“In my spare time, I went to Harvard”… how they kept from being bored on a boomer in ’65 3

November has been submarine month at theleansubmariner.

Probably a large part of that is the nostalgia of looking back over the last 45 years and my own experiences on the boats. I got a chance to share some of my memories as well as stories from the archives that highlighted submarine development since the early part of the 20th century.

My memory is not always as good as it used to be. There are some things that happened that seem like yesterday. My dreams are often invaded with unwelcome scenes that wake me up in an unsettled state. Rushing water, uncontrolled hydraulic leaks in places that shouldn’t leak, small fires in places that aren’t supposed to burn, seeing a shipmate electrocuted for the first time (brought back to life), extended patrols with supplies running scarce. One dive that went too far. But we always came home. We always came back for more.

Life, death, loneliness, sadness, great joy, tedium, excitement… all within a hull that is closed in on all sides.

Before I joined the family, others came before and had their own set of emotions and experiences. But reading this excerpt from the 1965 All Hands magazine on Polaris submarines makes me wonder one thing; what the hell happened from the time this was published until the time that I reported on board the George Fish? (slang for the USS George Washington)

As I read through this article I was struggling to believe many of the words written. But by the time I got on board, the Harvard education must have been a thing of the past. Not complaining. My DBF friends went through much worse. Smaller boats, no showers, limited supplies and always having to come up for air. We did have remarkable food. We did have great colleagues. We did have more time to recover between missions.

I can understand why they thought of us as part time sailors. Those months in off crew were pretty special. But by my eight patrol on boomers, I was pretty sure it wasn’t a life I wanted to live forever. My time on the San Francisco convinced me of that too. Longer away from home but never ever boring.

Our lives as submariners will always separate us from those who served in other ways. Not better. Not more dangerous than a tin can on the open ocean fighting a typhoon and trying to keep formation. Not as exciting in some ways than screaming through the air in a supersonic jet. Certainly not getting shot at in a jungle. But all have their own memories.

Looking at the experience in the past is like looking at a painting.

From far away, you see one thing. As you get closer to the painting you start to see the separation of colors. Some light and some dark. Closer still you see the brush strokes and all the areas the artist missed. The imperfections come to life the longer you look.

Maybe the answer is to just stand back and enjoy the painting from a distance.

In the meantime, here is life on board a Polaris Boat in 1965. I can’t wait to hear from the ones who actually lived this.

 

ALL HANDS MAGAZINE 1965

As might be expected, all is not work on board the submarine during patrol.

Bunks for the crew are scattered throughout the ship. So are the comparatively spacious crew’s quarters. Only the Captain has his own cabin. The officers double and triple up in well designed, but compact staterooms. The ship is decorated throughout in light pastel colors to provide a pleasing atmosphere for the long haul.

Scene from the Robert E. Lee Mess decks. Same layout as the George Washington

Men who have served in diesel- powered submarines find it pleasantly difficult to adjust to the plentiful supply of water afforded by nuclear submarines and to the fresh air and space.

The crew’s mess is large by submarine standards and serves the additional purpose of movie and recreation hall, study area and country store cracker barrel.

Eating, of course, is of major concern, and every possible effort is made to provide outstanding food. This begins with the excellence of the cooks who are given special training at topflight restaurants before joining a Polaris crew.

When the ship leaves port, it carries a supply of food that will more than cover the expected duration of the patrol. Boneless and ration-dense foods are used to save storage space, but submariners swear by the ability of the cooks to prepare a meal as fresh looking and tasty as you can get. Almost all, however, revel in the abundance of fresh lettuce and other such foods when their patrol is ended.

Food consumption, on a typical patrol, will include something like 4000 pounds of beef, 3000 pounds of sugar, 1200 pounds of coffee, 120 pounds of tea, 2000 pounds of chicken, 1400 pounds of pork loin, 1000 pounds of ham, 800 pounds of butter, 3400 pounds of flour and 960 dozen eggs.

Some of the more enticing items listed on the menu are chicken Isabella, baked Alaska, shrimp Newburg, beef Stroganoff and lasagna. Standard favorites are roast beef and steak.

Four meals a day are served, including breakfast, lunch, dinner and a soupdown in mid-afternoon. The galley is open the rest of the time so anyone can help himself. Needless to say, with this abundance of calories available and beckoning, keeping the waistline under control could become a problem. There are, however, exercise machines available for this purpose.

ORIGINALLY, there was a fear that boredom would plague the crew on long patrols, but this has not been a problem. This is partly due to the long hours of hard work required on the part of every officer and man to keep the submarine ready at all times for its mission.

Off hours are more than filled with recreational facilities available, a well-stocked library, the need to study for advancement in rate and, if desired, the opportunity to take college-level courses for self-improvement and college credit.

Harvard University has devised a full, two-year course of instruction for the men to earn credits toward a bachelor’s degree. Lectures for the most part are on film, and the greatest share of the work is done while on patrol. Any lectures, tests or laboratory work which can’t be accomplished on patrol are done in the home port as part of the day’s routine. These courses are available only to Polaris submariners.

The submarine carries a good supply of movies, and movie call goes at least once a day, although usually twice to take care of day and night workers.

ALL IN ALL, the crew finds that time passes faster than expected, and soon it is time to head back and turn the ship over to the Blue crew once again.

When the submarine surfaces and the men rejoin the world of ordinary mortals, the first taste of fresh air is not too greatly appreciated, since the controlled air of the submarine is cleaner and purer.

A rash of colds may hit the crew right after return too, for they have been free from infection since about a week after submerging on patrol.

Once they are home, the crew may take leave if they want it. Like other Navy men, Polaris men get 30 days’ leave a year and usually split it between home port periods.

After a week or two of getting used to home life, the crew starts on a regular five day a week program of refresher training. Of particular importance is their work at Edwards Hall, which was built to furnish refresher training for officers.

 

The rest of the article is kind of technical.

I’m sure much of it was accurate at the time. As I said, the whole Harvard program was long gone by my day. The library on the GW was in upper level missile compartment. My first two patrols I spent every waking hour up there reading every book on board (after I qualified). Then on my third patrol, the whole upper level was declared off limits except for drills and watch standers passing through. But definitely no lounging. The poker games never ended (again, except for drills). No one ever messed with the cards and as soon as the drill secured, the boys were right back at it.

For my submarine brothers, thanks for being a part of my life and story.

As I have heard so many others say, I would willingly do it all again.

In Honor of Submarine month, reposting a link to the all time most visited site on theleansubmariner:

https://theleansubmariner.com/2013/11/24/id-like-to-be-a-submariner-how-hard-could-that-be/

 

Mister Mac

You’re a Nuclear Submariner? How did you get such a cool job? (1963) 3

By January 1963, the United States Navy submarine force was growing at an amazing pace. The Soviet launching of Sputnik had sparked a fire in the Defense Department and the government as a whole to find ways to counter the perceived threats of an unbridled Soviet Union.

The answer of course was to capitalize on the advances that had been gained by the Navy’s marriage of nuclear power to submarine propulsion. The lessons of the Second World War were clear. Submarine warfare was the key to global seapower but submarines needed to be able to operate undetected in the farthest reaches of the ocean. Nuclear power provided the means for the boats to operate in those regions and for longer periods of time. Without the constant need to come near or on the surface to charge batteries, these boats were only limited by the crew’s abilities to deploy under stressful conditions and the amount of food they could carry.

