ship twisted around until she was facing back up the harbor. With the help of tugs, Nevada then backed across the way and grounded, stern-first, on the other side of the channel. Her old, much-modified structure proved itself to be anything but watertight, and water traveled inexorably throughout the ship. By the following day, she had settled to the bottom, fortunately in fairly shallow water. There she was to remain for over two months, the subject of one of the first of Pearl Harbor’s many demanding salvage projects.

Over the course of the morning, Nevada suffered a total of 60 killed and 109 wounded. Two more men died aboard during salvage operations on 7 February 1942 when they were overcome by hydrogen sulfide gas from decomposing paper and meat. The ship suffered a minimum of six bomb hits and one torpedo hit, but “it is possible that as many as ten bomb hits may have been received, […] as certain damaged areas [were] of sufficient size to indicate that they were struck by more than one bomb

None of the Patten Family were listed as KIA in the attack. You can find the rest of their amazing story here:

http://www.pearlharborsurvivorsonline.org/html/USS20Nevada20Patten20Brothers.htm

The Sullivan’s were not so fortunate

Just over a year later, the Navy’s policy on allowing family to be stationed together received a shocking jolt when the USS Juneau was sunk at the Naval Battle for Guadalcanal. The famous “Fighting Sullivan Brothers would all lose their lives in a single day.

The Navy would not allow brothers and family to serve again for many generations. Interesting footnote: forty years later (1981) My brother Tom and I both served on the USS San Francisco SSN 711 for over three years together. During that time, the 711 boat would be host to a total of four sets of brothers.

To the best of my knowledge, we all made it home safely. Interestingly enough, my brother Tom went on to serve on the Submarine USS Nevada.

I have often thought that the world was filled with a number of randomly colliding coincidences.

Mister Mac

Forged by the Sea, Tempered by the Steel City – Birth of the Nuclear Navy 3

Birth of the Nuclear Navy
Forged by the Sea, Tempered in the Steel City

 

There are many paths that led to the development of the new power source that would give the American Navy a way to counter any force on earth. The excerpts in this post come from one of the best sources of information I have found in years. “The Nuclear Navy, 1946-1962” (Richard G. Hewlett and Francis Duncan) was written to record the progress made during the early years of the Cold War and was recognized by the Atomic Energy Historical Advisory Committee for its accuracy:

“The members of the Historical Advisory Committee of the United States Atomic Energy Commission have closely followed the writing of this volume and find the completed study an honest, scholarly, and balanced history of the Navy’s nuclear propulsion program. We enjoyed the opportunity to review the draft and final chapters and to discuss them at length with the authors. At our meetings we had access to all the information they used, both classified and unclassified, and also had the opportunity to inspect the plants, laboratories, and nuclear-powered vessels whose development they were describing and analyzing. In the reviews of the draft and the final chapters we did not, of course, attempt to verify the accuracy of the details, based as they were on voluminous files of documents, many of which had been opened for historical research for the first time. Nor did we try to influence the authors’ interpretations of the documentary record. The review did, however, permit us to say with certainty that this study in all respects meets exacting canons of historical scholarship.”

There were many events leading up to the development of the nuclear submarine, but it would have never materialized without the vision and determined leadership of the legendary H. G. Rickover.

By the end of 1945, as the hitherto secret products of American science and engineering came to light, the full dimensions of a revolution in military technology had begun to appear. Sensing some of this, Nimitz, in his homecoming address at the Washington Monument on October 5, had declared: “Perhaps it is not too much to predict that history will refer to this present period not as the ending of a great conflict but as the beginning of a new atomic age.”:’

At the request of then-Captain H.G. Rickover, USN, the first study of the application of a high-pressure, water-cooled reactor for a submarine was undertaken at Oak Ridge, Tenn., in September 1947. In January 1948 the Department of Defense requested Atomic Energy Commission to design, develop and build a nuclear reactor which would propel a submarine.

Captain Rickover used every opportunity from his post at the Bureau of Ships to argue the need to establish a Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program. Since there were many unknowns, he recommended undertaking two parallel reactor development projects: a pressurized water cooled reactor and a liquid metal cooled reactor.

