“Who you calling Bubblehead?” 3

I was having a fun filled conversation about the head on a submarine that included the operating procedures and the sanitary tanks this week with a very good friend.

To be fair, who else would you have such a conversation with?

My friend was a ground pounder back during the countries extended excursion into South East Asia and since the conversation was on Facebook, we got a number of inputs from other Submariners. You just can’t have an isolated conversation about such a weighty subject without having others who observe it want to weigh in.

We talked about the method for using the head, the disposal process, the highlights and lowlights of use during an extended underway deployment and certain contests that most hard core Submariners would be well acquainted with that involved the head. Most importantly we included safety features such as remembering to never try and flush when the system was pressurized. Ah, the memories came flooding back.

My dear friend the ground pounder at one point started to push back a little when a few of the boys reinforced with glamorous stories of their own. At one point, I let my fellow brothers of the Phin know that while he had never ridden a submarine, he had many of the necessary skills to be included as a bubblehead. I know this about him since we worked closely together and have had a friendship for over twenty years. I truly believe that if Uncle Sam had not drafted him back in the sixties to go and urinate in a 155 MM shell, he would have found himself on a submarine at some point or another and would have fit in quite well.

Sadly, when I called him an honorary bubblehead, he was confused and a bit disoriented. Perhaps even a little chagrined. Why would I call him such a thing? After all if you Google Bubblehead on the internet, you will find the following:

Dictionary.com: Bubblehead

NOUN slang: A stupid of foolish person; dolt (First heard in 1950-55)

Merriam-Webster: Bubblehead

A foolish or stupid person

Synonyms often include:

airhead, birdbrain, blockhead, bonehead, chowderhead, chucklehead, clodpoll (or clodpole), clot [British], cluck, clunk, cretin, cuddy (or cuddie) [British dialect], deadhead, dim bulb [slang], dimwit, dip, dodo, dolt, donkey, doofus [slang], dope, dork [slang], dullard, dum-dum, dumbbell, dumbhead, dummkopf, dummy, dunce, dunderhead, fathead, gander, golem, goof, goon, half-wit, hammerhead, hardhead, idiot, ignoramus, imbecile, jackass, know-nothing, knucklehead, lamebrain, loggerhead [chiefly dialect], loon, lump, lunkhead, meathead, mome [archaic], moron, mug [chiefly British], mutt, natural, nimrod [slang], nincompoop, ninny, ninnyhammer, nit [chiefly British], nitwit, noddy, noodle, numskull (or numbskull), oaf, pinhead, prat [British], ratbag [chiefly Australian], saphead, schlub (also shlub) [slang], schnook [slang], simpleton, stock, stupe, stupid, thickhead, turkey, woodenhead, yahoo, yo-yo.

I am sure my great friend of more than twenty years had to have been distressed when he saw that I might have calling him a dolt. But nothing could be further from the truth!

I tried to assure him (to no avail) that only the most significant people in my life ever earned the title of Bubblehead. I have many honorable friends who were skimmers (or targets as we bubbleheads call them), Airedales, ground pounders, jet jockeys and so on. But only a few ever became Bubbleheads.

So who are these creatures? Where do bubbleheads come from?

Well, it’s partially a mystery. Even though literature is filled with submarine stories like Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea” and American lore is overflowing with high tech submarines with windows and mini subs like those found in “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”, real life is never quite that well defined.

Often times, credit is given to skimmers who resent the fact that we have the best food, best assignments, best advancements, extra pay for riding in the same ocean and really cool equipment. According to my friend the ground pounder, we also drink all the best beer in Norfolk leaving the Army to drink nothing but 3.2 beer.

Some people claim that it had something to do with a slang name once given to Bell Hat divers.

Others credit it to the clinometer that is found in the control room of most submarines. The only way to determine the angle of a submarine on its axis is to have an inclinometer which is a curved vial mounted with a bubble of air within that indicates at any given moment what the submarines disposition is in relation to the earth and the ocean. (Interesting note: when someone is said to have lost the bubble, it could relate to the fact that they are no longer stable and their bubble has escaped the inclinometer… but I digress)

But I have my own ideas about their origin. Let me explain.

First, the term bubblehead seems to be unique to American submariners. I am sure someone from my global submarine community will fire a torpedo in my direction for saying this but since I am an American Submariner and that is my sole experience, I am sticking with that preposition.

Bubbleheads come from farms, townships, cities, boroughs and the suburbs. Anyplace and any state in the country and a few of the territories. Even the Philippines. But all Americans by their devotion to the Service

They must have an equal measure of intelligence and sarcasm in order to survive the curing process involved in their making. They come in all colors, sizes and backgrounds. Despite the space limitations, a few of the largest humans I have ever met served on board boats. They are also serious, lighthearted, emotional, emotionless, happy, angry, sleepy, often grump and dopey. All though to be fair, dopey doesn’t normally do very well

 

 

 

 

 

Bubbleheads are made under pressure. In the early days, that meant surviving the pressure chamber test and the dive tank test. Once they get to the boat, there is the pressure of being a non-qual air breathing nub with no useful purpose under the sun than to fetch coffee and scrub the head form sun up to sun rise (which is incredibly hard to define once the boat is submerged). The pressure comes from driving a boat into an ocean that is wild and changing at speeds that you can feel but not being able to see where you are going. Pressure is not knowing what is happening to your family for months on end. Pressure is learning to rely on your fellow shipmates for your own and the ship’s safety. Yep, bubbleheads are made under pressure. And it never seems to go away.

