Reporters noted: “There is a typical submarine smell” Stories from the U 111 Archives Reply

This week was the annual Veterans Day remembrance in the United States and around the world. Of course, this year was the Centennial of the original celebration of Armistice Day when the land armies in Europe stopped fighting on 11-11 -1918 at 11:00 AM.

The Navy’s involved did not have the same cease fire. In a few days, I will write more about the surrender of the High Fleet which was nearly nine days later.

What is it like to live on a submarine?

Many of my submarine family celebrated this year with memories of their own times. It was great seeing the stories and pictures of their own and their families individual experiences. One of the cool things that popped up was an old list of things that might help you to understand what it was like to live on a nuclear submarine. I will include that as part of another post.

As I was reading the article below about the U 111, it occurred to me how much things have not changed much in 100 years. Well, to be honest, maybe they have a bit since the newer boats are rumored to have real showers and much better accommodations. And the crew get to entertain themselves with much fancier gear than even my generation could have imagined. But at the end of the day, one thing remains the same: you spend more than your share of time in an enclosed series of metal compartments under the ocean.

So with no further delay, here is one reporter’s impression of a “state of the art” German Undersea Boat in 1919.

The Bridgeport times and evening farmer. (Bridgeport, Conn.) 1918-1924, May 05, 1919, Image 9

LIVING IN A SUBMARINE OF HUN MAKE NOT ALL FUN

“If you would like to have a new experience suppose you do this:

Take a series of hat boxes and knock the bottom out and take the covers off. . Then Join them together until you have, say, a dozen in line. Smear the Interior with grease as thick as possible. Cover the walls with gages, pumps, little wheels and fill the centre spaces with machinery. In any odd corners place a few bunks.

Then crawl in, eat in one of the little compartments, and sleep in another and all the while have someone violently rock the Joined boxes.

If you do this you will have a fair Idea of the life led by the American crews which recently brought to America for the benefit of the Victory Liberty Loan Campaign five ex-German submarines, during the days of their passage across the ocean.

One of them will be exhibited in Bridgeport on May 10.

The lives of the officers and men aboard the vessels of the regular navy are so many days spent in paradise compared with the days of the crews aboard the five ex-Hun pirates. The men of the regular navy can have baths whenever they want then. Aboard the submarine there is no such thing as a bath, Huns not usually caring much for bathing, as is the custom among savage tribes.

So when the U 148 and the U 88 got to Sandy Hook the other day ahead of the U 97 and the UC 117 officers made haste to land and go to Fort Hancock where with one accord they demanded the bathtubs of the fort’s garrison.

“And I can tell you that that bath was the best of my life,” said Lieutenant-Commander Edward O’Keefe of U 148 in describing the voyage.

The U Boats numbered five when they set out with the submarine tender Bushnell from Harwich, England, the U 111 being the fifth. Each had a crew of approximately 27 men and three officers, all Lieutenant Commanders.

The largest of the U Boats Is the 117. She is 216 feet long with a beam of 22 feet and draws twelve feet and eight inches. She has a deep Interest for America, as she is believed to be the U Boat which made a raid off the American coast, attacking with true Hun chivalry a barge with woman and children aboard off the New England coast. She is a combined mine layer and cruiser having apparatus for laying mines and for discharging torpedoes.

The others are 190 feet long with a beam of 18 feet 10 inches and draw 11 feet and 4 inches of water when they are navigating on the surface.

The little fleet was manned for the trip across by men detailed from other ships and not of necessity familiar with submarines. Hence it was decided to make the voyage on the surface. The fleet set out, five U Boats and the submarine tender Bushnell from Harwich, England, on April 8. They kept together and reached the Azores on April 10. They remained together until within three days of New York when the U 97 cracked a piston and had no power as only one engine was running.’ .The sea was high and rough but the UC 97 signaled to the Bushnell that she would make repairs. She did so and no sooner were they completed and the boat able to proceed under her own power than a storm developed. The crews had to fight the seas night and day and it took the most careful navigation and handling of the boats to carry them through. Their low lying decks were constantly under water and only the conning tower high above the decks was dry. There were only two days of the latter part of the voyage that the crews could be on deck.

The U 111 and the U 117 reached port ahead of the others, having been separated during the storm. The U 148 and 88 followed, lying at Sandy Hook while the U C 97 with the Bushnell passed into the port of New York and eventually found their way to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The U 111 left for New England ahead of the arrival of the others and so four U boats were there together when the U 88 and 148 reached the Navy Yard.

