Maintain Silence About the Decks 2

Maintain Silence About the Decks.

Life aboard any US Navy vessel is marked by a series of routines. Sailors quickly learn that there are expected behaviors during each of those routines. During refueling operations, the red flag is flown and the word is passed that the smoking lamp is out. Taps is another time of change where sailors try to respect their shipmate’s rest by keeping quiet and turning the lights out in berthing. But one particular routine is as old as the Navy itself. Honoring the Almighty and saying goodbye to a shipmate.

The Church Pennant is the only flag ever flown over the National Ensign at the same point of hoist. It is displayed during church services conducted by a Chaplain, both ashore and afloat. It is also flown when the ceremony for saying goodbye to a shipmate is performed.

Prior to the ceremony, ship’s company all don their dress uniforms and assemble on the appropriate deck. In this modern day and under the circumstances, there would be no way possible for all of us who knew Ronald Spurlock to gather. Based on the many notes of condolences sent in the past few days, I don’t know if we could find a large enough ship to render the honors properly. I would also imagine that many of us would no longer fit into those handsome uniforms we once wore. But I do know this. As a fellow sailor, he would appreciate the gesture.

From everything I knew about this man I never met, he was a patriot, loved his country and honored his time in the United States Navy. He shared his love with us on so many occasions and I always looked forward to his posts. But God knew his time was up and brought him home. I know with certainty that at some point we will all join him there. I am sad that I never got to meet him in person. I felt that I knew him. But I am happy to know we will serve again together in the great beyond.

“Now maintain silence about the decks” is the way all sailors’ attention is drawn to a time of respect. Shipboard life is hectic and chaotic even in its routines. But during this time, we should pause. We should reflect. We should take a moment to say goodbye.

Thank you Ron for your friendship these past few years. I will miss you. I know that your earthly remains are being cared for and those close to Tennessee will be there for your last farewell. But for those of us who can’t be there, I offer one last Naval tradition. When a sailor passes and the distance to shore is too far away, the most time honored tradition for burial at sea.

UNTO Almighty God we commend the soul of our brother departed, and we commit his body to the deep; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection unto eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; at whose coming in glorious majesty to judge the world, the sea shall give up her dead; and the corruptible bodies of those who sleep in him shall be changed, and made like unto his glorious body; according to the mighty working whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself.

Condolences to the Family and God Bless and Keep you Shipmate

Mister Mac

The First Dive – Looking Through a Prism Reply

I have always been fascinated by prisms. As a kid, I loved looking through them at various objects to see what would happen. Without going into the science of it, what you saw as you looked through it was different depending on the angle you looked through it. Another sailor posted a picture on Facebook today that almost immediately made me think of the points of view of all the people who would have been involved in the original picture.

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This picture appears to have been taken in Scotland in the Holy Loch. The base was really more of an anchorage where ballistic missile submarines (and the occasional other fast attack submarine) would come for refitting between patrols. The tender provided many services that the boat was unable to provide for itself and the floating drydock nearby would provide a means for cleaning the hull and other major repairs in a remote location.

LA and Simon Lake

The boats started patrolling fifty years ago and the ships that supported them rotated through for over thirty years except for the drydock USS Los Alamos which stayed for the entire time During those years, the dock had a number of sections changed out but on the whole, parts of it were there nearly non-stop.

As I looked at the picture, it occurred to me that I had been at one time or another one of many of the roles represented in it. Of course I sailed as a submariner then as a Docker. In my last days I served on a tender that had a long history of servicing boats. While our mission had changed by 1991, the Hunley was still configured for her original mission in many ways as well as adapting to the new ones.

Hunley 1994

 

What they were feeling depended on what their point of view was – their own view through a prism.

inside that boat, the sailors and officers were preparing for the first dive after refit. There are very few times in life where something so seemingly simple can be so complex. The vent valves on the ballast tank will open on command but will they close? Were the seals on the hatches cleaned and inspected before closing? What major systems were worked on during refit that might cause a problem? Did you get all of the air out of the hydraulic lines, especially the ones for the planes controls? For the older guys, a feeling of sadness knowing that it will be sixty or more days before they get to talk to a loved one again. For the new guys, its that feeling of mixed excitement at a first dive and a nagging fear that anyone one of the things listed above could go wrong. For the officer’s its that lurking Russian trawler just beyond the Clyde waiting to give them a hard time on their way to work. For the tender guys, its just another boat in a long rotation of boats with another one soon to follow. On shore, the people of Dunoon see a shadow filled with customers and men who often drank too much knowing there would be no more drinks for the months ahead. Somewhere back in the states there was an empty feeling in the homes of the families who may have wished that last phone call could have lasted a few minutes longer.

What about in the heartland?

In the heartland of America, there was nothing. Not a feeling of something special or different about to happen. Not a fear in the world that some Soviet boat might be at that very minute patrolling near their coasts. Not a streak of an ICBM over the dawn sky. Because at the heart of it all, men who sailed on that boat and worked on those tenders and docks were so very damn good at their jobs.

What is most interesting to me is the resurgence of the Russian missile forces and the growth of the Chinese. The first submarine response was necessary for the continued freedom of mankind from tyrannical forces. I hope we have not lost the learning that was achieved during the First Cold War. It appears we may need some of those lessons again.

Mister Mac

AFDB-7 Los Alamos Holy Loch Scotland “IN THE BEGINNING…” 22

For the second time in the history of theleansubmariner, I am posting an article from a Shipmate that I have come to know via our common interests in history and events that shaped it. This article comes from Norman Rachels SWE4 (formerly of the United States Navy). Norm was one of the guys who arrived early enough to see Site One come together in a very meaningful way… this is his story.

