The Fleet Today: 1942 Chapter XV THE “PIG BOATS”: THE SUBMARINES 4

While much of my work is original, there are some times when I find things that are too amazing to disturb. The year was 1942 and the book “The Fleet Today” by Kendall Banning had just been released (again). My assumption was that the book was already in publication before December 7th 1941 and was released as is. The reason I make that assumption is the fact that the main part of the book still focused on the mantra the Navy practiced for the thirty years prior to Pearl Harbor. “The Battleship is the BACKBONE of the Navy”.

The book has a lot of interesting chapters about life in the Navy just prior to the beginning of the war. What interested me most of course, was the chapter called The “Pig Boats”: The Submarines.

If you have ever wondered what a submariner of that era went through for training and actual service, this seems to be a pretty good representation. I have to warn you, its a long read. But if you love all things submarines, you will find a quiet place to read it and savor the richness of the story.  For me, it was worth every second.

Spoiler alert: One of the best parts is right near the end

Mister Mac

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“Chapter XV THE “PIG BOATS”: THE SUBMARINES

US. SUBMARINE STATUS (As of December 6, 1941)

Number in commission 113

Number building 73

TOTAL 186

“ALONGSIDE the docks at the submarine base lie moored a line of “pig boats,” the sailor’s name for submarines. Some of them are so new that the paint on them still shines in the sunlight. Their high bows and their stately superstructures tower impressively above the water. They are so long that even those parts of their hulls that remain above the sur- face extend beyond the ends of the docks.

In contrast to these undersea leviathans are the smaller submarines of the so-called R and S classes, which were built during the World War period, and, though still serviceable, are now regarded as suitable only for coast defense and training purposes. Because these smaller fry exceed the prescribed age limit of thirteen years, they are officially classified as “over age” by the terms of the Washington and London Naval Treaties of 1922 and 1930 respectively. While they lack the improvements of their more aristocratic brethren, have a smaller cruising range, and certainly can boast of fewer comforts—if any submarine at all may be said to have comforts— the basic principles of operation are the same. Thus these older types serve adequately as training ships for the men who are newly admitted to the submarine service; at the same time their use releases the newer vessels for more important duty with the fleet.

It is a little after eight o’clock in the morning.

Groups of sailors are making their way down to the dock, prepared for a training trip of six hours or more. The men are clad in their work uniforms; clambering about the oily machinery with which the hull of the submarine is packed is not a function that demands formal attire. The commanding officer, the diving-and-engineer officer and the torpedo officer; a group of young student officers who are taking the five-months course at the Submarine School; a few experienced and seasoned chief petty officers to act as instructors for the enlisted students who are taking the six-weeks basic course, and the regular crew, constitute the ship’s company. They number thirty-five or forty in all. Four days a week the students get practical instruction on these training trips; on the fifth day they get classroom work and are examined on what they have learned. Both the officers and the men get the same instruction in the technical details of the operation of a submarine— with the exception of the operation of the periscope. The use of that all-important instrument, upon which the very life of the vessel often depends, is restricted to the officers alone. It is a prerogative of command.

Before the day’s work is over the submarine will have made four, five or six dives. Before his course is completed the student will have made about fifty dives. For each dive, each enlisted man used to get $1 extra on his pay; it was awarded to him in the submarine service as a bonus for the hazardous character of his duties. Now the extra pay ranges from $5 to $30 a month flat. The students will not only learn by observation how these dives are made but will perform some of the operations themselves, always under the watchful eyes of their instructors. No student has the chance to make a serious blunder. No serious blunder has ever been made by a student.

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.

A submarine that starts out on a training trip from a base goes to the “diving area” to which it is assigned. These areas vary in size from four square miles up to a hundred or more square miles. Before a dive is made, each vessel reports by radio its location, the approximate course it proposes to steer and the expected duration of the dive. As soon as it comes up it reports “Surfaced.” The ordinary dive for elementary training purposes lasts about 20 minutes. The record for submergence was made at Cape May, when a submarine rested on the bottom (in order to conserve its electric power by cutting off its motors) for 96 hours. If a submarine fails to report surfacing within 30 minutes of its predicted time, attempts are made to reach it by radio. If they are not immediately successful, the Navy unleashes all the rescue forces at its command—aircraft, near-by vessels of any description, rescue ships, divers. Alarms of this kind are theoretical rather than actual, however; skippers of submarines just do not forget to report.

When all the men are aboard, the diving officer pulls out the “diving book” and begins to check up. The weight of the boat right now, as compared to its weight on the previous trip, is a factor that must now be taken into calculation; this knowledge is needed for the manipulation of the controls. Are there more or fewer men aboard? How do the number of gallons of fuel aboard check up with the last voyage? What is the status, in terms of pounds, of the forward and aft trim tanks? Controlling the depth of a floating craft submerged in water presents a problem analogous to that of controlling the altitude of a free balloon floating in air. So delicate a balance must be preserved that when the oil goes out of the tanks, for instance, it is replaced automatically by an equal volume of heavier water, and this excess weight must be compensated for before the submarine dives again. An inadvertent break on the surface of the water in the presence of an enemy would betray its location and spell its doom.

As soon as the vessel gets under way, the student submariners climb down the perpendicular ladders through the small circular hatches—which serve as the “escape hatches” in time of emergency—and are led about on sightseeing tours in small groups by the various instructors.

A submarine, the student learns, is divided into six compartments; in the more modern vessels that have a torpedo room aft as well as forward, a seventh compartment is provided. Each is a separate, watertight unit, capable of sustaining human life for several hours or possibly days, even though every other compartment is flooded. The average submarine with a full crew can remain submerged for about 36 hours without replenishing its air supply.

Its only connection with the adjoining compartment is a small, oval door just large enough for one man at a time to crawl through with a “watch-your-step-and-mind-your-head.”

The steel, watertight door to it weighs three hundred pounds or more, but it hangs upon hinges so scientifically designed and so delicately balanced that it may be swung by the push of a finger—provided the vessel is on an even keel. Should the vessel be tilting upward at an angle opposite to the direction in which the door swings, brute force would be required to pull the door upward in order to close it; it was exactly this situation that confronted the alert young electrician’s mate of the ill-fated Squalus when it sank May 23, 1939? His timely display of physical strength in pulling the door up- ward to close and to dog it before the onward rush of water hit it saved from death the 33 men trapped in the forward compartments. 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 these watertight doors and secure them in a matter of split seconds.

The forward compartment, which extends right up into the bow of the submarine, is the “torpedo room”; on the modern boats it is called the “forward torpedo room” to distinguish it from the after torpedo room in the stern. Here are located the cluster of tubes through which the torpedoes are dis- charged by compressed air. Contrary to popular belief, the torpedoes are not aimed by the crew that discharges them. The torpedo crews have no way of seeing the target; they perform a purely mechanical routine and adjust, load and re- lease the projectiles only upon command from the control room. The projectiles are “aimed” only to the extent that the submarine itself is pointed so that the moving torpedoes will meet the moving target after they are fired, and this position can be determined only by the officer at the periscope. It is he alone who can sight the enemy, estimate the range, calculate the speed and course of each vessel, and direct the torpedo crew to make the proper adjustments in the torpedoes themselves. The maximum range and speed of torpedoes are both items of information of a secret nature; it is not a secret, however, that for training purposes torpedoes may be geared to speeds ranging upward from 27 to 45 miles an hour or more, and that target practice is conducted at ranges from 6000 to over 15,000 yards. The higher the speed the shorter the range, and vice versa. As soon as a 2500-pound torpedo leaves its tube, water is immediately let in to preserve the trim of the boat. The number of torpedoes that can be carried on a modern submarine is also a naval secret, but it is no secret that when these have been expended, the submarine is disarmed and helpless—except for a 5-inch gun on its deck; this, of course, can be manned only when the boat is on the surface. As a result, a submarine in wartime does not waste its limited number of torpedoes. Especially when those torpedoes range in price from $7500 to $12,000 apiece. In time of peace torpedoes fired in practice are retrieved and used many times.

Abaft the forward torpedo room is the “forward battery room.” To outward appearance this compartment on the training ships is filled with tiers of folding metal bunks; on the modern vessels this space is divided up into officers’ quarters and even a wardroom, so tiny and compact as to make a Pullman stateroom seem like a two-car garage. The compartment gets its name, however, not from any battery of guns supposedly operated from it but from a compact cargo of large storage batteries below its deck. These are the batteries that furnish the electric power for operating the boat under water, when the Diesel gas engines must be shut off.