On August 4, 1948, the Navy created the new Nuclear Power Branch with Rickover as its head within the Bureau’s Research Division

The letter contract which Westinghouse signed with the Commission on December 10, 1948, embodied the arrangement Zinn had proposed. The purpose was to build a propulsion plant for a submarine “within the shortest practicable time.” Westinghouse would be required to “do all detail engineering, produce the working drawings, procure the necessary materials, and construct the Mark I plant,” which would be a land-based prototype. The contract also recognized that the aim was to design Mark I so that it would meet Navy specifications for a submarine propulsion plant. Therefore, concurrently with its work on Mark I, Westinghouse would undertake research and development for subsequent models of Mark I which could be installed in submarines. The Commission authorized Westinghouse to obtain suitable office space, laboratories, and shop facilities at government expense and specified interim financial arrangements until a definitive contract could be signed.

Bettis Airfield near Pittsburgh was chosen for the new development site. It remains an active participant in providing the equipment and technology that sill guard the world’s freedoms.

Curtiss-Bettis Airport, Pittsburgh, PA

America’s Nuclear Navy Went from Concept to Reality Starting in 1948

The Pittsburgh Navy Ball will celebrate the 70th Anniversary of this achievement on October 12, 2018 at Soldiers and Sailors Ballroom. Tickets will be available for purchase shortly.

Mister Mac

Pittsburgh Pennsylvania – Serving the Navy in World War 2 (and Beyond) 1

Sometimes people forget the strong bond the Navy has always had with the City of Pittsburgh

On this Labor Day, I thought it would be appropriate to highlight the men and women who contributed to the victory in World War 2. Many never carried a gun, but their efforts were instrumental in delivering not only men and weapons, but the many supplies needed to bring the Nazi’s and Imperial Japan to their knees.

Geographically, Pittsburgh is situated far from either the Atlantic or Pacific oceans. This was both a blessing and a challenge. The blessing was that at the time, the city was well out of range of traditional attacks. She was also located in an area that is still rich with natural resources and a well maintained systems of rivers with locks and dams. The challenge was building anything of significance and delivering it intact to the war effort. While the rivers are well suited for the many coal barges that routinely sail from the mines, they are not deep enough or wide enough to manage a larger vessel.

The answer came in the form of a unique new vessel that was desperately needed on both coasts. The LST  Landing Ship, Tank, or tank landing ship, is the naval designation for ships built during World War II to support amphibious operations by carrying tanks, vehicles, cargo, and landing troops directly onto shore with no docks or piers. This provided amphibious assaults to almost any beach. The bow of the LST had a large door that would open with a ramp for unloading the vehicles. The LST had a special flat keel that allowed the ship to be beached and stay upright. The twin propellers and rudders had protection from grounding. The LSTs served across the globe during World War II including: Pacific War and European theatre.

These unique vessels were built in a number of places but Pittsburgh was ideally suited for their construction.

Here is their story from the Book “Building the Navy’s Bases in World War II “Volume I (Part II)

Neville Island, Pittsburgh, Pa. – Construction of LST’s took place along the seacoast and on inland waterways. One of the building sites which was farthest from the ocean was Neville Island, on the Ohio River, a short distance below Pittsburgh, where the Dravo Corporation, a prime contractor for the Navy, built facilities for the construction of twelve LST’s at a time. Prior to the war expansion for the Navy, Dravo had built on Neville Island a plant where barges and other river craft were produced.

Under the war program, the existing yard was expanded by the construction of a seven-position assembly line. The first construction operation took place in position one, parallel to, and farthest from, the river. The growing ships were moved sidewise to each successive building position and finally into the Dravo side-launching ways, which existed before the Navy project was initiated.

Other new facilities constructed included a mold loft, a main office building, a warehouse, a machine shop, and two platens. The platens were open, rectangular, steel platforms for welding assemblies before installation in the ships. The platens were built at the stern ends of positions 1, 2, and 3 in the assembly line. The expanded old yard was called West Yard.

Upstream on Neville Island, separated from West Yard by another industrial property, an entirely new yard area, East Yard, was built. The assembly line at East Yard had five building positions. Side-launching ways were built, as were a service shop, warehouse, carpenter shop, sheet metal shop, two platens, and several minor buildings for personnel and offices.