Thanks for all your hard work both then and in putting this together Shipmate!

Mister Mac

 

“IN THE BEGINNING….”

Mr. Mac posted a blog on August 1st, 2011 titled “Bagpipes and Boomers and Beer, oh my!”[1]   The sub heading was, “Holy Loch, Scotland”…….and THAT CAUGHT MY ATTENTION. In fact, that was how I stumbled across his blog back on August 3rd, 2013. You see, my 50th wedding anniversary was coming up on the 21st and I was still looking for something unusual for my wife and had been Goggling Scotland for quite some time looking for the perfect gift.

Why, you might ask? Because she is from Glasgow, Scotland and we were married there on August 21st, 1963. I met her on my first day ashore in Dunoon, Scotland, arriving on May 27, 1961 aboard the USS DE SOTO COUNTY. I was a Seabee in MCB-4 (Mobile Construction Battalion Four) and the main body was heading for Rota, Spain.

Fortunately for me, I had been assigned to DETACHMENT KILO and was disembarking with the main body of Kilo to spend my stay in Scotland, in the Holy Loch, on a floating barracks ship, APL-42, which we affectionately called, “The Apple”. The purpose of Detachment Kilo was to erect a floating dry dock capable of docking Polaris submarines.

The dock had been in storage in Green Cove Springs, Florida since WWII and Detachment Kilo was formed in the spring of 1960 to assist in the reactivation of AFDB-7. With the completion of reactivation on the dry dock sections, preparations were begun for the long tow across the Atlantic. This involved the inventory and stowage of all equipment and procuring provisions for the 30-day voyage. The tows left Green Cove Springs, Florida the end of April. Not only were the four sections of the dry dock separately towed but also the barracks ship (APL-42) and a floating warehouse (YFNB-32). Also towed behind the A and B sections of the dock were two barges. It was the largest tow since World War II.[2]

Dock 1  Dock 2

Work commenced on the dry dock sections under the direction of LCDR W. E. Nims, officer-in-charge of Det. KILO, on June 2, 1961. By the 23rd the first wing walls had been raised and by August 10th dock sections A and B had been welded together. Difficulties plagued KILO’s work, the largest being the inclement weather which resulted in faulty welds which had to be cut out and re-welded. Shelters were built around the crews to protect them and the welds where work continued night and day…….and so did the troublesome weather. The core of KILO’s work on the floating dry dock enveloped the steelworkers. Intricate welds, hampering weather and long hours produced a strain evident in the steelworker crews by deployment’s end. Forming the backbone of the steelworker crews were 11 men who had graduated in April 1961 from the Davisville, (RI) (Home of the Seabees) [3] Class “C” Welding and Certification School. All phases of horizontal, vertical, overhead and pipe welding were covered to give the men technical experience for the task they faced. Honor man of the class, J. M. Frizzel lauded the school for the interest shown each individual. Passing on the knowledge and interest acquired in school, the graduates helped promote more efficient steelworker crews in KILO. Addressing the graduating class, LCDR Nims stated that the steelworkers would have the most critical phase of the dry dock assembly.[4]

Dock 3

On top of Section A looking at B going up. I took this picture using a Polaroid camera in 1961. All my black and white pictures are from the same camera

On August 15th sections A and B were ready for the first test dive. However, as the dock descended a fault was discovered in the levelometer system and the submergence test had to be postponed. To repair this deficiency it was necessary to call upon the ONLY LIVING EXPERT ON THIS SYSTEM, age 72, Mr. “T”, as he was known. By September 16th A and B sections were prepared for another try at submergence and were successful.

The next task was to transfer a gantry crane from the back of one of the remaining C and D sections TO THE TOP OF THE WALL on A and B  This was accomplished on September 18th.[5]

 

How… you ask? By sinking sections A and B, building bridge rails across to the back of the section holding the crane then pulling it across with block and tackle.

Normally, this would mean the completion of the hardest task of erection and the beginning of a downhill jog. But events became more hectic for KILO. The weather worsened. The Ingersoll Rand main generator engine broke down and it became obvious that a longer working week was necessary to meet the operational date of November 1st, 1961. The work schedule was pushed to six days a week, 12 hours a day. By October 4th section C was joined to A and B sections and on October 22nd the last section, D, was incorporated. The work schedule was increased to seven days a week, 12 or more hours a day.[6] (funny, I don’t remember getting OT).

Dock 4   Dock 5

Note the crane on the back left of a section and the wing walls are lying down and on hinges with the tops facing each other. The crane(s) had to go from this position to the top of erected wing walls. The left picture was taken in Green Cove Springs, FL before the tow. I took the picture on the right from the top of section A showing a crane on the back of C section, the wing walls still down, which could not be raised because of the position of the crane. The cranes cable drum is almost as large as a pick-up truck. A Mike boat is approaching on the unusually calm waters of Holy Loch.

Below gantry structures are going up for the outer rail for the cranes to run on. The other rail was atop the outer edge of the wing walls.

Dock 6       Dock 7

In the second picture below you can see one of the 30,000 pound anchors used to hold the dock in place. Twenty-four were used with 3 inch chain links which weighed 86 lbs. each. We had 3 miles of chain and dropped 24 anchors in 90 feet of water, only having to re-drop one.

  Dock 81

Dock 9

The first crane is being transferred to the top of wing walls A and B. Note the gantry structure at water level in the picture on the right and the crane at the back of section C. This was the FIRST TIME THE AFDB-7 HAD BEEN UNDER WATER SINCE WWII. These color pictures were taken with my Bell & Howell 8 MM movie camera and I had the 2 & ¾ inch reels of film converted to a DVD & received several still pictures like these also. All my color pictures are from the 8 MM films.