Bubbleheads are all volunteers but must go through a selection process. While it has changed through the years, it nearly always includes psychological as well as physical examinations. One of the best explanations of how it was done back in the old days explains a lot about our heritage. From the 1942 Book called The Fleet Today by Kendall Banning:

“Because of the dangers inherent in the submarine service, extreme caution is exercised in even the most simple of operations. This caution extends as far back as the selection of the men themselves. In the first place, they must be dependable men. The crew of a submarine is small and every man has a duty to perform; a single act of negligence might endanger the life of every man aboard. In the second place, a submariner must be blessed with the virtue of calmness and self-possession. The fellow who is subject to temperamental outbursts or who is contentious or who talks too much or who becomes excited has no place on a pig boat. And—to add the human touch—he must not be cursed with those little mannerisms or affectations which, in the intimacies that must necessarily prevail in cramped quarters, might grate on the nerves of his shipmates. Even that intensely personal and often unavoidable quality, designated by the medicos as bromidrosis but more popularly known as “B.O.,” will bar a man; even if his “best friends won’t tell him” the Navy will. The fruit of this selective system is found in the chief petty officers who have been developed over a term of years and who rate among the steadiest, most silent, and ablest groups of men in the Navy.”

Bubbleheads must exhibit redundancy in all they do. Starting with the way they enter the transition they will undergo, all Bubbleheads are required to volunteer twice. Once to serve the nation, and once to join submarine training. There have been exceptions over the years but the majority of bubbleheads are twice as committed as their fellow sailors. (SEALS are one of the notable exceptions but even they like to ride submarines form time to time).

A Bubblehead subjects themselves to the fact that to truly earn the title, the learning never stops. Basic qualification leads to advanced qualification. Each qualification leads to more studying and work in order to advance in their submarine assignment as well as their personal advancement. You have to learn every valve, every circuit, every system, every pump, and every piece of damage control equipment. Every submariner is indoctrinated with the law and the gospel that quick decisions must be followed by immediate action. Emergency drills accustom the men to shut the watertight doors and isolate ventilation and secure all of these in a matter of split seconds. Its life or death.

You are a bubblehead for life.

No matter how old you are, once you have earned your fish, you are part of a unique family. Many only serve for four years. Some serve for a lifetime. But it never ceases to amaze me that when we get together, the years and the age seem to disappear. Memories of a lifetime ago all come rushing back. The sacrifices we all shared in those dark days beneath the ocean’s surface all did one thing: they created a bond that can never be broken.

I am sure there are some purists that will object to the slang term that has been highlighted in my story. Hell, I know some people that still get snotty when the word Submariner is mispronounced. (It’s Sub – Marine*-er). But I am just as proud to call the ones who I care for the most by a special name: BUBBLEHEAD.

Mister Mac

 

Oh and one more thing Phil…

 

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

The Origin of Submarine Dolphins – The Fourth (and I think) Final Chapter 4

The rest of the story

This will hopefully be the final segment in my saga of how the Submarine Dolphin insignia came to be. Each stage along the way has been a lot of fun as I have sifted through magazines, articles on line, historical societies, the Library of Congress and a source which contains electronic copies of nearly every book that has been printed in the world for the past hundred plus years.

This chapter finally answers the question of who should get ultimate credit for the actual design that Bailey Banks and Biddle used in the 1920’s to create the emblem.

Here is his story:

“Let Us Never Forget” Submarine Dolphin Designer, Developer of First Submarine Sonar, USNA 1926, Captain William Crawford Eddy, USN

Captain Eddy designed the Submarine Force Dolphins worn by those qualified in Submarines from the 1926 Naval Academy Class Crest. Assigned to submarine duty but hard of hearing he developed the first submarine sonar. Forced out of the Navy because of his hearing problems, he went on to become an electronic wizard. He setup and ran Chicago’s first television station and trained 70,000 Navy personnel on the new technology…radar. For his leadership he was awarded Legion of Merit medal.

William Crawford Eddy was born on August 22, 1902 in Saratoga Springs, New York to William D. Eddy and Ethel J. Eddy. He attend high school at New York Military Academy. On July 25, 1922, he entered the United States Naval Academy as a Midshipman. In 1922, Midshipman Fourth Eddy and accomplished cartoonist and a submarine enthusiast was a member of the Class of 1926 Crest Committee. He designed his class crest using a bow on photo of the submarine USS O-2 and adding two dolphins rampant, with dolphins rapped around swords.

In June 1923, when Captain Ernest J. King (USNA 1901), Commander, Submarine Division Three (later Fleet Admiral and Chief of Naval Operations), suggested to the Secretary of the Navy that a device for qualified submariners be adopted. He submitted a pen-and-ink sketch as an example. A Philadelphia firm, Bailey, Banks and Biddle, was contracted to design a suitable badge.

In 1924, Mr. George Meale of that firm mentioned to Midshipman Eddy that they were looking for a design. The firm was familiar with Midshipman Eddy for his work on the Class Crest Committee and as Chairman of the Class Ring Committee. Midshipman Eddy, using sketches of the 1926 Naval Academy class crest that he designed, and by simply removing the eagle, anchor, swords and flattening out the dolphins, resulted in the present day submarine insignia.

While at the Academy Midshipman Eddy was a member of Log Staff; Associate Editor of the Lucky Bag; Class Secretary; UMCA Director; Christmas Card Committee; Class Crest Committee; and Chairman Ring Committee. He earned his Navy “N” in varsity crew and was Head Cheerleader first class year. Unfortunately, he developed a slight hearing problem but kept it secret by reading lips. Midshipman Eddy graduated 294 of 456 from the Naval Academy on June 3, 1926.

Submarine USS O-2 in dry dock in 1928. A bow on view of the O-2 was used by Midshipman Eddy in the design of the USNA Class of 1926 crest and Submarine Force dolphin insignia.