Aft of this, a little forward of amidships, is the brain, nerve and message-center of the vessel, the all-important “control room.” This is where the skipper has his post of command when the submarine is submerged; here, consequently, is the periscope, the eye of the ship. Off to one side silently stands the quartermaster at the helm; near him are grouped the ship’s navigators, bending over their charts spread atop narrow, built-in desks. Over in a corner is tucked the radio room, miniature in size but equipped with submarine communication apparatus that is included among the most jealously guarded of all the Navy’s secrets.

This control room is literally so packed with mechanical devices and instruments that only the narrowest of passage- ways can be provided for traffic; however, when the sub- marine is proceeding under water, there is little moving about by the members of the crew; every man is stationed at his post. Near the center rises the oily steel tube that is the periscope. When cruising at periscope depth—which is about 40 feet below the surface—the commanding officer stands before this vital instrument, clutching the two handles that control the movements of the lens above, and peering into the eye- piece. Within range of his arm is the battery of push-buttons used for signaling instructions within the ship; among them are the general alarm, collision alarm and diving alarm, whose shrieking voices of warning sound like the wails of tortured banshees. About the compartment are arranged glistening dials, levers, valves, throttles, clutches, indicator lights and all manner of control and recording gadgets, doodads and thingumbobs. Over against the starboard bulkhead stands an array of controls which operate the Kingston valves. These admit water to the main ballast tanks when the submarine is diving. When the valves are opened, the normal procedure is to open the vents also, in order to permit the air to escape.

In time of emergency a “quick dive” often becomes necessary. A quick dive used to be called a “crash dive,” but perhaps because of its ominous psychological significance this term has finally gone out of use. When a quick dive is about to be made, the skipper gives the command “ride the vents”; this consists of opening the Kingston valves (or “flood valves” on* modern submarines) and keeping the vent valves closed. By this method it is possible to bring the boat down to periscope depth in 70 seconds or less. Along another bulkhead is lined up the battery of “water manifold” valves for regulating the flow of water to the different variable tanks in order to keep the vessel in trim. The “air manifold” valves are used for blowing water out of the tanks when the vessel is about to rise.

The “most important single instrument” in a submarine is the depth gauge. When the vessel is submerged, this instrument is under constant surveillance. A needle on the dial reveals the water pressure on the outside of the hull, graduated to indicate depth in feet. Another important instrument is the ordinary aneroid barometer, which indicates the air pressure within the boat itself. This air pressure, which is only a fraction of a pound and consequently negligible, is applied merely to determine if all the outboard openings are tightly sealed; any leakage of air, naturally, prevents compression and thus serves as a danger signal.

As might be expected, the control room is not alone the center of the submarine’s communication system, but also the point from which all communications of any kind emanate. What happens in time of disaster in case the control room is flooded? In such a case the entire communication system of the submarine becomes paralyzed. The forward end of the vessel is cut off from the after end. For reasons which are not difficult to understand, practically all such mishaps as do befall a submarine befall the forward or after compartments.

It was the control room of a submarine that served as the setting of a drama of the sea that has begun to assume the aspects of a classic. It started, according to legend, in the friendship between two or three cadets at West Point and as many midshipmen at Annapolis, and was continued after graduation. The Army men entered the Air Service; the Navy men the Submarine Service.

“Ever been up in a plane?” the fliers asked of their Navy guests during the latter’s visit to the flying field.

No, they had never been up in a plane. Yes, they would be delighted to take a trip. So up they went, with their Army hosts at the controls, and a grand performance indeed they put on. They gave their guests the works—loops, tailspins, barrel rolls, Immelmann turns. The sailormen were finally landed, a bit groggy and pale, perhaps, but still game and properly appreciative. In the course of time these same fliers, mindful of their social obligations, called upon their Navy friends at the Submarine Base. No, they had never been down in a sub. Yes, they would be delighted to take a trip. So aboard they all went; orders were passed; the engines were started, and while the Vessel was proceeding to the diving area, hosts and guests repaired below to pass the time.

“Rig for diving!” at last came the cry from the bridge.

Hatches on-the deck were slammed shut and dogged; the diving officer made his round of inspection; diving stations were manned. The hosts explained to their visitors the mechanics of the operation. Soon, however, the interest of the hosts began to be diverted from their guests and become focused upon the controls. They showed signs of anxiety; something was evidently going wrong. The depth gauge seemed to be the center of interest; instead of stopping at the indicated depth of 40 feet, the needle continued its course. Now the boat was shown to be down to 60 feet; now 80 feet; soon it struck 150 feet. The hush in the boat was broken only by the commands of the officers.

“These boats are designed to stand 200 feet of pressure, but they can probably stand as much as 300 feet,” the skipper encouragingly assured his guests. With increasing perturbation the visitors watched the gauge record a depth of 180 feet, with the needle steadily moving into dangerous area. At 200 feet the silence was blasted by the shriek of the collision alarm. All compartment doors were instantly closed; the visitors were now trapped in the control room with their hosts. Suddenly the lights went out and the compartment was thrown into a tar-like blackness. The dim emergency lamps were switched on; they cast the compartment into an eerie gloom. At 220 feet the Momsen escape lungs were hauled forth and strapped upon all hands, with hurried instructions for their use—just in case. A stream of water began to trickle ominously down the hatchway from the conning tower. Beads of perspiration broke out upon the faces of the worried visitors. The needle now registered 260 feet; the boat was now well down into the danger zone; obviously out of control. When a depth of 300 feet had been reached and the submarine was in imminent peril of collapsing, the needle on the depth gauge miraculously steadied. Slowly, exasperatingly slowly, the boat began to rise. With breathless interest the eyes of the visitors were riveted upon the dial as the needle indicated the return to safety. At last, thank God! the boat broke the surface; the hatches were thrown open to the sky, and the visitors clambered joyfully to the deck.

The vessel was still quietly moored to the dock; it had never moved a foot. The hosts smiled enigmatically. The debt of the submariners to the fliers had been paid in full.

The most popular spot on the whole submarine—popular because it combines all the recreational features of a mess hall, social center, playground and rest room—is the after battery room.

The outstanding feature of this compartment is a large, substantial, built-in, flat-topped structure that serves the purpose of a dining table. About it runs a passageway too narrow to provide space for seats but large enough for standing room. In height it comes nearly up to a man’s chest, which is just about the height of a bar, and that is exactly right. Over against the bulkhead at one side are arranged the gal- leys, flanked by sufficient cabinets and refrigerators and other storage space for food to maintain a steady flow of edibles to insatiable customers. Steaming coffee is served continuously to all and sundry; so, too, apparently, are soup, stew, meats, vegetables, cakes and pies, to accommodate the men on various watches whose meal hours are variable and sketchy. Be- cause of the limited space available on a submarine for such standard recreational facilities as deck tennis courts, running tracks and gymnasiums, to say nothing of swimming pools, pool tables and bowling alleys, the only indoor sport permissible is eating, and the submariner goes in for it in a really Big Way. In recognition of this phenomenon Uncle Sam gives the submariner a larger allowance for rations, and the submarine service prides itself on the quality and quantity of its grub. On short training trips, fresh meats, vegetables and fruits are obtainable, but on long cruises recourse must be had to canned goods. It has been aptly observed that “the submarine owes its existence to the invention of the Diesel engine, the storage battery and the tin can.”

Adjoining this social center is the engine room, so packed with machinery as to permit only the narrowest of passage- ways down the center. While the submarine is under way on the surface, the puffing Diesel engines here installed furnish the power; upon submerging, these are turned off and the electric motors are put to work. Motors neither consume the air supply nor give out gases. The motor compartment is aft of the engine room. In the tail of the ship—right down in the very extremity—a small space is provided for a few tiers of metal bunks and a tiny cubbyhole (or two) that has a miniature spray at the top and a drain pipe at the bottom, and which, by these symbols, lays claim to the designation of the shower bath. On the modern submarines this after compartment is a torpedo room similar in size and equipment to the forward torpedo room.

A group of new men is being conducted about by a chief petty officer and shown the more vital points of interest. “This particular ship,” the chief explains, “has three escape hatches. One is right here in the torpedo room; there it is up there; it is the same hatch through which you came down. Another one just like it is in the motor room. The third one is in the control room; that one leads right up through the conning tower and opens up at the bridge. These things over here, packed away in the corner, are the escape lungs. You will find them stowed in each end compartment. There are enough aboard for every member of the crew plus 10 per cent. You will also find a few scattered through the ship, but these are intended for emergency use as respirators and chlorine gas masks.”

The instructor explains the use of the various appliances throughout the vessel; his “students follow him respectfully but in silence. They have been accustomed to serve on larger ships, where a wider gap exists between the men and their chiefs than in the confined quarters of a submarine. The larger the ship, the greater are the formalities. The new men are shy about asking questions at first, so the instructor rambles along easily and does most of the speaking himself.