Cranes were pulled across with ropes, blocks & tackles.

Dock 10 Dock 11

Dock 12 Dock 13

I took these pictures from the upper deck of the APL-42 showing section C wing walls going up after the crane had been placed on top of sections A and B. Note the workers on the jacks in the picture on the right, changing the pin positions. The left picture below shows a close up of the jacks with the holes for a large pin to be inserted as each side is raised about a foot. The pin holds up one side while the jack on the other side of the same wall is lowered, a pin removed, and then jacked up two notches, and re-inserted. The process is then repeated for the opposite wall. It took almost 16 hours to raise the walls for each of the four sections. Naturally the ballast must be controlled for the shifting weight. That’s why the 72 year old “Mr. T.” came in and repaired the system.

Dock 14 Dock 15

The above picture on the right is from the top of section C looking at our “home away from home”, the APL-42, or as we called it, “the Apple” (a floating barracks ship).

Dock 16

This is a different view of the Apple showing it had been moved to a different position in relation to the dock, and also one of the outer crane rails on the gantry structure is visible on the right.

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I took these pictures with my Polaroid Land camera from the top of section A showing Seabees installing the deck between the rails of the cranes.

Dock 17 Dock 18

 

Dock 19

This award winning night photo shows flawed welds being cut out and would be welded again. After completion the welds would again be x-rayed for flaws.

Dock 20 Dock 21

The top picture shows a crane atop completed sections while the bottom right area shows another wall going up. The lower picture is the nearly finished AFDB-7. Note the small crane on the barrage in front.

 

Finished AFDB-7, is sitting high, waiting for a sub.       U.S.S. Patrick Henry is the first sub into the dock.

Dock 22 Dock 23

“….Yours is a significant contribution to fleet readiness of which you can be justly proud…Three points exemplify your outstanding performance. First, the high degree of competence in the fine art of seamanship is most gratifying. Second, your adherence to schedule shows dogged determination and much resourcefulness and imitative. Finally, your safety record be-speaks the skill of every man. Each of these is the more important for the adverse weather conditions which you combated. “The difficulty involved and the result realized are the measure of your accomplishment…..Well Done.

     ADM H.P. Smith, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Navy Forces, Europe      

Fighting all the obstacles, KILO missed the proposed completion date only a week. By November 6th the final submergence test had been accomplished.

As the 300 men of KILO who were in Scotland can testify, a description of the Holy Loch deployment made in April 1961 by CAPT. J.C. Tate, Commander Construction Battalions U.S. Atlantic Fleet held true at the deployment’s close in November: “one of the most interesting job of any of the Seabee battalions.”

On 10 November 1961, six months work on deployment, plus many more months of preparation for the deployment, closed in a ceremony in which Det. KILO OIC, LCDR W.E. Nims, transferred the dry dock to CAPT Walter Schlech, COMSUBRON 14, who in turn placed it in the custody of the AFDB-7 OIC, LT R.O. Melcher. The watch was set, and thus to Holy Loch a new addition for the service of Polaris submarines.

Three days later, the detachment, with the exception of a 60-man rear echelon boarded the USNS GORDON, sailed from the Holy Loch and headed for home.

Holy Loch is nestled in the Scottish Highlands a setting of verdant, rolling hills, picturesque Lochs, parks, kilts and tamoshanters. A land where the whiskey is strong and the people are friendly. Regardless of brooding Scottish skies, liberty became one of the memorable aspects of the deployment at Holy Loch. A short ride in a “Mike” boat from the APL-42 to Ardnadam pier and one was ashore. Only a few minutes ride by bus and personnel could be in the Scottish holiday resort of Dunoon, Scotland, home of the Cowal Highland Games. Many enjoyable evenings were spent by KILO men at Dunoon dancing at the pavilion or ‘quaffing” Lager at one of Dunoon’s inviting pubs.[12] (It’s like drinking, but you spill more. With 3 pints to go and only 2 minutes before they would be thrown out of the pub (bar),quaffing was a given.)

Dock 24     Dock 25

 

The Ardnadam pier was used for embarking and debarking to the Apple and AFDB-7 as well as the submarine tenders.

Returning from liberty in Glasgow via steam trains, we would then take the ferry from Gourock to Dunoon except when we missed the last one. Then we had to take a Mike boat from the Admiralty pier at Caldwell Bay in Gourock, pictured on the right and showing the Holy Loch in the background. I remember we would always be hungry and usually purchased two “fish & chips”, one to eat right-a-way, and the other on the trip to the Apple about 7 or 8 miles away.

Dock 26    Dock 27

About the author:             Norman Rachels SWE4

Below I am standing on the “Apple” with the first two sections, A & B being joined together in the back ground. I remember as my buddy and I went ashore the first time, at least 8, 9, 10 or more people stopped us on the street and invited us to dinner that night; several even asked us to spend the night. Coming from near a large military base, Ft. Bragg, NC, I could never imagine a soldier there getting the same reception. Since we did not take up any of the “offers”, I can now say that I am glad we didn’t. Later that evening, I met my wife of 50+ years at the Crown Court Café & Bar on Argyll Street, Dunoon.

Dock 28   Dock 29

Steelworker Erector E-3 in 1961                                      Crown Court Café & Bar, Dunoon

 

This AFDB 7 plaque, along with the picture of the docked sub, & the Crewmember certificate was given to me by LCDR R.A. Nance of the AFDB-7 when I visited in September, 1989.

