Two Cultures Collide and Heroes Emerge from the Sea 8

The United States in 1941 was tense and filled with anticipation about the war in Europe. But nothing could prepare the nation for the events that were about to transpire. The nation and the Japanese had long been on a collision course because of the nature of their two cultures. But the population at large had no sense of the grotesque nature of that clash that would occur in the coming days. Or the cost for both nations over the next four years.

 

Washington Evening star. December 06, 1941,

“Silent Prayer Banned At Japanese Shrines

Silent prayers for the dead, which have been said at shrines and temples in Japan ever since the great earthquake of 1924, have been banned.

The Shrine Board in Tokio has ruled that praying silently is a “Christian custom alien to traditions” and requests that, instead, people give two deep bows and two handclaps.”

On the night before December 7, there was only one reference to Japan in the paper which served the nation’s capital.

Negotiations between the American and Japanese governments were coming to a head but most of the country was focused on events in Europe and the coming of Christmas. There had been a sense that something was brewing in the Pacific but it was not something for the general public to be consumed with just yet.

History doesn’t record what Commander Cassin Young, Commanding officer of the USS Vestal was doing the night of December 6th. Commander Young had just recently reported on board the ship after doing an Executive Officer tour at the submarine base at New London CT. His family had moved to the west coast where they had previously been stationed and he was living on board as a geographical bachelor.

The Vestal was an older ship that served as a repair ship for the fleet in Pearl.

She had been launched on May 19, 1908, and was placed in service as a fleet collier. She served in World War I when she was deployed to Queenstown. There, she provided services for ships of the 1st Destroyer Flotilla – and stayed there for the duration of the war.

The USS Vestal returned in 1919, and 22 years later, found herself on the verge of another World War.

Commander Young had had a distinguished career up to that point. Submarine and Destroyer Commander, Squadron Commander, many important posts in Washington and the West Coast including Hawaii and finally the executive officer at the Navy’s premier submarine school. Graduating from the Naval Academy in 1916, he served a progression of duties that was supposed to lead to a promising end. But fate and the Navy that struggled in the years between the wars had an impact on his path.

According to family records, that career hit a rough spot in 1941 when a new base commanding officer arrived at New London. The pre-war years were challenging to the Navy since budgets were slim and money was tight. As the XO, Young had overseen the spending of large sums of money rebuilding the base which had been neglected. Repairs to the lower base where the submarines operated and upgrades to the rapidly growing training facility were put into place. Even the quarters where the officer’s families were housed had received some upgrades.

But the new base CO’s wife was not satisfied that her housing was up to her standards and insisted that money be spent to make their quarters even more acceptable. Young, as the man who controlled the budget, refused to spend another dollar on the quarters. The money that had been allocated would be better spent on things that would prepare the Navy for an as yet undefined conflict.

There are no official transcripts of what happened next, but refusing your boss’s orders and the conflict it must have created resulted in Commander Young receiving a less than expected follow on set of orders. When his tour was completed, he found himself with orders to an old ship (launched before he was even a Midshipman) in a faraway place.

Young had been in the Navy since 1912 and he would not reach his retirement year until 1942. It is only speculation on my part, but he probably saw the handwriting on the wall. That explains why his faithful wife and family were living in California on the morning of December 7th and he was living on a very old ship tied up next to the USS Arizona.

The Arizona was not in her normal berth that morning and the Vestal was tied up in preparation for an overhaul that was going to occur. Normally, another battleship was tied up there but as fate would have it, the previous week’s maneuvers had resulted in a switch in berths.

The night before the morning of December 7th would have been a typical peacetime schedule. Social hours and dancing for many at the numerous clubs, calm weather with a smooth Hawaiian breeze to keep the air from getting stale on the old ships. Taps on board the ships and lights out as men came back to their bunks to enjoy a restful sleep prior to a Sunday in port. The fleet had been very busy for months before then sailing in formation, practicing their gunnery and flexing the powerful engines in broadly sculpted maneuvers around the Hawaiian Islands. The great grey hulks made for a magnificent picture while carving through the seas where Captain Cook once sailed.

Commander Young may have had trouble sleeping. The move from Connecticut to Hawaii was fairly recent and his body clock was more than likely still set to east coast time. He may have even been thinking of his family on the West Coast and the work that lay ahead on the Arizona.

The only facts we know are that at 7:55 when the Japanese attacked without warning, he went into action the only way he knew. As a man who had spent his whole lifetime preparing for this very moment, he went to work defending his ship.

The Vestal was a repair ship and not meant to slug it out with incoming Jap planes. But she did have guns and instinct told him to go to where the action was.

From the Vestal History:

“Sunday quickly took a turn as the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The ship sprung into action, manning every gun from the 5-inch (130 mm) broadside battery to the .30-caliber Lewis machine guns on the bridge wings. At about 08:05, her 3-inch (76 mm) gun commenced firing.