To facilitate the equipping and outfitting of ships, two fitting-out quays were constructed on the river bank. One, 1,350 feet long, was located at the East Yard; the other, 300 feet long, was just east of the West Yard launching ways. Together the piers accommodated ten ships, moored two abreast. The quay was constructed as a filled steel, sheet pile cellular type. Three icebreaker piers, consisting of steel sheet piling driven in a 30-foot-diameter circle were constructed adjacent to each other, in a line at right angles with the shore, near the upstream end of the longer quay. They served as a means of breaking ice and downstream drift and for ship mooring. Additional mooring, in the non-quay waterfront area, was obtained by the construction of four dolphins in a line 50 feet from the shore and parallel to it.

In each yard, whirler-type gantry cranes were used in the pre-assembly and ship construction areas for handling ship sections and materials. Seven gantry-crane tracks were built, as were tracks for side-movement of ships on the assembly lines and tracks for railway service.

Three architect-engineer firms were used by the prime contractor. One handled the heavy-construction design and supervised the work of a heavy-construction contractor. The second handled shop and warehouse design; the third handled design of offices, cafeterias, and locker buildings. Work in the second and third categories was performed by a second construction contractor. Each of the two construction contractors performed almost $3,000,000 worth of work. The overall cost of the facility, including the non-civil works, was more than $10,000,000.

On Memorial Day, 1944, more than 25,000 gathered in Pittsburgh to watch the launch of LST-750, which Allegheny County residents had financed by purchasing $5,000,000 worth of extra war bonds. In 1944, Dravo Corporation’s Neville Island Yard worked round the clock. It built 15 LSTs in a six-week period before the D-Day invasion. Damaged by a Japanese kamikaze, the LST-750 sank near the Philippines’ Negros Island in December 1944.

The Pittsburgh Area has always been a representative community for what makes America exceptional.

The LST story is just one of the many contributions her citizens made to the war effort. Many of her own sons went to sea on these ships and helped free the world from Fascism and Imperialism.

Mister Mac

To help celebrate the Navy’s 243rd Birthday, Pittsburgh is holding its traditional Navy Birthday Celebration on October 12th, 2018. We are offering an opportunity for anyone who would like to contribute to the celebration to help by making a donation to the Navy League Pittsburgh Council Navy Ball Fund. In exchange for a contribution of $15.00 or more, you will receive this commemorative coin.

The Navy League is a 501 C3 organization

These limited Edition Coins will go fast so contact me at bobmac711@live.com if you would like to help celebrate the Navy’s Birthday

 

The History of the Army Canteen – A tribute to Phillip Dockter, US Army Vietnam Veteran Reply

 

I hope that in your life you have had a good friend.

In my life, I have been blessed with more than my share but one of my favorites is Phillip Dockter. I met Phil when I went to work at the Ford Motor Company Indianapolis facility as a training and development leader. Phil was the Human Resource Manager. Within a very short time we became friends and we often kidded each other about the superiority of our own specific service. Phil had served his country in the US Army during the Vietnam War and of course, I was Navy through and through.

Over the years we have kidded each other endlessly about each other’s branch of the service and the kidding approaches near warfare in the lead up to the Army Navy Game. This year, Phil surprise me with an early gift that he found at a Cracker Barrel store. Cracker Barrel always has a section devoted to Military Pride and Phil had found the perfect gift which he sent to me.

 

The Gauntlet had been thrown down!!!  

The next move was mine!!!

 

I spent a few hours thinking about this and decided that the best way to reward my old friend was a similar gesture. But I never do anything in a small way. My research led me to the History of the Canteen (an excerpt of which is included below)

The History of the Army Canteen

Lieut.-Col. Philip Reade, 1901

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.$b16359;view=1up;seq=9

“At the beginning of the last century, and for some years after, the soldier’s canteen was a wooden, drum-shaped affair, provided with a nozzle.

To now return to that shape and adopt a hollow cylinder, modeled after a drum for packing figs in, would be an advance backwards.

The history of mankind is the history of the development of weapons and equipment for war by improvements, in which one nation has overcome another and survived.