In the 1926 United States Naval Academy Lucky his roommate wrote:

“You would know that this lad could pull an oar just by looking at him. His failing for boats began Plebe summer. He bought one Second Class year and thought it would float – until launching.

There are a few things that Crawf would rather do than talk. One of them was to draw a slip which read: “Sketch and describe.” Then his mark for the day was secure. There were drawbacks to living with this human Vic for four years, but he has a line that seldom if ever, gets monotonous.

Being a Red Mike he was supreme in joy as master presenter of bricks. This fact kept many would – be snakes from the clutches of wily Crabs. Incidentally, the fair lady who captures Crawf will surely be “different.” “Regulation” is a word that rarely, if ever, occurred to him, but we feel that he will make a successful officer.”

(Note: Red Mike was the term used for midshipmen who dated rarely and Brick was the term used for an award given to the midshipman who dated the homeliness girl that weekend as judged by midshipmen of his Company.)

On August 9, 1926, Ensign Eddy was assigned to light cruiser USS Cincinnati (CL-6). Cincinnati was assigned to Atlantic and Caribbean operations until early in 1927. On February 17, 1927, Cincinnati sailed from Balboa, Canal Zone, for duty in the Far East. Cincinnati was initially sent to Nicaragua to “fight the Banana Wars,” then dispatched to China to protect American interests and “show the flag” along the Yangtze River.

Cincinnati was based at Shanghai until October 1927, then at Manila, and again at Shanghai from February to April 1928.

On July 11, 1927, Ensign Eddy married Christine L. D. Woolridge in Hankow China. Together they had three children, son William Crawford Eddy Jr and two daughters Nancy Eddy and Diana Eddy Van Ordan.

In 1928, Ensign Eddy requested and received a transfer to the submarine service. At six-foot six, he was almost too tall for submarines.

On January 1, 1929 to November 1929, bypassing submarine school, Ensign Eddy was assigned to the submarine USS S-35. During the summer and into the fall, S-35 conducted similar operations out of Tsingtao, China and, in November, she returned to the Philippines for winter operations. With his hearing problem unknown to his superiors, LTJG Eddy was assigned as Sound Officer on a boat which had the old binaural SC tubes which required perfect hearing in both ears to locate and track the target. As a result S-35 had a dismal record in submerged attacks. To compensate for his hearing problem, he designed a visual display for audio tracking signals. Thus creating the first submarine sonar…this apparatus was widely used on submarines for many years.

While on board S-35, LTJG Eddy completed qualifications for command of submarines. His submarine dolphins were the first stamped from his design.

On January 1, 1930, LTJG Eddy received orders to report under instruction at Naval Submarine School, New London Connecticut. Although already qualified to command a submarine, he still had to complete submarine school.

On June 16, 1930, LTJG Eddy was assigned to submarine USS O-3.

On April 1, 1931, LTJG Eddy was assigned to the submarine USS R-3.

By January 1, 1933, LTJG Eddy was assigned to submarine USS R-14.

On July 16, 1933, LTJG Eddy was assigned to Submarine Base New London, Connecticut. LTJG Eddy set up an electronics course for officers. He had his own laboratory for conducting research in underwater sound gear and signal communicating from a submerged position; his research resulted in four secret patents. When standing a physical examination for promotion to Lieutenant, his hearing loss came to light, and he was forced into disability retirement at the close of 1934.

On December 1, 1934, LTJG Eddy retired from the Navy due to a medical discharge.

In 1936, Mr. Eddy met Mr. Philo Farnsworth in Philadelphia while the electronics pioneer was beginning experiments in the transmission of television pictures. Over the next two years, the Farnsworth team, including Mr. Eddy, developed what is known as the saw tooth scanning television transmission.

Mr. Eddy later worked for RCA, creating special effects and lighting for early telecasting.

In 1941, Mr. Eddy set up the Chicago station WBKB-TV, handling all aspects of the business.

From August 11, 1942 to September 1, 1945, Eddy was Commanding Officer of Radio Chicago. On January 29, 1943, Eddy returned to active service as a Lieutenant Commander. Few United States Navy ships had radar and almost no personnel were trained in the secret technology. This lack of training became the responsibility of LCDR Eddy. In 1942 the Electronics Training Program was started in mid-1942 as a combined effort of six engineering colleges and several highly advanced Navy schools. The training program was of almost unbelievable intensity, cramming the major topics of a standard electrical engineering curriculum into less than a year. LCDR Eddy was largely responsible for its coordination. An admissions examination, commonly called the Eddy Test, was used in selecting the students.

On September 7, 1943, LCDR Eddy was promoted to the temporary rank of Commander.

On November 5, 1944, Commander Eddy was promoted to the rank of Captain.

Captain Eddy graduated nearly 70,000 electronics experts from his school during World War II, using the facilities of Chicago’s old WBKB, a television station he built for movie palace owner Barney Balaban in 1939. For his efforts Captain Eddy was awarded the Legion of Merit.

Legion of Merit Awarded for Actions during World War II

The President of the United States takes great pleasure in awarding Captain William C. Eddy, United States Navy, the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States as Commanding Officer of Radio Chicago from 11 August 1942 to 1 September 1945.

General Orders: Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 346 (January 1946)

Service: Navy

Rank: Captain

Captain Eddy died in his Michigan City, Indiana home at 87 after a long illness. Captain Eddy is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington Virginia.

This will be my last article on the Dolphins. Looking at the design and the final results, I am more convinced than ever that a Dolphin is just a Dolphin.