What ensued next was a fight for survival. Two bombs intended for more valuable battleships on Battleship Row hit the USS Vestal.

One bomb struck the port side and penetrated through three decks. The bomb passed through a crew’s space and exploded in a stores hold. The explosion started fires that necessitated flooding the forward magazines.

The second bomb struck the starboard side. This bomb passed through the carpenter shop and the shipfitter shop, and left an irregular hole about five feet in diameter in the bottom of the ship.

Survival became the primary focus of the USS Vestal crew, while anti-aircraft fire became secondary. A bomb hit the nearby USS Arizona. Almost as if in a volcanic eruption, the forward part of the battleship exploded, and the concussion from the explosion literally cleared Vestal’s deck – sending Vestal’s gunners and crew overboard.

Among the men blown off Vestal was her commanding officer, Commander Cassin Young. The captain swam back to the ship, however, and countermanded an abandon ship order that someone had given, coolly saying, “Lads, we’re getting this ship underway.”

With fires on board the Vestal and after two bombs had struck the repair ship, the Vestal crew cut the mooring lines with axes, freeing her from the Arizona, and she got underway, steering by engines alone. A tug, the captain of which had served aboard the Vestal just a few months before the attack, pulled Vestal’s bow away from the inferno engulfing Arizona and the repair ship, and the latter began to creep out of danger.”

The Vestal survived the attack and was completely restored. While she was being restored, her repair crews were used to try and save as many men and as many ships as she could from the wreckage in the harbor.

Think about what happened for a moment.

Young was blown from his ship by the force of the explosion. He found himself in the water with many dead and wounded around him just trying to stay afloat and alive. The force of the explosion and the resultant landing in the water must have been disorienting. Yet, this man, Cassin Young, remembered that he was the Captain of the ship that had just been attacked. The attack was still going on. Bombs, torpedoes and bullets were flying and landing all around the harbor. Yet he CHOSE to go back to his ship and climbed back on board. He is soaking wet, probably covered with the oil and dirt form the debris of the water that he just crawled out of. He rallies his me.

The part of the story that is often left out was that once he was blown into the water, the order had been given by his next in command (or some senior officer) to abandon ship. But in the back of his mind, Young remembered that the battleship that was next to him still continued hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel and many bombs. More explosions would doom the Vestal and cost the lives of his remaining crew. Young had served on battleships in his career and he was an engineer so he knew what could happen if they did not escape the death grasp of the dying Arizona. He reversed the order to abandon ship and ordered the engine room to bring the main engines on line. When they were unable to muster enough main steam, he hailed the nearby passing tug and ensured the Vestal could get out of harm’s way.

It was an action of heroic nature conducted by a men who had spent his entire life training for this moment.

For his action, Commander Cassin Young was awarded the Medal of Honor and advanced to Captain by Admiral Chester Nimitz (another submariner). The Vestal, with Captain Young in command would play a key role in many of the coming battles including supporting the coming naval battles of Guadalcanal. Operating in forward areas with threats on all sides, she served as a needed repair ship for the battered and bruised ships that fought in the “Slot”.

In November, Captain Young would receive new orders and finally get to join directly in the fight. Admiral Dan Callaghan needed a new Captain for his flagship, the USS San Francisco (a heavy cruiser) and his friend Cassin Young would be just the man for the task ahead. On one night in November, they would sail together into history in one of the wildest and lopsided surface fights in the history of modern naval warfare. Neither man would make it through the night.

Cassin Young had passed 30 years as a sailor (counting his midshipman years) on the day he joined the angels. He is an American hero and someone who exemplified what courage and service to his country mean.

I am nearly finished writing about his life and am anxious for the world to know just what a great man he was. But today, December 7th, I hope you will think about Cassin Young and all of those men and women who were able to overcome the disaster of Pearl Harbor and eventually lead the country and the world back to freedom.

Mister Mac

 

 

 

“Who you calling Bubblehead?” 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dictionary.com: Bubblehead

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

Merriam-Webster: Bubblehead

A foolish or stupid person

Synonyms often include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

You are a bubblehead for life.

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

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

Mister Mac

 

Oh and one more thing Phil…

 

You’re a Nuclear Submariner? How did you get such a cool job? (1963) 3

By January 1963, the United States Navy submarine force was growing at an amazing pace. The Soviet launching of Sputnik had sparked a fire in the Defense Department and the government as a whole to find ways to counter the perceived threats of an unbridled Soviet Union.

The answer of course was to capitalize on the advances that had been gained by the Navy’s marriage of nuclear power to submarine propulsion. The lessons of the Second World War were clear. Submarine warfare was the key to global seapower but submarines needed to be able to operate undetected in the farthest reaches of the ocean. Nuclear power provided the means for the boats to operate in those regions and for longer periods of time. Without the constant need to come near or on the surface to charge batteries, these boats were only limited by the crew’s abilities to deploy under stressful conditions and the amount of food they could carry.