“See this peculiar coating on the interior of the boat?” he observes. “That is cork paint. The particles of cork in it help absorb the moisture caused by sweating. The small metal tablet you see in every compartment gives the Morse code. Most of you men know the code, but in case of acci- dent you may have to tap out mighty important messages with a hammer to the divers outside, so these tablets may come in useful in case your memory is rusty.”

“This little gadget over the door—you’ll find one over each door of every compartment—is the ‘gag’ for the compartment blow system. In case of emergency in a compartment, be sure to remove this stopper from its socket and insert it in the salvage airline before you leave. That will make it possible to admit high-pressure air to the vacated compartment and blow water out of any flooded compartments whose salvage blow outlets have not been gagged.”

The chief conducts his class to the automatic detector that records the presence and amount of hydrogen gas, if any, that may be generating in the submarine. That is the highly inflammable gas used in balloons. Because it has no odor or color, it can be detected neither by the nose nor by the eye. A 4 per cent concentration of it is considered dangerous be- cause of its explosive character. It is generated occasionally when the batteries are being charged, but accidents from this source are rare. More dangerous is the deadly chlorine gas, which is sometimes generated when water comes in contact with the batteries. This is a heavy gas, greenish-yellow in tinge and with a pungent odor that floats low over the decks, so its presence is quickly made known. When it is discovered, the alarm is given, the compartment is vacated, the entire crew don their lungs for use as gas masks, and the boat sur- faces with all speed unless an enemy ship is waiting to drop a depth bomb upon it. Carbon dioxide gas is just the com- mon CO2—the refuse given off by breathing and commonly known as merely “bad air.” This becomes a troublemaker only when fresh air is not available, and it is ordinarily counter-acted by some chemical. Soda lime was formerly used for this purpose; it was spread upon cloth of all kinds, especially upon mattress covers. But soda lime proves ineffective in low temperatures, and when a disabled submarine is resting on the bottom and the pumps are inoperative, the submarine be- comes as cold as a refrigerator. So a new chemical, effective in any temperature and known as “a CO2 absorbent,” is now used.

“That man standing over there with headphones is rotating the wheel of the listening device,” the chief continues as his flock pauses in its tour. “Under good conditions he can pick up the sounds of the propellers of a ship several miles distant and tell its bearing. And this small wheel overhead here, when given six turns, releases the marker buoy. That is used only as a distress signal when the submarine is disabled under water; it shows the searchers where the boat is lying. Inside the buoy is a telephone that makes it possible for anyone on the surface to talk to the men in the submarine.”

The class proceeds to the after battery compartment. “That mechanism up there,” the chief points out, “is the under- water signal ejector. It releases bombs that give out smoke of different colors; red smoke bombs, for example, are calls for help. When a smoke bomb is ejected, the water melts a thin wafer in the shell and the chemical action causes an explosion which throws a bomb 175 feet into the air. During maneuvers a yellow smoke bomb is ejected three minutes before surfacing as a warning to neighboring craft to keep clear.”

Thus the initiate is eased to his new duties and is familiarized with his strange environment. Many of his early lessons aboard are concerned with safety measures; with modes of escape in hours of peril; with methods of sustaining life till rescue comes. He learns how to summon aid by releasing oil at intervals by the several available means—through torpedo tubes, through signal bomb vents, through the toilets— in order to create a slick of oil upon the waters and thus reveal his location to searching airplanes and vessels. He is told how to conserve the limited air supply during enforced .submergences by restricting his physical activities and even curtailing his speech. He learns about the emergency lockers that contain enough food to keep him alive—a can of baked beans, supplemented with a cup, a spoon, a couple of candles and a pocket flashlight. He is at least assured that he will not starve to death; unless he is rescued before a second can of beans is needed, he might as well begin asking forgiveness of his sins, because his predicament is hopeless.

On the other hand, the morale of the submariner is bucked up by the knowledge that every conceivable precautionary measure is taken for his safety. He learns that the submarine, so far as its seagoing qualities are concerned, is “the safest type of ship afloat”; it is practically impossible to capsize it. In case of a hurricane it can escape by the simple expedient of submerging and cruising in quiet waters fifty or a hundred feet below the surface—although this is not done, because of the necessity of preserving its storage batteries. He participates in various roles in emergency drills, fire drills, collision drills, abandon-ship drills, and man-overboard drills.*

* While a modern submarine carries small motor boats, they are not quickly available; consequently a rescue at sea is effected by throwing out a life preserver and either reversing the engines or swinging* the vessel about in a circle until the members of the life-saving crew can climb out on the wing- like diving planes and pull the victim aboard. At a surface speed of 12 knots a rescue can ordinarily be made in less than three minutes. The record of 2 minutes and 7 seconds was made by the crew of the submarine R-I3 in 1938.

In spite of the fancy assortment of perils that beset the submariner, the accident rate is so amazingly low that the life insurance companies no longer charge a premium on policies to men in this branch. The mortality rate, to be specific, is 1.53 a thousand in the Navy as a whole, and only 3.60 a thousand in the submarine service; that represents a difference of just about two more fatalities for every thousand men. This is so slight that it has failed to arouse any superstitions among the submariners themselves. In fact, they have fewer superstitions than the average sailorman; they are a notably staid, level-headed lot, with perhaps just a trace of fatalism in their make-up. Signs, portents and omens play no part in their lives. Once in a rare while a whisper of superstition travels about; a chief electrician once acquired the reputation of being a Jonah because he had figured in three mishaps and escaped from each. “Three strikes and you’re out” was the umpire’s decision, and he was thereafter kept on shore duty, where his shipmates would just as like he would stay.

The attitude of the representative submariner is well reflected in an incident that occurred on the S-1 after it had successfully completed a training trip. “Captain, do you know what you have just done?” an old- timer among the chief petty officers smilingly inquired. “Today is Friday the 13th, and at 1300 by the clock you took the boat down on its I313th dive and gave a brand-new diving officer the complete works.” Yet only one man of the entire crew had bothered to heed the omens.

One of the perplexing tasks in the training of new submariners is to loosen up their tongues and induce them to speak up boldly and repeat all the orders they receive on board. Men from the fleet are not accustomed to talk in the presence of officers except in answer to questions. The crew of a submarine is so small and the duties and responsibilities of each man are so great that no chances are taken that an order is either unheard or misunderstood. The most common fault of a newcomer is over haste, due to his over anxiety and nervousness, especially in manipulating the water manifolds. But the instructor who stands over him steps in to take charge before any damage can be done. Most of the men selected for the basic submarine course make good; only one out of fifteen is dropped and sent back to the fleet. The chief causes for failure are inaptitude in learning the controls, temperamental traits that threaten personal relations with ship- mates, juvenile skylarking, and the unforgivable sin of “being late.” Any man who is temperamentally dilatory is marked for an early end to his submarine career; that is a symptom of a trait that is not tolerated; it is evidence of his lack of reliability and integrity.

All of the practical instruction aboard ship is supplemented by concurrent classroom work that is graded and marked on the 4.0 system, which is used at the Naval Academy and throughout the Navy. The passing mark is 2.5, which is equivalent to a mark of 62.5 per cent on the decimal system. The curriculum of the basic course may be outlined thus:

1st week: Sketches of the submarine, showing the location of all tanks, controls and other pans

2d week: Sketches of each compartment, showing all the gear in each

3d week: Use of the water manifold and maintenance of the trim line

4th week: Use of the air manifold

5th week: Battery ventilation and salvage systems

6th week: Fuel oil and lubricating systems

Courses for the more advanced students include a six-weeks storage-battery course, a six-weeks gyro-compass course, a six- weeks radio and sound course, and a twelve-weeks submarine Diesel engine course. Graduates are given certificates, their class standings are entered in their service records, and they are considered all set to go to sea in the submarine service; incidentally, they have not exactly impaired their chances of winning the competitive examinations for higher ratings. Technical education is playing an increasingly important role in the making of all modern sailors, and this is especially true in the submarine service.

But what the newcomer learns about submarines and submariners is by no means confined to what he gets out of text- books. Here are just a few odd bits of un-academic lore with which he regales the wondering folks back home: When a submarine crosses the equator, it dives under it. It is an old Navy custom.

Since the inception of the submarine, Uncle Sam has at various times designated the classes of boats that have been developed, by letters of the alphabet running from A to V—with the exception of the letter U. That has been reserved for Germany. Modern sub- marines bear the names of game fish, in addition to their hull numbers.

Messages of a strictly personal nature scribbled upon the walls of the waiting rooms at the bus stops near submarine stations are written discreetly in the dot-and-dash system. In case a sailor happens to get caught on the top deck of a submarine that is submerging, his only chance of saving himself is to cling to the periscope and place his hand over the eyepiece as a signal to those below that he is in very urgent need of help.