Mister Mac

Submarine Dolphins Part Three – The Artists that created the Insignia 4

It must be true, I saw it on the Internet

The great thing about living in the age we do is the incredible access to resources on the internet. I have a number of historical reference sites that I use to build my stories and enjoy finding nuggets form time to time.  I take it as a matter of pride to never accept anything I see on the internet without first understanding the source and cross checking with a number of sources for the more controversial stuff. In the past week, one of the subjects that has generated a lot of conversation has been the origins of and meaning of the Submarine Dolphins worn by American Submariners.

For a qualified submariner, they are the most significant and cherished emblem of all.

There are so few that have earned them when you look at the history of American submarining so the ownership is very personal and special. to gain them, you are subjected to many hours, days, weeks and months of some of the hardest lessons you will ever learn. It is a unique combination of physical and mental testing. But once attained, they become a part of who you are. Years after you leave the Navy, they still remain a single standing qualifier that many hold on to with passion.

I am no different, I suppose. Achieving the rank of Chief Petty Officer and later Chief Warrant Officer were very proud moments. But those five boats that I can claim as “my boats” stand apart. Each was different. Each had a unique challenge. All combine to make a very memorable chapter of my life.

In 1974, I earned my Dolphins on board my first boat, the USS George Washington. I was happy at the time since it meant the end of a very trying period. But I do not think a twenty year old boy from McKeesport Pennsylvania really understood the significance. That would come later as I learned that it was my turn to help others earn theirs. I truly never thought about the Dolphins as anything other than a unique brand that I shared with many others. Not until my retired years.

So Part three of this saga spends a little time on the Chapter about where the pins came from.

While I have still not determined the name of the artist who won the final design, I now know what company they worked for. First, a reminder of how they came to be:

Evening star. [volume], September 28, 1924, Page 11, Image 57

Army and Navy News by M. H. McIntyre

Announcement was made this week by the Bureau of Navigation, Navy Department, prescribing the qualifications for officers and enlisted men for wearing the submarine insignia, which was approved by the Secretary of the Navy last March.”(a) Officers qualified for submarine command in accordance with chapter 3. Paragraphs 203-209, Submarine Instructions, November. 1919,”are authorized to wear this insignia. The insignia will be worn at all times by the commissioned personnel as specified in (a) while they are attached to submarine units or organizations ashore or afloat, but it may not be worn at any time by officers when not attached to submarine organizations.

The following enlisted men are authorized to wear this insignia: (a) Men found qualified for submarine duty in accordance with chapter 3. Paragraphs 214-215. Submarine Instructions, November, 1919, whose certification of qualification appears on their service records.

(h) Men who prior to the issue of Submarine Instructions, November 1919 were found qualified for submarine duty and whose certification of qualification appears on their service records.

As specified in (a) and (b) the insignia will be worn at all times by enlisted men while attached to submarine units or organizations, ashore or afloat. Enlisted men will not be authorized to wear this insignia if they are not attached to submarine units. A change in the Uniform Regulations covering the details of the insignia and the manner of wearing it is in course of preparation and will be issued to the service shortly.

These qualifications will be incorporated in the Bureau of Navigation Manual when reprinted.

So who actually designed the final set of Dolphins?

The answer is Baily Banks and Biddle of Philadelphia.

By the late nineteenth century, BB&B had a successful insignia department which designed and manufactured medals, ribbons and honor awards for the U.S. government and military and naval academies. For nearly a century, BB&B produced the Congressional Medal of Honor, the first 40,000 Purple Hearts awarded, and class rings for West Point and Annapolis. Among the medals designed or produced by the firm’s corps of artists, die cutters, engravers and illuminators were the Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Cross and Distinguished Flying Cross. Charles Lindbergh and Admiral Richard E. Byrd received the first two Distinguished Flying Crosses in 1927. The current version of the Great Seal of the United States was designed by a BB&B artist in 1904. The Stationery Department, according to company legend, produced the invitations for the presidential inauguration of James Buchanan in 1857. President Abraham Lincoln was familiar with the company’s work after receiving a silver cup and plate personally crafted for him as a Christmas gift.

1917 – America’s need for new military insignia and medals continues. It is this year that Bailey Banks & Biddle is contracted to produce the first Pilot Wings. These Wings are for Naval Aviators, America’s first military pilots.

http://www.navalunderseamuseum.org/submarine-dolphins/

“Submarine dolphins have represented submariner identity for so long, it might be surprising to learn the Submarine Force lacked any warfare insignia for the first 24 years it existed. The idea to create one arose in the summer of 1923, when future fleet admiral and Chief of Naval Operations Ernest King (then a captain) suggested developing a symbol to identify qualified submariners. At the Bureau of Navigation’s solicitation, possible designs were proposed by several sources, including one from King himself. Concepts featured elements such as dolphins, submarines depicted from different angles, shields, and sharks.

One of the earliest versions of the submarine warfare insignia, circa the 1920s.

The Bureau hired a firm named Bailey, Banks, and Biddle, out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to create a final design out of the submissions. The firm narrowed the ideas to two designs which were integrated to produce the final emblem: a surfaced O-class submarine flanked by two dolphins resting their heads on the sub’s bow planes. (Dolphins were deemed a fitting symbol twice over: as the supposed patron of Sailors, and because they dive and surface similarly to submarines.) The design became official in March 1924 when it was approved by Acting Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt Jr. It has undergone only minor changes since its introduction 93 years ago.”

There is a very good chance that not a single one of the artists or craftsmen employed by Bailey, Banks and Biddle had ever actually stepped foot on a submarine and certainly had no first hand knowledge of dolphins, porpoises, dolphin-fish or any other sea creature. The jewelers of that generation would be classically trained and as evidenced by their other period pieces familiar with heraldry. That would explain why something that should not have scales or an odd configuration of fins would end up having them.

But one thing I have learned is that will be those who shout from the roof tops that the Dolphin portrayed is something else altogether.