From “41 for Freedom”

“Submarine building proceeded at a furious pace in the early 1960s, as the United States strove to deploy a major component of its Strategic Triad. From 1960 to 1966 the U.S. Navy launched a total of 41 SSBNs, called the “41 for Freedom.” All were named for eminent figures in American history and divided among the 5-ship George Washington class, the 5-ship Ethan Allen class, and the 31-ship Lafayette/Franklin class. Initially, each boat carried 16 Polaris nuclear missiles that could be launched underwater toward distant targets. Conversion to Poseidon missiles began in 1972. Further modification allowed Franklin-class boats to convert to Trident I missiles beginning in 1979.”

But where would the men come from that would man this growing fleet?

The answer in the beginning was to try and use existing sailors and officers that already had experience. Because of the complexity of the systems and the haste in which they had been built, there was a lot of risk involved in operating these new boats. Nuclear power was still relatively new and the launching of missiles from a submerged submarine had only been a dream until the Polaris program was begun.

Experienced Navy men would be the main answer for the time being. New men could be brought on as the pipelines were extended. In fact, by 1972, most of the new members of the submarine community were recruits that went through the pipelines that were developed in the sixties. After nearly ten years of operations, enough seasoned and experienced men had risen through the ranks and were now in the ranks of the senior enlisted and officers operating the boomers and fast attacks.

But in 1963, the Navy needed volunteers. Since submarines were always a volunteer force from the very beginning, every effort was made to recruit from within and entice men to join the ranks of the nuclear navy.

While the article in ALL Hands from January 1963 does not specifically advertise itself as a recruiting tool, in the eyes of this old Navyman, it sure does look like one. I wonder how many sailors in the fleet saw this article and said: I could do that!

JANUARY 1963 ALL HANDS MAGAZINE

How to Become a Nuclear Navyman

THE PARABLE of the seven blind men who discovered an elephant? Because they could not see the strange new animal in its entirety, each visualized it in terms of the one portion he could explore with his hands. The results were deplorable, to say the least.

A similar problem exists in attempting to see the nuclear submarine program of the Navy as a whole—it also is a strange new animal in our midst. Many men are interested but don’t know just what it is, don’t know if they can qualify, or if it would be to their advantage to make the attempt.

One point to consider when evaluating the consequences or the potentialities of the nuclear program upon your career—it’s a wildly expanding field. At the present time, there are approximately 14,000 men in the combined submarine forces. Included in these forces are 11 FBM and 16 attack nuclear subs now in commission. As stated in the November issue of ALL HANDs, six SSBNs, eight SSNs and one DLGN have been authorized for fiscal year 1963. Within two to three years, the Polaris program itself will require some 10,000 men. The FBM repair ships Proteus and Hunley are on station, with more to follow.

ONE ASPECT of the nuclear elephant—to coin a phrase—is frequently overlooked by those considering the nuclear Navy as a career. Nearly a third of the billets in FBM subs are general service billets with little or no connection with nuclear power or the Polaris weapon system.

Here, for example, is the rating structure of one crew of an Ethan Allen class FBM sub:

GENERAL    NUCLEAR    POLARIS

SERVICE     POWER         4 QM

3 SO              3 ET            7 TM

2 FT               15 MM       5 FT

4 RM              4 EN          7 MT

2 YN              9 EM          12 ET

1 SK              5 IC                 35

3 CS              36

5 SN

5 FN

I HM

3 SD

29

All this means a radical change in the occupations of many Navymen. The field is wide open for those who can—and will—qualify. It’s more than probable that you may be eligible to participate in one of the most exciting developments in history.

Let’s assume that you want to become a member of a typical crew in one of the Navy’s FBM subs and see what your duty is like and what qualifications you must meet.

FIRST OF ALL, of course, you must be a submariner. There are three basic programs that produce men qualified for duty on board FBM submarines. They are the Nuclear Power Program, the Polaris Program, and the conventional submarine school program.

Here are the ratings from which applications for submarine training are desired:

* SO, TM, ET, FT, and MT in pay grades E-4, E-5, E-6 and E-7 and designated strikers.

* MM, EN, EM, IC, QM, RM, YN, CS, SK and SD in pay grades E-4, E-5, E-6 and identified strikers of these ratings.

  • HM, in pay grades E-5, E-6 and E-7.
  • SN, SN, FN, TN and TA.

Because the Submarine Forces are growing rapidly, greater numbers of men in all of the above ratings and rates are needed for initial submarine training. MMs should request sub training only if interested in going on to nuclear power training. If you are afloat on Seavey and have not received orders, you may apply for basic sub school. If accepted, you will be ordered to sub school provided you have not yet received orders to shore duty.

With the exception of sub school candidates ordered direct from Class“A” schools and recruit training, it is preferable that men normally serve in their present duty (sea or shore) for one year before they are ordered to submarine school.

