Primus in Pace – USS George Washington SSBN 598 Reply

Post #598: Primus In Pace

If you cross parts of the great American prairie, you can still see the ruts of the wagons that crossed the vast wilderness on their way to the west. Those ruts have been superseded by ribbons of concrete and asphalt that stretch from sea to shining sea and remind you of where we have been and where we have yet to go.

On the other hand, you can scour the oceans as long as you want and you will never find evidence that the mighty submarine warship USS George Washington was there. From the minute she started her first underway in 1960 until she was decommissioned on January 24, 1985, her path was largely undetected with a few notable exceptions along the way. That part of her story was long after I left her and will remain for another day.

Primus in Pace

My Qual Boat : 1974

Any submariner that follows the story knows that she was the lead class of the first Polaris submarines.

These submarines paved the way for the group of boats known as the “Forty One for Freedom” boats.

Each succeeding hull number series brought greater capabilities and more powerful weapons. But through it all, the Georgefish sailed on and played her role. She sailed in the Atlantic and the Pacific and places unknown for a few generations of sailors. I was assigned to be an Auxiliaryman in 1973 and spent two years learning about the boat, about submarining in general and about myself. I would like to say I did things that were heroic and memorable but that would be a lie. Like most submariners of that age, I mainly just did my job.

Interesting map found at the Sub Base Museum in Groton depicting the missile ranges of the various classes of FBMs

 

Not that there weren’t interesting times. We sailed out of Guam and I the early seventies, Guam and Mother Nature treated us to a couple of typhoons. The Vietnam War was ending and the Cold War was heating up so we had a lot of company on our way into and out of Guam. Those Soviet fishing boats liked to show us how well they could navigate while listening for telltale signs of submarine sounds. Even when we got on station, we knew that there would be great challenges. Submarines sometimes came closer to the surface for different reasons and the enemy had many faces. Some of those faces were actual patrolling craft and sometimes the enemy took the form of great open ocean storms.

The new kid

When I first reported aboard, I learned about how life is ordered. If you are new and not qualified to do anything, sleeping was more of a rare privilege than a right. You can’t imagine how low you are on the food chain until you have to clean out the trash compactor room with all of the smells that still manage to come back after over forty years. When things need to be quiet, trash accumulates quickly and the stench fills your nose. There really is no place to go that you can avoid that odor when you are working in the scullery so you just learn to talk yourself out of being sick.

The bunk that I was assigned was directly below the scullery. Since the scullery wasn’t watertight, often the liquids would come down the long shaft of the TDU (trash disposal unit) and settled near where I slept (when I actually got to sleep). I have to be honest, I was not aware how lucky I was to have a rack at the time but in retrospect, I remember being extra careful to clean my space and keep it spotless.

After a tour as a mess cook, it’s off to the helms planes station. Compared to the diving stations I see on the modern boats, ours looked like something out of an ancient handbook. We had manual depth counters, a rudder angle indicator, an actual bubble inclinometer and two colors: white when it was light and red lights when it was rigged for red. You learn what ultimate boredom is and sheer panic is while sitting in the same seats. You also learn to control them both. The boredom on an old boomer is traveling at a set speed for days on end, sometimes varying your depth, always following the compass to you next path. We kept ourselves awake with cigarettes and coffee and hot cocoa. We learned old sailor stories from the more seasoned Petty Officers, Chiefs and sometimes Officers that kept us company on our long drive to nowhere.

Man Battle Stations – cue the really annoying electronic alarm

Then there would be the moments of stress. Battle Stations Missile, Battle Stations Torpedo, Collision Alarms, Fires and flooding in some of the most unusual places. Mostly drills but you didn’t always know it. You went from practically asleep to wide eyed and alert in moments as everything around you changed too. Headphone would be manned, communications between missile control, engineering and the torpedo room would come rattling across like bullets from a machine gun. During all of these, you kept focus on what was in front of you.

In some cases, your rudder or planes would no longer function properly. We drilled on the back up process which was incredibly old fashioned and manual. Minutes seemed like hours. Somewhere, hundreds of feet behind you, shipmates who just minutes before may have been sleeping or eating were struggling to activate an emergency backup system and restore the ship.

There was no place to go.

When an actual casualty did occur, all the discipline and practice kicked, almost as if directed by unseen hands. Men knew where to go and what equipment they would need. We practiced in the dark just in case the lights were out. We knew where every twist and turn was located so that we could get through the maze of equipment without becoming casualties ourselves. Your heart would be racing a hundred miles an hour as you took your position but you were there. Waiting if needed but ready.

It paid off more times that I can tell you. The Georgefish was well worn by 1974. She had some shipyard time for repairs and upgrades in weapons systems, but some things just fell below the radar. So when she found herself in a Northern Pacific monster storm and had to go up for a communications pass, she got to test the designer’s abilities and the builder’s skills.

The wave

I do not know what the size of the waves were that came rolling over us in a series of loud canon shots. I do know that the boat inclinometer was clearly indicating that every other swell took us to forty five degrees. I do know that it was black as night and the Officer of the Deck kept saying he couldn’t see a damn thing. The rudder was nearly useless in trying to keep us on course and we popped to the surface where we remained for the next twenty minutes. We were caught in a surfacing effect between the wave troughs. The missile deck superstructure was higher than the pressure hull and it worked as a magnet holding us fast on top. Then came “the wave”. It was horrendous and sounded like the loudest clap of thunder I had ever heard. I was standing back fro the dive stand near the officer of the deck when I heard the loud spraying noise coming from somewhere in front of me. Followed by loud yelling of the men caught in its path. We had all been taught from the very first that flooding and fires kill people first and submarines second.

Just at that moment, the Captain came into the control room and turned the lights on. He said, there is no use having the lights off officer of the deck, you can’t see anything. Then he took the deck and the Conn. Sizing up the situation quickly he saw what had happened. The hydraulic supply line to the ram that controlled the fairwater planes had a small blow out plug in it that was supposed to protect the lines in case of over pressurizations. It worked. The 3000 PSI supply line was over pressurized when the wave forced the fairwater planes to fight against the ordered position. It did exactly what it was supposed to.

My Chief was the Chief of the Watch and he isolated the line stopping the flow of oil. The planes were now frozen in the “rise” position. Both the inboard and outboard planesmen were covered with hydraulic oil so they were relieved and sent below. That left me (as the messenger) the only choice to sit in the outboard station and the rudder was shifter over. They were cleaning up the oil all around me as the boat continued to rock and I tried to control the rudder.