I still remain open to seeing actual evidence in the form of artists notes or drawings. I am currently searching the archives of the patent office to see if there is a more complete description.

So far, none has surfaced (see what I did there?)

Mister Mac

Previous related posts:

https://theleansubmariner.com/2018/10/16/the-origin-of-submarine-dolphins-part-deux/

https://theleansubmariner.com/2018/10/13/the-origin-of-submarine-dolphins-all-hands-magazine-january-1961/

The Origin of Submarine Dolphins – Part Deux 8

Nothing like stirring the pot… (you can always count on a Submariner to do something  like that).

In the last couple of days, the Post about the Origin of Submarine Dolphins has been one of the most viewed articles on the blog in a long time.  Along with the views came the comments. Some were pretty nice. But many decided to attack the messenger. I have been getting messages and posts on Facebook about dolphin and fish etymology and all the reasons why the “Dolphins” couldn’t possibly be anything but fish. Not a single person could source a design note or explanation from the creator of the original insigne that their intent was to commemorate anything other than a pair of dolphins nestling their heads on the bow planes of a submarine.

I have even had my credibility questioned with one guy asking snarkily “Who is this Mister Mac anyway???” Since I qualified on five boats, I typically do not respond to people who only rode one boat for a couple of years in times like that. I still respect them for their service and sacrifice but when they ask nub questions without knowing who I am, they really don’t rate a response much more than “who the hell are you?”

Yep, there were lots of interesting discussions on Facebook and on the blog about where our “Dolphins” came from. Many readers have extrapolated from the design that the “Phins” are truly fish since they resemble the dolphin-fish in shape and configuration. The earlier article quoted from a nineteen sixties era All Hands Magazine that the idea for the submarine insigne originated from an idea by then Captain Ernest King in 1924.

Homework

The nice thing about being a researcher is being able to discover documents which are no longer in print but are available through reliable resources. I decided to take a quick cruise (four hours) through some of my favorite on line “haunts” and dig up a few more tidbits on the insigne that we call “Dolphins”.

Without judgment or prejudice, the results of tonight’s search are included here. They come from two separate sources that existed in 1924. The first was a Newsletter called  Our Navy, the Standard Publication of the U.S. Navy during that timeframe. The second comes from the 19214 amended uniform regulations November 1924 Change bulletin which was the first time that the submarine insigne was authorized for wear.

They are included here:

Our Navy, the Standard Publication of the U.S. Navy, Mid April Issue 1924, Volume XVII, Number 24

SUBMARINE INSIGNIA

The Bureau of Navigation has secured the approval of the Department to add an insignia, to be worn on the breast by qualified submarine officers and enlisted men. The design will be somewhat similar in size and material to that now worn by aviators.

The center of the device is the bow of a submarine with the conning tower in evidence, flanked by a bow diving rudder, and supported by dolphins on either side. The Bureau of Navigation will shortly issue detailed uniform regulations as to the conditions under which the insignia may be worn.

From the November 1924 Changes to Uniform Regulations

 

CHANGES IN UNIFORM REGULATIONS NO. 1.

NAVY DEPARTMENT,

Washington, 12 November, 1924.

The following changes in the Uniform Regulations United States Navy, 1922, are hereby ordered to be made immediately upon receipt of this order.

CURTIS D. WILBUR,

Secretary

  1. Submarine insignia (Plate 34, fig. 3).-

(a) A bronze gold-plated metal pin, bow view of a submarine, proceeding on the surface, with bow rudders rigged for diving, flanked by dolphins in horizontal position with their heads resting on upper edge of rudders; the device to be 2% inches long. (U. R. C. 1.)

(b) Officers “qualified” for submarine command in accordance with requirements outlined in “Submarine Instructions” shall be entitled to wear the above insignia. The insignia shall be worn at all times by officers, while attached to submarine units or organizations, ashore or afloat, and may not be worn at any time by officers when not attached to submarine units or organizations.

(c) Enlisted men “qualified” for submarine duty in accordance with “Submarine Instructions” whose certification of qualification appears on their service records or men who, prior to the issue of the Submarine Instructions, November, 1919, were found qualified for submarine duty and whose certification of qualification appears on their service records shall be entitled to wear the above insignia embroidered in silk, in white on blue for blue clothing, and in blue on white for white clothing. The submarine insignia shall be worn at all times by enlisted men qualified to wear it, while attached to submarine units or organizations, ashore or afloat, and may not be worn by enlisted men when not attached to submarine units or organizations (Plate 34, fig. 4), except that enlisted men transferred to other duty shall be permitted to wear the insignia for six months after their detachment from submarines or until they have been permanently assigned to other naval duties. (U. R. C. 3.)

(d) To be worn with dolphins horizontal—by officers on the left breast and just above the center of ribbons or medals; by enlisted men on the outside of the right sleeve, midway between the wrist and elbow. (U. R. C. 1.)

(e) A miniature submarine insignia (pin type), scale one-half that of the original, shall be worn when miniatures are prescribed. (U. R. C. 6.)

How did it get started?

The original submission from Captain Ernest J. King was very different from the final version. His version is the top one on this picture:

 

Who made the final design?

Suggestions at the time ranged from matched seahorses to a divers helmet to a wide range of submarine and dolphin configurations. One old salt on the S-1 Boat even recommended that a shark design was most appropriate. He argued that a shark would be more reflective of submariners who he said “are a fearlessly resolute bunch.”

In the end, dolphins were the most popular idea and the final design was crafted by a Philadelphia jewelry firm (the same firm that designed the naval aviator insignia. Theodore Roosevelt Jr., Acting Navy Secretary approved the final design in March 1924. As the documents above show, it was incorporated into Naval Uniform regulations shortly after that and has survived to this day.