Within a few months from now our military organization will have been readjusted. The arms and equipments to be necessitated by the increase in numbers of our permanent military establishment should be new and not of the nineteenth century pattern.

By July, 1901, perhaps 60,000 canteens now carried by, or in the possession of, United States Volunteers and Regulars will have been turned in. Some of these canteens will be suspended by the returned volunteers beside the obsolete muzzle-loading firearms of the civil war period, and some may find their way into the museums for the collection and display of archaic military weapons and equipments. From being an inconsequential article of a soldier’s personal equipment the canteen has become, in fact, one of the most important articles, because connected with hygienic considerations; in other words, because it carries water and because the majority of our troops are in localities where good water is of prime consideration to health.

Those who live a comparatively fixed life can hardly weigh aright the importance of a good canteen.

Since the microbe or germ theory has come into the discussion of hygienic conditions, we have learned why it is that bad water is the most dangerous liquid one can drink ; that the denizen of places fitted with filtering devices, sterilizing appliances, faucets, hydrants, water valves, pipes, aqueducts, cooling refrigerators, icehouses, etc., can guard against micro-organisms and temper the water to suit his palate; the soldier cannot so guard himself in the field or on campaign, or on the march.

If the former could only get water by journeying to the town pump, or well having a pole, or piece of timber, moved on a fulcrum or post, used to raise and lower a bucket in the well for laboriously drawing water by hand, he would feel it an -annoying hardship. We have relegated the well-sweep, but hung on to the canteen of contemporaneous antiquity.

People who always live in houses and sleep in beds and walk on pavements and ride in street cars, and who get their food from butchers, bakers, grocers, or restaurants, and who always have access to unlimited quantities of good water, don’t appreciate—they can’t appreciate—water, because it is as free as air. The circumstances of their existence are too mathematical and secure. They are boarders in this world. Everything is done for them by somebody else. They live at second or third hand. They get their excitement out of the newspapers. If the weather is bad, they are snugly housed. If it is cold, there is a furnace in the cellar. If they are hungry, the shops are near at hand. They might as well be brought up in an incubator.

But where man abides in the fields, after the manner of soldiers in campaign, he learns that his best friends are his arms, his blanket, and his rations; the last named are not any more important than his rilled canteen.

Napoleon said: “There are five things from which the soldier must never be separated—his gun, his cartridges, his knapsack, his provisions for at least four days, and his pioneer tool. Let the knapsack be reduced to the smallest size; let him carry in it a shirt, a pair of shoes, a stock, a handkerchief, a tinder box, but let him have it always with him, for, once separated from him, it never returns.” It is submitted that a man will retain things for the preservation of his own life longer than he will retain things for the taking of life. Hence he will hold on to his provisions longer than he will retain implements, such as his gun, cartridges, knapsack, pioneer “tool, or even his “stock.” In other words, the soldier will include his canteen as one of his best friends. He is never prodigal with his water when inured to war experiences.

City dwellers who know that there is always plenty more in the pipes do not appreciate this last fact.”

As it turns out, neither do sailors. They have plumbing.

Go NAVY

Beat Army

(I also fixed the box that included the Army Cup and Canteen Story… Phil seems to have enjoyed the new decorated box – see below.)

 

“Chief Bob MacPherson just when I thought I’d trumped you out, I get a package from the Quartermaster General! Even before I can open the package I’m assaulted with some of the stickers on the box…some, not all. Nice tag to the USS Indianapolis. You did owe me the Army Brat sippy cup and I was expecting that. I was also impressed with the document on the “Military Canteen”. Only a ground pounder or Marine would enjoy the article. But as Jerry Seinfeld once said, “…the best joke is one that ends in a totally different way than it starts.” Which is what you did to me with the article…damned Photoshop!! Sadly I’m starting to believe what you tell me about the Navy having lobster, fresh Navy beans and hot/cold running water!! Of course, no communication from you would be complete without a final shot over the bow. We’ll see come December!

PS…please post the article on your site, I’m sure all of your East Coast Navy peeps would enjoy it. Besides, all they’re doing is sitting around singing Anchors Aweigh!”

Mission Accomplished Phil.