MEN Now ASHORE including those on Shorvey who have not received orders may apply for enlisted basic sub school by requesting orders direct to sub school. If you are assigned to shore duty, you must serve at least 12 months of your shore tour before you can expect detachment to sub school. This is not to say that you may not apply before your completion of the year ashore. On the contrary, it is preferable for all concerned that your applications are submitted as early as possible to permit ordering reliefs.

Here are the eligibility requirements to Basic Submarine Training:

  • Have 24 months’ obligated service commencing with the conveningdate of the class to which ordered.
  • Be a volunteer for sea duty in submarines.
  • For those in other than ET, MM, EN, EM and IC ratings: Have a minimum combined ARI and MAT or ARI and MECH score of 100, or a minimum combined GCT and ARI score of 100. For those in ET, MM, EN, EM and IC ratings, you must have a minimum combined GCT and ARI of 110. (This requirement is the same as that in effect for nuclear power training.)
  • Men in the ET, MM, EN, EM and IC ratings must be high school graduates or have a GED equivalent.
  • Be physically qualified for submarine duty in accordance with BuMed Manual, Article 15-29.
  • Have demonstrated evidence of emotional and mental stability and maturity. The absence of these qualities is often disclosed by a poor service record.
  • Be no more than 30 years of age.

Waivers will be considered if you are in other than source ratings for nuclear power training.

IF YOU MEET these requirements, you may submit your request on the Enlisted Evaluation Report (Nav- Pers 1339) via your commanding officer direct to the Chief of Naval Personnel (Attn: Pers B-2131). You must indicate your willingness to extend your enlistment or to reenlist, if necessary, to have the required obligated service.

If accepted, you will be ordered to the U. S. Naval Submarine School, New London, Conn., for an eight week basic course of instruction.

Unless you hold a rating of MT, YN, Cs, SK, HM or SD, you should expect additional training when you have completed the basic course. Approximately 60 per cent of those eligible receive additional training. Therefore, if you are eligible for extra training, you should be prepared to spend at least 13 weeks at sub school.

Your orders will read for “temporary duty under instruction and further assignment by BuPers (Pers B2115) to duty in submarines in the Atlantic or Pacific Fleet.”

During your seventh week at the Naval Submarine School, you will receive your orders for duty.

ALL THIS IS, of course, merely the preliminary. Your ultimate goal is assignment to a nuclear ship and that’s what you’re going to get. As FBM subs have the greatest construction priority for the next few years, we’ll discuss here the means by which you become an FBM submariner.

If you are an MM or EN, you have an excellent chance of going directly to nuclear power training from sub school.

However, most basic sub school graduates are ordered to duty either in conventional submarines, or to a non-nuclear billet in a nuclear submarine. If you are in this category, you should become a qualified submariner about six months after re-porting aboard. Once qualified, you may (depending on your rating) submit your request for Nuclear Power or Polaris training.

The majority of men now being ordered to FBM submarines are already members of the submarine service. If you are now a submariner, serving in either a conventional or nuclear-powered submarine, you should submit your request for FBM submarine duty to either the COMSUBPACREP at EPDOPAC or the COMSUBLANTREP at EPDOLANT.

If you are eligible for duty in an FBM sub, your name will be placed on a waiting list at one of those two locations. You will then be ordered to a new construction submarine approximately 10 months in advance of its tentative commissioning date, or you may be ordered to an operating FBM sub as a replacement.

Source ratings for FBM submarines are: TM, QM, FT, MT, ET, SO, RM, MM, EN, EM, IC, YN, SK, CS, SD, FN and SN. Although there may not be billets in all pay grades, men in all pay grades are encouraged to apply should substitutions be necessary.

Before reporting to their assigned ship, men in the QM, ET, FT, TM, MT, RM and so ratings are normally ordered to attend courses of instruction ranging from three weeks to six months.

Men ordered to SSN or SSBN new construction will not be transferred before they have spent one year on board after commissioning.TO BE ELIGIBLE for duty aboard an FBM submarine, you must:

  • Be eligible for Secret security clearance.
  • Have obligated service of 24 months from commencement of course of instruction, or date of re-porting to the supervisor of ship- building in the case of men not receiving instruction.
  • Be in one of the source ratings.
  • Be designated SS (except for non-rated men).
  • Not on current Seavey. (Men extended off Seavey by COMSUBLANT or COMSUBPAC are eligible for such duty.)

Let’s now assume that you meet all the qualifications for eventual assignment to an FBM submarine, are a graduate of basic submarine school, and a qualified submariner.

If you are in one of the ratings that make you eligible for Nuclear Power School, you will go to either Vallejo, Calif., or Bainbridge, Md. There you will learn something about the field of basic nucleonics.

The curriculum at the schools include courses in math, physics, reactor principles and thermodynamics. Plant information is also studied, including reactor technology and engineering materials and equipments.

From THE BASIC school you and other potential nuclear-Navy sailors will move to Idaho Falls, Schenectady, or Windsor, Conn., for a 24- week operational course. There you will study and train on a live reactor. From this school you will be assigned to an FBM crew.