The design

The design was a bow view of a submarine proceeding on the surface with bow planes rigged for diving, flanked by dolphins with their heads resting on the upper edge of the bow planes.

I find it interesting that Theodore Roosevelt’s father was the first sitting United States President that ever rode a submarine. TR rode the USS Plunger in a historic ride that played a key role in recognizing the future of submarines and submariners.

http://militaryhonors.sid-hill.us/history/gwmjh_archive/Documents/Roosevelt.html

None of this credibly answers whether the dolphins Submariners wear are actual dolphins (mammals) or dolphin fish (fish).

It would be interesting to ask the Jeweler in Philadelphia what was in his mind when he crafted the pins. Interesting but probably impossible since he has more than likely died.

I also find it interesting that many nations have chosen the Dolphin for their submarine insigne since it was the traditional attendant of Poseidon, Greek god of the sea. It turns out that dolphin mythology goes back pretty far.

I’ll just leave this piece of medieval artwork with Old Poseidon and his Pet Dolphin here for all the people who want to hate:

“Hey, that thing has scales”

Mister Mac

The Origin of Submarine Dolphins – All Hands Magazine January 1961 15

Submarine Warfare Insignia

One way to distinguish a United States Navy Submariner from any other sailor is to see the dolphins predominantly displayed on his or her uniform. Officers wear a gold version and enlisted wear a silver version. I have seen many stories over the years about the origin of the insigne but this article from the Navy’s All Hands Magazine seems to sum it up nicely.

The common name for the insigne is Dolphins although in my time, they were also known as “Fish”. That’s interesting in some ways since a dolphin is a mammal and not a fish.

Dolphins of course are mammals because they have all of the major characteristics of mammals; they breathe through lungs, they are warm-blooded, they produce milk for their offspring and they have hair. They also have blowholes and must return to the surface for air.

Where did the “Fish” come from?

I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that the name fish came from a smartass Submariner who was making a snarky comparison to the men who were fishy enough to volunteer to be locked up in a steel tube that submerges for extended periods of time.  Submariners have a quirky sense of humor which can either be endearing or annoying depending on who is on the receiving end of their brand of humor.

I have heard many times that once you wear the dolphins, they are forever emblazoned into your heart. I can’t speak for all submariners, but it is certainly true for me. I am proud of the American flag and I am a humble servant of the Risen Lord. But there is a part of me that will always be a part of a very unique family known as Submariners.

One caveat: Like all good Naval Yarns that are passed along, this one probably has some elements of truth to it and some conjecture. I will leave it up to historians to decide which is which.

Mister Mac

Little did I realize when I posted this that it would generate such “critical” acclaim.

This is now the first of a two part article.  The rest of the story is found here:

https://theleansubmariner.com/2018/10/16/the-origin-of-submarine-dolphins-part-deux/

 

ALL Hands Magazine JANUARY 1961

Dolphins

“A high point in the career of many a Navy man occurs when he becomes a qualified submariner. At that time he is authorized to wear dolphins.

The correct name for the dolphins is submarine insigne. It is one of the items of uniform included under the category of breast insignia, including naval aviator, aviation observer and parachutist insignia, among others.

The submarine insignia came into use in the Navy nearly 37 years ago. It was on 13 Jun 1923 that the commander of a New London-based submarine division, took the first official steps—by way of an official recommendation. That officer was Captain Ernest Joseph King, USN, who later became Commander-in-Chief U.S. Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations.

Captain King recommended that a distinguishing device be adopted for qualified submariners, both officers and enlisted men. With his recommendation he submitted a pen-and-ink sketch of his own. The sketch showed a shield mounted on the beam ends of a submarine, with dolphins forward of, and abaft, the conning tower. The recommendation was strongly endorsed by Commander, Submarine Divisions, Atlantic Fleet, the following day and sent on to the Chief of the old Bureau of Navigation.

Over the next several months the Bureau solicited additional designs from various sources. Several were submitted. Some combined a submarine-and-shark motif. Some showed submarines and dolphins. Some used a shield design.

On 20 March 1924, the Chief of BuNav recommended to the Secretary of the Navy that the dolphin design be adopted. A few days later the recommendation was accepted by Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., Acting SecNav.

The final design shows the bow view of a submarine proceeding on the surface of the sea. Her bow planes care rigged for diving. Flanking the submarine are stylized dolphins in horizontal position with their heads resting on the upper edge of the bow planes.

As with other breast insignia (and enlisted distinguishing marks), qualifications are outlined in the Bupers Manual, while the method of wearing, a description of the design and an illustration of the design are to be found in Uniform Regulations.

The submarine insignia in the early days were awarded only to those officers qualified for submarine command. Later the criteria became “Qualified in sub- marines.” Also in the early days, the insignia were worn (both by officers and enlisted men) only when attached to submarines or submarine organizations. Under current directives however, once qualified, the insignia may be worn regardless of the duty being performed.

As first authorized, the insigne for officers was a bronze, gold-plated metal pin. Later, both a gold embroidered insigne and a gold-color metal pin became authorized.

Today enlisted submariners may wear either a silver-color metal pin or an embroidered dolphin. The latter is either white or blue, depending on the uniform worn.

Originally, the embroidered insigne was worn on an enlisted man’s right sleeve, midway between the wrist and elbow. To day it is worn on the left breast.”

ALL Hands Magazine JANUARY 1961

Post Number 637 – Commemorating the USS Sturgeon SSN 637 7

Workhorses of the Cold War

Over forty years ago when I first volunteered for submarine duty, one of the hottest boats in the fleet was the boats of the 637 Class. These workhorses were responsible for so many missions during the Cold War that it would be  impossible to catalog them all on a single blog post.