The Captain ordered a massive amount of water flooded into the variable ballast tanks. Thousands and thousands of pounds of cold sea water made the boat heavier and heavier until finally, we broke the grip the ocean held on us. Now the boat began to sink quickly and as we passed 150 feet, the reactor gave up the ghost. The main propulsion for the boat comes from that single screw driven by the steam created in the reactor. But all of the wild gyrations on the surface must have affect the plant. Without that power, the huge pumps needed to get rid of all that extra water would have to sit and wait. Restoring power would take everything.

Fairwaters jammed on full rise

As the boats downward speed increased, I remember hugging the stern planes yoke to my chest. Full rise. Trying to take advantage of any residual speed still left on the no longer responding screw. My eyes were glued to the dial that showed us slowly sinking closer and closer to test depth. I was only nineteen. I really didn’t want to die. But I also didn’t want to let go of that yoke. The Captain was behind me watching the same thing.

As we approached test depth, maneuvering called on the 2MC and reported that the reactor was back on line and propulsion was being restored. We were moments away from having to do an emergency blow. If that had failed, we would have been a worse disaster than the Thresher. I didn’t think about that at the time. I just kept asking God to keep us alive. The next few hours were a blur. We came back up from the deeps and had to porpoise the boat. The fairwater planes were still stuck on full rise so I had a depth band of about 75 feet to play with. I think I got pretty good at it as they came up with a replacement blowout plug and restored the planes. I finally got relieved and was so very happy to just go and lay my head down for a while.

The remainder of that trip was unremarkable. It’s funny how that works. When we returned to port and gave the boat to the Gold Crew, I was still in a bit of a haze. I wasn’t really sure I ever wanted to go back to sea. But I did. There were more adventures and other casualties along the way. A few fires, an Oxygen generator rapid depressurization, and losing the rudder ram when the end cap sheared off during another storm.

A different kind of war, a different kind of warrior

Some people will say that we weren’t in a war. Fair enough. The work that many of us did was far from anything that resembled Vietnam of the Gulf Wars. I would never try and take anything away from anyone who has served in active combat where you don’t know from minute to minute if this is your last. I didn’t see my first Russian Officer face to face until a few years after I retired when a former Soviet Submariner came to Kansas on a trade mission shopping for deals on wheat. He seemed nice enough.

Our only real claim to fame was that in all the years we sailed, not a single missile flew with a hostile intent in mind. Lots of practice shots along the way but the very fact that we could not be pinned down must have given old Ivan a lot to think about all those years. For all of his craziness, he wasn’t too bad of an enemy. He at least understood that the one nation that has actually used nuclear weapons had enough to make any victor just as much as a loser.

 

Saying Goodbye

I was stationed in Bremerton when the Georgefish showed up for decommissioning. A lot of water had travelled over both of our hulls by that time. I have the distinction of sailing on the first SSBN and the first Trident USS Ohio. I can assure you that the difference was dramatic. Both filled the same role but the destructive power of an Ohio Class boomer is breathtaking.

It was a very cold day in January 1985. I have no idea how the Navy found out that I had been a young sailor on the Georgefish but I got a personal invitation. She looked odd sitting next to the pier with no missile compartment. I felt a loss it is hard to explain. That feeling would return decades later when I stood on the hill looking at her sail in Connecticut. But all things come to an end. Except the stories. Those will live long past the boat or the men who sailed on her.

 

My life was profoundly influenced by my association with the men and women of America’s submarine program. I would not trade the experience for any other kind of experience the world has to offer.

I am also profoundly grateful to those who taught me, accepted me as one of their own, and made sure that we never left ruts in the ocean.

Mister Mac

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

 

Random Thoughts from theleansubmariner… I lived 3

I lived.
I could have chosen to stay in my hometown and learned a trade. I could have hidden from life’s greatest challenges and been safe. But instead…

I lived.
I could have worked harder to gain acceptance to a fine educational institution and maybe be part of a fraternity that I could look back on years later and think how special I was. But instead…

I lived.
I lived on a boat that was designed to defy the sea and all its challenges. I lived a life of sacrifice that often defied logic. Many of the people I lived it for didn’t even know I was doing it. Or cared. And hardly appreciated the gift. But despite that…

I lived.
I lived with men who left their own families and personal freedom to protect total strangers. I lived with them in a world surrounded by darkness and enemies of every kind. We saw some amazing things and we remained silent through it all. And because of that…

I lived a life worth living. A life that has sustained me through my later years. When the Angels call me home and ask me what I did, I only have one response.

I was a Submariner. I lived.

Mister Mac   aka theleansubmariner

 

Why do you need an AR 15? 18

Warning: If you are easily triggered, this may not be a good article for you to read.

See the source image

Why do you need an AR 15?

In the wake of the latest horrific shooting, the topic for many people seems to focus on why someone would need an AR 15. Depending on the political and philosophical background of the people speaking about this, the first thing you have to do is separate fact from emotion.

Fact: The AR 15 is not an assault rifle. It stands for “ArmaLite Rifle” after the firm that designed the weapon in the 1950s. The AR15 is a lightweight, intermediate cartridge magazine-fed, air-cooled Armalite Rifle with a rotating lock bolt, actuated by a piston within the bolt carrier or by conventional long/short stroke piston operation. It has been produced in many different versions, including numerous semi-automatic and select fire variants. or the most part, semi-automatic is the only version readily available to the public and no mass killing of civilians has ever occurred with one that was designed as fully automatic. (Bump stocks are not part of the gun as designed)

Fact: The AR-15 is not a “high powered” rifle. Yes, it has more power than a handgun – all rifles do. But when you’re talking about rifles, the AR-15’s .223 / 5.56mm ammunition is considered so low powered that it is banned from hunting large game like deer and elk because it cannot humanely take them down in one shot like most other rifle calibers can.

Fact: the typical owner has never committed a crime (there are laws about who can purchase one)

Fact: The AR 15 available for sale is a semi-automatic weapon. Despite its scary appearance, it is only one of many kinds of semi automatic weapons, many with high capacity magazine capability

Emotion.

If you come from a liberal or progressive point of view, not only do you not need an AR 15, you really don’t need any guns at all. We live in a modern age where the police and military have the only reasons to have firearms in the eyes of that group and the world would be safer and nicer if all the guns were gone. Most of them won’t say it out loud of course since they know it would reveal their bias but at the heart of most of them, guns represent a long ago day when we lived in a primitive society that no longer exists. Plus they don’t want to lose elections. That’s the reason they couch all of their criticism in softer terms like “sensible gun laws” and join groups like “Moms demand Action” and “The Coalition to stop gun violence”.