A submarine when submerged must either keep moving forward or rest on the bottom; it cannot hang suspended in water and remain under control.

The only way a submerged submarine can take soundings is by the use of a “fathometer,” which records the time taken for sound waves to travel back and forth between itself and the sea bottom directly below it.

As every good submariner knows, John Q. Public entertains some strange illusions about undersea craft. Some of his more common fallacies, as revealed by his questions, are:

  • That the submarine cruises almost continually under water. (It submerges only occasionally and for short periods, and then only for training purposes or when engaged in maneuvers or on war missions.)
  • That the air compression within the submarine increases with the depth. (Except for the slight “pressure in the boat” that is applied just before submerging as a test for possible leakages, the compression remains the same at all depths.)
  • That the torpedoes are propelled on their course by compressed air. (They are launched from the tube by air pressure; thereafter they proceed by power generated in their own miniature engines.)
  • That the crew is conscious of a sinking sensation when the submarine descends. (Usually the bow of the submarine dips only 4 or 5 degrees when diving and points upward at about the same slight degree when rising; except for this trivial tilt, there is practically no sensation of either rising or falling. Ascents and descents are often made, too, on an even keel.)
  • That the deck gun of a submarine can be fired under water. (No gun could be either sighted or fired when submerged, even though it were manned by mermen.)
  • That the last man to remain in a sunken submarine has no way of escaping. (He has the same chance to escape as anyone else, either by the Momsen-lung method or by means of the descent chamber.)
  • That the most dangerous period of submarine operation is when diving. (That is merely one of three hazardous moments. Equally critical moments come just before the submarine rises to periscope depth after a deep submergence and also when approaching in close proximity to other vessels. When below periscope depth, the vessel is completely blind and can detect the presence of vessels overhead or approaching only by means of its listening devices. If the propellers of vessels on the surface are not turning over, their presence is not likely to be revealed.)
  • That the periscope is always visible above the water and that the presence of a submarine during an attack can thus be detected. (During attack the periscope is raised only for the hastiest of peeks, for the purpose of taking bearings.)
  • That exciting glimpses of undersea life may be viewed from the ports of a submarine when submerged. (The only ports on a submarine are in the conning tower, and only in clear water and when near the surface where light permits vision can an occasional fish be seen.)

Not all of the high adventure in the submarine service is confined to wartime. Even routine training trips never be-come wholly monotonous; the ever-present element of danger and the ever-alert effort to avert it, make each trip at least a potential thriller: especially when a brand-new boat is put through her paces in trial runs and test dives, to find out if she is really seaworthy—or not. While most test dives develop no troubles of note, occasionally a breath-stopping incident occurs that is no less exciting merely because it does not make the headlines. Here is one behind-the-scenes drama that never even attained the dignity of official documentation. It is taken from the personal record of a sailor who was a member of the ship’s company: *

Fresh from a blueprint, she had yet to prove her mettle—in the depths as well as on the surface—before she would be officially accepted. A jammed vent cover, loose hatch bolts or weak plating that would crumple in when they reached the pressure depths, and three million dollars’ worth of steel hulk plus the lives of 54 men would sink to oblivion. Perhaps such thoughts as these were passing through the minds of the submarine’s crew, causing them to take extra turns on the numerous watertight locking devices that sealed the boat. Presently a chief torpedoman stepped up to the bridge.

“Top side secured for diving, sir.”

“Very well.” The captain turned, spoke into the voice tube.

“Rig ship for diving.”

The order went through the boat sending the crew racing to their diving stations.

In the torpedo room, where her missiles of death were sent bubbling on their destructive missions, a handful of men stood ready to flood the bow torpedo tubes. In the forward battery room more men were turning the big wheels that cut out the main air induction and cut in the auxiliary line. The ballast tank vents, located in the after battery room, were opened wide. Further aft in the engine room and motor room, grimy machinist’s mates sweated over the now quiet Diesels and prepared to start the motors. * By courtesy of Joseph McNamara, of the S-91, who took part in the test dives of that vessel in the Pacific in 1939.

Amidships in the control room where the entire operation of the boat was centered, the second officer labored over tank capacity tables, gradually putting an even trim on the boat. Around him stood members of the crew poised tensely at the most important diving stations in the boat: the flood valves, diving planes and steering control.

A maze of countless valves glittered from the port and starboard bulkhead; red lights, green lights winked on and off from the safety panel located over the motor controls signifying the opening and closing of all hull apertures.

Up on the small semicircular bridge, the captain pored over reports coming to him from every compartment in the teeming shell below him. A veteran submarine officer, his calm, assured manner seemed to have instilled a sense of security and confidence into the apprehensive crew. He was the government’s official “test pilot” for all new underwater craft; a job that was packed with constant danger and one of which he was never envied in the least.

“Shift all control below—course one eight zero.” The quarter- master and signalman scrambled below, leaving the skipper alone on the bridge.

“Both motors ahead one third. Stand by to dive.” A tense gripping suspense followed this order. Then the diving alarm went screaming through the boat. Up on the bridge the captain watched the hull slowly settle, the decks go awash. With a last look about, he dropped through the narrow hatch, locking it secure. “Eyeports awash, sir,” reported the quartermaster as he reached the conning tower. Damn! They must have flooded fast to be going down at this rate. He stepped down into the control room, where a volley of reports came at him.

“Ballast tanks flooded, sir.”

“Pressure in the boat, sir.”

“Ready on the motors, sir.”

The captain glanced quickly at the big depth gauge on the port bulkhead. Thirty feet already and sinking fast. He spoke to the men at the diving planes.

“Diving angle—five degrees. Level off at fifty feet.”

A test dive in a new boat is always made in stages of fifty feet. Wooden battens placed athwart ships throughout the length of the boat record the effects of the pressure on the submarine’s steel sides.

“Stop both motors.” The voice of the captain was cool, efficient. The throbbing motors died away, leaving a penetrating silence filling the boat, broken only by the lapping of the waves caressing the submarine’s exterior.

“Level off.” The captain, his eyes glued on the depth gauge, repeated the order as he saw the needle rush past the fifty-foot mark. The men on the planes strove to check the sudden change in the boat’s diving angle. Eighty, ninety, a hundred feet, and still no sign of leveling off. The faces around the crowded control room had taken on the color of chalk. The S-91 dove still deeper. Every pair of eyes was fixed on the captain.

“Hard rise.” There was a slight tremor in his voice as he shot the order to the men at the diving planes. The power levers were thrown all the way over. A blinding flash came from the diving-gear control panel, paralyzing the men at the planes. They stared helplessly as the bubble in the indicator glass bobbed crazily back and forth. All control of the diving planes was gone. With a sickening lurch the 8-91 plunged for the bottom.

“Blow all ballast!” The man at air manifold fumbled with the big blow valve. The depth gauge now registered 240 feet. Their safety depth was only 300 feet!

Quickly the white-faced skipper stepped forward, brushing the man aside, and gave the valve a strong pull. It was frozen fast! “A wrench, quick!” he shouted. A man darted aft to get one. Half fearfully, he glanced at the depth gauge—280 feet!

He couldn’t wait for the wrench—he had to act fast if he was going to save them.

“Both motors full astern,” came from the captain. It was their only hope now. If the motors could check their plunge long enough to break the air valve loose, they still had a chance. Slowly the powerful motors of the S-91 took hold, sending a violent shudder through the boat as the terrific strain told on her. Tense figures relaxed slightly; the depth gauge needle faltered, stopped at 293 feet. A wrench was quickly put to the frozen valve. A shot of oil, a blow from the light sledge, and it broke free, sending the high pressure streaming into the tanks and forcing the heavy ballast out into the sea.

Steadily regaining her buoyancy, the submarine rose gallantly from the pressure-laden depths.

“Eyeports awash, captain!” The glad cry accompanied by a dull “plop” told them they were back on the surface once more, none the worse for their nerve-racking ordeal. The captain’s recommendations would now mean the boat’s acceptance or rejection.

A few minutes later he finished the brief report:

“General performance of S-91 excellent. No remarks worthy of mentioning.” The distinction that marks the discipline, technique and morale of the submarine service and sets it apart as peculiar to itself and different from every other branch of work in the Navy is expressed by an experienced submarine officer in the following eloquent words: *

The commanding officer of a submarine is a bigger factor in her success than any officer or man in any other type of ship that floats. He alone sees the enemy and he alone makes the estimates upon which the success or failure of the attack depends. But the well-trained crew of a submarine is a team. The Captain calls the signals and carries the ball, but the untimely failure of even the least member of the crew may mean disaster. … To operate a complicated mechanism like a submarine, each individual must be free to volunteer information, to discuss when discussion is profitable, to exercise initiative and discretion in carrying on his duties; yet in other situations he must obey instantly, without question and without thought as to his safety. The recognition of the subtle changes in the situation which determine where and when and in what circumstances these two widely different attitudes are demanded is what makes a good submarine officer.