Most people will never know how many times these boats performed missions that protected our country. Their missions were secret then and many probably remain so now. But like all submarines, they are only as good as the men who manned them. I salute the service and sacrifice that each crew member made in the defense of this great nation. Submariners receive the designation of “SS” when they become qualified.

Service and Sacrifice seem to fit that title very well.

To all who served on these fine submarines, hand salute.

 

SSN-637 Sturgeon class

STURGEON class submarines were built for anti-submarine warfare in the late 1960s and 1970s. Using the same propulsion system as their smaller predecessors of the SSN-585 Skipjack and SSN-594 Permit classes, the larger Sturgeons sacrificed speed for greater combat capabilities.

They were equipped to carry the HARPOON missile, the TOMAHAWK cruise missile, and the MK-48 and ADCAP torpedoes. Torpedo tubes were located amidships to accommodate the bow-mounted sonar. The sail-mounted dive planes rotate to a vertical position for breaking through the ice when surfacing in Arctic regions.

Beginning with SSN-678 Archerfish units of this class had a 10-foot longer hull, giving them more living and working space than previous submarines of the Sturgeon Class.

A total of six Sturgeon-class boats were modified to carry the SEAL Dry Deck Shelter [DDS], one in 1982 and five between 1988 and 1991. They were SSN 678-680, 682, 684, 686 were listed as “DDS Capable” — either permanently fitted with the DDS or trained with them. In this configuration they were primarily tasked with the covert insertion of Special Forces troops from an attached Dry Deck Shelter (DDS). The Dry Deck Shelter was a submersible launch hanger with a hyperbaric chamber that attaches to the ship’s Weapon Shipping Hatch. The DDS provided the most tactically practical means of SEAL delivery due to its size, capabilities, and location on the ship.

Rapidly phased out in favor of the LOS ANGELES and SEAWOLF Classes of attack submarines, this venerable and flexible workhorse of the submarine attack fleet has been completely retired now. Attracting little publicity during its heyday, this class of ship was the platform of choice for many of the Cold War missions for which submarines were now famous.

SSN 637 USS Sturgeon

Sturgeon’s keel was laid down by General Dynamics Corporation, Groton, CT, 10AUG63; Launched: 26FEB66; Sponsored by Mrs. Everett Dirkson; Commissioned: 3MAR67 with Cdr. Curtis B. Shellman, Jr. in command; Decommissioned: 1AUG94

USS STURGEON (SSN637) was the third ship of the line to bear the name STURGEON and the lead ship of 37 nuclear fast attack submarines of the Sturgeon-class.

STURGEON departed Groton, Connecticut in April 1967 and conducted her shakedown cruise down the east coast with ports of call in Norfolk, Virginia, Charleston, South Carolina, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, St. Croix in the American Virgin Islands, and Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. In September she conducted the first of her many extended submarine operations. Upon return to port, STURGEON was transferred to Development Group 2. In January 1968 the boat began a five week antisubmarine exercise to evaluate the relative effectiveness of the STURGEON and PERMIT class submarines.

In late May and early June of 1968 STURGEON participated in the search for the lost submarine USS SCORPION (SSN-589) in the vicinity of the Azores. She then participated in tests and evaluations of a new sonar detection device from December 1968 to February 1969. After a brief visit to the Naval Academy in March 1969 her crew held intense training for her deployment in May. STURGEON was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation Medal for her outstanding service in 1968. She received a second Meritorious Unit Commendation Medal for completing a special project for the CNO.

From January to April 1970 STURGEON was deployed. She then spent several weeks aiding and evaluating aircraft anti-submarine warfare tactics and equipment. She also participated in intense submarine exercises and sound trials. From October 1970 until October 1971 STURGEON was in overhaul in Groton, Connecticut, where she received the Navy Unit Commendation Medal for exceptional Service in 1970.

After completing her overhaul STURGEON was transferred to Submarine Squadron Ten based at New London. She completed her refresher training and shakedown cruise and then participated in two antisubmarine exercises before returning to Groton for a restricted availability period. Once completed, STURGEON began extensive tests on sonar systems until the end of 1972.

Starting in 1973, STURGEON conducted extended submarine operations in the Narragansett Bay Op Area. In April she sailed to the fleet weapons range in the Caribbean where she ran aground and was forced to return to Groton in June to repair damage. She then conducted extensive local operations and finally entered Portsmouth Naval Shipyard to effect bow repairs. She remained in the yard until April 1974.

After sea trials and a ten day upkeep STURGEON sailed to Norfolk to join other fleet units participating in Atlantic Readiness Exercise 1-73. In November of that same year STURGEON sailed for the Mediterranean for a six-month deployment with the 6th Fleet. STURGEON spent Christmas and New Year’s in Naples, Italy, and then spent the next few months conducting sea trials, ASW exercises and various other operations in the Med. She returned to New London in May 1975 and conducted post deployment standdown. For the rest of 1975 she conducted midshipmen operations and participated in exercises MOBY DICK and OCEAN SAFARI which ended with a port visit in Rosyth, Scotland.

In June 1976 STURGEON was transferred from Squadron Ten to Submarine Squadron Four homeported in Charleston, South Carolina. STURGEON again deployed to the Med in May 1978 here she conducted many special operations and also participated in the Mediterranean ASW Week and National Week XXV. She was highly commended by COMSIXTHFLT for here outstanding performance. She returned to Charleston in November and commenced a well deserved standdown.

In 1979 STURGEON was again making preparations to deploy. She deployed from June until September and had various port visits which included Holy Loch, Scotland and Wilhelmshaven, Germany. Upon return to port she conducted a Selected Restricted Availability period at the Charleston Naval Shipyard.