Dock 30  Dock 31 Dock 32

Dock 33

MCB-4 Plaque

Dock 34

MCB-4 Battalion Patch

Dock 35

MCB-4 Cruise Book 1961

Dock 36  Dock 37

August 21st 1963 Glasgow, Scotland                                 August 21st, 2013 Scottsdale, AZ

 

[1]theleansubmariner.com

[2] This paragraph and the two pictures are from MCB-4 Cruise Book of 1961

[3] Davisville Naval Base no longer exists.

[4] This paragraph is from MCB-4 Cruise Book of 1961.

[5] The above two paragraphs are from MCB-4 Cruise Book of 1961

[6] This paragraph is from MCB-4 Cruise Book of 1961

[7] This photo is from MCB-4 Cruise Book of 1961

[8] These two pictures were taken with my Bell & Howell 8 MM movie camera and film converted to a DVD

[9] Picture on left was taken with Bell & Howell 8 mm camera, picture on right with Polaroid Land Camera.

[10] Picture is from the MCB-4 Cruise Book.

[11] I am not sure where I got this picture. The USS Patrick Henry in the AFDB-7 is from the MCB-4 Cruise Book.

[12] These 6 paragraphs are from the MCB-4 Cruise Book of 1961.

[13] The above pier picture is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.   Attribution: John Fergusonhttp://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ardnadam_Pier_Holy_Loch_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1750930.jpg No changes made .

[14] Ardnadam Pier Hotel picture is from the MCB-4 Cruise Book of 1961.

[15] Admiralty pier, Caldwell Bay in Gourock. (taken in 1956 – no copyright)

[16] I do not know where I obtained this picture.

[17] LCDR Nance, Commanding Officer, AFDB-7 personalized a note in the upper left corner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

USS Hunley AS-31 (Cold Warrior Extraordinaire) 8

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Its hard to believe that a little over twenty years ago I checked on board the USS Hunley. The ship was already about thirty years old when I got to her as the Machinery Division Officer (later Auxiliary Division). The previous two years had been spent in Holy Loch Scotland where the Hunley had spent a number of years long before my time. Now she was In Norfolk and the budgetary affects of the end of the Cold War were about to set in.

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The Hunley was an interesting ship and one of only two built like her (Holland was the other). Her propulsion came from six main engines tied through a giant converter to produce enough AC electricity to turn the giant squirrel cage induction motor. That motor could turn the single screw just fast enough to make fifteen or sixteen knots on a clear and calm sea with a strong wind at our back. She was not built for speed.

scan0001

Being built for speed was not her purpose though. In the beginning of the cold war, our submarine missile launch capability was limited by the technology. In order not to lose too much patrol time, submarine tenders from World War 2 were quickly converted and Hunley and Holland headed the line of new construction tenders. Each new tender would have greater capability and a different type of propulsion system. But Hunley’s all electric engine rooms served a unique dual purpose.

When the subs would come along side, Hunley was able to provide them with electricity, a source for air conditioning and a complete shop to make just about anything. She had fresh and canned food, basic supplies, diesel fuel, and anything the boats needed to fulfill their mission.

She was not without her challenges though. Several design flaws continued to haunt the Hunley throughout her career. The engine rooms were ventilated with forced draft air. That did not take into account the atmospheric conditions found in some of her operating areas. In other words, she got a bit warm in the tropics.

The little boilers were kept up as good as they could be for their age, but occasionally they would give themselves a rest at just the wrong time. As good as the air conditioning units were in their day, they had mostly fallen on hard times by the time I got there.

The engine exhausts were an interesting experiment as well and from time to time caught on fire. Since a million gallons of diesel fuel capacity wrapped both engine rooms, God Bless the folks that got the fires out before it was too late.

Hunley Aft ER-2 Hunley Aft ER-3

The last unique design “issue” was throwing the main contact to engage the main engines to the propulsion system. The lever had to be manually operated. This is one position where as the EOOW, I always made sure I had my biggest and strongest electricians ready for. Towards the end, the contacts (which were made of gold by the way) would stick as we were coming in to the pier. I was not on watch that day but will never forget the sound of the Captain screaming at the CHENG through the MC.

To the Hunley’s credit, she didn’t let those things halt her forward progress.  Not only did we pass OPPE with flying colors, we also upgraded the ship well enough to pass an INSURV right before the the Navy decided that she had to be retired due to the post Cold War budget cuts. On the day she was announced for retirement, all ten engines were running and in pretty decent shape.

We had installed a new galley, new AC units throughout the ship, and every major piece of equipment was in fighting condition. The men and women of the Hunley answered the call with no hesitation when Hurricane Andrew hit south Florida. Our people were rewarded for their four months of hard work with the Humanitarian Service Medal.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t thrilled to have the EOOW watch during that North Atlantic storm in the early winter of 93. I had all the mains on line and could barely hold 3 knots. But the men and women in both forward and aft engine rooms (as well as the many folks up topside) proved that they were as good a crew as any I served with in twenty two years.

Hunley Jeannie Keith Hunley Jeannie and Mark

One member of my Auxiliary Division was a young third class when I knew her. Today, she is a Major in the Air Force and fought in the Liberation of Iraq. I think some of the “men” who wasted so much time giving the women a hard time couldn’t have held her “battle rattle” on a good day.