* By courtesy of Lieutenant Wilfred J. Holmes, retired, writing under the nom-de-plume of “Alec Hudson,” and by permission of The Saturday Evening Post.”

 

 

A New Wrinkle on H. G. Rickover – A Real Life Saver 4

I was doing a little research this morning about the main subject of a book I am writing and I ran across a little gem that while unrelated was certainly an eye catcher. It had to do with a young Lieutenant named Hyman G. Rickover. Okay, to be fair, he wasn’t all that old when he was recognized in the June 13, 1931 Bureau of Navigation Bulletin Number 159. When Mr. Rickover was already 29 years old, he entered the submarine service. When this mention occurred, he was 31 years old.

The exact wording of the recognition was this:

“The Secretary of the Navy recently addressed letters of commendation to the officers listed below:

Lieutenant Hyman G. Rickover, U.S.N., U.S.S. 48

For rescuing Augustin Pasis, MAtt. 1c, U.S.N. from drowning at the Submarine Base, Coco Solo, Canal Zone”

Petty Officer Pasis was a First Class Mess Attendant that was returning from shore leave when he fell over the side of the boat according to the June 3rd San Antonio Express Newspaper.

To be honest, I only met Admiral Rickover one time.

I was on my third submarine and it was the spring of 1981 when the USS San Francisco was on sea trials. Looking at the frail old man, I was awestruck with how much power he still wielded even in his later years. None of us knew that within a year he would be forced out of the Navy he had spent a life serving. But thinking about his size, it’s hard for me to imagine that even at a younger age, he might have the strength to rescue a drowning sailor. In between other projects today, I did a little research about his time in submarines and especially on the S-48.

I have researched the S boats for years and I know some of the history about the four boats that made up the “4th Group” of S boats. None of them faired very well and the S-48 was no exception.

From the records:

“Rickover preferred life on smaller ships, and he also knew that young officers in the submarine service were advancing quickly, so he went to Washington and volunteered for submarine duty. His application was turned down due to his age, at that time 29 years. Fortunately for Rickover, he ran into his former commanding officer from Nevada while leaving the building, who interceded successfully on his behalf. From 1929 to 1933, Rickover qualified for submarine duty aboard the submarines S-9 and S-48.

On 1 June 1929, S-48 had been reassigned to SubDiv 4, with which she operated through the end of 1929. Then assigned to SubDiv 3, later SubDiv 5, and then Squadron 3, she continued her operations off the New England coast, with an interruption for winter maneuvers to the south. During this time, Lieutenant Hyman G. Rickover was assigned to her. He later credited S-48′s “faulty, sooty, dangerous and repellent engineering” with inspiring his obsession for high engineering standards. She was transferred to the Panama Canal Zone in 1931. On 1 March, she arrived at Coco Solo, whence she operated for four years.

SS-159 S-48

Four “4th Group” S-boats were constructed. The 4th Group S-boats were the largest of the fifty-one S-boats contracted to be built for the United States Navy. These S-boats had six water-tight compartments to enhance internal integrity. S-48 thru S-51 were authorized in FY1920 and laid down 1919-20 at Lake Torpedo Company, Bridgeport CT. They were modified “S” class boats which added an aft torpedo tube which resulted in 27 tons additional displacement. All four commissioned in 1922.

The S-48 Class submarines were 240′ in length overall; had an extreme beam of 21’10”; had a normal surface displacement of 903 tons, and, when on the surface in that condition, had a mean draft of 13’6″. The submarines displaced 1,230 tons when submerged. The designed compliment was 4 officers and 34 enlisted men. The S-boat was equipped with two periscopes. She had a double hull in the center portion of the boat; a single hull at each end of the ship. This S-boat could completely submerge in one minute to periscope depth. Maximum operating (test) depth was 200′.

The submarine was armed with five 21-inch torpedo tubes (four in the bow and one in the stern). Fourteen torpedoes were carried. One 4-inch/50-caliber gun was mounted on the main deck forward of the conning tower fairwater.

Stowage was provided for 44,350 gallons of diesel oil by utilizing some of the ballast tanks as fuel oil tanks. This gave the boat a maximum operating radius of 8,000 miles at ten knots when transiting on the surface. The normal fuel oil load was 23,411 gallons. Two 6-M-85 six-cylinder 900 brake horsepower (at 410 rotations per minute) diesel engines, that had a total output of 1,800 horsepower, that were made by the Busch-Sulzer Brothers Diesel Engine Company at Saint Louis, Missouri, could drive the boat at 14.4 knots when operating on the surface.

Submerged propulsion electrical power was provided by the 120 cell main storage battery which was manufactured by the Gould Storage Battery Company at Trenton (“Trenton makes, the world takes”), New Jersey, which powered two 750 B.H.P. electric motors, with a total output of 1,500 designed brake horsepower, that were manufactured by the Ridgeway Dynamo and Electric Company at Ridgeway, Pennsylvania which turned propeller shafts which turned propellers which drove the submarine at 11 knots, for a short period of time, when submerged.

Two of the four boats would suffer battery explosions and decommissioned in 1927 and a third would be lost when rammed by a merchant ship. The lead ship of the class grounded off New Hampshire during a storm and her crew was evacuated. The resulting repairs and modernization would keep her out of commission for over three years.

In February 1924, S-50 (SS-161) suffered a battery explosion which resulted in exhaustive engineering testing and her early decommissioned in August 1927. On 29 January 1925, S-48 (SS-159) grounded off the New Hampshire coast and her crew was evacuated during a storm. She would be salvaged and modernized, returning to commission in December 1928. S-51 (SS-162) was rammed and sunk by the merchant SS City of Rome off Block Island, RI on 25 September 1925. She was raised in 1926 and sold for scrap in 1930. On 20 April 1926 S-49 (SS-160) suffered a battery explosion and was decommissioned in August 1927.

A Hard Luck Sub

S-48’s hard luck started 10 months after launching, when the yet-to-be-commissioned sub conducted her first test dive in New York Sound off of Penfield Reef on December 7, 1921.

According to press reports, the 240-foot boat “was hardly under water before the shouted reports came from the aft part of the vessel: ‘Engine room flooding! Motor room flooding!’” Emergency procedures kicked in. The men in the aft compartments stumbled forward and the forward compartment doors were shut. “A moment later the stern softly bumped on the bottom. The electric lights went out.” Flashlights in hand, the sub’s Commander, Lt. Francis Smith, ordered the ballast tanks blown, but “the weight of the water in the stern compartments was too much…her nose tilting up a little but that was all.” Two hundred pounds of pig lead ballast bars were jettisoned through an air lock and four dummy torpedoes were shot out, on which the crew had painted “HELP” and “SUBMARINE SUNK HERE” along with numerous milk bottles “in which messages were enclosed giving notice of the plight of the vessel.”

Slowly the bow began to rise like an inverse pendulum, but the stern stuck to the bottom. The upward tilt shifted the stern water. “Port batteries flooding!” yelled a crewman. The New York Evening News described the dramatic moment: “Breathing stopped. A flooded battery means chlorine [gas].” Cmdr. Smith and three crewmen immediately began bailing “to get seawater below the level of the [battery containers]…their hands were burned and every moment or two a whiff [of chlorine gas] drifted across their faces,” making them cough and choke. No sooner had they gotten the water off the port side batteries that the starboard batteries started flooding. At the same time, the boat’s bow continued to tilt upward as more material weight was jettisoned. At 30 degrees, the ships executive officers were certain the bow was above the surface “more than sixty feet from the bottom.”

One member of the crew, while being pushed from behind, wriggled and worked his way out of the sub through a torpedo tube, which was about four feet higher than the ocean surface. A rope was passed up the tube, and the remaining crew of 50 were pulled out one by one. Hot coffee and blankets were also hauled up as the men huddled in the freezing weather. One Sailor’s wet underclothing “was frozen into a solid casing about his shoulders and legs.”

Some of the men went back down into the sub through the torpedo tube and “hauled out mattresses [which]…one by one were burned at the tip of the upstanding bow…the men sitting around their flaming signal…[warming themselves from] a stiff wind…[and] rough waters.” They were finally rescued at 10:30 PM by a passing tug. The ordeal had lasted 14 hours, 10 of which were spent exposed to the frigid elements. Three men were briefly hospitalized for minor chlorine gas inhalation. Most of the men were employees of the Lake Torpedo Boat Co. of Bridgeport, Conn.