In September 1980 STURGEON again departed to the Med where she conducted ASW operations and participated in USN PASSEX with the 30th Airwing of Italy. She returned to Charleston in February 1981 for standdown and upkeep. In August 12981 STURGEON participated in OPERATION OCEAN VENTURE 81, Phase IV and crossed the Arctic Circle on 1 September 1981 at 006 41′ East. She was awarded the Battle Efficiency “E,” engineering “E,” the Antisubmarine Warfare and Operations “A” and the Damage Control “DC” for fiscal year 1981.

From January to March 1982 STURGEON conducted special operations. She was the first U.S. nuclear submarine to visit Brest, France, and the first U.S. nuclear submarine since 1969 to visit any French port.

In March 1984 STURGEON provided support for a multi-national task group engaged in amphibious operations in the eastern Atlantic and Norwegian Sea. She also visited Trondheim, Norway where she hosted the Lord Mayor of Trondheim, Commander Trondelag Naval District, and the U.S. Ambassador to Norway.

During January 1985 STURGEON provided vital SEAL support during diver operations. STURGEON at that time completed a record number Lock Ins/Lock Outs for SSN diver operations. She also conducted a number of SEAL full mission profiles and developed new techniques to improve success, particularly in the area associated with rendezvous and recovery. In February STURGEON conducted two special CNO operational evaluations on USS FLYING FISH (SSN-673). In March STURGEON hosted commander Submarine Group SIX.

RADM Stanley Catola, and a group of local businessmen and community leaders on a dependent’s cruise. STURGEON then entered the yards for a non-refueling overhaul at Charleston, South Carolina Naval Shipyard which lasted until November 1986. While in the yards, STURGEON updated her Sonar to the BQWQ-5C, Fire Control to the CCS MK-1 and gave the ship the capability to shoot Tomahawk Missiles.

In early 1987 STURGEON completed all tests and certifications for here new systems satisfactorily. In August she deployed to the Mediterranean, the first deployment since 1985. STURGEON remained in the Med for the rest of 1987 and while there developed new operational procedures for employment of the MK-67 SLMN mines. She returned to Charleston on 31 January 1988.

1988 was highlighted by STURGEON passing a surprise ORSE with superior performance, a TRE with a grade of above average and a NPTI with a grade of outstanding in 10 of 12 categories. She then went into SRA to update the fire control system to give her the capability to shoot ADCAP MK-48 torpedoes. For her efforts in fiscal year 1988 STURGEON was judged as one of the outstanding submarines of the Atlantic Fleet. The boat was awarded a second consecutive Battle “E”, engineering “E” and the Supple “E” for Submarine Squadron Four.

In March 1989 STURGEON deployed to the Arctic Ocean for ICEX 1-89. While deployed she hosted a Congressional delegation on the ice pack. STURGEON also conducted several missions of scientific importance and a joint operation with the British Navy to further develop ASW capabilities. She returned to homeport in June. In September 1989 Hurricane Hugo devastated the South Carolina coast. STURGEON remained in port due to a Steam Generator Inspection and came through the storm with no damage. In the aftermath of the storm STURGEON sailors assisted the local community and provided assistance to 643 families.

STURGEON was again deployed from June to September 1990 and was awarded the Battle “E,” Engineering “E,” ASW “A,” and the Supple “E” for that fiscal year.

In January 1991 STURGEON was included in the highly successful operation SWAMP FOX, a multi-unit exercise that took her to a port visit in Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. From April to June STURGEON completed another highly successful deployment. STURGEON then entered a Selected Restricted Availability and underwent a complete refurbishing, leaving the drydock in mid-October. For her effort in 1991 STURGEON once again was awarded the Battle “E”, ASW “A”, and the Communications “C.”

1992 saw STURGEON completing another highly successful exercise SWAMP FOX 92. After the exercise STURGEON spent a week in Cap Canaveral, Florida. In late August, STURGEON deployed to the North Atlantic, diverting to Faslane, Scotland for repairs. After leaving Faslane for tests in the Irish Sea, STURGEON became entangled in an Irish fisherman’s net. No one was injured and minor damage was done to both vessels. STURGEON then returned to Charleston for repairs.

1993 was STURGEON’s final full year of operation. Intensive training for a highly sensitive CNO project occupied the majority of STURGEON’s time. However, STURGEON had a chance for a port visit to Port Everglades, Florida in July. In early October STURGEON departed Charleston to participate in SWAMP FOX 93-1 and then deploy. STURGEON returned to Charleston in late November following the completion of another very successful deployment.

In December 1993 and January 1994 STURGEON’s crew once more conducted an intense upkeep, preparing for her deactivation ceremony, several short operations, and final transit to Bremerton, Washington for decommissioning. She was deactivated in Charleston, South Carolina on January 14, 1994, and decommissioned on 1 August 1994. She was scrapped at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, 11 Sep 1995.

On September 15, 1995 at the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, Washington, a ceremony commemorated the transfer of the USS STURGEON (SSN637) sail from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. The sail, now located in the museum parking lot, is the only detached sail from a nuclear fast attack submarine on display anywhere in the United States.

Correction from a shipmate: I really enjoy your posts. However, I would like to point out that my qual boat, USS Lapon (SSN 661) sail is on display at American Legion Post 639 in Springfield Missouri. Lapon was also a Sturgeon Class boat.

So Apparently there are two! Good to know but the bucket list just grew again.

The USS Surgeon and I were both decommissioned on the same day (August 1, 1994). As I look at the world around us, I sure do wish both of us could sail again to counter the threats that are emerging. Thank God we have new boats and new submariners willing to raise their hands (twice) and service this great nation.

Mister Mac

 

 

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