Hunley 1994

Hunley is gone now, sold for scrap. I can’t even guess how many thousands of crew members sailed on her. The only ones I would just as soon forget know who they are so I will leave them to their retirements in peace. But I will always remember the fine men and women who took her around the world and made her work to the best of their ability. God Bless them All.

scan0003       USS Hunley Decom Invite 1994

Hunley ER Men  Hunley EN

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Mister Mac

on the dock 2

  Retirement 3

Address to a Haggis 5

From 1961 – 1992, two cultures were given the opportunity to live side by side and learn from each other at a place called Holy Loch Scotland

The locals taught the incoming Yanks how to eat Fish and Chips, the right way to drink Scotch, and a wee bit about the old ways. The Yanks brought Rock and Roll, Blue Jeans, and an insatiable hunger for life. Every sailor who came left with his or her own experiences but it was truly their own fault if they never left the ship or dock to mix it up with the good people of Dunoon and Sandbank. Life long relationships and marriages resulted in a complete mixing of the cultures. The day they announced the shut down will remain one of the saddest of my life.

Most of us learned something while we were there. Some learned to appreciate the sound of a thousand pipes playing against the backdrop of the highlands. Some of us learned Scottish athletics at the Cowal Games. More than a few learned about something called a pub crawl as well. But all left with unique experiences that have stayed with them ever since.

One such memory is the smell and tasty anticipation for the delightful dish of Haggis. While the wily Haggis Beasty that roams the highlands is very hard to find and even harder to catch, enough of them were able to be trapped to fill the belly’s of more than one lucky Yank. So on this day of memory for the National Poet of Scotland, I thought it was appropriate to honor the memory of that savory treat as well.

 

220px-Robert_burns         220px-Haggis

As a public service, I hereby offer a translation of the famous Address to the Haggis just in time for Robert Burns Birthday on January 25th. Scots Aye!

Original text Idiomatic translation
Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak yer place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace
As lang’s my airm.
Nice seeing your honest, chubby face,
Great chieftain of the sausage race!
Above them all you take your place,
Belly, tripe, or links:
Well are you worthy of a grace
As long as my arm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
The groaning platter there you fill,
Your buttocks like a distant hill,
Your pin would help to mend a mill
In time of need,
While through your pores the dews distill
Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour dicht,
An cut you up wi ready slicht,
Trenching your gushing entrails bricht,
Like onie ditch;
And then, Oh what a glorious sicht,
Warm-reekin, rich!
His knife see rustic Labour sharpen,
And cut you up with practiced skill,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like any ditch;
And then, Oh what a glorious sight,
Warm-steaming, rich!
Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:
Deil tak the hindmaist, on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
‘Bethankit’ hums.
Then, spoon for spoon, they stretch and strive:
Devil take the hindmost, on they drive,
‘Til all their well-swollen bellies soon
Are tight as drums;
Then old Master, most likely to burst,
‘Thanks Be’ hums.
Is there that ower his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?
Is there one, that over his French ragout,
Or olio that would give pause to a sow,
Or fricassee that would make her spew
With perfect loathing,
Looks down with sneering, scornful view
On such a dinner?
Poor devil! see him ower his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit:
Thro bloody flood or field to dash,
Oh how unfit!
Poor devil! See him over his trash,
As feeble as a withered rush,
His spindly leg a good whip-lash,
His fist a nit:
Through bloody flood or field to dash,
Oh how unfit!
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his wallie nieve a blade,
He’ll make it whissle;
An legs an arms, an heads will sned,
Like taps o thrissle.
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his sturdy fist a blade,
He’ll make it whistle;
And legs and arms, and heads will cut,
Like tops of thistle.
Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if Ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!
You Pow’rs, that make mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill of fare,
Old Scotland wants no watery ware
That slops in bowls:
But, if You wish her grateful prayer,
Give her a Haggis!

 

At the end of the poem, a Scotch whisky toast will be proposed to the haggis, then the company will sit down to the meal.

Glass of cheer

The haggis is traditionally served with mashed potatoes (tatties) and mashed swede (neeps).

Tatties and neeps

A dessert course, cheese courses, coffee, etc. may also be part of the meal.

Yum Yum Yum

And of course, ending the whole lot with a very sentimental (if not soggy) rendition of Auld Lang Syne

imagesCA2CML8K

Happy Birthday Robert!

Mister Mac

Scotland 91 3

Happy Hogmanay 5

The Scots invented many things over the years that have proven quite useful to mankind. The list of inventions and innovations is enough to make your head spin, so suffice it to say that they were (and are) a very clever people. See more here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_inventions_and_discoveries

Watt Steam Can you hear me now US NavyGlobal Warming started here Important stuff

One of my favorite inventions though is the Celebration of Hogmanay. There are many legends of how the celebration came about. Hogmanay’s beginnings may harken back to the celebration of the winter solstice among the Norse, probably incorporating customs from the Gaelic celebration of Samhain. The Vikings (or what we call uninvited guests in my side of the house) celebrated Yule, which later contributed to the Twelve Days of Christmas, or the “Daft Days” as they were sometimes called in Scotland. The whole winter festival program went underground with the Protestant Reformation and ensuing years, but came back with a vengeance near the end of the 17th century.

Throughout Scotland it is celebrated in many different ways but one of the most common customs is known as First Footing. This invention is nothing less than pure genius. The first person who steps across your doorstep is supposed to set the stage for your luck for the rest of the year. That person will traditionally bring a gift such as salt (less common today), coal, shortbread, whisky, and black bun (a rich fruit cake) intended to bring different kinds of luck to the householder.

Haggis

Food and drink (as the gifts) are then presented to the guests. This may go on throughout the wee hours of the morning and well into the next day. I can’t prove this but I have even heard that the celebration now can extend into the middle of the month of January… Brilliant!!!

Traditionally, tall dark men are preferred as the first-foot. (There are some neighborhoods in the US where this may actually not be a good thing but tradition is tradition).