(It might be mentioned here that instruction for surface personnel is identical to the submarine program. Operational training on surface ship propulsion prototype plants is conducted at either Idaho Falls, Idaho, or Schenectady, N. Y.)

Men who operate the special navigation equipment, Polaris missile launching and guidance control equipment, and other special equipment necessary for missile launching are trained through the Polaris Program.

These men, although not graduates of nuclear-power school, do begin as qualified submariners, and they do receive special training at several locations.

With the exception of SOs and RMs, men of this group start their training for the FBM program at the Navy’s Guided Missile Schools, Dam Neck, Va. Men trained together in these schools generally serve together as a crew of an FBM submarine.

Some courses include more than one rate, but for the most part, single rates train together.

HERE, FOR EXAMPLE, is the background you will get if you are an ET. You will first attend a three week navigation sub-system familiarization course at Dam Neck. An eight-week special technology course follows. It is in the special tech course that you will first come in contact with new terms, techniques and devices associated with the program.

After these two courses, which are a general, over-all indoctrination on the FBM submarine and the Polaris missile system, the ETs move on to more specialized training. At this point, the group is split up to receive different training. You will become an expert in one phase of the program. Then, when you are assigned to a crew, you will learn about additional special equipment through on-the-job training.

One group of ETs start a 19-week course learning about the Ship’s Inertial Navigation System (SINS). This training is done at either Dam Neck or the factory where the gear was developed.

Another group of ETs spend a 19-week period at Dam Neck learning to operate and maintain different types of navigation data simulation computers.

A third group spends 19 weeks training on various other special navigation equipment at Dam Neck.

FROM ONE OF THESE schools you may go for further training aboard USS Compass Island (EAG 153), which is equipped with navigation equipment similar to that aboard the FBM submarines.

Quartermasters also are introduced to special navigation equipment at Dam Neck, where they take a five- week course in navigation familiarization. From there, the QMs also go aboard Compass Island for additional training in the operation of special navigation equipment.

Fire control technicians also start at the Guided Missile School. They first take a one-week course in weapons system orientation, and then an eight-week special technology course at Dam Neck. The special tech course is the same as that presented to many other ratings. From Dam Neck, the FTs move on to Pittsfield, Mass., for a 31-week course in SSBN fire control systems. Missile technicians, although already trained in guided missile theory, also are given an eight-week special tech training course, followed by 25 weeks of training in the missiles and guidance course at Dam Neck.

Torpedoman’s mates also have an active part in the Polaris missile pro-gram. These men spend one week in the weapons system orientation course at Dam Neck and then move on to another course at the same school on ordnance preparation.

Still at Dam Neck, the TMs complete six to nine weeks in missile ordnance and launching. They are taught how to handle Polaris between ship and pier, or between ships. They also study the missile launching system.

Another group of men who undergo special training is the radiomen and another small group of ETs. They are trained to operate and maintain new type communications equipment which has been developed solely for the FBM program. A combination of short courses takes about 12 weeks.

Sonarmen may find themselves in a 31-week BQQ-2 course at Key West, or a 12-week subjective analysis course at either Key West or San Diego.

DOES ALL THIS have any effect on you? It all depends. The Navy needs men urgently for this program and is willing to make any reasonable concession. For example:

  • SS personnel serving outside the Submarine Force because they are in excess, and who want to investigate the possibility of returning to submarines via Polaris may address their inquiries to the Chief of Naval Personnel (Pers 2133) for sympathetic consideration.
  • Anyone who wants to get into the Polaris Program, either the SSBN portion if eligible for submarine duty, or the support program if not, has an excellent chance via the SCORE program, no matter what his rating.
  • Anyone else who is in the right rate can be considered for direct entry by submitting a NavPers 1339.

If you are a YN, SK, SD or Cs, you may attend advanced training in your rating before joining an FBM crew, although this is not required.

These ratings may be assigned to an FBM submarine upon becoming qualified in submarines.

So there you are. That’s how you enter the nuclear Navy. It’s worth investigating further.

—Jim Lewis, JO2, USN.

A Gangers

One thing that is missing from this entire article is the evolution of something called a Submarine Auxiliaryman. By the time I joined the Navy, another pipeline had been added because of the need for trained men in non-nuclear mechanical equipment operation and repair. Most of the ones I served with were either Conventional Machinist Mates or converted Enginemen from the old diesel boats. We ran the atmosphere control equipment, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration systems, High Pressure Air, Trim and Drain Systems, Hydraulics, and the auxiliary diesel on many of the boats.

I am proud to have served as an A-Ganger from the oldest boomer to one of the newest. While our rate has been changed again so much in this new Navy, we were there to fill a gap when the country needed us the most, along with all of our comrades that wore dolphins.