Initial reports by the Associated Press claimed that the sub had been hit by a tug boat, but it was later learned that somebody left open one of the airtight “manholes.” Divers were able to secure the hatch and refloat the vessel.

By the following August (1922), the S-48 began its second series of tests on Long Island Sound, diving to a depth of 100 feet and firing torpedoes and “other such trials.” She was accepted and commissioned by the U.S. Navy in October of 1922. Over the next three years, she was in and out of New London, Conn. for repairs. She ran aground twice in 1926 during a violent storm once taking on water, which again caused chlorine gas to form. She was then returned to New London for the fifth time. Due to a lack of repair funds, the submarine was decommissioned. Funds became available in 1927 and repairs commenced, which included a hull extension of 25½ feet. In December 1928, she was recommissioned. Within seven months, she was back at New London undergoing repairs before resuming operations in June 1929.

It was a year later that Rickover joined the crew.

By then, S-48 was the only remaining S-class submarine from the four-boat Group IV consisting of S-48 to S-51. S-49 and S-50 experienced battery explosions and S-51 sank due to a collision with a passenger ship. By the time Rickover reported aboard the S-48, her two surviving sister ships, themselves mechanical and electrical nightmares, had been decommissioned.

In his biography, “Rickover: The Struggle for Excellence,” Francis Duncan reports on a myriad of mechanical and electrical problems confronted by the young engineering officer on his first cruise aboard the S-48. He relates that the pneumatic control valves used to submerge the ship never “synchronized [properly and thus when diving] she [always] lurched to one side or the other…to as much as twelve degrees.” Rickover wrote about his first cruise in July of 1930. Less than an hour into the cruise, a malfunctioning electrical controller forced the sub to stop. Once fixed, the gyro compass repeater then “went haywire…[making it] impossible to steer a correct course,” he reported. About an hour later, an exhaust valve stem cracked, forcing another stop. It was repaired and “then three…cylinder jackets of the port engine developed leaks… [Rickover, fearing the Captain] would become disgusted [with his performance] took the chance and ran with the leaky cylinder jackets…” If that wasn’t enough, several hours later “the electrician reported…something wrong with one of the main motors.” Crawling into the bilges to check out a “jangling in the bow,” he discovered the anchor chain was loose, “the control panel for the anchor windlass had become grounded.”

Two months later, smoke belched from a ventilator fan; a main battery had caught fire. According to Thomas Rockwell in his book, “The Rickover Effect,” the skipper, fearing an explosion, “ordered all men on deck, prepared to jump overboard if the expected hydrogen explosion occurred.” Believing the problem was his responsibility, Rickover volunteered to re-enter the sub and fix the problem. Rickover wrote, “the smoke was coming from the battery compartment…when it was opened black smoke billowed forth… Wearing a gas mask and trailing a lifeline [Rickover ventured through the hatch].” Finding no fire, he rigged a ventilating system and lime was placed in the compartment to absorb carbon dioxide. A later examination revealed that the fire had started by sparking battery connections. Three hours later, a short circuit in the “charred battery connections” started yet another fire, which he unsuccessfully attempted to put out with a carbon tetrachloride fire extinguisher. In desperation, he successfully sprinkled lime on the flames. It worked. The cause of the second fire was old and deteriorating insulation. Rockwell also relates that Rickover was confronted with propulsion motors that “were a continual source of trouble.” Showing his hands-on approach to problem solving, “he redesigned and rebuilt them [after which] they caused no further trouble.”

13 June 1931 Bureau of Navigation Bulletin… Rickover commended for saving a petty officer form drowning

In July 1931, Rickover was promoted to Executive Officer.

In November, the S-48 had another mishap. She started a dive for a practice torpedo run and immediately “she took a twelve-degree list and a sharp downward angle. At seventy feet…she was out of control…blowing the tanks…brought her up… [A later] investigation showed a vent valve had failed to open.” In February of 1932, after several diving mishaps, a group of officers “nervous and tired, had drawn up a message…for all to sign, stating the ship was unsafe and could not complete her assignment.” According to Duncan, “Rickover argued them out of it…it would be bad for the reputations of all concerned and [told them] that he could work out a new diving procedure.” His diving protocol meant diving took longer, but it worked.

The 1932 Navy-Princeton gravity expedition to the West Indies

The first gravity measurements at sea had been made in 1926 from a submarine of the Royal Navy. The first U.S. gravity measurements at sea had been made from the submarine USS S-21 (SS-126), assisted by the Eagle Boats USS Eagle No. 35 and USS Eagle No. 58.

S-48 was assigned at the request of the Hydrographer of the Navy by the Secretary of the Navy to assist with the second U.S. expedition to obtain gravity measurements at sea using a gravimeter, or gravity meter, designed by Dr. Felix Vening Meinesz. Meinesz, joined by Dr. Harry Hammond Hess of Princeton University, and a U.S. Navy technician, participated in the expedition. The submarine was accompanied and assisted by the minesweeper USS Chewink (AM-39) in a route from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to Key West, Florida and return to Guantanamo through the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos region from 5 February through 25 March 1932. The description of operations and results of the expedition were published by the U.S. Navy Hydrographic Office in The Navy-Princeton gravity expedition to the West Indies in 1932.

SS-159 S-48

Despite her frequent mechanical and electrical mishaps, sinking’s, and groundings, the Lake Torpedo Boat Co. built S-48 was finally deactivated in 1935 and berthed at League Island, N.Y. At the beginning of WWII, she was reactivated and used for training at New London. “Overhaul and repair periods [during the war] were frequent,” history records.

The hard luck S-48 was decommissioned in 1945 and scrapped the following year after 25 years of service, three of which inspired one of the Navy’s most respected and honored seamen.”

I do not know what happened to the man Rickover saved. He had a son that lived in Norfolk but the only other records I could find indicated that he followed a sailor’s life. Like Rickover, he was in his late twenties or early thirties so I can imagine that he would continue on serving the Navy through the next decade at least.

Like most people that rode nuc boats, we owed a lot to the man who guided the Navy’s nuclear power program. I have a new appreciation for him after reading about his exploits on the S 48 boat.

Mister Mac

A photo of S-48 (SS-159) which was taken in November 1931 at Submarine Base Coco Solo, Panama Canal Zone aboard the boat. Persons from left to right are: LTJG Howard Walter Gilmore as a LCDR, he later commanded the S-48 in 1940 and in 1941 commanded the Shark (SS-174), in 1942 he became 1st CO of the Growler(SS-215) where he was KIA. Howard W. Gilmore (AS-16) was named in honor of him. LT Hyman George Rickover was last CO of the S-9 (SS-114) until 15-APR-1931 and also later commanded the S-48 as a LCDR in 1937. He became Admiral and father of the nuclear navy. Hyman G. Rickover (SSN-709) was named in honor of him. LTJG William Ramon Headden later commanded Plunger (SS-179) from 26-JAN-1939 to 22-FEB-1941 as a LCDR and destroyer Edison (DD-439) from 01-MAR-1942 to 24-02-1943 as a CDR. LTJG Frederic August Graf commissioned the transport ship John Land (AP-167) as CAPT and first CO. LT Olton Rader Bennehoff was CO of S-48 when the picture was taken. He took command of S-48 23-JUNE-1931. He previously commnded Eagle #7 (PE-7) since 24-NOV-1918 and the submarine S-11 (SS-116) since 02-JAN-1926. He probably had a second tour as CO as a LCDR in S-48 in 1934. In WW II he became the one and only CO of amphibious transport ship Thomas Stone (APA-29) from 18-MAY-1942 to 01-APR-1944.

 

 

 

 

 

Post number 597… Submarine Number 597 4

An odd kind of submarine

USS Tullibee

USS Tullibee (This photo was probably taken shortly after her commissioning in 1960. The distinctive shark-fin domes are for the PUFFS sonar system).

 

Today’s post is about an odd numbered submarine that played a unique role in the development of the nuclear Navy, the USS Tulibee.  I am always reminded when I do stories about the nuclear submarine Navy that there has never been a point in my life that the United States did not have a nuclear submarine. I was born in the cradle of the Nuclear Navy (Pittsburgh not New London) in 1954 and had family members that worked at Bettis Atomic Energy from the very start.

From an article on Global Security.org

“In 1956 Admiral Arleigh Burke, then CNO, requested that the Committee on Undersea Warfare of the National Academy of Sciences study the effect of advanced technology on submarine warfare. The result of this study, dubbed “Project Nobska” was an increased emphasis on deeper-diving, ultraquiet designs utilizing long-range sonar. The USS Tullibee incorporated three design changes based on Project Nobska. First, it incorporated the first bow-mounted spherical sonar array. This required the second innovation, amidships, angled torpedo tubes. Thirdly, Tullibee was propelled by a very quiet turboelectric power plant.”