On the frontier, people needed guns as much as they needed an axe or a shovel. The frontier was full of dangerous things and your family’s protection was dependent on what you could provide. There were also no supermarkets back then so hunting played a key role in feeding that same family. As we evolved, guns also protected the livestock from dangerous predators and yes, we even needed protection against hostile Indians who saw our incursion as a violation of their lands.

But that was a long time ago. The world has evolved. We are more educated now and more sophisticated. From a liberal/progressive point of view, those were the only justifications for those weapons.

To the untrained and uninitiated, modern guns are symbols of war and are scary. I still laugh when I think about the east coast liberal reporter who wrote an article about the time he had to fire one for his article.

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/reporter-who-got-ptsd-from-firing-a-rifle-responds-to-critics/article/2594020

Most anti-gun people will tell you about the capacity of fire for these weapons despite never actually seeing one or picking one up. They repeat stories from supportive publications that detail how destructive each weapon is. The truth is normally the first casualty in such stories but it doesn’t matter anymore what the truth is. AR 15s are bad and nobody needs to own one.

Then there is the other side.

People who typically identify as Republican or conservative are the ones who hold the brakes on the gun grabbers. Many are former military but all hold one belief as a core value. The Second Amendment is a sacred trust built into the Constitution for the express purpose of keeping the government from denying individual citizens the right to keep and bear arms.

The gun rights crowd have a healthy skepticism of the government. While many have served in the military and work in the government, they see the one truth that is rarely spoken of and universally known. In a Republic that often has an identity crisis, it is only one election cycle away from “democracy” taking hold of the seat of power and changing the rules. A shift in public opinion and a change in the weight of liberals to conservatives is the greatest threat to individual liberty and freedom that exists. It is greater than a foreign invasion, Russian meddling in an election, or a natural catastrophe of biblical equations.

Sound crazy? Well, what is a democracy?

Democracy (Greek: δημοκρατία dēmokratía, literally “rule of the people”), in modern usage, is a system of government in which the citizens exercise power directly or elect representatives from among themselves to form a governing body, such as a parliament. Democracy is sometimes referred to as “rule of the majority”. Democracy is a system of processing conflicts in which outcomes depend on what participants do, but no single force controls what occurs and its outcomes.

The uncertainty of outcomes is inherent in democracy, which makes all forces struggle repeatedly for the realization of their interests, being the devolution of power from a group of people to a set of rules.

A better word for democracy is mob rule. If you found enough people to take your side, you can force everyone else to abide by your rules and their rights no longer matter. In the twentieth century, there were many examples of the mob being manipulated to do things that were exactly why you do not want a pure democracy. The Communist Revolutions, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Laos and Cambodia. All were meant to be worker’s paradises and yet all ended in brutal destruction and widespread death.

The debate about gun control is much more than a debate about who can own a firearm. It is a debate about whether we can trust our future to the goodwill of our fellow man. To be honest, mankind has a really shitty track record. The government envisioned by the leftists proposes that all of our needs, including security, should be provided by the state. Given the chance in this utopian world, everyone would be the same (except of course the insanely rich leaders) and no one would have any reason to have fear.

That sounds wonderful until you get out of the concrete caverns of New York and the Ivy covered halls of Boston. When you are surrounded by armed guards and well-disciplined security, it is incredibly easy to say that no one needs a gun for protection. But it’s a big country. There are a lot of people in flyover country who woke up this morning to a completely different reality. The drug epidemic is out of control, gangs of every kind are running rampant in cities and even small towns. Crime is more violent and unpredictable as people lose their moral compass.

Think about this. The same group of liberal progressives that long for the day that you will lose your firearms are the same people who want us to have open borders. The same open borders that allow MS 13 to come in and out like they were actual citizens. Those leftists want all of the illegal invaders to have your constitutional rights despite the fact that they are not citizens and make no attempt to become them. That group of people even incentivize cheating by creating sanctuary cities and states. At the same time they are doing this, they constantly scheme and plan to disarm the rest of the actual citizens.

Do you trust the government to uphold your rights? Look at a place like Pennsylvania. Our democrat Governor and a democrat Supreme Court have just overturned the established voting districts because they didn’t like the balance of power. Just like that. No voice of the voters will mean anything because this governor has elected to lead a takeover of our state. The shift in power will result in higher taxes, more companies moving out of Pennsylvania and a public more dependent on government than ever before. Your rights will not mean a thing.

This government cannot provide the security for its citizens now. Many areas no longer have police forces and the state police can’t fill in all of the gaps. Wait times for a policeman to show up can be hours in rural areas. These same rural areas are already reeling from drug related crimes and to make it a complete disaster, the idiots in Harrisburg want this entire state to join others as a haven for illegals. With an increase in illegal invaders, MS 13 will surely see the opportunities. Entire communities can be held hostage and the pitifully weak state under progressive leadership will be powerless to do a thing. Most people are not aware of how large MS 13 has become but it corresponds to the number of leftists controlled states providing them with sanctuary.

And you want to take our guns away? What do you want after that’s done?

I am in the later part of my life. God will take me home at some point and I will no longer have to be concerned about the insanity sweeping across this once great nation. I remind myself every election that we are only one cycle away from losing all of our rights. While neither party is perfect by any means, I keep hoping that enough sane people will show up to do the right thing. Until then, I will keep the words of Patrick Henry close to my Bible…

“I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided,” he said, “and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years, to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves, and the House?”

Henry then turned his attention to the British troops mobilizing across the colonies. “Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation?” he asked. “Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled, that force must be called in to win back our love? …Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us; they can be meant for no other.”

“Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty”—Henry burst from his imaginary chains and grasped an ivory letter opener—“or give me death!” As he uttered these final words, he plunged the letter opener toward his chest, mimicking a knife blow to the heart.

As to the original question, do I need my AR 15 or any of my personal defense weapons?

Yes I do.

If you have read this far and still don’t understand why, you probably never will. I would advise against you coming to take them away however.

Mister Mac

The Madness of Crowds 6

“In reading The History of Nations, we find that, like individuals, they have their whims and their peculiarities, their seasons of excitement and recklessness, when they care not what they do. We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first.”

― Charles Mackay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

I was seventeen on April 23rd 1972 when I enlisted in the Delayed Entry Program for the United States Navy.