From “41 for Freedom”

“Submarine building proceeded at a furious pace in the early 1960s, as the United States strove to deploy a major component of its Strategic Triad. From 1960 to 1966 the U.S. Navy launched a total of 41 SSBNs, called the “41 for Freedom.” All were named for eminent figures in American history and divided among the 5-ship George Washington class, the 5-ship Ethan Allen class, and the 31-ship Lafayette/Franklin class. Initially, each boat carried 16 Polaris nuclear missiles that could be launched underwater toward distant targets. Conversion to Poseidon missiles began in 1972. Further modification allowed Franklin-class boats to convert to Trident I missiles beginning in 1979.”

But where would the men come from that would man this growing fleet?

The answer in the beginning was to try and use existing sailors and officers that already had experience. Because of the complexity of the systems and the haste in which they had been built, there was a lot of risk involved in operating these new boats. Nuclear power was still relatively new and the launching of missiles from a submerged submarine had only been a dream until the Polaris program was begun.

Experienced Navy men would be the main answer for the time being. New men could be brought on as the pipelines were extended. In fact, by 1972, most of the new members of the submarine community were recruits that went through the pipelines that were developed in the sixties. After nearly ten years of operations, enough seasoned and experienced men had risen through the ranks and were now in the ranks of the senior enlisted and officers operating the boomers and fast attacks.

But in 1963, the Navy needed volunteers. Since submarines were always a volunteer force from the very beginning, every effort was made to recruit from within and entice men to join the ranks of the nuclear navy.

While the article in ALL Hands from January 1963 does not specifically advertise itself as a recruiting tool, in the eyes of this old Navyman, it sure does look like one. I wonder how many sailors in the fleet saw this article and said: I could do that!

JANUARY 1963 ALL HANDS MAGAZINE

How to Become a Nuclear Navyman

THE PARABLE of the seven blind men who discovered an elephant? Because they could not see the strange new animal in its entirety, each visualized it in terms of the one portion he could explore with his hands. The results were deplorable, to say the least.

A similar problem exists in attempting to see the nuclear submarine program of the Navy as a whole—it also is a strange new animal in our midst. Many men are interested but don’t know just what it is, don’t know if they can qualify, or if it would be to their advantage to make the attempt.

One point to consider when evaluating the consequences or the potentialities of the nuclear program upon your career—it’s a wildly expanding field. At the present time, there are approximately 14,000 men in the combined submarine forces. Included in these forces are 11 FBM and 16 attack nuclear subs now in commission. As stated in the November issue of ALL HANDs, six SSBNs, eight SSNs and one DLGN have been authorized for fiscal year 1963. Within two to three years, the Polaris program itself will require some 10,000 men. The FBM repair ships Proteus and Hunley are on station, with more to follow.

ONE ASPECT of the nuclear elephant—to coin a phrase—is frequently overlooked by those considering the nuclear Navy as a career. Nearly a third of the billets in FBM subs are general service billets with little or no connection with nuclear power or the Polaris weapon system.

Here, for example, is the rating structure of one crew of an Ethan Allen class FBM sub:

GENERAL    NUCLEAR    POLARIS

SERVICE     POWER         4 QM

3 SO              3 ET            7 TM

2 FT               15 MM       5 FT

4 RM              4 EN          7 MT

2 YN              9 EM          12 ET

1 SK              5 IC                 35

3 CS              36

5 SN

5 FN

I HM

3 SD

29

All this means a radical change in the occupations of many Navymen. The field is wide open for those who can—and will—qualify. It’s more than probable that you may be eligible to participate in one of the most exciting developments in history.

Let’s assume that you want to become a member of a typical crew in one of the Navy’s FBM subs and see what your duty is like and what qualifications you must meet.

FIRST OF ALL, of course, you must be a submariner. There are three basic programs that produce men qualified for duty on board FBM submarines. They are the Nuclear Power Program, the Polaris Program, and the conventional submarine school program.

Here are the ratings from which applications for submarine training are desired:

* SO, TM, ET, FT, and MT in pay grades E-4, E-5, E-6 and E-7 and designated strikers.

* MM, EN, EM, IC, QM, RM, YN, CS, SK and SD in pay grades E-4, E-5, E-6 and identified strikers of these ratings.

  • HM, in pay grades E-5, E-6 and E-7.
  • SN, SN, FN, TN and TA.

Because the Submarine Forces are growing rapidly, greater numbers of men in all of the above ratings and rates are needed for initial submarine training. MMs should request sub training only if interested in going on to nuclear power training. If you are afloat on Seavey and have not received orders, you may apply for basic sub school. If accepted, you will be ordered to sub school provided you have not yet received orders to shore duty.

With the exception of sub school candidates ordered direct from Class“A” schools and recruit training, it is preferable that men normally serve in their present duty (sea or shore) for one year before they are ordered to submarine school.

MEN Now ASHORE including those on Shorvey who have not received orders may apply for enlisted basic sub school by requesting orders direct to sub school. If you are assigned to shore duty, you must serve at least 12 months of your shore tour before you can expect detachment to sub school. This is not to say that you may not apply before your completion of the year ashore. On the contrary, it is preferable for all concerned that your applications are submitted as early as possible to permit ordering reliefs.

Here are the eligibility requirements to Basic Submarine Training:

  • Have 24 months’ obligated service commencing with the conveningdate of the class to which ordered.
  • Be a volunteer for sea duty in submarines.
  • For those in other than ET, MM, EN, EM and IC ratings: Have a minimum combined ARI and MAT or ARI and MECH score of 100, or a minimum combined GCT and ARI score of 100. For those in ET, MM, EN, EM and IC ratings, you must have a minimum combined GCT and ARI of 110. (This requirement is the same as that in effect for nuclear power training.)
  • Men in the ET, MM, EN, EM and IC ratings must be high school graduates or have a GED equivalent.
  • Be physically qualified for submarine duty in accordance with BuMed Manual, Article 15-29.
  • Have demonstrated evidence of emotional and mental stability and maturity. The absence of these qualities is often disclosed by a poor service record.
  • Be no more than 30 years of age.

Waivers will be considered if you are in other than source ratings for nuclear power training.

IF YOU MEET these requirements, you may submit your request on the Enlisted Evaluation Report (Nav- Pers 1339) via your commanding officer direct to the Chief of Naval Personnel (Attn: Pers B-2131). You must indicate your willingness to extend your enlistment or to reenlist, if necessary, to have the required obligated service.

If accepted, you will be ordered to the U. S. Naval Submarine School, New London, Conn., for an eight week basic course of instruction.

Unless you hold a rating of MT, YN, Cs, SK, HM or SD, you should expect additional training when you have completed the basic course. Approximately 60 per cent of those eligible receive additional training. Therefore, if you are eligible for extra training, you should be prepared to spend at least 13 weeks at sub school.

Your orders will read for “temporary duty under instruction and further assignment by BuPers (Pers B2115) to duty in submarines in the Atlantic or Pacific Fleet.”

During your seventh week at the Naval Submarine School, you will receive your orders for duty.

ALL THIS IS, of course, merely the preliminary. Your ultimate goal is assignment to a nuclear ship and that’s what you’re going to get. As FBM subs have the greatest construction priority for the next few years, we’ll discuss here the means by which you become an FBM submariner.

If you are an MM or EN, you have an excellent chance of going directly to nuclear power training from sub school.

However, most basic sub school graduates are ordered to duty either in conventional submarines, or to a non-nuclear billet in a nuclear submarine. If you are in this category, you should become a qualified submariner about six months after re-porting aboard. Once qualified, you may (depending on your rating) submit your request for Nuclear Power or Polaris training.