One Hogmanay custom which has spread almost the world over is the singing of the Robert Burns classic “Auld Lang Syne”. It is common for the participants to link arms and sing it at the first stroke of midnight. Most people who have heard it before can be seen to tear up a bit… especially if they got a jump on the first footing custom.

The world could use a little Hogmanay. We could all use a blessing for our lives and homes. Our country is a blending of many wonderful cultures and the ability to bring the best of those cultures into our homes without destroying our American culture is one of our strengths. But tonight, as American as I am, I will be listening to Black Watch recording of Auld Lang Syne.

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God Bless you and yours. May this New Year bring the best to your life and thank you for letting me take up a bit of your day.

Mister Mac

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The Flowers of The Forest Reply

In the misty legends of Scotland, there are many songs that are interwoven with the victories and defeats of her native sons in glorious conflicts. The great pipes blew violently across the field as part of the offensive tactics of the Chiefs.

Battle of Flodden

You can almost feel them pierce the air of a cold Scottish morning while lines of kilted warriors come racing towards each other. The louder the noise, the more it covers the sound of axes crashing into metal and bone. The cries of the mortally wounded are covered with the bleating of the air rushing through the reeds until the last sword is swung and the battle is done.

In the end, it is the music alone that remains. Lives end. Legends are often the only survivors of a grand melee. Around the campfires at night, men tell tales of the way the fight travelled form one end of the field to another. Who won is often determined by who had the best version that would last through antiquity and be recorded by a poet or scribe. The main goal was to create a lasting enough memory to justify their brave sacrifices and try to calm a mother’s broken heart.

lost battle of Flodden

The Flowers of the Forest is a memorial song derived from one of the greatest and noblest defeats Scotland ever suffered, the Battle of Flodden Field. Some sources claim that over 10,000 Scottish souls were lost including many of the nobles of the auld Scotland.

The song has been used again and again over the years to honor and commemorate the lives of men fallen in battle from across the British Isles. Besides Amazing Grace, it will always be one of the most memorable of laments to those who have served under the Union Jack.

Playing the FOTF

As a younger man, I was part of another great force that fought a different kind of war. Our greatest goal was to never use the weapons that we had at our disposal. More importantly, we wanted to make sure the other guy knew that he would pay an unimaginable price if he ever used his.

The Cold War

Time magazine patrol

The longest and most expensive war in modern history was the shadow war that started in 1945 barely a few days after the end of World War 2. The Soviets had secretly integrated spies throughout the unsuspecting Western Countries and solidified their hold over the border countries. In a series of steps, each side ramped up their defensive and offensive postures and systems. The launch of Sputnik added a new dimension of threat and resulted in the birth of the strategic nuclear missile submarine programs for both sides.

1960 submarine silhouettes

The battles lasted until 1991

In December of that year, the Soviet Union gives up its last gasp of life and on Christmas Day 1991, the Hammer and Sickle was lowered over the Kremlin for the last time.

Soviet flag

In the twenty years since that fateful day, many changes have occurred on both sides

A different kind of war has emerged for a new generation and the old generation has begun to quietly take their place in the Forest. There is no greater reminder to the men of that age than the rise of a new kind of “Flower” in the shape of monuments to glorious days of the past.

http://www.esryle.com/coblinks/links/MUSEUMS.html

While I still think I am young at heart, nothing ages you quicker than seeing the sail of a boat you served on placed on a hill side with markers and monuments all around it.

Nothing brings back the memories faster than seeing that cold metal symbol forever landlocked instead of plowing through the oceans protecting both her crew and the nation she served.

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I am grateful for the chance to see her one more time and bring back the memories of red lights and flank speed runs and angles and dangles. I am filled with emotion for those who have slowly passed into the great beyond, some known and others only found in a surprise announcement from a friend on a submarine page or Facebook.

Navy Seal and Eagle

Thanks to all those who cared for and supported their brothers on Tenders, shore facilities and Dry docks in far away lands or here at home. Your service was a great contribution to the peace that was maintained.

Holy Loch 1989 as19_4

Thanks to the men who defied logic and manned the boats that plied the ocean’s deep. Your sacrifice will never be fully recognized but we live in a better place because of it. If you do not belong to USSVI, I would encourage you to do so today. This great organization is keeping the memory of our brothers alive and helping to make a difference for the future.

It is a shame that there is no national recognition of those Flowers of the Forest who helped to win that war.

I want to personally thank all of the ones who remain and especially all of those who have passed.

Twenty years ago this month,

all of your efforts resulted in a great victory.

God Bless You.

Mister Mac

 

Note: Every war fought by the United States, was honored by a medal issued to those members authorized and who displayed honorable service. The Cold War has never been officially recognized for this type of honor. While some organizations have created a medal for the time period, it has never been officially recognized by the Federal Government.

My Trusty Old .45 3

As a kid growing up, one of my favorite shows was a realistic World War 2 action series called “Combat!”.

Sergeant Saunders (Vic Morrow) was my hero and his adventures with Kirby, Little John, Cage and Lieutenant Hanley and Doc. The series ran form 1962 to 1967 which is pretty remarkable since the actual war in Europe lasted less than a year. Interestingly enough, the platoon never actually made it out of France in the whole five years.

CombatDVD

The part that I really loved about the show was the weapons. You could get a real sense of the war from the scenes where the platoon fought harsh battles with overwhelming forces of Germans. Week after week, you could see the ability and limitations of those guns. From the Thompson to the M1 Garand, each weapon played its role. But none seemed more important than the trusty old .45 that Saunders and Hanley both carried.