I turned eighteen when they put me on a plane bound for boot camp. Since the time that I was very young, I had wanted to be a sailor and even the long drawn out years of the Vietnam War had not dissuaded me from my calling. To be honest, I just wanted to find my place in the world.

In Boot Camp, they issued us all new clothes to go with our spiffy haircuts. We quickly learned the fine art of shining your boondockers to a perfect shine, how to wash clothes in a long sink and dry them on a line and oh by the way, they issues us all rifles.

Now to be fair, the rifles they gave us had no firing pins. They were surplus 1903 A3 Springfield Rifles and at the end of each drill we put them back in their racks. The purpose was to teach us responsibility, strengthen our arm muscles and teach us a little bit about discipline. It worked too. You learned quickly that even an inert weapon could get you in a lot of trouble if you neglected it. The manual of arms indeed toughened you up and on the very rare occasion you had to hold in in front of you or over your head while running, you discovered what true discipline meant.

We did practice with actual weapons too. But since it was the Navy, nothing automatic and nothing that would get you in much trouble. That would come later when we went to our various assignments. I was still eighteen when I graduated from Boot Camp along with hundreds of other young men in Great Lakes, Orlando and San Diego. Many of them would go to ships and boats that still plied the waters off of Vietnam. Many of those would be issued weapons or be part of a gun crew. In 1972, eighteen year olds were still being called upon to fight wars. Come to think of it, that’s still true today. More on that later.

We didn’t have the internet back then but I was a pretty avid reader. My memory is a little hazy from that time, but I don’t ever remember hearing about any mass killings stateside. Despite the fact that we had all these trained eighteen year olds running around with Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force Training, there just weren’t that many mass killings. Come to think of it, there weren’t any Coasties shooting up towns either.

I was nineteen the first time I fired a machine gun. It was an old Thompson .45 and I only got to fire it a few times. Same with the shotguns, Colt 45 pistols, and later the M-14 and M-16. To be accurate, I didn’t get my first crack at an M-16 until I was in my twenties. But I made up for it later in life when I purchased a civilian version of the M-4. Maybe I shouldn’t say this since it might scare some people, but I knew a lot of nineteen and twenty year olds that worked on missiles and torpedoes. I won’t tell you what kind of missiles but you can look them up. Some of them had names like Polaris, Poseidon and Trident. To the best of my knowledge, no one ever used one of those weapons in any way that wasn’t planned.

In all those years since I was seventeen, neither I nor any of the weapons I handled ever killed a single thing. Not one. I was an armed watchstander on many submarines and a few ships and carried pistols and shotguns fairly regularly. I just never had to use them. Since I retired, one of my hobbies is target shooting. I’m probably not as good as others I know but I still enjoy the sport. It’s not a cheap hobby by any means. But it’s one that I enjoy. I also enjoy knowing that I am part of a tradition that goes back hundreds of years. The tradition of freedom and supporting the laws that have kept this country strong.

This week, people are reacting with emotion and fear to a horrible tragedy. It’s one of a few that have happened over the past ten years and the press and anti-gun people are throwing around the usual words they use when they want to ban freedom. “Sensible” and “Common Sense” laws are always a bit disingenuous to me because they are typically driven by emotional responses to symptoms and not the root cause. “Why does anyone need an AR?” is the latest battle cry of the left. They don’t own them, most have probably never shot one, so they can’t understand why so many people want to own them. Maybe that’s a fair question.

The fear of the weapon is deeply ingrained in some. It’s scary looking to the uninitiated. Black and sleek, this weapon can hold a magazine that often carries thirty rounds. It looks just like those assault rifles (whatever the hell that is) they see on their police shows where large men with SWAT vests come charging around the corner. But knowing modern weaponry like I do, the AR is just the scary public face of an entire class of guns that hold multiple rounds. Most are used for hunting or ranching out west and don’t have the look of a “weapon of war” as I heard one child say today. But they have the exact same capacity for destruction in the wrong hands.

In all of the years that many of us have owned multiple round weapons, none of the people I know have ever gone on a rampage. Not one. There are millions of these rifles and rifles similar to them in circulation today. But the only time we hear of shootings like this are when people with mental issues break the laws and obtain them to use for evil. No gun law ever developed will stop a mentally deranged individual from killing innocent people. Because even with the incredibly strict laws we have now, none ever has. The key word here is “Individual”.

The talk today turned to trying to limit the age of who can buy a gun. I have heard people say a few times on the news that no eighteen year old should be able to buy a rifle. Seriously??? This is the solution? Maybe we should also not send any more boys off to fight for our country either. But you would have to go back to wipe history from the pages of our freedom. Those boys landed on Omaha Beach and freed Europe. Those boys stopped the Japanese from driving their ships into San Francisco Harbor. And for the forty five years of the Cold War they protected this country from all manner of threats. They have sacrificed themselves in Iraq and Afghanistan and so many other countries around the world for freedom sake.

I cannot stand idly by while politicians and pundits wash away our rights. As horrible as the recent tragedies have been, they are not addressing the root cause. We have allowed parents to not parent, kids to run absolutely wild while society tears itself apart. We have allowed the fabric of society to be torn apart with so much lack of discipline that it is little wonder that mental cases like that idiot who shot up the latest school have been allowed to slip through the cracks. Let’s work on that before we go down a path of destroying the legitimate rights of law abiding citizens.

But I fear this time we won’t.

We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. We don’t want to hold anybody accountable. We want to show how progressive we are and that society is better than what we actually are. We won’t stand up because we are afraid to get shouted down by the hysterical people who don’t want to admit that not every child deserves a trophy and some of them are seriously flawed. The NRA is an easy target and so are the rights of people you don’t agree with. But once we have gone down that road, there will be no return. The slippery slope will be a raging torrent of destruction to all of your rights. The only difference this time is that you won’t have a gun to stop an oppressive force.

America’s strength does not lie alone in the fact that we have the ability to defend ourselves. America’s strength is based on the strength of individuals who have banded together for the common pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of justice. Individuals who get up every morning and take responsibility for their own actions. Individuals who have the ability to contribute to the common defense of what makes us strongest – Our Freedoms. There is no age limit on that desire for freedom.

A lot of eighteen year olds paid the ultimate price to protect those rights.

They probably don’t teach that in schools nowadays.