The majority of men now being ordered to FBM submarines are already members of the submarine service. If you are now a submariner, serving in either a conventional or nuclear-powered submarine, you should submit your request for FBM submarine duty to either the COMSUBPACREP at EPDOPAC or the COMSUBLANTREP at EPDOLANT.

If you are eligible for duty in an FBM sub, your name will be placed on a waiting list at one of those two locations. You will then be ordered to a new construction submarine approximately 10 months in advance of its tentative commissioning date, or you may be ordered to an operating FBM sub as a replacement.

Source ratings for FBM submarines are: TM, QM, FT, MT, ET, SO, RM, MM, EN, EM, IC, YN, SK, CS, SD, FN and SN. Although there may not be billets in all pay grades, men in all pay grades are encouraged to apply should substitutions be necessary.

Before reporting to their assigned ship, men in the QM, ET, FT, TM, MT, RM and so ratings are normally ordered to attend courses of instruction ranging from three weeks to six months.

Men ordered to SSN or SSBN new construction will not be transferred before they have spent one year on board after commissioning.TO BE ELIGIBLE for duty aboard an FBM submarine, you must:

  • Be eligible for Secret security clearance.
  • Have obligated service of 24 months from commencement of course of instruction, or date of re-porting to the supervisor of ship- building in the case of men not receiving instruction.
  • Be in one of the source ratings.
  • Be designated SS (except for non-rated men).
  • Not on current Seavey. (Men extended off Seavey by COMSUBLANT or COMSUBPAC are eligible for such duty.)

Let’s now assume that you meet all the qualifications for eventual assignment to an FBM submarine, are a graduate of basic submarine school, and a qualified submariner.

If you are in one of the ratings that make you eligible for Nuclear Power School, you will go to either Vallejo, Calif., or Bainbridge, Md. There you will learn something about the field of basic nucleonics.

The curriculum at the schools include courses in math, physics, reactor principles and thermodynamics. Plant information is also studied, including reactor technology and engineering materials and equipments.

From THE BASIC school you and other potential nuclear-Navy sailors will move to Idaho Falls, Schenectady, or Windsor, Conn., for a 24- week operational course. There you will study and train on a live reactor. From this school you will be assigned to an FBM crew.

(It might be mentioned here that instruction for surface personnel is identical to the submarine program. Operational training on surface ship propulsion prototype plants is conducted at either Idaho Falls, Idaho, or Schenectady, N. Y.)

Men who operate the special navigation equipment, Polaris missile launching and guidance control equipment, and other special equipment necessary for missile launching are trained through the Polaris Program.

These men, although not graduates of nuclear-power school, do begin as qualified submariners, and they do receive special training at several locations.

With the exception of SOs and RMs, men of this group start their training for the FBM program at the Navy’s Guided Missile Schools, Dam Neck, Va. Men trained together in these schools generally serve together as a crew of an FBM submarine.

Some courses include more than one rate, but for the most part, single rates train together.

HERE, FOR EXAMPLE, is the background you will get if you are an ET. You will first attend a three week navigation sub-system familiarization course at Dam Neck. An eight-week special technology course follows. It is in the special tech course that you will first come in contact with new terms, techniques and devices associated with the program.

After these two courses, which are a general, over-all indoctrination on the FBM submarine and the Polaris missile system, the ETs move on to more specialized training. At this point, the group is split up to receive different training. You will become an expert in one phase of the program. Then, when you are assigned to a crew, you will learn about additional special equipment through on-the-job training.

One group of ETs start a 19-week course learning about the Ship’s Inertial Navigation System (SINS). This training is done at either Dam Neck or the factory where the gear was developed.

Another group of ETs spend a 19-week period at Dam Neck learning to operate and maintain different types of navigation data simulation computers.

A third group spends 19 weeks training on various other special navigation equipment at Dam Neck.

FROM ONE OF THESE schools you may go for further training aboard USS Compass Island (EAG 153), which is equipped with navigation equipment similar to that aboard the FBM submarines.

Quartermasters also are introduced to special navigation equipment at Dam Neck, where they take a five- week course in navigation familiarization. From there, the QMs also go aboard Compass Island for additional training in the operation of special navigation equipment.

Fire control technicians also start at the Guided Missile School. They first take a one-week course in weapons system orientation, and then an eight-week special technology course at Dam Neck. The special tech course is the same as that presented to many other ratings. From Dam Neck, the FTs move on to Pittsfield, Mass., for a 31-week course in SSBN fire control systems. Missile technicians, although already trained in guided missile theory, also are given an eight-week special tech training course, followed by 25 weeks of training in the missiles and guidance course at Dam Neck.

Torpedoman’s mates also have an active part in the Polaris missile pro-gram. These men spend one week in the weapons system orientation course at Dam Neck and then move on to another course at the same school on ordnance preparation.

Still at Dam Neck, the TMs complete six to nine weeks in missile ordnance and launching. They are taught how to handle Polaris between ship and pier, or between ships. They also study the missile launching system.

Another group of men who undergo special training is the radiomen and another small group of ETs. They are trained to operate and maintain new type communications equipment which has been developed solely for the FBM program. A combination of short courses takes about 12 weeks.

Sonarmen may find themselves in a 31-week BQQ-2 course at Key West, or a 12-week subjective analysis course at either Key West or San Diego.

DOES ALL THIS have any effect on you? It all depends. The Navy needs men urgently for this program and is willing to make any reasonable concession. For example:

  • SS personnel serving outside the Submarine Force because they are in excess, and who want to investigate the possibility of returning to submarines via Polaris may address their inquiries to the Chief of Naval Personnel (Pers 2133) for sympathetic consideration.
  • Anyone who wants to get into the Polaris Program, either the SSBN portion if eligible for submarine duty, or the support program if not, has an excellent chance via the SCORE program, no matter what his rating.
  • Anyone else who is in the right rate can be considered for direct entry by submitting a NavPers 1339.

If you are a YN, SK, SD or Cs, you may attend advanced training in your rating before joining an FBM crew, although this is not required.

These ratings may be assigned to an FBM submarine upon becoming qualified in submarines.

So there you are. That’s how you enter the nuclear Navy. It’s worth investigating further.

—Jim Lewis, JO2, USN.

A Gangers

One thing that is missing from this entire article is the evolution of something called a Submarine Auxiliaryman. By the time I joined the Navy, another pipeline had been added because of the need for trained men in non-nuclear mechanical equipment operation and repair. Most of the ones I served with were either Conventional Machinist Mates or converted Enginemen from the old diesel boats. We ran the atmosphere control equipment, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration systems, High Pressure Air, Trim and Drain Systems, Hydraulics, and the auxiliary diesel on many of the boats.

I am proud to have served as an A-Ganger from the oldest boomer to one of the newest. While our rate has been changed again so much in this new Navy, we were there to fill a gap when the country needed us the most, along with all of our comrades that wore dolphins.

Mister Mac

It’s a Bonny Life in the Land of Kilts and Bagpipes – ALL HANDS September 1967 4

This article was written less than a decade after Site One was established in the Holy Loch.

I did not arrive in Scotland until August of 1990 to serve on board the AFDB 7 Floating Drydock but many of the same conditions that existed back in the Sixties were very similar to what was written. The major differences of course were mostly economic and the price for gasoline was WAY higher than what it was in 1967.