Mister Mac

1899 – 1900 The Epidemic of Submarines 1

1899 – 1900 The Epidemic of Submarines

Chief, Bureau of Construction and Repair, Commodore Philip Hichborn –

July 1893-March 1899,  Rear Admiral Philip Hichborn – March 1899-March 1901

If you have never heard of Admiral Hichborn, don’t be too surprised. He had a long and glorious career but has faded into obscurity over the last 100 years. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has ever done something important that was not looked upon with favor while you were doing it.

In his role as the Chief of Construction and Repair, he was a powerful voice that helped the United States Navy obtain and develop the modern submarine. He did this in the face of overwhelming forces that were trying to minimize the submarine and prevent it from taking its place I the long line of naval inventions.

The late 19th century saw a Navy still reeling from the latest chaotic intervention of technology. Steam power was eclipsing the power of the sail and machines were suddenly the driving force of progress for a Navy steeped in tradition. As the new century began, the leadership of the Navy was just becoming adjusted to the lack of sails on board their prized battle fleet. Bigger and stronger ships bristling with new guns of monstrous calibers was the order of the day. The very idea that a smaller “boat” would someday take its place alongside these behemoths was, as one Admiral put it, crazy.

In the midst of all the bluster, some voices were still determined to experiment with a new type of warship. The submarine had been around in various configurations for a long time but its usefulness and dependence on operating on the surface for much of its time made them less than desirable. Many of the Admirals considered them a distraction at best but a waste of precious funds for battleships. Some in Congress agreed but some also saw that if a submarine craft could be built at a lower cost and offer a way to protect the country, the savings would be really pleasing to the folks back home. That last reason alone was enough to frighten the Navy brass.

Around the world in 1900, most of the major players were already experimenting with submersible craft of their own. This post has a number of stories form a publication known as the Army Navy Journal.

During its time, this journal was a sure fire way to keep up with the latest trends and activities of all of the world’s navies. It was also a sounding board for those in power and out to try and influence the direction of the armed services. So it’s not a surprise that al lot of articles showed up with the excitement of the new Holland Boat.

Not everyone was a fan though. Whether here or in the many countries involved with this “submarine epidemic”, the opportunity was sorely weighed against the threat. If the growth of these pesky little craft was not managed well, there could be real consequences to the participating fleets in any future war. Since success was still being measured by “tonnage” and gun caliber and size, these craft posed a threat before they had even fired their first torpedo in way.

I celebrate the birth of the submarine Navy every April.

I had no idea how close we were to not having a submarine Navy at all.

Admiral Hichborn was a bit of a visionary. His vision was rare in a time when most men were looking backwards, not forwards as they tried to protect the nation.

Here is the story:

The story is told in sequential order through the eyes of the reader of the Army Navy Journal. It captures the submarine challenges of the United States, Great Britain, Germany, and France… noticeably absent is any talk of the Japanese who were also developing a submarine capacity on their own)

 

November 11, 1899 Army and Navy Journal – TRIAL OF THE HOLLAND SUBMARINE BOAT.

The Holland submarine torpedo boat underwent a successful test over a course between Little Hog Neck and Great Hog Neck, Long Island, on Nov. 6, in water 20 feet deep. The test was made before the following Navy officers, members of the Board of Inspection, and Survey: Rear Adml: Frederick Rodgers, Capt. Robley D. Evans, Comdr. William H. Emory, Comdr. Charles R. Roelker, Naval Constructor Washington L., Capps and Lieut. Richardson Henderson, recorder. The first run was one mile under water, submerged to a depth of ten feet over her deck. The run was made in exactly nine minutes.

On coming to the surface she discharged a torpedo which weighed 840 pounds, , ten seconds later. The torpedo shot past the mark, which was a stake with a flag on it, and came within 25 feet of the stake, although it was discharged nearly 400 feet distant. The torpedo traveled 800 yards.

Under water the Holland turned completely around in one and one-half times her own length, which is 54 feet. A second trip was made in which the boat was at times under water, then, with deck awash, and again with her upper parts completely out of water. While completely submerged a torpedo was again discharged simply to show that it could be done. Running against a strong ebb tide and a strong wind blowing across her the boat ran, with decks awash, a quarter of a mile at the rate of 8 knots.

The Holland was launched from Lewis Nixon’s yard, at Elizabethport, N. J., in March, 1896. She is 54 feet long and 10 feet in diameter. , Her hull is a perfect sphere amidships, the so-called deck being merely a flat superstructure designed to give the crew a foothold as they step from the conning tower. The Holland will be taken to Washington for any further inspection that the Navy Department may desire. The trip will be made through the Raritan Canal.

November 18, 1899 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL. – THE HOLLAND BOAT A SUCCESS.

The Inspection and Survey Board, which recently made tests with the submarine boat Holland, reports the trials were highly successful. Chief Engr. John Lowe was specially ordered to witness all trials and the official tests. His report is of great interest, as it highly commends the Holland. He says:

“I report my belief that the Holland is a successful and veritable submarine torpedo boat, capable of making a veritable attack upon the enemy unseen and undetectable, and that, therefore, she is an engine of warfare of terrible potency, which the Government must necessarily adopt into its service.”