In England, at the present time is the U 140 which has been assigned to the United States. She has no engines aboard and will not come to this country for some time. The other five were sent here at the request of Secretary Glass for the purpose of the Victory Loan Campaign. They will, however, be exhibited in American ports long after the Victory Loan Campaign closes.

New York will be especially interested in the U 148 as she is to be exhibited on this part of the seaboard and along the Hudson River. The U 88 goes to the Gulf of Mexico, up the Mississippi and finally to the Pacific Coast for exhibition purposes while the U 117 will visit southern ports, stopping at Philadelphia on the way. The U C 97 will appear on the Great Lakes and visit all of the principal ports, spending considerable time in Chicago.

Reporters who visited the former Hun pirates at the Brooklyn Navy Yard the other day did not envy the crews their voyage. There is a typical submarine smell. It is a mingling of odors. Entrance to the craft is through hatches of iron which are securely fastened in place when the boat submerges. So the smell is retained. It is made up of oil smells, the smells from the batteries the machinery, the electrical apparatus, and the food which the crew get in a more or less canned shape. Practically the only cooking aboard a submarine is the heating of coffee. The typical submarine smell is a cross somewhere between the smell of a new Manhattan subway and that of a jail. Perhaps It partakes a little of the character of each. In any event it is not pleasant.

Students in efficiency and concentration would do well to visit a submarine. All of the operation is assembled in one of the little compartments in the centre of the craft In a room immediately under the conning tower with an opening in the floor of the conning tower connecting. All of the ship is in a series of compartments with steel doors which may be securely fastened in case of accident or leakage in any one compartment. So the ship is divided naturally Into stove pipe sections.

In the room from which the operations are directed are assembled a multitude of valves. Through, a use of these water Is admitted Into the tanks on the sides of the vessel, so that by using the sinking rudder the craft can be run beneath the surface of the sea. Most of the submarines have a reserve buoyancy that is if their engines were stopped they would come to the surface of their own volition, being in reality driven beneath the surface. Some of them, however, have extra tanks which when filled with water destroy that reserve buoyancy and the submarine -sinks like a stone. When the desired depth is reached air is forced into tanks in the (proportion desired to maintain her at any designated depth. Within the operating compartment are many guages. On their dials can be read the revolutions of the engines, the depth of the craft and the direction in which she is travelling. The steering is done here and the periscopes are also located here.

When they are on the surface the submarines are driven by oil engines of the Diesel type but when’ they are submerged they are driven by electric motors which are fed from storage batteries.

Usually in wartime a submarine runs at an average depth of 30 feet with her listening apparatus active.

When she heard the sound of some approaching craft she rises only far enough to project her periscope when she takes a look and then either rises to discharge her torpedo or discharges it without rising to the surface.

The visits of the captured Hun pirates, harmless and toy like now, will do much to call to the attention of the people the daring of our men who fought these underseas dastards and the right they have to ask that we finally settle the bills of the war and help the country to a peace basis.”

Make sure you visit the original stories about the U 111 here:

https://theleansubmariner.com/2014/01/26/grand-theft-submarine-stealing-the-u-111/

Mister Mac

 

I never planned on becoming an old veteran 12

As Veteran’s Day approaches once more, my thoughts turn to how many veterans I have known in my life. My Dad, of course, comes to mind immediately. He served during the last year of World War 2 in the Navy and returned to an America that was fundamentally changed from the country he had grown up in. His father served in World War 1 and his grandfather served in the Civil War. All of them were volunteers and each came home and participated in veterans groups until they passed on to the next reunion.

Growing up in my hometown, veterans always seemed to be really old.

Their original uniforms were ill-fitting and sometimes they had to wear the uniforms of the organizations they belonged to like the Legion and the VFW. Any attempt to get into one of their original uniforms for many was a struggle that got harder as the years passed. They walked a little slower than I am sure they must have when they served. Some struggled with mended limbs while others just fought the battle of arthritis. But none of them ever seemed to complain. They jockeyed up to see who would have the honor of carrying the flag or one of the Springfield Rifles as part of the honor guard. All of them understood that they were carrying that flag and the rifles for someone who was not able to be there to do so.

As the years passed, there seemed to be less and less of them marching.

Some had to slow down because they were no longer able to take that walk in the cold November weather. Others had long since joined their fallen comrades after having that same flag draped over their coffin. I visit my Mom every Tuesday at the retirement home she lives in now and this week I got a chance to see the men still living as they viewed the pictures from their younger days. Some now need assistance but all came to attention as best they could when the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem were recited and sung. I can’t imagine any of those men kneeling except maybe on the beaches of Normandy to try and avoid getting shot by a German machine gun. Or maybe on a beach in the Pacific to try and comfort a buddy that had just been maimed by a Japanese shell.