My wife and I lived off base in a little house at the head of the loch that had just been vacated by another American family. To be honest, it was a real learning experience for us as we sacrificed a few small appliances while learning about the different electricity. But the wood stove furnace kept us very cozy at night.

It was really very pleasant and we enjoyed the new way of living. It was a far cry from our base housing in Hawaii, but it held a certain charm of its own. The neighbors were nice and by the time we were stationed there the site had been active for over thirty years.

The saddest day of my career came when we were informed that our tour was ending due to the site being phased out and closed. But as I sat here tonight and reread the article from ALL HANDS, so many memories came flooding back.

I am grateful to the Navy for giving me a chance to live in Scotland (even if it was a short tour). For us, it was indeed a Bonny Life.

Mister Mac

“September 1967 THE BULLETIN BOARD – ALL HANDS MAGAZINE

It’s a Bonny Life in the Land of Kilts and Bagpipes

Authored by William Roger Maul, CTC, USN

When NAVYMEN and their families complete a tour at duty stations overseas, they leave with a better appreciation of the country and its people, thanks to their life as neighbors of the local residents. That’s part of the broadening experience of travel, one of the service fringe benefits that has a tendency to be overlooked.

Of course, some duty stations abroad are more interesting than others. Some have an ideal climate. Some have exotic scenery. And then there’s duty in Holy Loch, Scotland.

Navy families have been known to return from a couple of years in Holy Loch almost unrecognizable to family and friends they had left behind. Hitherto unmusical Navymen can be seen—and heard—sending the skirl of the bagpipes wafting across the water as their submarine pulls into Charleston, S. C.

Friends are sometimes startled when newly returned families rush outside at the first sign of sunshine and throw their arms skyward as if greeting a long-lost comrade.

Former diehard bachelors come home with brides, whose thoroughly charming accent quickly devastates the local populace.

There is no U. S. naval base at Holy Loch. A small, protected bay near Scotland’s western coast, it is used by the Navy as an anchorage for a submarine tender (currently Uss Simon Lake (AS 31) is as signed), and the boats of Submarine Squadron 14, most of which are Fleet ballistic missile subs.

Since there is no base, Navy families are required to live among the Scots (not Scotch, if you please), and it apparently doesn’t take long to become captivated by the whole Scottish scene. Most of the scene, anyway. The Scottish weather is notoriously uncaptivating.

There are three principal towns close to Holy Loch. Most Navy families set up housekeeping in either Greenock, Gourock, or Dunoon.

Greenock (about 77,000 population) is the largest of the three, and thus has most to offer the Navy family, especially with respect to available housing.

It is also only 25 miles from Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city. Greenock has one major disadvantage. It is on the wrong side of the Firth of Clyde, as far as the submarine tender is concerned, and the boat ride to the ship is rather long.

Gourock (about 10,000) is near Greenock, also across the Firth of Clyde from the tender, and the boat ride to the ship is still lengthy.

Many Navy families choose to live in Dunoon (about 10,000), since it is closest to the anchorage. There is a small Navy Exchange and Commissary located here, and the tender is anchored nearby.

Housing: Most Navy families rent furnished apartments (called flats) or houses. Unfurnished houses are available, but are much more difficult to find, and often require a minimum two-year lease. Furnished two-bedroom apartments and houses usually rent for $100 per month and up. One-bedroom flats start at $45 per month.

Houses are generally unheated. But, even if they are provided with central heating, the maximum temperature may not be as high as that to which you are accustomed during the winter months in the States.

Heating is usually by portable electric or paraffin (kerosene) heaters.

Gas heating is more expensive than in the States.

Scottish communities have an electrical supply of from 200 to 240 volts at 50 cycles. Electrical appliances of American manufacture normally operate on 110/120 volts, 60 cycles; therefore, they can be used only with a transformer. It is suggested that you check your American-made appliances to determine the correct size transformer to use.

You should bring plenty of sheets, pillowslips, towels, and tablecloths so that you do not have to do your laundry too frequently. Good drying days do not come with any regularity.

Clothes dryers are especially helpful items to bring with you, although the limited space in the kitchen area can present a problem, and you may have to pay for special wiring or run your dryer on half power.

Clothes washers of the semiautomatic or wringer type will work with a converter. Automatic washers can present a number of problems due to the difference in cycles, plumbing lines, and fixtures.

Radios, hi-fi’s, phonographs, mixers, toasters, grills, vacuum cleaners and electric heaters are desirable, and you will want to bring them with you. However, it is suggested you store television sets (completely useless), freezer, stoves, and automatic washer-dryer in the States until you get back home. Television sets may be bought or rented locally.

Medical and Dental Care: There are two U. S. naval clinics, one in Dunoon, the other in Greenock. Medical care is also available from civilian sources, but dependents may not use the free facilities of the British National Health Service without the permission of a U. S. Navy medical officer. When hospitalization is required, it must be obtained from civilian sources.

It is recommended that dependents have all necessary dental treatment completed before leaving the U. S., because only limited dental treatment is available from the Navy Dental Clinic and local civilian dentists. British dentists are highly skilled and qualified, of course, but their first concern is to their own patients. Some, however, will accept other than National Health patients.

Their fees are comparable to those charged by dentists in the States.

Commissary and Exchange: The U. S. Air Force has a commissary store and exchange at Prestwick Air Base, approximately 40 miles from Holy Loch. The store is, of course, open to Navymen and their dependents.

You will probably find yourself doing considerable shopping in the local markets, since the Air Force commissary is so far away. (In Scotland, a 40-mile jaunt can turn into quite an expedition. There are few super highways between Holy Loch and Prestwick.) You will find that personal contacts in your daily marketing are far more important than they are in the U. S. supermarket, and you will get personal attention that you will not find at home.

There are many small towns and villages in this area, and you will rarely find it necessary to leave your neighborhood for most of your needs.

A limited selection of commissary and exchange items and package liquors is available at the Ardnadam Recreation Complex, near Dunoon. Money and Banking; U. S. currency is used on U. S. bases in the United Kingdom. Elsewhere, British sterling is the medium of exchange.

The pound sterling (£) is valued at approximately $2.80, and is composed of 20 shillings. A shilling is valued at 14 cents. Other units of exchange are: 10-shilling notes ($1.40), half crown, or two and one half shillings (35 cents), two-shilling piece (28 cents), six pence (seven cents), three pence (pronounced “thruppence”) (three and one-half cents), and half-penny (pronounced “hayp’nee”) (one-half cent).

One U. S. bank maintains a branch in Glasgow. Military personnel may maintain dollar or sterling checking accounts with this bank. However, checks drawn on this bank are not readily negotiable outside Britain. Postal money orders and bank drafts are the only practical means of remitting funds to the States. While it is suggested that you consider retaining your checking account with your present bank, a local bank account is most convenient and highly recommended.

Clothing: The reporting uniform for Navymen is Service Dress Blue Bravo. In addition to the prescribed military uniform, personnel are permitted to wear civilian clothing for shore leave. A full seabag should be brought when reporting for duty. Local prices on women’s clothes are from moderate to expensive, depending on taste. Materials are of excellent quality, and woolens can be bought at a considerable saving.

Sweaters and other woolens are in good supply and reasonably priced.

If you wear narrow shoes you may find it difficult to get a proper fit. Otherwise, shoes are attractive and moderately priced. It is a good idea to be in contact with your favorite shoe dealer in the States. Have your size and width handy, and allow three to four weeks for delivery.

Comfortable walking shoes are a must.