Mister Mac

Just as I am … Farewell Billy Graham 7

There was a sad yet joyous announcement this morning as we started our day. The Reverend Billy Graham had passed from this world early on the morning of February 18, 2018.There was sadness in my heart as I started the mourning process for someone who had impacted my life and the lives of so many others, yet there was also joy in knowing that he had finally passed into the awaited Kingdom of Heaven at the age of 99 years and would no longer be constrained by the body that had long ago started to fail him.

Billy Graham is probably the world’s best known evangelist and his message crossed all boundaries of the Christian faith. “God Loves You”. Even as broken as we all are, Billy reminded us that with a redemptive heart and spirit and the grace of Jesus Christ, all have a pathway to the kingdom. His message reached hundreds of millions of people and created many spiritual leaders through the years using his Crusades.

In 1968, he brought his crusade to Pittsburgh and thousands came to hear his message. On September 4, 1968 at the Pitt Panthers Stadium, he came and spoke to a world of people who were troubled by the events going on around them. The Vietnam war was raging, protesters were filling the streets, the civil rights movement was in full swing, women’s liberation was on everyone’s minds and the old world was passing into history. Patriotism as passé. On September 8th, former Vice President Richard Nixon attended the Pittsburgh Crusade as he was closing his successful campaign to become the next President.

The call

And my family was in the stands. At the end of each Crusade, Billy called for people to come down and accept Jesus. My oldest brother went at the call. The choir was singing “Just as I am” and I also heard a small voice inside telling me not to miss this chance… so I got to my feet and at the age of fourteen walked down the concrete stairs out into the field. There were men there waiting for us to arrive and they brought us forward to be prayed upon. I don’t remember the prayers. I don’t remember anything especially spiritual happening at the time. Maybe I felt a little guilty about coming down since I wasn’t really sure what all this spiritual stuff was supposed to be about. But I signed the forms for more information and sure enough within a week, the newsletters started coming.

It didn’t stick with me at the time. I was fourteen and I was just about to enter a world where every manner of distraction would keep me off balance. I don’t think I am any different than many kids of that time. Peer pressure and the world’s rapidly changing landscape drove a wedge between us and our parents and our parent’s ways. The newsletters stopped coming at one point and were replaced with many other things. By the time I was seventeen, the Navy was the only path on my mind.

In all the years since, I have wondered if I didn’t try hard enough. Maybe if I had just listened to the words better that day in September 1968, my whole life would have been different. But through every trial and every journey, I still held the most important words he said that day strongly in my mind… “God Loves You”.

I am in the autumn of my life now. Maybe even the beginning of winter. But I have a great wife who keeps trying to help me come to terms with my spirituality. One of the ways she does this is to continue to be a prayer warrior and be a gentle reminder to share a daily devotional time with her. This year’s book (one of three we are using) is from Billy Graham’s Ministry and is called “Unto the Hills”. It’s a daily devotional with scriptures and thoughts Reverend Graham had over the course of his long ministry. After we heard the news and stumbled through breakfast, we sat down and I opened the book. The title of today’s lesson:

More than Conquerors

We are more than conquerors through him that loved us. Romans 8:37

Out of respect for the copyright, I will only share one part of the message.

“There is only one way to have victory over sin. That is to be so closely walking with Christ that sin no more abounds in your life, that sin becomes the exception with you rather than the rule.”

Today my old friend is walking side by side with his Savior Jesus Christ. As has been said so many times this morning by people far more important than me, I can hear Jesus saying, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

I will miss you Billy, but we will meet again. Thank you God for sharing your friend Billy Graham with us.

Mister Mac

 

Its always the quiet ones… the story of Captain Mike Rose, US Army retired Reply

Image result for huey medevac helicopter

This story is dedicated to all of the heroes in our lives.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. In our American culture, we are taught from an early age about the heroes who protect us from all manner of bad things. Stories of policemen and firemen rescuing people at great risk to themselves still make us feel good about our fellow mankind. Medical personnel who do amazing things to save and preserve live are also high on our list of heroes. Men and women who served in ships and submarines living lives filled with unseen dangers that ordinary people couldn’t possibly fathom. Soldiers and marines and airmen exposed to things that defy our belief. In a world with so many negatives, I believe we all look for and appreciate the moments when one of us rises up and does the extraordinary. It gives us hope that mankind is not completely lost in self-absorption and individual focus.

The one thing about real heroes I have observed though, is how often you don’t know who they are.

True heroes are the ones who dust themselves off, thank God for their fortune in still being alive and move on with their lives. They can be the person behind you at the grocery store. They can be the old man sitting in a chair at the nursing home with the blank expression on his face. They can be the person who shows up at work every day just being the best at what they do that day. You just never know.

The project from hell

A long time ago, I was working as a project manager for a company on a very difficult project. Two people who held that role before me had already been fired and the third was so anxious to leave he threatened to quit. I was sent in his place. Within a few short weeks, it was obvious that the contract had been badly bid and we were short staffed. The person who managed the group got “promoted” and my new boss offered me help. The help they sent was a white haired older gentleman who like me was a retired military officer who had once been retired. He was Army and I was Navy but we quickly learned each other’s strengths. Over the next year, we turned the project around and exceeded all of the goals that had been set.

The cavalry arrived just in time

Before Mike arrived, I had been told that he was very detail oriented and sometimes could be hard to work with. To be honest, his attention to detail is part of what helped us survive. I came to view him as a brother and friend and not just an employee. He didn’t talk much about his military background. I just knew that he had been an Army Medic in Vietnam and later was given a promotion to the officer corps where he worked in artillery. He briefly mentioned something about a long ago conflict where he had been wounded which is why he was so sensitive to heat and cold.

When the project ended, we stayed friends and have exchanged Christmas cards and emails through the years. Fast forward to October 2017. My wife and I were watching the news and the scene shifted to the White House room where they hold ceremonies. The camera focused on the President placing a familiar blue patterned ribbon with a medal around the neck of a white haired older man. I looked at my wife and said:

“Holy shit, that’s Mike Rose”

The white haired man wearing an Army dress uniform and those familiar wire rimmed glasses was Captain Gary Michael Rose. This quiet, very unassuming man had once saved the lives of so many men in a faraway battle that stayed hidden for many years. On this day, all of the years melted away and America got a chance to look at a real hero. This was the man who came to work every day and did common things in an uncommon way. But that would be Mike.

“Retired Capt. Gary “Mike” Rose enlisted in the U. S. Army, April 4, 1967. He attended basic training at Fort Ord, California, and Infantry Advanced Individual Training at Fort Gordon, Georgia. After graduating from AIT, he was promoted to private first class and attended the U.S. Army Jump School at Fort Benning, Georgia.