Mr. Lowe says it is his opinion “that this Government should at once purchase the Holland and not let the secrets of the invention get out of the United States, ”and that the Government ought to create a submarine torpedo boat station for the purpose of practice and drilling of crews, and says: “We need right off and right now, fifty submarine torpedo vessels in Long Island Sound to protect New York, preserve the peace, and to give potency to our diplomacy.” The Holland will be sent around to Washington, the early part of December and will give an exhibition in the Potomac River for the benefit of Congress and the Navy Department officials.

December 9, 1899 ARMY AND NAVY .JOURNAL. – SOME FOREIGN ITEMS.

Before the Society of Naval Architects, at Charlottenburg, Dec., 8, Geheimrath Busley read a paper on “Submarine Boats” in which he said they offered no good prospects for the future, and congratulated the German Admiralty on, abstaining from “costly and protracted experiments.”

January 27 1900 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL – TORPEDO BOAT REPORT

The Naval Board on Construction on Jan. 19 (1900) decided by a vote of 4 to 1 against recommending the purchase of the Holland submarine torpedo boat. The majority report says that the proposition was to buy the boat for $165,000 as she stands, or two larger boats for $170,000 each. The report says: “The Board does not recommend the purchase of the Holland.” Then it goes on to cite the delinquency of the company in the case of the boat Plunger, and says when that craft is out of the way and settled for it will be time to discuss further contracts. The signers of this report are Rear Admls. O’Neil, Melville, Bradford and Comdr. Clover. They take pains to point out that they refrain from any criticism or discussion of the merits of the Holland and merely consider it a bad business transaction to buy it when larger and better boats can be got for nearly the same money.

The minority report is signed by Admiral Hichborn, and takes the ground that the question of possible improvements in the Plunger have been in the hands of a Naval Board for some months, the report of which has itself been held in abeyance, it is believed, pending the result of official tests of the Holland. The express intention of the company to proceed, as soon as authorized, with the necessary alterations to the Plunger, without expense to the Government, seems in every way satisfactory, and will, the Admiral believes, be promptly carried out. Considering the comparatively small cost of submarine boats, he believes that the Government should encourage their development, in view of their possibilities in time of war, and, furthermore, that it should have the boats in its possession for purposes of experiment and drill. Admiral Hichborn holds that the Department would be fully warranted in contracting for two boats of the Holland type; the Holland itself being acceptable, in his opinion, although less desirable than the proposed boats of slightly greater dimensions.

The immediate possession of the Holland, however, in the event of a sudden emergency, is to be considered an advantage. The fact of our having possession of the Holland, in her present state of efficiency, in the spring of 1898, would have been very marked in its effect.

Other countries do not appear over-sanguine regarding the submarine boat. Germany seems to have decided altogether against it. Recently Geheimeath Burley, at a naval meeting held in Charlottenburg, spoke with disdain of submarine boats, and averred that the German Navy had nothing to fear from anything of this kind which might be built by foreign powers.

In France, from which have come very favorable reports of trials, there are indications of a reversal of opinion. The “Yacht,” that Parisian nautical authority, referring to recent trials at Cherbourg, says: “There is too great a tendency to exaggerate the importance of submarine and submersible boats, and that they are at present purely serviceable for coast defence.” Taking the experience of all nations that have tested submarines, the chief objection appears to be the difficulty of maneuvering them under water, which has been found insuperable in practice up to the present time. It would be unwise, of course, to assume, because all previous attempts to devise a boat capable of practical and really effective action beneath the surface of the water have proved abortive, that therefore the submarine vessel may be regarded impracticable. The submarine vessel may ultimately become a source of real danger to the warship, but so far as it is possible to forecast the future of any invention, that day appears to be yet far distant.

February 10, 1900 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL  – Great Britain’s Point of view

The two problems now agitating the engineering world of Great Britain and the United States seem to be of the same type, and they relate to the feasibility of petroleum for fuel on the torpedo boats, and the value of the submarine torpedo boat. Neither question has advanced much beyond the experimental stage, and the results thus far are far from satisfactory in either matter. The position of the submarine torpedo boat has received somewhat of a setback by the lately promulgated adverse report of the Board appointed by the United States Navy Department, and the future of sub marine warfare remains about where it was at the beginning—a matter of opinion.

April 14, 1900 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL – Purchasing Holland

The recent tests which have been made by, the United States and France with types of submarine ships of war have caused considerable comment among military and naval experts of Europe. The problem of the submarine torpedo boat seems so far solved that attention is being directed to the means of meeting their attacks. Our Government has decided to purchase for $150,000 the Holland with the understanding that, the Holland Company deposit in, some national bank the sum of $90,000 as a surety that it will complete the construction of the submarine boat Plunger, already contracted by for the Government. Few officers of the Navy have, until recently, realized just what, the Holland and ships of like construction are capable of performing. The tests made this spring in the Potomac River have been witnessed by naval experts of this, as well as other, governments, Congressmen and representatives of the press. After seeing, the little craft dive all have been greatly impressed with the invention.