Clothing for girls is easier to find than for boys. Girls’ wool skirts and sweaters are plentiful as are good coats. Mail order houses in the States give good service and orders can usually be obtained in three weeks. If you enter a child in a British school, the school uniform is comparable in price to other clothing, and is of good quality.

You will probably want to bring some summer clothing, but the bulk should be placed in permanent storage in the States. For everyone, a raincoat with a lining is another must.

Automobiles: There are no restrictions on the importation of a privately owned automobile, as long as it is in a safe operating condition and in good mechanical order. A mandatory inspection of all automobiles manufactured over six years ago is now in effect in the United Kingdom.

Vehicles are entered free of duty and purchase tax, provided that a certificate is executed which requires the owner to export the car at a later date. A sale to another U.S. serviceman, who must execute the same type of certificate, is permissible.

Spare parts and repairs on American cars are expensive in Scotland and hard to get. Compacts are preferable to larger automobiles, since some of the roads and gates are quite narrow.

Military personnel are not required to obtain a British driver’s license, but must hold a valid U. S. license. If your stateside license expires while you are in Scotland, you can obtain a British license for five shillings (70 cents) a year, upon the presentation of a certificate signed by your commanding officer.

Two other items are essential for operation of an automobile in Great Britain: payment of road tax at the rate of 15 pounds a year, and automobile insurance for which the yearly rates vary according to a number of circumstances. In regard to automobile insurance, a letter from your present insurance company attesting to the number of accident- free years you have driven will result in a no-claims bonus policy with the resultant reduced rates.

Exchange gasoline is sold at Ardnadam Recreation Complex, at25 cents per imperial gallon. Gasoline at this price is rationed for use in driving to and from work (that is, the appropriate pier). Gasoline on the local market (petrol, of course) costs 70 cents per imperial gallon.

Education: Since there are no U.S. Schools in the Holy Loch area, your children will attend British schools. Each school is under the supervision of a headmaster, who is generally one of the faculty. The children are placed in classes according to age and ability.

These classes are called “forms” instead of grades—thus, what we call the sixth grade is called the sixth form. The first stage of schooling, called the “infant stage” is for children from five to seven years old.

The next stage, the “primary,” takes the child through age 11.

At this point the local children are given an examination called the eleven plus exam, which determines where they will be placed in the secondary system. American children do not have to take these examinations.

The secondary system takes the child through to ages 15 to 18, or older. In secondary, or grammar school, the student will be offered college entrance courses, commercial, homecraft, or technical courses. American children are placed in classes based on the records transferred from their last school and, in some cases, as a result of conferences with the teachers. Once school is in session, the child will be moved up or down until he is with a class of the same educational level.

Children are generally expected to walk or cycle to school if they live less than two miles from the school.

Students who are under 15, living two or more miles from school, are entitled to transportation. The transportation provided may be a season ticket on public transportation and does not have to be a special bus or automobile.

Students at most schools in the Holv Loch area wear uniforms. This is often just a blazer, but is sometimes a complete outfit. Although wearing the uniform is not mandatory, it is strongly encouraged.

Preparing for the trip: Dependents planning to travel to Scotland would be wise to check early on immunization requirements. Applications for passports and visas should also be made well in advance. It is a good idea to maintain close liaison with your sponsor so that you will have up-to-date information on requirements.

Pets: As there is a six-month quarantine for all pets arriving in Great Britain, you are advised not to take your pets to Scotland. Costs of maintaining animals in quarantine are high, and must be borne by the owner.

Recreation: Most of the towns in the Holy Loch area have public facilities for individual sports such as golf, tennis, swimming, bowling, and fishing.

The U. S. Navy contingent also has established its own sports program. There are softball and bowling teams for the ladies, and baseball competition for boys. The men participate in basketball, softball, swimming, soccer, boxing, golfing, skiing, cycling, bowling, camping, and other sports.”

 

The Birth of the Atomic Fleet – When Science Fiction was Dwarfed by Science Fact Reply

The Birth of the Atomic Fleet

In 1950, the same year the USS Pickerel conducted a remarkable journey from Hong Kong to Hawaii in just 21 days under snorkel, the President of the United States, President Harry S. Truman, authorized the building of an atomic submarine for the first (August 1950).

Pundits and politicians had been predicting that the potential for nuclear power in a submarine was two to ten years away from being realized. What they did not know was that when Captain Rickover steered the engineering work on an atomic engine to Westinghouse in a place called Bettis in 1948, his vision was to make the atomic sub a reality well before anyone expected. Rickover chose Westinghouse because he knew they had the practical engineering capability to do something that was being delayed by the scientists and bureaucrats of the Atomic Energy Commission.

As early as 1946, Naval Leaders like Admiral Nimitz understood that the submarine was the future of naval warfare but needed to extend its time at sea and it’s conceal ability with a new type of propulsion. The harnessing of the atom provided just such an opportunity. The commitment to build and operate the Nautilus was a bold step for Truman and the Navy.

1950 was the fiftieth year of the American Navy Submarine Force

But August of 1950 was a very challenging time for the country and the world. The Cold War was heating up. On June 25, 1950, the North Korean Army (backed by the Soviet Union and Communist China) boldly invaded the south. The Russian navy was operating large numbers of submarines in the area and newspaper articles warned of the danger of a third World War starting. Troops were still largely shipped to the danger spots of the world by ship and the existence of enemy submarines in the approaches to Korea was a real danger.

The United States had rapidly mothballed much of the fleet after the war while disbanding the forces needed to operate them. Trained men were not available and the fleet struggled at first to manage its commitments in a very hostile world.

The promise of an atomic powered vessel with nearly unlimited fuel promised a solution for many of the Navy’s concerns.

Rickover saw this and with sheer determination and will power, shoved the Navy and the World into the Atomic age. He was a practical thinker and not a sentimentalist in any way. His vision was to see a Navy second to none powered by the most advanced technology that man could imagine. He succeeded in a way that still has an impact today.

This post includes material that comes from a book that was published in 1964 by the Atomic Energy Commission called Nuclear Powered Submarines.

This book was written a short ten years after the Nautilus was commissioned and shows the rapid progression of the nuclear submarine fleet. In ten years, the Nautilus was eclipsed by the newer and sleeker boats that were themselves to be eclipsed again within a decade. Those boats would be dwarfed in size and capabilities and later joined by behemoth aircraft carriers that could go decades between fueling.

Nuclear Powered Submarines. U.S. Atomic Energy Commission

Forward

The application of nuclear energy to submarine propulsion has caught the imagination of people everywhere; no scientific proficiency is needed to understand the value of such a development. We can all share pride in the arctic achievements and the globe-circling adventures of our nuclear submarines. How- ever, it is considerably more difficult for the average person to appreciate the magnitude and complexity of the engineering involved in actually building and operating these ships. This booklet is intended to help you obtain such an appreciation.

Young people particularly are attracted to these ships and the atomic plants that propel them. Often young people mistakenly think that atomic energy somehow magically simplifies everything and that it must be easier to work with such plants than with more conventional machinery. Nothing could be further from the truth. More knowledge and understanding are needed; knowledge of science, of engineering, and of the fundamental laws of nature. I strongly urge young people who may be thinking of entering the atomic field to study the basic subjects of chemistry, physics, metallurgy, mechanical engineering, and, of course, mathematics. Then, if they have superior intelligence, insight, and especially an affinity for hard work, they may be able to participate in a program which combines both the excitement of a technological frontier and the pride of contributing to our national strength—our growing atomic Navy.