45

That weapon was a sign of authority and normally only carried by higher ranking folks. It was a significant weapon since it was at the ready if you ever blew through your whole supply of ammunition (easy enough to do when you are surrounded by dangerous enemies). It was the last ditch weapon besides the combat knife they all carried but it was the one I wanted the most. Apparently based on the proliferation of anniversary replicas of the 1911 A1 45 caliber semi-automatic pistol this year, I really believe I was not the only one who felt that way.

We would play combat in the neighborhood and I always managed to have a replica tucked into my waistband (made of plastic and mostly green colored). I think I can only remember having a holster once or twice but it didn’t matter. Along with my other weapons, that 45 gave me a feeling of confidence that I would be able to kill or capture anything that came down the Cemetery Hill behind our house. Those were great years since just like Combat, when someone was shot the camera always managed to be looking the other way. You may see dead guys lying around but you rarely saw any blood shooting out of them.

Just as all childhood games come to a close, so did our time in combat. The players gradually drifted away to do other things and eventually there were not enough guys to mount a decent campaign. It was a shame since that was about the time that war toys hit their peak. Johnny Seven OMA (one man army) Thompson subs made of real wood and metal, and all manner of die cast pot metal rifles and accessories.

Johnny seven secret_sam_ad_dr10

Then in a few short years, they were all gone, victims of an increasingly gun wary populace. Some blame could be attributed to a series of high profile assassinations and some blame could be given to the escalating war in Viet Nam. In any case, it didn’t matter to me because in the following years I discovered that girls had better things to offer

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My attraction to actual guns was frustrated by the fact that despite a long military heritage, we had no weapons in the house. Okay, an old Spencer Repeater from the civil war was present but you certainly wouldn’t fire it. My Mom and Dad refused to even entertain the purchase of a .22 so I had to live a life of complete firearms celibacy.

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All that pent up frustration finally led to the only action I knew would get me closer to my goal. That is why at the age of 17 I convinced my folks to let me sign up for the Navy as a Gunners Mate designee. I was destined to ride into combat on a PBR somewhere in Southeast Asia and no one was going to stop me.

MM Rate Book

Except maybe a classification clerk in Boot Camp who changed my field to Machinist Mate designee. I don’t know what that person’s name was but I do remember feeling cheated at the time. What little I knew of Machinist Mates I read in my trusty Bluejackets manual and there was hardly even a mention of a weapon. Not only that but all of our weapons training in Boot Camp was cancelled meaning I was to graduate to the fleet with NO WEAPONS TRAINING at all. But a contract is a contract and I followed the path that I was sent on.

After another year of school and temporary assignments, I finally found myself on the crew of the USS George Washington. The most amazing thing then happened. I was assigned to assist the Petty Officer of the Deck in guarding the topside of the ship.

To do this, they issued me my very first .45.

Now mind you, I had still not shot a weapon (even in training) but the need was there and in the darkness of the evening, my Petty Officer showed me the actual workings of the weapon. Well, relative darkness since we were tied up to the Proteus and those powerful security lights were starkly bright in some places.

Proteus early 70s

I am not sure who we were guarding the boat against. If any swimmers had appeared they would have been easily spotted by the watches on the Tender or by us. I was prepared to draw my weapon and insert the clip as I had been shown, draw back the slide and proceed to empty the first magazine. Yes, that’s right, I was standing topside watch with a gun I had never fired that was not loaded. I never once feared that I would flinch in my duty or fail to remember the exact sequence of actions to put bullets on targets.

45 2

Two things happened during the next upkeep period that forever changed my views about my role as a combat character. The first was my first trip to the firing range. We were issued stock .45’s which had probably actually been built in 1911 and were so loose, they rattled as you handled them. As anyone who routinely shoots can attest to, the guns we had would challenge the most magnificent and experienced marksman. The fact that I have small hands did not aid in my aim either. I did a pitiful qualification round (actually more of a familiarization round).

The day was not a complete waste however since we were allowed to have one magazine each on the ship’s Thompson. Yes, that’s right, another one of my dreams come true. I doubt I hit anything at the Marine range that day in Guam but our visit was cut short when one of my shipmates underestimated the climb rate of a Thompson being fired full auto. The Marine Sergeant was not impressed at all with the holes that suddenly appeared in the tin roof of the dugout where we were firing. Especially since he was standing on top of the roof a few yards away. We were asked to leave.

thompson

The second thing that happened was on my last night as a Topside Petty Officer. As you may recall, the Proteus had those magnificently bright security lights on top shining down on our boat. It was a mid watch and we had just settled down into a routine of drinking coffee and imagining what it would be like to sleep an entire night without being woken up for any reason. Liberty had just expired on the tender and we could see shadows of people moving about the decks above us. Our own crew was also returning from Andy’s Hut and you could tell there was a dust up by the torn shirts and sailors helping the less fortunate down the brow.

Apparently earlier that evening, there was indeed an altercation between our boys and some tender folks. I don’t know who the winner was, I just remember the OOD from the tender coming down the brow and informing me that he expected all of our guys to stay on board for the night and sleep it off. We both saluted him and said the obligatory Aye Aye sirs and we all went about our business.

Sometime after 0100, it happened. From somewhere behind those powerful bright security lights, objects started flying towards the submarine. I cannot recall all of what was thrown but do remember having the presence of mind to remember my training (or what there was of it).

1. Is your life in danger?

2. Is the life of anyone under your charge in danger?

3. Is the ship or its weapons in danger?

4. if yes to any of the three, don’t be a damn fool, call away a security violation and lock and load.