Mister Mac

Postscript: You will never meet a finer man than Phil. It is an honor to call him friend.

August 28, 1973 The Journey Begins 13

I joined the Navy in April of 1972 by raising my right hand for the very first time. The Navy used the Delayed Entry Program to pre-sign willing young volunteers and at the age of seventeen, I was anxious to leave home and see the world. I remember my girlfriend at the time crying a bit and shortly before I joined, President Nixon escalated the bombing of NVA troops and Hanoi. On the day I signed up, 100,000 people in various cities around the United States protested the increased bombing. Needless to say it was not a great time to be in uniform. The support for the military was further diminished by various scandals and secret bombing campaigns were being revealed by the press on a regular basis.

In December 1972, I was finishing up Machinist Mate A school in Great Lakes Illinois while President Nixon ordered the launch of the most intense air offense of the war: Operation Linebacker. The attacks, concentrated between Hanoi and Haiphong, drop roughly 20,000 tons of bombs over densely populated regions. The outcry both here and abroad was fierce but it achieved the goal of bringing the North closer to desiring an end to the war.

In January of 1973, the Selective Service announced the end to the draft and instituted an all-volunteer military. I was just beginning my submarine training at New London when the announcement was made. Since I had volunteered before I was eligible for the draft, it did not mean much to me personally. But I did notice that many who were serving around me had chosen a Navy path to avoid the Army. Some were upset that they had joined now that the draft was gone.

The rest of 1973 was spent shuttling around the country to various schools. From New London, I was sent to Charleston to learn advanced skills related to the boat I would eventually join in Guam. The USS George Washington had already left Charleston after a shipyard period so I would not see her until the fall of 1973 in Guam. The schools and a short stint TAD at the Submarine Base in Pearl seemed like an endless wait. I officially reported on board on August 28, 1973 to the Blue crew which was preparing to leave Hawaii. Then came the day I took my first crew flight from Hawaii to Guam.

Guam

Guam is a hot and humid place no matter what time of year you show up. The trip from Anderson Air Force Base was in a vintage non-air conditioned military bus. I remember pulling up to the USS Proteus and how tired we all were from the long flight and heat on the ground. We went on board the tender and were assigned to submarine crew quarters. The bunks were stacked on top of each other and the smell was horrible. The George Washington was not back from patrol yet (the Gold Crew had her) so we waited for a few days doing not much of anything.

I watched the boat as it came into the harbor. It seemed kind of small at first but by the time it was tied alongside you could see the top and sides. Men were scurrying with the lines and some hoses of one kind or another and there were thick black cable being connected between the boat and the Proteus. The Proteus was a leftover from World War 2 and the crew on board were stationed there all year round. We just came for visits twice a year and many of us were glad to leave her when the time came.

The smell

Once the boat was tied up, the turnover process began. As a young Fireman, I was not aware at the time of all the things that would need to be completed in order to successfully transition between Gold and Blue. I was just very anxious to get off the tender and into the boat. The very first time I went down the forward hatch I noticed a few things. The first is the smell. A submarine smell is something you never forget. It is a mixture of diesel, mono-ethylamine, cigarettes, cooking residue, body odors and many other things. It gets into your nose first then into your clothes. It never quite leaves you. If I close my eyes, I can still imagine what it smells like.

The good thing about being a new kid is that you don’t have much time to think. The work comes fast and furious and you do not want the Chief to catch you skylarking. There is just too much to do. The crew that is leaving is packing up their stuff as quickly as possible for the long ride home. Within a few hours, the on-loading process for the coming patrol begins. Boxes of food both frozen and canned are waiting to be loaded and the only way they get into the boat is through the long narrow hatches with men stationed on deck and all the way to the lowest levels of the boat. You load until everything is in the boat. Your arms are aching in a way that you never thought possible. Same with your back and legs.

As an Auxiliaryman, our job was to also make sure we had enough hydraulic oil and essential other fluids. These evolutions often happened at night sine they tied up the hatches. There was very little sleep. Broken equipment needed to be repaired, flex hoses needed to be changed out and a hundred little tasks that needed completed were rushed in order to make the deployment schedule. Topside, the deck gang went between chipping and p[painting and helping with weapons moves. The Russians were waiting for us just outside Apra Harbor and even though we were technically at peace, we were also technically at war. You made no assumptions.