H.G. Rickover

The Nuclear Powered Submarine

The advent of the atomic age has revolutionized our undersea Navy. The introduction of nuclear power has converted the submersible surface ship of yesterday to a true submarine capable of almost unlimited endurance.

Events have followed swiftly since the pioneer nuclear submarine Nautilus entered fleet service in 1955. Records established by the Nautilus for submerged endurance and speed were soon eclipsed by submarines of later generations such as Seawolf, Skate, Skipjack, and Triton. Skipjack, first to incorporate the blimp-shaped hull, ideal for under water mobility, broke all existing records to become the world’s fastest submarine. The Navy reports, within security limitations, that today’s submarines travel in excess of 20 knots.

Nuclear submarines also have opened up the waters under the Arctic ice pack for operations. In 1958 the Nautilus made a historic voyage from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic via the North Pole. The Skate has three times journeyed to the top of the world, twice surfacing at the geographic North Pole as well as making numerous surfacings in polar lakes.

The marriage of the nuclear submarine and the ballistic missile has been one of the most significant developments in the free world’s defense structure. Since 1960, nuclear submarines capable of submerged firing of the Polaris missile, armed with a nuclear warhead, have been patrolling the seas that constitute 70 per cent of the earth’s surface. Missiles aboard the first two generations of Polaris submarines—the George Washington and Ethan Allen classes—have a range of 1,200 to 1,500 nautical miles. A new Polaris missile capable of hitting its target 2,500 miles away has been developed. These are aboard a third generation of Polaris submarines—the Lafayette and Alexander Hamilton.

The First Nuclear Submarine

Authorization for the first atomic submarine was signed by President Harry S. Truman in August 1950. This was to be the USS Nautilus. The Chief Executive gave the world an idea of what could be expected from the ship: “The Nautilus will be able to move under the water at a speed of more than 20 knots. A few pounds of uranium will give her ample fuel to travel thousands of miles at top speed. She will be able to stay under water indefinitely. Her atomic engine will permit her to be completely free of the earth’s atmosphere. She will not even require a breathing tube to the surface.” On January 21, 1954, the Nautilus slid into the Thames River, New London, Connecticut.

This article was developed on the eve of the Navy’s 243 Birthday celebration (2018). The efforts of the early pioneers in the AEC, the Navy, the men and women of Western Pennsylvania and the builders can all be proud of the realization of the dream.

Submarines: “from a boy to a giant” 4

One of my favorite pastimes is discovering unique stories about the United States Submarine force and the development through the ages.

There is no better witness to the phenomenal growth than that of one of the most profound influences on submarine operation and development: Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz. The most fascinating thing about this man was that he came from such a humble beginning in Fredericksburg, Texas where he originally desired an appointment to the Military Academy. Fortunately for the world, he failed to gain entry and instead went to the Naval Academy where he graduated  with distinction in his class.

His service record is covered elsewhere but one thing was common throughout was his understanding of the potential for a submarine force even when the very idea was being kept in check by the Admirals.

The Navy published a series of submarine brochures but these quotes come from the 1969 edition. Admiral Nimitz had already gone on final patrol but his Forward was kept as a tribute to his memory.

In late 1965, Nimitz suffered a stroke, complicated by pneumonia. In January 1966, he left the U.S. Naval Hospital (Oak Knoll) in Oakland to return home to his naval quarters. He died at home at age 80 on the evening of February 20 at Quarters One on Yerba Buena Island in San Francisco Bay. His funeral on February 24 was at the chapel of adjacent Naval Station Treasure Island and Nimitz was buried with full military honors at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno. He lies alongside his wife and his long-term friends Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, Admiral Richmond K. Turner, and Admiral Charles A. Lockwood and their wives, an arrangement made by all of them while living

But his words live on in eternity. So does his impact on Naval Sea Power

United States Navy Submarine Brochure

As a Midshipman at the Naval Academy, l had my first ride in the United States Navy’s first submarine – USS HOLLAND. Thus in the brief span of my life, l have seen the submarine grow “from a boy to a giant” of the Polaris submarine with strength untold for our land of freedom.

(The airplane and the submarine both began to join the Fleet early in this 20th century, as invention and engineering provided reliable internal combustion engines and other engineering wonders. Each of the strange new means of warfare promised to destroy the power of Fleets – at least in the minds of enthusiasts. Instead, they have brought incredible new power.

l early joined submarines as a young officer, engaged in experimental developments, commanded the submarine forces of the U. S. Atlantic Fleet, studied diesels in Germany and helped to introduce them into our Navy.

For years afterward l continued to serve in submarines afloat. Then, as naval duties took me away from the submarines, l followed their steady development with undiminished interest.

When l assumed Command of the Pacific Fleet, l hoisted my flag in USS GRAYLlNG (SS-209).

When detached, after V-J Day which owed so much to the valor, skill and dedicated service of submariners, l lowered my flag from the gallantly battle-tested USS MENHADEN (SS-377).

While Chief of Naval Operations, with imaginative leaders like my Deputy, Vice Admiral Forrest Sherman, Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood, Naval Inspector General, who brilliantly commanded our Pacific submarine operations during much of World War ll, and Vice Admiral Earle Mills, Chief of Bureau of Ships, l was happy to initiate the development of nuclear power afloat.

The decision was based in considerable part on a major study completed by Dr. Philip Abelson of Naval Research Laboratory in early 1946. All the foregoing officers were enthusiastic about the prospects. lt struck me that if it worked we would be far in front in the ceaseless race in armed strength to keep our country strong and free. The fantastic speed and unlimited radius of action offered by atomic power gave promise of at last making possible the true submarine with indefinite endurance submerged. Its feasibility had been explored in the Navy in the early ’40’s but the development had been set aside by the war and the single goal in atomic energy of the Manhattan Project. Now was the time to get underway. What remarkable results have followed.

Thus for much of my life, l have had faith in the submarine as l have had faith in the rest of the Navy and our great land of America. Each by being true to itself—seeking efficiency and power for noble ends—has been a blessing, just as for ignoble ends, it could be a curse. l am convinced that the mighty Polaris submarine, bearing imperishable names like Washington, Lincoln and Lee, will prove a blessing to America of the future and to all men as they reach upward to the light.

Chester W. Nimitz

Fleet Admiral, U. S. Navy

Two of the boats from 41 for Freedom.

1969 Submarine Brochure Introduction

Fleet Admiral Nimitz’s foreword, written for an earlier edition of the Submarine Brochure some 3 years before his death, points up the vast and growing influence of the sea to our destiny. ln this growth, the submarine fleet in particular has made such strides that we have found it necessary to issue a new edition of this compact account every few years.

The first submarine brochure came out under the skilled direction of Commander D. V. Hickey, USN, now retired, and Lieutenant Henry Vadnais, USNR, of the Curator section. This latest edition has been ably modified by Commander V. J. Robison, USNR, now directing the Curator section, Commander C. F. Johnson, USN, Commander H. Vadnais, USNR, and the diligent application of Mr. Robert L. Scheina. We also owe special appreciation for assistance to the following commanders and their staffs: Admiral lgnatius J. Galantin, Chief of Naval Material; Vice Admiral J. B. Colwell, Commander Fleet Operations and Readiness; Vice Admiral Arnold F. Schade, Commander Submarine Force, Atlantic Fleet; Rear Admiral Walter L Small, Commander Submarine Force, Pacific; and Captain Leon H. Rathbun, Commander Submarine School.