The Soviets were already developing boats that combined speed and diving ability. That ambition would remain one of their driving goals throughout the Cold War. Some of their later boats were rumored to seceded the diving capability of Allied Submarines by a significant amount. So Tullibee was an early recognition by American planners for the need for stronger ASW capability and operational improvements.

“Naval Reactors’ effort to develop a quiet nuclear propulsion plant began early — even before the sea trials of the Nautilus — with the hunter-killer submarine Tullibee (SSN 597). The purpose of the hunter-killer was to ambush enemy submarines. As the mission of the ship was seen in the early 1950s, speed was less important than silence. By substituting an electric-drive system for reduction gears, Rickover hoped to reduce noise. In this approach a generator ran an electric motor. Varying the speed of the motor would achieve the same result as the reduction gear, but there would be a penalty; the electric propulsion system would be larger and heavier than the components it replaced.

On 20 October 1954, the Department of Defense requested the Atomic Energy Commission to develop a small reactor for a small hunter-killer submarine. The ship was meant to be the first of a large class. The commission, wishing to broaden industrial participation in the program, assigned the project to Combustion Engineering, Incorporated. The S1C prototype achieved full power operation on 19 December 1959 at Windsor, Connecticut. Congress authorized the Tulibee in the 1958 shipbuilding program, Electric Boat launched the ship on 27 April 1960, and the navy commissioned her on November 9 of that year. The ship was not small; although her tonnage, beam, and draft were less than the Skipjack, her length was greater. By the time the Tullibee was in operation, she was about to be superseded by the Thresher class.”

SSN-597 USS Tullibee Patch

“Tullibee combined the ASW focus of the SSKs with the smallest nuclear reactor then feasible with an eye toward a relatively cheap, dedicated ASW asset that could be deployed in the numbers still considered necessary to fully populate the forward barriers. Compared to the 15,000 SHP S5W type reactor of a Skipjack, Tullibee had a 2500 SHP reactor and turbo-electric drive. She could barely make 20 knots, but she lacked the reduction gears whose loud tonals made prior SSNs so easy for SOSUS to detect at extreme range. She also continued the tradition established by the BQR-4 equipped SSKs by mounting a large, bow mounted, passive, low frequency array, the BQR-7. On Tullibee, the BQR-7 was wrapped around the first spherical active sonar, the BQS-6, and together they formed the first integrated sonar system, the BQQ-1.

Superficially, the Tullibee appeared to be one of the blind alleys into which technological evolution occasionally wandered. Nevertheless, the ship was important. To get good reception, her sonar was placed far forward, as far away from the ship’s self-generated noise as possible. Her torpedo tubes were moved aft into the midship section and were angled outward from the centerline—features that were incorporated in the Thresher submarines.8 Finally, electric drive worked well; the submarine was the quietest nuclear platform the Navy had.

As an ASW platform her performance was unmatched, but almost as soon as the decision to deploy Tullibee was made, a further decision was made to avoid specialized platforms and pursue instead a multipurpose SSN that best combined the speed of Skipjack and the ASW capability of Tullibee into one platform. This became the USS Thresher.”

The Tullibee had a good career lasting from the early sixties into the late 1980’s. She was superseded by a number of classes but the work done on her would impact most of those classes. Tactics leaned in those early days would help the newer boats to understand the opportunities that existed for modern nuclear submarine warfare.

Decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 25 June 1988, ex-Tullibee entered the Navy’s Nuclear Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program on 5 January 1995. Recycling was completed on 1 April 1996. One of the fairwater planes from the Tullibee can be seen as part of a permanent art installation on the shore of Lake Washington in Seattle.

To all who built her and sailed on her, Brazo Zulu.

Mister Mac

 

Birth of the Boomers 2

Happy New Year from TLS

I have been doing a lot of research on my WW2 projects and came across a great source of information.

The Navy publishes a monthly magazine that dates back to the 1920’s under a variety of names including “All Hands Magazine”.

Now for something completely different

I was thinking about how submarines have changed and of course one of the real milestones in submarine operations was the creation of the Polaris Program. This is one of those game changing moments in many ways. While the boats were built using methods that dated to the Fleet Boats, the marriage of a new power and propulsion system and brand new form of weapon fundamentally changed submarine warfare as well as global warfare. While earlier systems had been developed to attack the enemy ships and territory (Regulas for instance) Polaris provided a multiple survivable weapon that would be difficult to detect.

From the Nautilus on, submarines had already proven their new stealth technology. No longer would boats be required to come to the surface (or near to the surface while snorkeling) on a regular basis. These new vessels became true submarines in the sense that they could operate for months at a time and perform all of their designated missions. These boats could provide enough air and water and habitability was greatly improved. Most importantly though, the purpose of the boat was more than adequately met. The 41 for Freedom boats would contribute greatly to the winning of the Cold War (at least the first one).

The USS George Washington SSBN 598 was commissioned on December 30, 1959. The January “All Hands Magazine” chronicled the development of the weapons systems and boats that would follow as the nation geared up for this newest phase of the Cold War. The engineering and production capabilities that were needed to accomplish these tasks stand as monuments to American ingenuity to this day.

Here is the link to the article.

http://www.navy.mil/ah_online/archpdf/ah196001.pdf

Enjoy the read

Mister Mac

 

Sinking of the F-1 on December 17, 1917 1

Robert Bradshaw  is one of my oldest shipmates (and by old I mean we have known and stayed in contact longer than any of my other Navy colleagues).

On the 100 year anniversary of the sinking of the submarine F-1 he sent me a clipping from the San Diego Union Archives.   

Thanks for the idea Bob.

By the way, you might have seen the link to his web site on the right hand side of the blog. I don’t normally do a lot of advertising but his art work is definitely worth looking at and makes a great gift for a family member or something nice for your own walls.

http://www.inpleinsight.com/home

The F-1 Started out as the Carp (SS-20)

The submarine torpedo boat Carp (SS-20), the latest and most efficient type of underwater fighter, was launched on September 6, 1911 at the Union Iron Works. Miss Josephine Tynan, little daughter of Joseph. J. Tynan, general manager of the Iron Works, christened the fish-like craft, and the launching was accomplished on time and without a hitch. On the launching platform were officers of the army and navy, members of the national legislature, representatives of foreign governments – and ” men and women prominent in society. Before the launching, W. R. Sands, representing the Electric – Boat Company, pinned a dainty gold watch on little’ Miss Tynan’s breast, and President McGregor of the Union Iron Works “decorated the girl with a jeweled locket.


There was a crash of breaking glass, and the Carp, its green snout dripping with champagne, went scooting down the ways and into the water, which welcomed the latest addition to the navy with a great splash.” 

Submarine technology was still in its infant stage in 1911 but the Carp represented the latest in underwater technology.

Gone were the days of gasoline powered boats. Instead, she was fitted out with diesels and improved batteries. She had four eighteen inch torpedo tubes and could dive to a depth of 200 feet. Her seed was also an improvement over earlier classes since she could make 13.5 knots on the surface and 11.5 knots submerged.

Less than a year later, the submarine force was reminded just how perilous the job could be. In 1912, she had two incidents which seemed to foretell a challenging future. In the first, she was doing a test dive and exceeded her design by going to 283 feet. While performing that evolution, the unthinkable happened.

She would have another incident that year. F-1 (SS-20), ran aground off Watsonville, Ca, 11 October 1912. Two men were killed in the accident.

 

But the real tragedy was still in the boat’s future

One hundred years ago, on Dec. 17, 1917, Submarine F-1 sank about 15 miles west of the San Diego Harbor entrance after colliding with a sister submarine. Nineteen sailors lost their lives; the commander and four men on the bridge escaped. Details of the tragedy remained secret for almost 50 years. From the Union, Aug. 30, 1970:

Navy Lifts 50 Year Silence On Point Loma Sub Sinking

By JOHN BUNKER

On Dec. 18, 1917, the Navy Department issued a brief, cryptic press release to the effect that an American submarine had been lost “along the American coast.” There were no details. Not until many hours later did it become know that the submarine was the F-1 and that it had sunk within sight of San Diego. The tragedy had occurred on Dec. 17 but not until Dec. 19 was The San Diego Union able to print the barest facts about the accident and give the names of five survivors and the 19 who went down with the ship.

 

“The Navy has withheld details,” the story said.

Because of wartime censorship, no details were ever released and as the years passed, the sinking of the F-1 became an almost unknown and virtually forgotten incident in American naval history.

