The Boomer Pin Turns 50 – (Does that mean it can finally join the Holland Club?)

The Boomer Pin turns 50 in 2019

One of the most divisive subjects in the American submarine family is the breast insignia know by most as the Boomer pin.

This little device has been a part of my uniform since January 1974 when I completed my first ballistic missile patrol. Wearing the pin by itself around Pearl Harbor was a sure fire way to let people know that you were a boomer sailor and you had not earned your dolphins yet. I had completed all of my signatures but had not completed my board so the pin stood out pretty well when I wore the prescribed uniform. Fortunately, it was 1974 and it was Hawaii so those times were few and far between.

Yes, I know I needed a haircut. But frankly, it was pretty common for most of us in the early seventies. And I have seen worse

Over the course of my career, I would go on to requalify on a few other boats including Fast Attacks, but I never neglected to wear that pin as well. I have met so many people over the years that called us “part time” sailors and disrespected us for our work in the missile boats. Over time, I just learned to ignore them. To be honest, one of life’s truths is that unless you have walked a mile in the other man’s moccasins, you have no idea the path’s he has taken or the struggle of his road.

Riding a Polaris boat in the 1970s had its own challenges. Riding the one that was built first is a good example. The boat was originally a fast attack that was cut in half and a missile compartment was inserted to accommodate the new weapons platform. The equipment by 1973 had seen a lot of underway miles. Having two crews was a distinct advantage for the people but the hull and machinery was subjected to longer times at sea. Even the best built ships in the world are pummeled by the forces of the ocean including the operational necessity of traveling far enough under the surface to experience external pressure from the sea itself.

Things break

There were times over my four patrols on the 598 that we discovered a need for flexibility and ingenuity. When your mission is to remain at sea and available to launch anytime the President orders you to, you find that there is no machine shop to repair old and broken parts. Sometimes you just have to make it up as you go. The fairwater planes are not supposed to break. But they did. In a really distant place. Same with the rudder. In a really distant place. Even the reactor had its moments with some surprising timing. Despite all that, we managed to get her home each time.

They are out there watching for you.

We were always being observed in general. The Russian trawlers that conveniently parked just outside of the ports we used were assigned to never went away in the whole time I was on boats. I can’t say much more but it was understood that even with our ability to hide, at one point the Soviets had a lot of boats assigned to do nothing more than find our guys and make their lives “interesting”. Because of the nature of our business, you always suspected that somewhere in your op area, someone was assigned to do bad things to you if the need ever arose.

This pin turns fifty in 2019. I thought I would celebrate a little early.

All Hands Magazine June 1969

Polaris Breast Pin Awarded

A new Polaris submarine breastpin is now being awarded to personnel in the ships’ companies of the silent service missile fleet.

Successor to the Submarine Combat Patrol Insignia awarded for submarine patrols during World War II, the device will undoubtedly become known as the Polaris Patrol Pin, although its official designation is SSBN Deterrent Patrol Insignia.

The new insignia is considered to be in the same category and will be worn in the same manner as the SCPI. However, only one of the two may be worn by those individuals who qualify for both.

The choice is the individual’s.

Design of the SSBN pin shows a silver Lafayette class submarine with superimposed Polaris missile and electron rings which signify the main armament and nuclear powered characteristics of the Polaris Deterrent Force. A scroll beneath the submarine will hold stars, one bronze star for each “successful” patrol after the first or a silver star for five “successful” patrols. Successful patrols will be so designated by fleet commanders.

Awards are being made retroactive to the first Polaris patrol of USS George Washington (SSBN 598) which was completed on 21 Jan 1961. At that time George Washington had set a new record for submarine submergence: 66 days, 10 hours. Since then SSBNs have completed more than 600 patrols.

The pin award would later be modified to include the Regulus Missile patrols that preceded the George Washington.

For all the diesel boat guys and fast boat guys who never served on a boomer, thanks for the hard work you did.

For all my boomer shipmates, I also salute you. Having done both, I know that all made significant contributions to the cause of freedom.

As for me, I will keep my boomer pin with eight stars displayed with pride over my desk. It’s a reminder that I was part of something that changed the world. And maybe saved it a time or two.

Mister Mac

8 thoughts on “The Boomer Pin Turns 50 – (Does that mean it can finally join the Holland Club?)

    1. Thanks so much. I enjoy finding out about unique things form our history. SO much tradition and history gets lost and obscured. Happy New Year. Mister Mac

  1. Was stationed on SSBN601 The Robt E Lee 80 -82. She was a 598 boat. We routinely stole parts off the other three boats in the class just to go to sea. I go to the boat, it was 19, so was I. The one credit I have to give is GD Electric boat division makes a helluva hull. We tested it past rated crush depth on a few occasions and she squealed like abanshee, but never popped a rivet one. On those boats we learned never to use the O2 generator, it was a bomb. Always warn the cooks before doing angles and dangles, dont sit in the sternplanes seat while doing surface ops in hurricanes…Of course I miss it.

  2. I started making patrols on the (SSBN 630) USS John C. Calhoun first patrol in 1965. As a plank owner that was pretty neat after serving on the USS Sea Wolf (SSN 575). The difference was amazing. Crews lounge, Library just to name a few. I got my patrol pin in 69 after making nine patrols (nice start) then on my way to the Lafayette (SSBN 616) same class but with the Madison (SSBN 628)(Thresher) Sub safe changes. Of all things I went back to a old fast attack USS Tullibee (SSN 597). Each sub was unique all to it’s self. Thanks for putting this piece on The patrol Pin together.

  3. My first boat was Halibut SSN 587. Then I was sent to Hawaii and the world of two crews one screw. Always had the feeling of something different
    Mine was Abraham Lincoln 602Gold. Did four patrols out of Guam. Good old Agana. Sometimes I am asked do I miss it. Sometimes yes, sometimes no but missing the guys is the worst.
    Thanks for the history Mister Mac.

    1. We did it backwards from each other. My first boat was the GW and then they sent me to Halibut. Never really sailed on her though since they started decommissioning shortly after I arrived. Story of my life (also decommed the Los Alamos and Hunley)


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