The swift growth of the under sea part of the trident Navy reflects the broad growth of sea power as a whole and of its effect upon the fate of nations in our time. Throughout history the sea has stood for freedom— free horizons, free transit without frontiers or barriers, free opportunity for him who ventures boldly and skillfully. Fortunate indeed then is it that this increase in power at sea has come when the United States has received responsibility for the leadership of civilization. May she meet this charge wisely, courageously, and well

M. Eller

“He goes a great voyage that goes to the bottom of the sea.”

George Herbert, 1651

Mister Mac

The First Thanksgiving (Updated from Original Post in 2013) 10

The First Thanksgiving

If you are expecting a traditional story about Pilgrims and Indians, you might as well go back to your search engine and try again. This is a story about my real first Thanksgiving that occurred somewhere in the western Pacific Ocean about 150 feet below the ocean exactly forty years ago today on board the USS George Washington. More about that later. First, I need to give credit to the people who provided what honestly would had been many real opportunities for Thanksgiving if I hadn’t been the self-centered little bastard that I was up until that day in 1973.

September 1973 003

I grew up (for the most part) in a suburb near a steel making town surrounded by every bit of privilege that a person could expect in the Sixties. Our house wasn’t overwhelming but it was warm and I had my own bed, some space in a closet for my clothes, and access to hot running water and a safe place to play.

Being a middle child, I was isolated from the curse of being the first with all the experimentation around proper behaviors. I was also old enough compared to my two younger brothers that I could get my way on some things. As a middle child though, I found a strong compulsion to focus a lot on ME. My oldest brother was named for my Dad and my older sister was the only girl of five children so it seemed like much of the family’s focus was on the “One” and Daddy’s girl.

(Since this was first written Liz has gone home to be with my Dad. She was a Warrior to the very end of her earthly life. She is missed by many but especially during the holidays).

Two things grow from a situation like that. A very active imagination, and a wish for a way to be different in order to stand out. I spent a lot of time on both.  I ran away from home three times as a kid and finally succeeded in the ultimate run away… at seventeen I convinced my Mom and Dad to sign the forms for me to join the US Navy. I was absolutely convinced that this would be the best way to get on with my life without all that interference and finally be my own person. Hey, I said I had a lot of imagination and I certainly don’t claim to be all that smart.

When you understand

My parents and Grandparents tried to provide us with not only the comforts of life but they made sure we were aware of all the traditions that were important including a big Thanksgiving celebration. Rumor had it (at least among us kids) that one of Grandpa Parkin’s relative actually came over on the Mayflower and was at the first big dinner.

Picture of the dining room in the Parkins Mansion. Not pictured is the card tables off to the side for the little kids that would come along later.

We always had the big turkey day at the mansion he owned and some of the silver looked detailed enough to support the story’s validity. The only time you actually saw these heirlooms was at Thanksgiving so of course it had to be true.

Parkins House

The “Big House” was a wonderful place for a Thanksgiving feast. The kitchen was huge with a large mixer that spent the day making real mashed potatoes. The rest of the counters were filled with every type of traditional food and the breakfast room was the repository for the pies and jellos that would be brought in to the formal dining room.

The dining room was nothing short of amazing. A large table in the center beneath the shining candelabra, a fireplace at one end, and of course an exquisite tapestry hanging on the inner wall above a side boy table groaning from the weight of the food and drinks already staged. China and real silver, BUTTER with no limit, and a bay window surrounded by colored electric lights looking out over the snow covered front lawn.

We had a lot of cousins

You would think that a boy would be thankful for all of this wouldn’t you? Sadly, I truly believe that while I had appreciation for it, I did not understand the meaning of thankful at all.

Fast forward to the fall of 1973. I had already been in the Navy for well over a year but had not gone to sea yet. I bounced around the country going to school after school as the Navy tried to prepare me for my role as a Submarine Auxiliaryman (the fancy name for an A-ganger).  From Great Lakes to New London to Charleston South Carolina and finally to Ford Island in Hawaii. Ironically, one of the main reasons I had joined was to get away from the boredom of being in a classroom. Like I said, I never claimed to be smart. Looking back at my service record and the “satisfactory” marks, I am sure there were a lot of Naval Instructors along the way that would concur.

The First Patrol

I missed what should have been my first patrol by a few days when my travel was interrupted in San Francisco on the way to Pearl Harbor. The summer of 73 was a pretty crappy time as I found out the Navy was not as well organized as I had believed it to be. Temporary duty in a barracks at the sub base in Pearl Harbor was a lonely time and made other issues in my personal life more complex. The letters from my high school sweetheart  went from nearly every other day to every other week and by the time I was got on the crew flight to Guam in October, they were non-existent. We didn’t have cell phones back then and you used a very expensive phone call only sparingly. It really sucked when you would call and she was “out with her girlfriends but we’ll give her your message.”

The crew flight and arrival were pretty overwhelming for a nineteen year old on his first trip. The main thing I remember is being shoved into the crews berthing on board the submarine tender Proteus which was what I would imagine it would have felt like on the ship that brought my great grandparents over from Ireland. The air conditioning didn’t work and the boat was delayed in coming in because of the weather.

When it finally did come in, I found out that “Non-Qual Pukes” did not rank very high on a submarine and my first rack was in a place called TDU alley. While submariners spend an inordinate time cleaning their ship, TDU alley is the one place that struggles the most due to its location near the Trash Disposal Unit directly above the berthing area. The one good thing about my rack was that I was inspired to stay out of it as much as possible which helped me qualify in one run.

After a really demanding refit, the ship finally got underway to its patrol station. I had sent my last letters off including the blank “Family Grams” to my girl and my family. You were limited to ten and I split them in half. I got the five from my Mom. That was all I would receive for that patrol.

At the beginning of the patrol, I was a helmsman/planesman. The job itself wasn’t that hard but under normal circumstances it was fairly boring. Back in the day you had a Diving Officer behind you in a leathered seat to keep you on depth and the Officer of the Deck somewhere behind you to keep you on course. The occasional drill mixed things up but for the most part it was drilling holes in the ocean with little change up or down, left or right. It gave you a lot of time to think which is not always a good thing for someone with an overactive imagination.

The COB must have seen how bored I was getting so he arranged for me to have a brand new experience:

Mess Cranking.

Up to this point, the Navy had been a pretty disappointing experience overall. Where was the part about going to exotic places and being honored for heroic deeds? The first day in the scullery as the new guy was overwhelming. There were no automatic dishwashing machines in the day and everything was done by hand and then sanitized in a hot sink. Meals on a boat are chaotic to begin with because of the tightness of time between watch changes. You learned pretty quickly that if you didn’t keep the dishes flowing through the wash and rinse cycle, people would be yelling at you through the little window where they passed dirty dishes and silverware.

When you weren’t washing dishes, you were compacting trash and filling wet bags to shoot out of the TDU. That is a vertical torpedo tube that is sealed on both ends until you fill it with trash and then a technician comes along and flushes it out of the bottom of the boat. I have often wondered how many of those TDU cans ended up on the bottom of the Marianas trench.

The TDU (Trash Disposal Unit) I spent a lot of time on my first two patrols in this room The smell of rotten eggs will never leave my memory

The days speeded up quickly but sleep seemed to be in short supply. But pretty soon I developed enough of a rhythm that it all fell into place. I was busy but not too busy to hurt inside for the seeming loss of a love and the distance I found between me and my parents. Things had not worked out like I planned and it all seemed like I was completely out of control.

Then came Thanksgiving.