Going off to fight for my country

Like my Dad and his Dad, I joined when I was seventeen. I was in a hurry to leave town and serve my tour in uniform. Frankly, at seventeen, all I thought about was the glory and the nice uniform that would set me apart from my peers. Okay, I also thought about how it would help me with girls, but at seventeen, what young man doesn’t have at least a passing desire for the opposite sex. At least in the world I grew up in anyway.

And then reality set in

Imagine my disappointment when I discovered very early on that the payment for wearing that uniform was a lot of sacrifices. On the first day, you find out that in order to serve, you lose your freedoms. Really basic stuff like the freedom to wake up when you want, the freedom to speak when you desire and the freedom to get up and go anywhere and anytime you want. Gone. Just like that you find out that the rights you have taken for granted all of those years are no longer available to you.

Don’t get me wrong, you can still do all of those things. But you will pay an extraordinarily high price if you do not follow the rules.  What you don’t realize is that from that day until the day you are finished, all of those sacrifices are meant to shape you. You learn quickly that all of those around you are going through the same things. You are being built into a team and being prepared to do things that are unnatural and unpalatable to many people. Your actions as an individual and a team could result in the destruction of whole cities and the people within them. Or just a small village and a single enemy. No matter which, they would only be accomplished if the country was in danger. But you needed to be ready to answer if called.

I think that is when I started to understand why those veterans all looked so old.

It wasn’t just the passage of time. It was the understanding of the things they had seen and the things they had done. That hunched over old man wearing an Airborne Badge jumped out of a plane into enemy fire. That Marine who can barely walk had to climb over a sea wall at Inchon and spent the next two years of his life in hospitals trying to learn how to use his legs again. That sailor with the withered hands who survived burns over much of his upper body when a kamikaze plane crashed through the defenses of his ship.

They had the privilege of becoming old while many of their comrades did not.

The ones we remember on Memorial Day hold a special place in their hearts always. Some of them became old because they had something called survivors guilt. Why did that bullet take my brother and not me.

But when you look at your eyes, the age fades away. Those eyes that have seen so much are still intense with the feelings of achievement and sometimes a little pride. I see it every time I volunteer at the VA. I saw it last week at out Veterans Breakfast put on by my state Representative Justin Walsh. Those eyes saw unimaginable horrors but also saw the fruits of their sacrifices fulfilled. They achieved their mission and them came home to a country that was better for their service.

I am older now than the men were who I used to think were ancient. I survived my two decades of service while some of my generation did not. Many who served with me now are suffering from the ravages of age and diseases that surely came from their service. When I have been lucky enough to see them at reunions though, I notice something within a few minutes of talking with them. While outwardly we all appear older, we are all still very young at heart. To a person, they all say the same thing. If they were younger, they would do it all again.

Where do these men and women come from? More importantly, if the country needs them in the future, where will they come from?

Thank you to all who served. It was my greatest honor and privilege to serve as your comrade.

I never planned on becoming an old veteran. But with the Grace of God, I am thankful to still be able to write these words. I know many who did not have that written as part of their stories.

A couple of old Chief Warrant Officers

Mister Mac

 

Global Undersea Warfare Champions Reply

As Veterans Day 2018 approaches, I wanted to say thanks to the winning team that has given so much to the nation.

On December 7th, 1941, unforeseen circumstances changed the role of submarines forever. Gone was the role of coastal protection and scouting for the fleet and our submarine force has never looked back.

Sheer courage, unbridled innovation, and a collective surge of determination have all been the hallmarks of the United States Submarine Force.

Day or night, somewhere in the darkest part of the ocean, our Submariners are protecting this country from enemies who would take our freedom if we let them.

We never will.

Mister Mac

Something Meaningful 11

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Long time readers of my blog know that I have some very strong feelings about Veteran’s Day. As someone who served his country in times of war and peace, I am always humbled when another person recognizes me as a veteran and thanks me for my service. I have struggled for a long time with a quick response that would be meaningful and am gladdened to just have the ability to say “You are Welcome”.

I joined the Navy in 1972 and had every intention of serving someplace where the action was. Call it youthful ignorance, call it just plain naivety, or just call it a lack of understanding of the sacrifices many men and women actually endured. But I was convinced that I was supposed to serve and survive to a ripe old age. The service I actually did was  much less dramatic than I had imagined it would be. I became a submariner and served on five different boats with varying lengths of time in either a shipyard or at sea. While we sacrificed our time and endured some level of dangers, I am fully aware that the many years I spent under water paled in comparison to those who served in combat. I make a small joke from time to time about the aggressors we faced as being less personal; they were never actually aiming their weapons at me personally, just the sub in general (which makes it less intrusive I suppose).