The rain

Guam is in a tropical environment and when the rains come, they leave you soaked to the bone. No matter what is going on, the rains will not stop the progress. You simply went down into the boat soaking wet and tried your best to dry off before your next trip topside. After a while, you just gave up trying. And everybody got a cold within a week. The Doc would hand out Actifed like it was candy to keep people from getting too sick.

The first dive

At the end of the refit, things started to settle into a routine. The tanks were topped off, stores were loaded, the equipment that had been placed topside for repairs was all gone and the boat was ready for that first dive. I was in the control room standing messenger under instruction. That is about as low a position as you can find on a submarine. It means that you are an air consuming passenger without a real purpose in life. You really just did your best to stay out of everybody’s way as the boat approached the dive point. Strange new sights and sounds and a symphony of orders and replies fill the packed little space. Reports from all over the boat come rapidly in indicating that all spaces are prepared. The Officer of the Deck is the last man down and reports to the Conn.  The board goes straight and the order is given. Diving officer, submerge the ship.

The main vents are cycled open, you hear the rushing of the water and for just a moment, you pray to yourself. The boat takes a down angle, reports come in indicating a normal dive and then she settles out. The beginning of a very long ride begins. Mine took quite a few years to finish… It would end on the USS Ohio in another very rainy place called Kitsap County Washington.

You join a very selective community on that day.

For the rest of your life you will hear people ask what it was like and say things like, “Oh, I could never do that.” You just kind of smile and say to yourself that once upon a time, you thought so too. I kind of hope I make it another five years before I take my final dive. Old submariners will understand why.

Mister Mac

The New “Star” in Star Spangled Banner Reply

This morning, I was honored to join a few members of the Pittsburgh Sea Cadet Battalion in helping to kick off the Bike Ride for Operation Troop Appreciation in Pittsburgh. This even helps to raise funds to build and sustain the morale and wellbeing of the military community, past and present, with the assurance that the American public supports and appreciates their selfless service and daily sacrifices.

This 100 mile run will travel the hills and valleys of Western Pennsylvania in support of our troops still deployed and those who return to our country after serving.

It is very humbling to see all of the volunteers and meet the bikers who came out to support. God bless all of you for your efforts.

Thanks to the Sea Cadets and a special thanks to the guest singer Antolena who performed one of the most amazing renditions of the National Anthem many of us have ever heard.

http://operationtroopappreciation.org/

https://www.facebook.com/Antolena-2042019952781129/?__tn__=HHH-R

https://www.facebook.com/pittsburghseacadets/

The New “Star” in Star Spangled Banner

When I came home, I posted the pictures and related a few of the stories on Facebook I learned while I was at Operation Troop Appreciation’s Pittsburgh facility this morning. I posted a picture of the young lady (Antolena) and wrote the following comment to go with it:

“Sometimes we take for granted that the National Anthem will be sung nicely. It happens so often that a beautiful young lady or handsome young man stands before a group of total strangers and gives a very pleasant version of a very difficult song. Then, every once in a great while, or in this case, for the very first time, you are standing less then ten feet from someone who owns the song from the moment they open their mouth. No fear. No quivering of the voice. No searching for notes. Without the flourishes and fanfare of an orchestra, you hear something that represents what the song stands for. Courage. Skill. Spirit. When Francis Scott Key wrote the words, he did so with a determination that was meant to convey the emotions he felt at seeing that flag still standing. When I heard you sing this morning, I felt what he felt. So many people had tears in their eyes when you were done. I know that God was with you. I pray that no matter what journey life takes you on, He is always there with you. God Bless you.”

While I was writing my tribute and without any warning, her Mom was writing the following note to me. Both notes appeared simultaneously:

” Bob; I will never forget the day Antolena discovered she was born the same day as Francis Scott Key. She said she had chills and how ironic. The day she first sang at PNC park for the Pirates was her birthday Aug. 1. She said I want to make him proud performing his star spangled banner on “our” birthday!! Funny how God always places people in each other paths…blessed for certain”

To all of my readers: I hope the day comes that you get a chance to hear this young lady sing. I have a suspicion that you probably will!!!