In October 1967, Rose began Special Forces Training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. A year later, he graduated as a Special Forces medic and was assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group. In April 1969, Rose was assigned to the 46th Special Forces Company, headquartered in Lopburi, Thailand. In April 1970, Rose was reassigned to the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group, 5th Special Forces Group.

In April 1971, Rose attended the Spanish Language School in Anacostia, D.C., then assigned to the 8th Special Forces Group (later designated the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Group) in Panama until August 1973.

In August 1973, Rose was selected to attend Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in Field Artillery in December 1973, and attended Field Artillery Officer Basic at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. In 1978, Rose attended the Field Artillery Officer Advanced Course followed by various field artillery assignments in Germany, New Mexico, Korea and Fort Sill.

Rose graduated in December 1977 with a Bachelor of Arts in General Education and Military Science from Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma, and a Masters of Arts in Communication from the University of Oklahoma in December 1989.

Rose retired from the U. S. Army in May 1987. He then worked as an instructional designer writing operator, user and maintenance manuals, as well as designing training for the manufacturing industry. He permanently retired in 2010. Rose has been married to his wife Margaret since 1971. They have three adult children and two grandchildren. In retirement, Rose has remained involved in charity activities primarily through the Knights of Columbus.

Rose’s military awards include the Distinguished Service Cross, the Bronze Star Medal with one oak leaf cluster and “V” device, the Purple Heart with two oak leaf clusters, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Good Conduct Medal with two knots, National Defense Medal, Vietnam Campaign with star, Presidential Unit Citation (MAC SOG), Vietnam Civic Action Honor Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry Unit Citation – with Palm Combat Medical Badge, Special Forces Tab, U.S. Army Parachute Badge, Thai Army Parachute Badge, Vietnam Parachute Badge, and several service ribbons.

The Official Citation

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to

Sergeant Gary M. Rose

United States Army

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

Sergeant Gary M. Rose distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity while serving as a Special Forces Medic with a company-sized exploitation force, Special Operations Augmentation, Command and Control Central, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, Republic of Vietnam. Between 11 and 14 September 1970, Sergeant Rose’s company was continuously engaged by a well-armed and numerically superior hostile force deep in enemy-controlled territory. Enemy B-40 rockets and mortar rounds rained down while the adversary sprayed the area with small arms and machine gun fire, wounding many and forcing everyone to seek cover. Sergeant Rose, braving the hail of bullets, sprinted fifty meters to a wounded soldier’s side. He then used his own body to protect the casualty from further injury while treating his wounds. After stabilizing the casualty, Sergeant Rose carried him through the bullet-ridden combat zone to protective cover. As the enemy accelerated the attack, Sergeant Rose continuously exposed himself to intense fire as he fearlessly moved from casualty to casualty, administering life-saving aid. A B-40 rocket impacted just meters from Sergeant Rose, knocking him from his feet and injuring his head, hand, and foot. Ignoring his wounds, Sergeant Rose struggled to his feet and continued to render aid to the other injured soldiers. During an attempted medevac, Sergeant Rose again exposed himself to enemy fire as he attempted to hoist wounded personnel up to the hovering helicopter, which was unable to land due to unsuitable terrain. The medevac mission was aborted due to intense enemy fire and the helicopter crashed a few miles away due to the enemy fire sustained during the attempted extraction. Over the next two days, Sergeant Rose continued to expose himself to enemy fire in order to treat the wounded, estimated to be half of the company’s personnel. On September 14, during the company’s eventual helicopter extraction, the enemy launched a full-scale offensive. Sergeant Rose, after loading wounded personnel on the first set of extraction helicopters, returned to the outer perimeter under enemy fire, carrying friendly casualties and moving wounded personnel to more secure positions until they could be evacuated. He then returned to the perimeter to help repel the enemy until the final extraction helicopter arrived. As the final helicopter was loaded, the enemy began to overrun the company’s position, and the helicopter’s Marine door gunner was shot in the neck. Sergeant Rose instantly administered critical medical treatment onboard the helicopter, saving the Marine’s life. The helicopter carrying Sergeant Rose crashed several hundred meters from the evacuation point, further injuring Sergeant Rose and the personnel on board. Despite his numerous wounds from the past three days, Sergeant Rose continued to pull and carry unconscious and wounded personnel out of the burning wreckage and continued to administer aid to the wounded until another extraction helicopter arrived. Sergeant Rose’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty were critical to saving numerous lives over that four day time period. His actions are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 1st Special Forces, and the United States Army.

To see the whole story go here   https://www.army.mil/medalofhonor/rose/

 

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes.

The ones who did the most probably say the least. I have been honored to have lived and worked with some amazing people. I would be willing to bet many of you have too and maybe just don’t know it.

As you think about the world today, give thanks for the Mike Roses and all those who give so much. They truly have made a difference.

Mister Mac

Homecoming… its a harder journey than you think without brothers 11

When you get to a certain point in your life you start taking stock of what mattered.

The first seventeen or eighteen years of most people’s lives are the foundations for much of who they become. If you grew up in Middle America, your understanding of relationships, education, and spirituality are all forged from those basic foundations. I will admit that I truly struggled with all three of these in those early years. By the time I was seventeen, I had shown remarkably little interest or aptitude in any of the categories.

Perhaps because I was so much like him, my relationship with my Dad was tortured if nothing else. As I got older he got less well informed and my defiance ended at least once in a physical altercation (which I lost). As a middle kid, I never really fit into any of my brothers or sisters circles so mostly went out on my own. I saw a great description of how service members see themselves and the Navy person was described as being the adventurous middle child that left home and nobody cared. (To be fair, my Mom cried when I left but she was also convinced I would end up in Vietnam and get killed). One of my favorite family pictures is of me in uniform after I came home from Boot Camp. I never really noticed it until a short while ago but the looks on my sibling’s faces were pretty telling. “Can we just get this over with and aren’t you supposed to be leaving soon?” I know that look pretty well since I just saw it again a short while ago.

The education part was a struggle too. Don’t get me wrong, I loved to read, its just that the teachers kept making me read the wrong books. Given a choice, I would have read every book about the Navy and warfare that had ever been written. But it was the late sixties and early seventies and frankly we were on the cutting edge of books about hating wars and the military and the ecology was just beginning its rise to worship status. So I did the minimum and guaranteed that I would receive rejection letters from every college that I applied for. The only group that seemed to be interested were people in uniforms and frankly by the time I was seventeen, I was ready to get away from endless classes and boring curriculum.