My brothers and sisters who faced actual hostile fire knew combat as a much more personal affair. Someone with a gun was intentionally trying to kill them. Not very much about that is oblique or hard to imagine. The one with the better shot, advantage or opportunity was destined to be the victor. The combat was no longer about slogans or jingoes or flag waving. It was about survival. The men and women who found themselves locked in this kind of war more often thought about getting back alive or making sure they had their buddies six.

We as a nation, owe these people a lot. They were our hands and feet and placed themselves between us and people who want to do us harm. We will rely on their reliefs for a long time to come. The world is still a dangerous place and no amount of well wishing handwringing diplomacy has seemed to diminish that fact at all. Don’t get me wrong. I want the dreamers and the idealists to continue to try and find a way to bring peace to the world. I pray for them to do so. But I also pray that we will continue to have men and women willing to step up and do the things needed to protect all of us until that day comes.

For the restaurants and service companies who always line up to show their gratitude, I have a request. To all the restaurants that are offering me a free meal on Veteran’s Day, I want to sincerely thank you for your gesture. Its very nice of you to remember. I actually have plans that day. Here’s an idea though… maybe you can offer that free meal to one of my homeless brothers or sisters that really needs it. You don’t even have to wait until November 11, because I am sure they are pretty hungry tonight. While you are at it, can you have your corporate offices contact the White House and Congress and remind them they have a sacred obligation to care for the people who they sent off to fight the wars they engaged in? Imagine if everyone on that long list that always appears this time of year really did that for our brothers and sisters still trying to get all the way back home? God Bless You.

Special note: This is a personal request. I in no way would dishonor the men and women who really deserve the recognition like those who survived being shot at, bombed, gassed, taken prisoner, or depth charged. You are my heroes and you deserve so much more than a free meal once a year. But go ahead and enjoy the meal offered. God Bless you too.

To my country: It was and always will be my greatest honor and achievement that I was able to wear your uniform and provide one small contribution to your freedom. I would gladly do it again.

Mister Mac

submarine

90 Days to nowhere… Submarine Documentary 1977 4

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Another great video from a bygone era. The 41 for Freedom Boats were still in their glory and the USS Ohio was going through its growing pains at the shipyard at Electric Boat. While the patrol cycle is sometimes given short shrift by non-boomer sailors, it had a unique purpose and involved a large number of men in both operations and support.  The operations tempo and the transition to the newer subs is very nicely described here:

http://fas.org/blogs/security/2009/03/usssbn/

But for a closer look at what it was like to be a seventies boomer sailor, click on this link:

 

As veterans day once more approaches, I am reminded how great a price was paid by so many men and women in my lifetime alone to preserve the peace. I salute you all.

Mister Mac

Our National Shame… oops sorry, I meant to say “Happy Veteran’s Day” 2

“Happy Veterans Day” the bright eyed young woman at the check out stand says. She sees my US Navy emblem on my hat. I am not sure why I wore the hat today except maybe out of a self indulgent need to show that I am a veteran. I am incredibly proud of my service in the US Navy. I served from the end of the Viet Nam War until almost the mid nineties. I am sure along the way there were some sacrifices I can claim, but nothing like the men and women who preceded me. Truthfully, other than the insane hours and long periods underwater, I think I was pretty lucky.

So why would I start with such a bummer of a title on a day meant to honor people who have by and large been the ones given the most to preserve freedom? Shame seems like such a harsh indictment and how is it possible to say anything is a “National” this or that?

All schools day 2

I like a parade as much as the next person. I love the flags and polished uniforms of the people who carry them up front. What I don’t like is the unpleasant reminder that other than the larger debts that have been incurred, there are debts that have a much longer consequence.

Officer and Gentleman

23% of the homeless population are veterans
33% of the male homeless population are veterans
47% served Vietnam-era
17% served post-Vietnam
15% served pre-Vietnam
67% served three or more years
33% were stationed in war zone
25% have used VA homeless services
85% completed high school/GED, compared to 56% of non-veterans
89% received an honorable discharge
79% reside in central cities
16% reside in suburban areas
5% reside in rural areas
76% experience alcohol, drug or mental health problems
46% are white males, compared to 34% of non-veterans
46% are age 45 or older, compared to 20% non-veterans
Service needs cited include:

45% need help finding a job
37% need help finding housing

NSHAPC reports at www.huduser.org.