Mister Mac

I will Salute 36

Forty six years ago, I raised my right hand in a room full of strangers and pledged to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. I solemnly swore to do so while standing facing the flag that represents this country. For all of the years since then, that flag has played a central role in my life.

I watched her fly as a green recruit and came to understand she is more than just another piece of cloth. I watched her fly from the deck of many submarines and ships at bases all over the world. I listened with pride one night in Yokosuka Japan while a shipmate played Taps as we retired her for the day. I felt the crushing weight of seeing a comrade under her in a casket bound for home. I felt sadness at the deaths of so many veterans who also shared her as a final shroud.

It has never occurred to me that I would do anything but salute her when given the chance. My generation saw the rupture that was known as Vietnam and we saw the riots of the sixties. But the flag was an eternal symbol that gradually helped us to refocus. Now I see that it is becoming too common place that people feel they need to burn her and trample on her. They callously abuse the freedom and liberty we have preserved for them to use her as a blunt object with which to make their point. Politicians kneel and disrespect her for shallow and ignorant reasons. The courts have even given them license and liberty to do so.

But not me.

I will salute.


I have seen her flying on a cloudless day over the graves of so many men and women who gave their last breath to protect her in places like Arlington and too many other cemeteries to count.

I will salute.

I have stood on the platform above the once mighty Arizona and cried while I read the names on the wall of honored dead. I have done the same at the inward most corner of the Vietnam Wall. In each case, I could look up and see her standing guard.


I will salute.


I have spent time with the men and women whose bodies are broken but their spirits still soar as they revere her. Each time the anthem plays, they sit upright or struggle to their feet if they are able and face her one more time.


I will salute.


I have felt the harsh sand beneath my feet at Normandy and heard the wind singing of their glory and sadness on that fateful day. High above in the cliffs, I have heard the echoes of guns that tried to silence her. But they are silent now and SHE flies above their captured forts.


I will salute.


From coast to coast, city to city, borough to borough, I have seen her citizens fly her in remembrance of the bravest and the best and with a promise to protect their children’s future.


I will salute.


While others choose to use her as a sad symbol of protest and a lightning rod for a never ending litany of real and perceived offences, I know her real meaning. Until my dying day when I can no longer stand, I will find the strength to straighten my body until it is properly ready to render honors one last time.

Even then, I will salute.

Bob MacPherson July 27, 2018

 

Hallmark doesn’t make a card for Sea Daddys. (But maybe they should) 8

Warning: Some salty language may have snuck past the censors

There was a Navy training film many years ago called “The Lost Sailor”.

The idea behind the film was for Navy leaders to recognize all the things that could go wrong with a young sailor when they first report on board a ship or submarine. The newly arriving boot was probably fresh from school and this was his first assignment at sea. He reports on board and suddenly gets disillusioned when everyone is too busy to pay any attention to him. In fact, the sailor that ultimately takes him to his berthing assignment is a sub-standard sailor who is only available for such duty because he is on restriction. It doesn’t take long for the squared away recruit to turn into a derelict just like his “mentor”. The entire film is based around leaders not letting this kind of thing happen to their new sailors when they report on board.

I don’t remember the first time I heard the term “Sea Daddy”. Thinking back to my earliest days in the Navy, I remember reading the Blue Jackets Manual from front cover to back. The Eighteenth Edition of Ridley McLean’s handbook for sailors had specific details on everything the American bluejacket would ever need to know about being a sailor.

Delbert D. Black was the Master Chief Petty officer of the Navy in the 1969 edition and he gave the following forward: To all Navy Men: The Navy is a man’s job. It requires courage, dedication and daring. Navy men have a proud tradition of heroism in all conflicts.”

He goes on to say more but in the entire book, nothing is mentioned about the existence of a position or assignment called Sea Daddy.

Maybe that’s why I never had one when I went to my first submarine. I was a Machinist Mate Fireman that was assigned to a Fleet Ballistic Missile submarine and my role would include driving the boat, cleaning dishes in a hot deep sink, compacting and shooting trash and eventually standing watch as a roving Auxiliaryman and later as a Scrubber Room watch.