I will save the spirituality part for another time. Let’s just say that God probably got tired of trying to get through to me. I am eternally grateful for the redemption I am assured of now but at the time, well, I was seventeen and bulletproof. The whole matter of a higher power just seemed a bit unnecessary.

Mom, Dad and my girlfriend saw me off to the airport and the real learning lessons of my life began.

In Boot Camp, I learned that you could rely on another person and it wasn’t on a phony or contrived basis. You were all going through the same testing and in the end, if you failed the team, you paid a price. So you learned to pay attention to details, pull your share, and trust your shipmates. After fourteen weeks (the war was still on and I was in the band), we graduated and were sent to our next commands or school. I found out quickly there were real consequences to failing and not some far off threat of a career opportunity. The steam and hydraulics that powered many ships could actually kill you just as quick as a bullet. The gasses used to refrigerate or air condition were invisible demons that replaced the very air that you need to breath. And every modern vessel relies on electricity in some form or another and that little devil will light you up just like a light bulb on your way to being dead.

Submarine school just made the learning more relevant. It seemed like from the first day you got there, you were exposed to more and more things that were designed to do one thing but actually had a side effect of doing another; killing you and your fellow submariners if you did it wrong. Hard to believe that its been forty five years this month (2018)

During all this learning, you start to figure out that even as dangerous as all of these things are, if you follow the directions and become qualified, you will find yourself surrounded with a whole group of people who have also committed themselves to not getting killed. As you grow, you find out that most if not all of them also know that working together as a team will push you beyond what you ever thought you could do. You found the capacity to overcome amazing odds together.

Over time, they become your family.

The members of the family often change because of duty rotations, but that family grows and grows. For those of us lucky enough to make a career of the Navy (even a shortened one or one that had broken service) you discover that these family members are the ones that have the most meaning. Outside of those of you who have had a great marriage like me, these are the people who made a difference in your life.

  • There is the Chief who took a very non-focused young Midwesterner and made him into a fire breathing sea devil capable of fighting a galley fire and setting a broken bone in a state four sea.
  • There is a shipmate that made you work your ass off for a qualification signature but was the first one to shake your hand when you put your fish on.
  • There is that first time that a non-qual comes to you and asks for help and you make sure they get the same advice and knowledge you did. You know that you will be able to count on them because you did your best to train them to the same high standard.
  • There is the shipmate who was so happy to get that letter from home only to find out his girlfriend grew tired of waiting and now he faces a future of uncertainty.
  • There is the watch section that has just spend a harrowing six hours doing something submariners never admit to outsiders they have done in defense of our country only to be racked out for a field day or drill.
  • There is a boat that always seems to be first in line when it comes to unplanned deployments. It’s almost as if you are the only boat in the harbor. But you suck it up, load stores and go do your job
  • There is a radio message to the Captain telling him that he needs to tell your shipmate that his Mom didn’t make it to the end of the patrol or mission. And we can’t go home just quite yet.

There is that day when you see each other years later at some boat reunion and all of the memories come flooding back. And you all hoist a beer and say

“Hell yes, I’d do it all again.”

You would do it all again with your brothers and for some of us a few sisters too. That is the often unstated part of the vow. The men and women you qualified with, suffered through long deployments with, struggled through untold hardships, and every once in a while blew off a little steam in a foreign port.

There is an old saying that you can’t go home again.

I believe there is some partial truth to that. The things that you saw and lived through for the first seventeen years of your life were all done in a place that probably didn’t move or grow very much while you were gone. They learned to live without you just like you learned to live without them. It’s the nature of things I suppose. In the past five years since we moved back to the area I grew up in, that has become abundantly clear. In fact, you often learn that some of those who never moved away actually resent you for thinking you could come back and have a role. They know nothing of your life just as you can’t possibly imagine why someone would miss a lifetime of adventures.

On days like those, I remember my brothers (and a few sisters of note).

I think about all the places we went and all the challenges we overcame. I think about the joy of seeing a brother advance in rank or get his dolphins. I know that they earned and did something that the average person can never understand. I am grateful for each and every one of my family that has stayed faithful and loyal over the past forty five plus years. You listened without judgement, you honored me when I deserved it and you tightened my chain on the times when I have been wrong. But you always did it in a way that showed me I could trust you. I hope when the final muster is taken, you can say the same about me.

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

 

The one thing you can’t stop 2

Today marks the end of yet another year.

The world has turned 365 more times in its journey and I feel fortunate to have had more good days than bad ones during that time. I find myself in a much better place today than I did a year ago and for that I am grateful.

Time has a way of creeping up on you.

Even if you take the best care of yourself, the elements and time itself play havoc with what we try to preserve. This is just as true of the things we have made as it is to the people that made them. This year saw the 75th Anniversary of many of the most notable naval battles of World War II. Midway, Coral Sea, the seven battles of Guadalcanal, and many other important actions all marked the turning point of the war in the Pacific.

The ships that fought those battles were legendary. Against enormous odds in most cases, the American’s fought back against the Imperial Japanese fleet and stopped their progress. In 1942, that meant that mostly pre-war vessels and their crews fought back in battles that could have spelled doom for many if we had lost.

We have some remarkable nautical memorials

One of my passions is going to visit and learn about the memorial ships around the country that have been preserved. While I favor the remaining battleships as my primary destinations, I will willingly spend hours and hours crawling through everything from destroyers to submarines and the occasional aircraft carrier. We are blessed as a nation that many such monuments still exist and I strongly support the efforts of the many men and women who have volunteered over the years to keep the memories alive.

    

The ones we didn’t save

Many of the ships I would have loved to have seen preserved were active in 1942. It should not come as a surprise that the USS San Francisco CA 38 would be on the very top of my list. She was unique and had a very storied history before and during the war. This New Orleans class cruiser was commissioned in 1934 and saw the beginning of the war in Pearl Harbor. She quickly showed her worth as the fast moving battles of the first year unfolded. But nothing will ever replace her glory in the night battle of November 13th near Guadalcanal. She was the flag ship for Admiral Callaghan and a small force of cruisers and destroyers that went up against two Japanese battleships.