Finally, a chance to prove I would take a bullet if I had to. I was shaking so bad that I dropped the first clip. I quickly recovered and with a flourish that would make Vic Morrow proud, I locked and loaded my first round. What I did not take into account however was that the tender guys, upon hearing security violation and seeing the two of us aimlessly pointing our 45s at the upper lights, would react with their own team which consisted of a lot of Marines with M-16s, shotguns and M-14s. At that point I realized we were probably outgunned.

We were all frozen in time for a few minutes trying to sort out what to do next when the Duty officer came up from down below with his .45. There were some heated words between the two ships but it became apparent that this was nothing more than some drunks trying to exact the last word. We all stood down and I was anxiously waiting for my heart to restart. The next day, a debrief was held and to the Captain’s credit, he gave us some slack. The ship would leave for patrol the next day and we all had a few months to get past the event. I qualified below decks watch and was never again to stand topside watch on the GW.

I carried a .45 a number of other times in my later career. This time, I made sure that I had more than enough practice and always viewed the duty with a lot more respect. The last time I carried it was during the first Gulf War. I had recently been promoted to CWO2 and was at my first duty station as an officer.

The night the attack in the Gulf started all of the officers were recalled to the command and issued .45s with two clips. We were instructed to keep them with us at all times and be ready. To this very day, I am not sure who thought Holy Loch Scotland was in imminent danger from either Scuds or the Republican Guard, but by jiminy, we were ready to repel boarders on the Los Alamos.  Fortunately our role only lasted for a few days and the weapons were returned to wherever they came from.

Holy Loch 1989

Some lessons about the .45 I will take to my grave:

  • Its better to have one and not need one than the opposite.

  • Even the best gun in the world is almost useless if it isn’t loaded and handled by someone who is trained

  • If you are going to carry it, be prepared to use it. If you pull it, make sure you mean to fire it.

  • A .45, like any other weapon, is useless if you think the guy aiming his gun at you won’t pull the trigger. You might as well just hand him your weapon and bend over and kiss your ass goodbye.

As I watched the news about the Iranian terrorists who were attempting to attack us, I thought a lot about the people leading us.

God, I hope they don’t issue them any .45’s.

Mister Mac

 From an interview with Rick Jason, his co star on the series:

Vic Morrow had an absolute dislike of firearms. He used a Thompson submachine gun in our series, but that was work. In any other respect he’d have nothing to do with them. On one of the few days we got off early while there were still several hours of daylight left, I said to him, “I’ve got a couple of shotguns in the back of my station wagon. You want to shoot some skeet?”
Without so much as a pause he responded, “No, thanks. I can’t stand to kill clay.”
He knew he could always break me up and during our five years together he did it quite a bit. His sense of humor happened to tickle my funny bone and he knew he had my number.”

I would have never guessed that.

Bagpipes and Boomers and Beer, oh my! 7

Holy Loch Scotland

One of the saddest days of my life was the day we left Dunoon Scotland and the Holy Loch so many years ago. It was 1991, our tour was shortened by the end of the Cold War drawdown and I was headed to a tour as M Division officer on the Hunley. But we packed a lot into that short tour of fourteen months.

We arrived at the end of summer in 1990 to take over the duties on the USS Los Alamos AFDB 7 as the Docking and Repair Officer. The Los Alamos was one of the best investments ever made in Naval history. It was originally designed as a seven section floating dry-dock. Both seven and ten section dry-docks were built  to be big enough to be transported to a forward base in the Pacific and provide forward repair services for ships as large as the Iowa class battleship or a host of smaller ships. At that time, it was a huge savings of time and battle resources since it meant that damaged ships would no longer have to take the slow and perilous journey back to Pearl Harbor or the west coast ship repair facilities.

After the war, the AFDB 7 was broken down into sections and towed to its berth in Florida where it would sit waiting for another mission. That mission came when the Polaris program was born and the need for overseas bases became critical. The range of the missiles on the early boat was fairly limited so they would lose precious time transiting from US bases on their way to the patrol areas. The waters in Holy Loch Scotland were determined to be deep enough and easy enough to protect if need be so she was one of the sites chose to support the boomers.

I have a cruise book from the Los Alamos that one of my guys put together and it chronicles the way the LA was reassembled once she arrived in Holy Loch. The original design was devilishly simple. The walls of the dock were laid flat on the deck of the individual barges. You used giant jacking devices to put them upright and then connect all the piping and electrical connections. The berthing and machinery spaces (plus the galley) were housed in the individual barges and all of those were connected together as well.

When the LA was originally designed, she was a seven section drydock. The engineers determined that in order to dock a Polaris submarine, you only needed four sections. A couple of cranes, some upper level repairs and an overhaul every few years kept her running smoothly for over thirty years.

In between dockings, the crew spent a lot of time in the wee town of Dunoon Scotland. Over the years, Dunoon had adapted herself well to the visitors. The sailors from the submarine tenders, the boat ops gangs and the visiting bubbleheads kept an awful lot of people employed for many years. It was rumored that there were more taxi’s concentrated in Dunoon than in any other location in Scotland but you know who rumors are. One thing is for certain was the number of pubs. I had heard of the infamous Pub Crawls before but walking up and down the main streets of Dunoon, you could almost feel the souls of all the past crawlers making their way up and down the way.

One of my favorite memories however was the Annual Cowal Highland Games. Can you possibly imagine 150 bagpipe bands gathering in one field (often over 3000 pipers) and playing amazing grace? The whole day was exciting with athletics and dance competitions rounding out the group and solo pipes contests.

Like all good things, our tour came to an end much too soon. Dunoon still hosts the games each year (this one is coming up soon from the 25th to the 27th of August).  http://www.cowalgathering.co.uk/  My dream is to go back once more before I do my final checkout.  I would highly recommend the same for you!

Haste ye back