As I was reporting on board, the senior men in that division all hit their rotation dates. Once the dust settled, we had a brand new Chief (who had just been advanced) one first class and one second class. The rest of us were new to the boat and new to submarines. If there actually was an official title of Sea Daddy, there wouldn’t have been enough of them left to care for the rookies that showed up for duty,

Looking back through a long lens, I think Chief John did the best he could with what he inherited. All of us had been through a lot of technical classes before we showed up. The problem was that the technical classes were mostly geared towards the sleek new SSBN 640 Class Boomers and this was the original 41 For Freedom experiment called the George Washington. By the time I reported on board, she had sailed in both oceans, made over forty patrols, and was showing the signs of age that can only come from a boat that had been stitched together in a rush to beat the Russians to a viable boomer.

Old Boats Leaked

Everything that could leak did. The pumps we had to pack and repack were buried under pipes and deck plates and lines that crisscrossed each other in a chaotic maze that had been designed by a mad man. The high pressure air compressors were not the kind any of us had trained on so each time they required repairs (which was pretty damn often) it was like an exercise in jig saw puzzle land. On my first patrol, I saw very little of these mechanical wonders since I spent most of the time in the galley as a crank. The second patrol was a little better since I was qualified and only stood dive and drive part of the time. Between watches and drills, I was indoctrinated into the world of adapt and overcome.

While I am sure he would have revolted against the idea of being called a Sea Daddy, Chief John probably fit the bill more than any other man I served with in all five boats. He was patient to a point but he was also firm that you didn’t get to walk away from a job just because it was kicking your ass. He would teach to a point but his main method of teaching was to make sure you didn’t screw things up too badly while you were figuring out the right way to fix them.

You do not have permission to quit

My least favorite job was repacking the trim pump. This pump was vital to the ship’s operation since it moved water from tank to tank and helped the boat to adapt to the ever changing sea and internal ballast. But replacing the packing meant climbing down into a tightly packed area with very little room to get comfortable. Then you had to maneuver your hands in such a way that you could pull the old packing as needed and insert the new rings. If you tightened the packing too much, you smoked the rings. Then you got to start all over. I found this out the hard way. After a few attempts, I went back to the Chief and said that I couldn’t get it. I was tired, hot and dirty and I just wanted to go to my rack.

I don’t think I saw my rack for another day.  Or maybe it was two

Chief John made it very clear that he had no time for someone not doing their job. I don’t remember his words but I do remember he had quite the way with phrases that a young sailor would never forget. I finally got it right. I never had to repeat that error again. The same lesson would be learned on nearly every job I was assigned to for the next few years.

I lost track of Chief John when I transferred. After some time away from submarines, I returned to being an Auxiliaryman and never looked back. The lesson about doing hard things without quitting never left me and I hope that I did him proud. To be honest, I think he would be surprised to know I made it as far as I did. He was in my mind the day I made Chief. I tried to help other sailors along the way with some of his best lessons and maybe a few I learned from others.

Come to think of it, maybe there was such a thing as a Sea Daddy after all. If I were to see him today, I would thank him for helping me through some of the most difficult days of my life. And I would probably wish him a Happy Father’s day.

Dedicated to MMC/SS John Mills, US Navy

The best damn Chief I ever met

Mister Mac

 

 

Love, your Son Butch ~ Father’s Day Memories 2

Wow, its been eight years since I first posted this story about my Dad. So much has changed in my life since that day. One thing hasn’t. He is still my greatest inspiration. Happy Father’s Day Dad.

theleansubmariner

Randall

Today’s blog is from a book I wrote based on my Dad’s letters to his family during the second world war and the following year while he tried to make it back home.

I found the letters a few days after he passed away, and learned a lot about a man who I thought I knew pretty well.

San Francisco

The setting for this letter is that he was in California being processed out and it is really the first time that he talks about the future. He also had some interesting insights about the war which I would have never guessed from his later life. More later about that… here is his letter:

I think it was a waste of a lot of time and money. I think the O.P.A. should have stayed on too. Did you know that an old car like my old one is worth 3 or 4…

View original post 621 more words