Now that the 50-year period of military “restricted classification” has passed on the reports of this sinking, full details are available from government records in Washington. They show that the tragedy was caused, as are so many sea accidents, by a simple failure in communications.

F-1 built by the Union Iron Works at San Francisco, was launched Sept. 6, 1911. During construction she was known as the USS Carp and on the naval list was Submarine Torpedo Boat 20.

The designation was changed to F-1 in November 1911, after the secretary of the Navy had ordered letters and numerals for submarines instead of names. The 142-foot. 330-ton F-1 was commissioned at Mare Island Navy Yard June 19, 1912, with Lt. (j.g.) J. B. Howell in command.

The new boat operated between San Diego and San Francisco for several months after her commissioning, then was assigned to Honolulu, being towed to her new station behind the battleship South Dakota. In Honolulu, she became part of the First Submarine Division, Torpedo Flotilla, Pacific Fleet, her companions being the other boats of this class; F-2, F-3 and F-4, all mothered by the, submarine tender Alert.

It was on the morning of March 25, 1915, that F-1, F-3, and F-4 left Honolulu for local operations. F-4 did not return and the eventual detection and recovery was a classic of naval salvage.

She was later “interned” at the bottom of Pearl Harbor after it was discovered that she had suffered a leak in the. battery compartment and the crew had been killed by chlorine gas. This was the Navy’s first submarine disaster.

The loss of F-1 so soon after this dealt the fledgling, submarine service a heavy blow

In partial layup during 1916, the F-1 returned to full commission in 1917 and was assigned. to, Patrol. Force, Pacific, taking part in the development of submarine tactics, spending. much of her time maneuvering with her sister subs and making practice attacks on surface ships based at San Pedro.

On a day of generally good visibility, F-1, F-2 and F-3 were making a surface run from San Pedro to San Diego. competing for semi-annual efficiency and performance ratings. All boats were making about nine, knots, running abreast. Point Lorna was just ahead. ‘

What happened then is told in this terse report from the log of F-3.

“Stood on course 142 degrees true until 6:50 p.m. when course was changed to ,322, degrees true to avoid a very thick fog bank. At about 5:55p.m. heard fog whistle and sighted mast­head ,light and port side light of approaching vessel. Ship was then swung with 10 degrees right, rudder. Gave hard right rudder and stopped both engines. Closed bulkhead doors. Struck F-1 abaft of conning tower with bow of , ship. Backed -both ,motors.;F-1 listed and sank almost immediately. Stood by survivors of F-1 and brought .five on board.”

F-1 had sunk in 10 seconds at the most, giving the 19 men below no chance to escape.

One of the survivors was Lt. A. E. Montgomery, the commanding officer.

He told a board of inquiry how the lookout, Machinist J. J. Schmissrauter, had called him from the chart room, reporting a light on the Port bow.

“Almost immediately,” said Montgomery, “it grew brighter. I gave the order ‘hard right’ as it was too late to stop and it seemed but· an instant. when F-3 came out of the fog and rammed us.

The board of inquiry found that the three vessels had all decided ,to change course to clear the fog bank and had signaled their intent by radio, but none of the ships had received the others messages. F·3’s change of course was deemed excessive under the circumstances. The board pointed out. in holding. F-3 responsible, that radio failure was partly to blame, all boats of this class suffering from poor radio communication because of weak transmitters and excessive engine noise while underway.

Because of the depth of water and the lack of submarine rescue equipment, no attempt was made to locate the ship.

Postscript: Naval oceanographers located the wreck of the F-1 in 1976.

Rest in Peace Shipmates

Some traditions are worth forgetting – Real Submariners 5

The Old Navy. The ship in the background was my Grandfather MacPherson’s ship during World War 1, USS Amphritite. Grandfather Mac was old Navy. His ship however was considered New Navy by the men who sailed on wooden ships with real sails.

Each submariner’s journey begins when they finish all of their training and the hatch closes when the last man is down. For a hundred and seventeen years, submariners have steered a course unique to their own generation and their own type of boat. From the wildly dangerous gasoline powered boats to the sleek new nuclear powered leviathans, submariners have all pioneered their own form of warfare facing unique challenges. In my lifetime, I have watched the demise of the diesel boats and an entire generation of nuclear boats that had vastly different missions and capabilities.

The lessons learned on the early boats have been passed along in design and operations. Learning the characteristics of the sea is a never ending process as boats operate in depth greater than the early designers could have imagined at speeds that dwarf the Pig Boats. New technology and weapons have made the modern submarines the most fearsome warriors the world has ever known.

With all of these improvements in design and technology comes a much stronger need for training and skills. Even though I sailed on some of the most updated submarines for their time (688 Class and Ohio Class) the new boats have capabilities that make what we did seem like it was primitive.

Two things have remained constant throughout the entire history of U.S. Submarines. First, the older generation always had a rougher time than these newbies and were somehow the “real” submariners. Second, the older generation passes away and is replaced by the “newbies” that are now the older generation and had a rougher time than the current generation of newbies. They become the “real” submariners.

If you ever want to have some fun at a USSVI meeting, just whisper out loud to someone that the definition of a real submarine is one that can stay underwater for months at a time. Man Battle Stations Torpedo will soon be heard throughout the room. Shouts of DBF will fill the air.

News flash: your dolphins make you unique among the many classes of sailors who have ever challenged the sea. But they do not make you any better than anyone else wearing them because of the type of boat they earned them on. The mixture of bravery, comradery, sacrifice and tireless work binds us all together. I would even challenge that those men and women who are currently serving on the newest boats are more technically qualified than people of my generation. Their sacrifices are just as real however. In some cases more. Instead of weeks of sea time, they routinely do months. Instead of slowly cruising near the ocean’s surface, they bravely sail at great depths with astounding sustained speeds.

I love my many memories from serving on my five nuclear submarines. We did and saw things that will remain secretly in my heart forever. I also love belonging to a unique fraternity that stands alone in all of the fraternities of the world. I feel disappointed when any member of this fraternity tries to diminish the service of anyone else who has earned the position just to make themselves feel better or more important. You aren’t. And God willing, maybe the next generation will not be so inclined to be so self-focused.

Mister Mac

 

Boom Reply

One of the early posts from the Blog.

theleansubmariner

Submarines operate for extended periods of time under the ocean. This ability gives them the advantage of stealth in performing her missions. Since even the most modern submarine requires people to operate it, providing the basics of life while submerged has always been a challenge.

sub duty

Think about those World War 2 movies where the Destroyer had forced the U-boat to the bottom. The destroyer captain could be patient since all he had to do was ride around on top and wait for the air on the inside of the submarine to become so horrible it could no longer sustain life. At some point, the boat would have to come to the surface.

When the idea of using nuclear submarines as launching platforms became a reality, something different needed to be done. So the Treadwell corporation proposed building a new type of “Oxygen Generator” that would ensure a high rate of…

View original post 1,465 more words

If you want a Safe Space, here’s a thought Reply

SUBSAFE is a quality assurance program of the United States Navy designed to maintain the safety of the nuclear submarine fleet; specifically, to provide maximum reasonable assurance that subs’ hulls will stay watertight, and that they can recover from unanticipated flooding.

SUBSAFE covers all systems exposed to sea pressure or critical to flooding recovery. All work done and all materials used on those systems are tightly controlled to ensure the material used in their assembly as well as the methods of assembly, maintenance, and testing are correct. They require certification with traceable quality evidence. These measures increase the cost of submarine construction and maintenance.

SUBSAFE addresses only flooding; mission assurance is not a concern, simply a side benefit. Other safety programs and organizations regulate such things as fire safety, weapons systems safety, and nuclear reactor systems safety.

From 1915 to 1963, the United States Navy lost 16 submarines to non-combat related causes. Since SUBSAFE began in 1963, only one submarine, the non-SUBSAFE-certified USS Scorpion (SSN-589), has been lost.

History

On 10 April 1963, while on a deep test dive about 200 miles off the northeast coast of the United States, USS Thresher (SSN-593) was lost with all hands. The loss of the lead ship of a new, fast, quiet, deep-diving class of submarines led the Navy to re-evaluate the methods used to build its submarines. A “Thresher Design Appraisal Board” determined that, although the basic design of the Thresher class was sound, measures should be taken to improve the condition of the hull and the ability of submarines to control and recover from flooding casualties.

SUBSAFE certification is carried out in four areas; Design, Material, Fabrication, & Testing. The exact procedures are documented in the initial design & construction for new submarines, while undergoing routine maintenance in naval depots, and in the fleet maintenance manual for operating submarines. During each step, quality evidence is collected, reviewed, approved, and stored for the life of the submarine. This process is reinforced with external and internal audits.

ous Sub safe space