I must not have been paying attention very much to the calendar. I had mastered the scullery well enough to be promoted to the galley helper and occasional wardroom backup. We had a Philipino Commisaryman Chief who ran the whole operation and he was very good at keeping us squared away. Like most of his rate, he knew the importance of a well-run galley and wardroom. He also recognized the importance of holiday meals and made sure that the big ones like Thanksgiving were perfect. The two days leading up to Thanksgiving were probably the hardest working days of my Naval career (at least up to that point).

I will admit that the smell of the turkey’s baking that day will stand out as one of the most powerful memories I have. We worked for hours preparing the mashed potatoes and yams. Pies were very carefully made and the Chief had told the Diving Officer that if he did any angles while he was baking, he should not expect a drumstick on his plate. The older qualified guys would try and sneak into the galley for a taste and I found out for the very first time in my Naval career that I had power. If you had been an asshole up to this point, it was up to me to grant you a taste. Some got in, some had to work a little harder.

Unlike the other meals served on board, this one was not a chaotic event. Oncoming watch-standers ate with a little more purpose and the off-going section mingles in with the off watch guys. People seemed a little more respectful of the hard work that went on behind the scenes. The Chief had the lights turned down lower and some Pilgrim and Indian decorations had magically appeared. The Captain came in and thanked all of us for the hard work that went into the meal. As the galley and mess decks emptied out, I felt satisfied in a way I had never felt before.

Sitting at the table in the mess decks, I took stock of my life. A split with my parents, a doomed feeling about my girlfriend, being the lowest of the low on board a submarine far from home. Then someone came and sat across from me that I really didn’t want to see. I had been trying to get a checkout for my quals in the engineroom and this guy had blown me off more times than I care to talk about.

He said the most amazing words I could remember: “Are you ready for your checkout now Mac?” We spent hours together hand tracing pipes and looking for valves. I would give anything to have that qual card back.

I am thankful I was able to experience all of those things early in my career. Nothing was given to me and I found the joy of hard work resulting in a payoff.

It truly was my first Thanksgiving.

Mister Mac

Oh by the way… the girl dumped me. I was then free to have some of the most amazing adventures in my life all around the world. And it helped me be ready for the time when I would find the true love of my life.

2018 Update

It has now been forty five years since the first Thanksgiving. I am incredibly blessed to still be alive despite a number of interesting twists and turns. My heart has decided it wasn’t fond of the pacemaker/defibrillator that was installed a few years ago and it literally tried to escape my chest on its own. After a long healing process and a lot of changes in my life, the heart is actually stronger now than it was before the surgeries.  This year, I even managed to get back into an old uniform that I hadn’t worn since 1992.

I am very thankful for you to have been a part of my story. The blog is still going strong and I have a number of stories waiting to be told.

I hope your Thanksgiving is a time of great peace. Always remember that somewhere this day, a nineteen year old is scrubbing out a turkey pan thinking about their own family while the boat sails silently under the sea.

 

I’d like to be a submariner. How hard could that be? 61

Caution: Some salty language may be found in this post

I belong to a number of very fine military organizations that all have special purposes. The Navy League for instance is a group that supports and promotes the sea services. I think this is important because of the dangers still present in the world at large. The American Legion and VFW both focus on active duty and veterans benefits so they are also near and dear to my heart. MOAA (Military Officers Association of America) is a fine group of leaders who help to ensure Congress doesn’t spend all of its money giving themselves haircuts and special deals that average citizens will never imagine.

But the organization that really holds my heart is the USSVI –

United States Submarines Veterans, Inc.

Riding high 2

I have belonged to the group for a number of years but wasn’t very active until recently. Work and home obligations have kept me pretty busy but this past year I have had a chance to remind myself that I  really like being around submariners. While I share strong bonds with a number of people for different reasons, being a part of this brotherhood has been the strongest of all. Its not a military thing. Most of the submariners I have known through the years are strong patriots but while on active duty probably bristled under the yoke of a militaristic setting. Submariners are actually pretty individualistic in their own way bordering on a bit rebellious against some kinds of authority. But they put that all on hold when it comes to the mission. If I were ever in a bad place, I would want to be surrounded by submariners.

Bob Hazen and Ken Pyatt

I know from speaking to men of different generations that their journey was slightly different than mine. Some will tell you it was harder and some will tell you it was not hard enough. Its a funny phenomenon that as you get older, the “kids” that come behind you have it so much easier and no one’s journey is as tough as yours was. I chuckle a bit when the Diesel Boat Forever (DBF) crowd talk about their hardships. I don’t chuckle because I think they are exaggerating. Its only because many of them think that nuke boat sailors lived in pampered luxury boats that rarely encountered sacrifices. After serving on five boats that had their share of challenges, I can assure you that each generation has been tested and proved well qualified.

So how hard could it be to become one of the most elite group in the world?

SSBN 598 A gang

It depends.

Most of the guys I knew and served with were already on the high end of the gene pool. They tested better during classification, they seemed to adapt to unusual lifestyles with ease, and they had the ability to suspend their fears long enough to sign not once but twice as a volunteer. While I am sure there are some who will claim that they were “drafted” or “forced” into the pipeline, the rule has always been that only volunteers were able to be trained and tested as potential submariners. Submarine school and technical specialty schools were one way of getting to your first boat but back in the day that also included testing (both physical and mental). By the time I got to my first boat, the Navy had 73 years of experience in weeding out the wannabes from the will-bee’s.

Getting there is only half of the struggle. Staying there is quite another. From the minute you get there, you are an air stealing nub that has not yet proven yourself worthy of even the simple pleasures like having your own bunk or watching a movie. Your job is to do the most menial tasks like peeling potato’s or scrubbing the shitters in the head. Depending on your rate, you may even find yourself inside a shit tank or even worse a potable water tank crawling around and doing tasks that are indescribable. Torpedo men routinely found themselves inside the long cavity where a water slug had just met its demise, rags in hand while the ocean was a mere few feet away on the other side of a valve. You had to be careful where you sat on the mess decks so you didn’t incur the wrath of some “Qualified” man who could make your life even more miserable than it already was.

Salvation came from the ink in a standard Navy ball pen.

As you learned more and more about the many systems that made the submarine a killing machine, you gathered more and more of the precious signatures on your qual card. Hand over hand, piping systems were traced, valves were memorized, electricity was diagrammed and damage control became not just a second nature but a first. This whole effort ended up with you facing a Qual Board made up of men who had themselves been tested. Grizzled old Chiefs and an Officer would be the deciding factor of whether you would remain lower than whale shit or could stand up tall with a new set of silver dolphins on your chest.

My board was probably the hardest test I ever could have had. I had the A gang chief, the TM chief and the Navigator. At the end of the two hours, I had two lookups. By midnight on that day in 1974, I had a completed qual card with all of the required signatures attached. Shortly after that, I received my dolphins and was a Submariner. Men who had been my tormenters now were my brothers. There was alcohol involved at one point after the boat returned to port. My chest was a bit sore from the “anointing” those poor fish received at the hands of a number of sailors.

Artie Quals

In all the years since, I have had many fine things in my life. A beautiful wife. Some great successes that were personal as well as professionally satisfying. My Zombie room is flanked with certificates from a lifetime of service in and out of the Navy. But the one thing I am proudest of is those silver dolphins. I am also proud of those who share the honor and distinction. While it may be difficult to understand to an outsider, every man who has ever earned his “Fish” knows exactly what it took.

Mister Mac

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By the way, if you are a submariner, you really need to belong to the USSVI