Incarcerated Veterans *

In May 2007, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released a special report on incarcerated veterans. The following are highlights of the report, “Veterans in State and Federal Prison, 2004,” which assessed data based on personal interviews conducted in 2004:

Numbers and profiles

  • There were an estimated 140,000 veterans held in state and federal prisons. State prisons held 127,500 of these veterans, and federal prisons held 12,500.
  • Male veterans were half as likely as other men to be held in prison (630 prisoners per 100,000 veterans, compared to 1,390 prisoners per 100,000 non-veteran U.S. residents). This gap had been increasing since the 1980s.
  • Veterans in both state and federal prison were almost exclusively male (99 percent).
  • The median age (45) of veterans in state prison was 12 years older than that of non-veterans (33). Non-veteran inmates (55 percent) were nearly four times more likely than veterans (14 percent) to be under the age of 35.
  • Veterans were much better educated than other prisoners. Nearly all veterans in state prison (91 percent) reported at least a high school diploma or GED, while an estimated 40 percent of non-veterans lacked either.

Military backgrounds

  • The U.S. Army accounted for 46 percent of veterans living in the United States but 56 percent of veterans in state prison.
  • In 2004, the percentage of state prisoners who reported prior military service in the U.S. Armed Forces (10 percent) was half of the level reported in 1986 (20 percent).
  • Most state prison veterans (54 percent) reported service during a wartime era, while 20 percent saw combat duty. In federal prison two-thirds of veterans had served during wartime, and a quarter had seen combat.
  • Six in 10 incarcerated veterans received an honorable discharge.

From a report in May 2007, the Bureau of Justice Statistics special report on incarcerated  veterans.  “Veterans in State and Federal Prison, 2004,”

We count on people to do the unpleasant things in life in order to preserve our freedom’s and liberty.

It has always been that way. The academics want time to think about things and seek wisdom about how we can all exist on this tumultuous planet. The religious want times to pray about things and seek God’s discernment and not soil their hands in the blood of the sacrifices of brutal battle . The sunshine patriots want time to gin up the courage to live up to their convictions. The Fathers who never served wants to live life in the basking glow of final glory – where the payment of blood, usually on a faithful comrade’s part that is played out while they hold his head in their lap, results in an unlikely and stunning victory. The Mothers just want their sons and daughters back in one piece.

The service man just wants to survive. On a good day he want’s  the guy next to him to survive too. Now that we have produced so many broken men and women, what are we willing to do to help them? How do we help them deal with the pain of seeing body parts mangled and all kinds of unimaginable horrors that result from man’s unbelievable capacity to create destruction? Can you even stand to watch the images shown on History Channel and the other networks that routinely show the grotesque images that result from war?

I feel guilty every time I see a homeless person. I feel guilty because sometimes I think I should have been one of the ones who put everything on the line for their country. I feel guilty because the one time I was in Viet Nam was in March of 1975 on my way to Thailand for a few weeks of forgetting about all that I had thought about before.  I feel guilty that I never served under fire. I will live with that until the day I die.

In Britain and so many other places this day is called Remembrance Day. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remembrance_Day

We used to call it Armistice Day until a few decades ago when Congress tried to make it one of those famous three day weekends. I really wish we would rename it in some way to remember the original name and purpose. Maybe then it wouldn’t be so easy to walk by the men and women in tattered clothes whose dreams are filled with the nightmares of war. Remembrance Day has been set aside to remember the futility of war. I couldn’t agree more.

God Bless all of you who have given so much of your life to the preservation of freedom. God Bless all of you who still live with the demons of alcoholism, drugs, depression, despondency and on and on. I pray for you today that your future will be wrapped up in the peace that comes from understanding that this was not your fault. You followed your duty as best you knew it. We as a nation are grateful that you bore the cost for us. As the scripture says “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

I salute you on this Veteran’s Day. I will remember your sacrifice for the rest of my life.

Mister Mac

By the way… it’s still okay to thank the Vets you meet. Maybe just take a few moments more to think about the actual cost they paid.

I’m not a real hero hero, I’m just an old man

trying to get by the best that I can.

My clothes are real shabby, my walk is so slow

but there once was a time, that was not long ago.

I stood at attention with my friends in the sun,

Our uniforms sharpened, our training was done.

We flew to a country, with rifles in hand.

We had no idea it was such a hard land.

We lost our dear brothers , we lost our close friends.

We crawled into bunkers, and prayed for an end.

Now fifty years later we struggle ahead.

While fighting the battles still stuck in our heads……

Why do you fear me? while you walk quickly by

I only need food so I won’t fall and die.

The home that I dream of beyond the next hill

can you help me to get there?

I pray that you will…

I love America. But I just need a place to sleep tonight. I am so tired,,, can you hear me now???