Out gunned and out maneuvered, she led her brave force into action and paid a ferocious cost. At the height of the attack, she came under close fire from the 14 inch guns of the Hiei and Rear Admiral Callaghan, Captain Cassin Young, and much of the staff were killed in a blinding flash. But the well trained crew, under the leadership of Lieutenant Commander Bruce McCandless and Lieutenant Commander Herbert E. Schonland continued to fight the ship and saved her to fight another day. 77 sailors, including Rear Admiral Daniel J. Callaghan and Captain Cassin Young, had been killed. 105 had been wounded. Of seven missing, three were subsequently rescued. The ship had taken 45 hits. Structural damage was extensive, but not fatal. No hits had been received below the waterline. Twenty-two fires had been started and extinguished.

San Francisco was sent home for repairs. When she returned, she would fight and serve through many harsh battles. She was one of many ships targeted by the dreaded kamikaze weapons the Japanese had mustered. But the Frisco Maru would beat them all and was part of the victorious fleet that finally subdued the enemy.

A Remarkable Record

The night battle of November 13th resulted in four Medal of Honors being awarded. Lieutenant Commander Herbert E. Schonland, Lieutenant Commander Bruce McCandless, and Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Reinhardt J. Keppler (posthumous). Admiral Callaghan was also awarded the Medal of Honor (posthumous). San Francisco was among the most decorated ships in US service during World War II.

Despite her many accolades, the country ended the war with a surplus of ships. The Cold War was just a short time away from its official start but the cost of maintaining such a large fleet was unacceptable. San Francisco was decommissioned in February of 1946 and in 1959 she was sold for scrap. So were nearly all of her surviving partners. The only physical memory of her now is the rescued bridge section that was saved when she was rebuilt after the horrific battle in 1942. It was a point of honor for the crews of the subsequent USS San Francisco (SSN 711) to visit and pay honor when the boat was in port in the city.

I would have given anything to be able to walk her decks and stand where so many brave men gave their all in a battle that was so notable. So I do understand why so many people do their best to preserve the vessels that have survived. I wish there was more money and more public commitment. But unfortunately, time continues to exact a price and the public is easily distracted. No matter how important a mission may have been, preservation almost always comes down to a few people who do the lion’s share of the work.

Patriots Point, Mount Pleasant SC

I ended 2017 at Patriot’s point with a fellow retired Chief Warrant Officer. He and I served on the submarine San Francisco in the beginning and we have watched her over the past 37 years. She of course is infamous for a sea mount collision that nearly cost the country a crew and vessel. The loss of our shipmate MM2/SS Joey Ashley still affects those who loved him and recognize his sacrifice with a solemnness earned with such a sacrifice. The 711 boat is undergoing a conversion to a new mission as a training ship and we are all filled with a bittersweet feeling of pride in her continued life but sadness in knowing she will no longer sail the oceans and face unseen enemies.

Time takes its toll on everything.

I had visited Patriot’s Point in Mount Pleasant five years ago and toured the ships and boat located there. The USS Clamagore is a treasured part of the collection of diesel boats on display around the country. Her history did not include service in the war, but she more than made up for that through her conversions to several classes of GUPPY boats and her service helped to pave the way for the submarine technology that would aid the coming nuclear fleet.

How a Docking Officer views the world

Seeing her this week was kind of shocking. I should tell you that one of my roles in the Navy was as a Docking Officer on a floating drydock that primarily docked submarines. Whenever I see any vessel, I often do a mental calculation of what I would have to do to create the “build” for that vessel. The build consists of the blocks topped with wood that the vessel would sit on once the water has been pumped down. It is incredibly important that the docking officer builds a safe crib that support the keel of the vessel in such a way that it will not be damaged.

Like most docking officers, I know that each ship and boat has a docking plan. That plan includes the exact location for each block to ensure maximum safety for the landed vessel. Even an inch or two off the mark could have an impact.

As we approached the submarine, the first thing that was noticeable was the exterior damage near the waterline. While I understand that the damage may not be indicative of the pressure hull, I also know that in order to safely dock a boat, any compromise in the plan would have some impact. I felt kind of sick to my stomach as I saw her tied up next to the pier and couldn’t help but wonder if this would be the last time I saw her. To be fair, the inside tells a great story and you can see the work so many have done over the years. But time is catching up to her.

Can’t we save them all?

I know there is a lot of passion around saving Clamagore. Four of the boats I served on are gone now and both of my surface commands have long since been torn down and scrapped (except for some parts of the USS Los Alamos that are still in use in a civilian yard). All of them served honorable and several made marks on Naval history that should have automatically made them eligible for some kind of living memorial (USS George Washington SSBN 598 and USS Halibut her dual roles as a Regulas Boat and her remarkable role as a Special Projects Boat)

But time and events were not in their favor. They remain alive in the stories that have been written and the hearts of those who sailed on them. There will never be boats like these again. There will never be mighty warships like the USS San Francisco CA 38. But her impact on the war she fought will live forever in the halls of United States Naval history.

A proper remembrance

In a cemetery in Mount Pleasant SC just up the road from Patriots Point is a marker in a small cemetery for one of my greatest heroes. Captain Cassin Young was a Commander on board the USS Vestal, a repair ship tied up next to the Arizona on December 7th. He was awarded the Medal of Honor that day and his story is remarkable. I will be telling it in detail later this year in a special way. His body is not there however. He was one of those killed on the bridge on the morning of November 13 on the bridge of the CA 38. He was buried at sea along with many others.

It is fitting for a sailor to be buried at sea after such a death. I can imagine the grief the family felt but how much worse it would be to see the burned and fragmented remains that would have had to have been shipped back those many thousands of miles. The family would have a loving memory of their sailor in his glory days.

The future

I do not know what will become of the Clamagore. I hope some solution comes soon. I have to admit that seeing her in such a condition makes me sad for those who have worked so hard to save her. But time marches on. It is the one element that has never been completely mitigated. It makes me wonder about the remainder of the boats and what it will take to preserve them properly. Where is the strategy? What is the plan? Would it make more sense to view each from a bigger picture? Resources are not unlimited but the elements and the weather have no limits.

Every boat tells a story. Every boat means so much to those who have given so much to save them from the scrap yard or reef. The sad reality is that not all of them will be able to be saved.

I am sure there are probably a few diesel boat sailors that will start a “I hate Mister Mac” campaign after this is published. I am sorry for that. This is not intended to say let’s kill this or any other boat memorial. I do not have that power or ability. But I do hope that there is a strategy to remember the boat in a way that is respectful and memorable. I also hope we have a good long discussion about the other boats that are either going through the same challenges or are about to.

If someone does come up with a strategy for stopping time, please let us all know what it is.

Some of us are more interested than others.

Mister Mac