April 21, 1900 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL – Holland’s Capabilities

The Holland, which has just been bought by our government, is, strictly speaking, a torpedo; but a torpedo controlled in all its workings by human agency inside the craft, instead of being automatic in its operations. It is claimed that the vessel can go 1,500 miles on the surface of the water without renewing its supply of gasoline. It is further claimed that it can go fully 40 knots under water and that there is enough compressed air in the tanks to supply the necessary number of men for running the craft with fresh air for thirty hours, if the air is not used for any other purpose, such as emptying the submerged tanks. It was demonstrated in one of the recent tests that the Holland is capable of diving to a depth of twenty feet in eight seconds. It can stay at sea under an emergency for a week. Such has been the interest excited in this submarine vessel that Japan, as usual one of the leading nations, has directed her military attache in Washington to carefully examine into the merits of the vessel. On April 7 he was allowed to be present on the Holland during one of the official tests. Attaches of other nations also are taking great interest in the little craft. Mr. Goschen, 1st Lord of the Admiralty, in reply to a question by the House of Commons with reference to submarine boats, disparaged them except as weapons of defense, and said: “It seems certain that a reply to this weapon must be looked for in other directions than in building submarine boats ourselves, for, clearly, one submarine boat cannot fight another.”

April 28 1900 Army and Navy Journal – Army and Navy Appropriations Hearings

In regard to sheathing of ships Mr. Cummings (Congressman) said: “The Navy Department is peculiarly constructed. One year its board decides it is best to have sheathed ships. That was done a year or two ago. Afterward England built some unsheathed battleships; ships intended for use on her own coast, and not to be sent to foreign harbors. Of course, our Navy was compelled to follow the example set by England. Whether the Secretary of State was consulted or not I cannot say. The new board decided that sheathed ships were not needed. Boards are at times necessary contrivances, but not necessarily useful. Take the case of the Holland. Here was a board that were to make a report on the submarine boat Holland. They came back and reported in her favor but at the same time expressed the opinion that submarine boats were useless—England was not building any of them. The Navy Department, however, has bought the boat, and I have had the honor of introducing a bill providing for the purchase of 20 more of them. I am strongly of the opinion that the provision to have been inserted in this appropriation bill and I think those who have seen the Holland’s surprising performances will agree with me. I will answer for Admiral Dewey.”

May 19, 1900 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL.     News: 1900 NAVAL APPROPRIATION BILL APPOVED

The Secretary of the Navy is hereby authorized and directed to contract for five submarine torpedo boats of the Holland type of the most improved design, at a price not, to exceed one hundred and seventy thousand dollars each: Provided, That such boats shall be similar” in dimensions to the proposed new Holland, plans and specifications of which were submitted to the Navy Department by the Holland Torpedo Boat Company November twenty-third, eighteen hundred and ninety-nine.

The said new contract and the submarine torpedo boats covered, by the same are to be in accordance with the stipulations of the contract of purchase made April Eleventh, nineteen hundred, by and between the Holland Torpedo Boat Company, represented by the secretary of said company, the party of the first part, and the United States, represented by the Secretary of the Navy, the party of the second part.

The Secretary of the Navy is hereby directed to cause construction of vessels fitted to transport two. four, and plans and estimates of cost to be made for the construction of six submarine torpedo boats of the Holland type, respectively, and to lower and hoist them with the utmost expedition, said vessels to carry also such guns as may be best suited to their uses as armed craft to be used also as transports of submarine torpedo boats. The Secretary of the Navy is also directed to cause plans and estimates to be made for the conversion ” one or more transports now belonging to the United States and which he may deem best suited for the conveyance of submarine torpedo boats of the Holland type.

May 26, 1900 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL – Another view from London

The London “Engineer” says: “The assumption that the French submarine navy is a form of lunacy is very comfortable, but one cannot forget that fifty years ago our Admiralty doubted French sanity because they went in for screw warships across the Channel—a fact that makes the doctrine of official infallibility difficult to hold. Theories against submarine boats are just as bad as wild theories in their favor—we want facts on both sides. The sous marine are hardly as yet potent factors maybe; but they appear to be pretty much where torpedo boats were about 1876; and they have displayed quite enough in the way of “possibilities” to make the antidote worth thinking about.” It adds that, if one-quarter of the reports of successful submarine navigation in the French press are true, the British Admiralty occupy a “tolerably criminal position” in not experimenting with this method of warfare.

June 30 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL – ADMIRAL HICHBORN ON SUBMARINES.

Rear-Admiral Philip Hichborn, Chief Constructor, US. Navy, in “The Engineering Magazine” for June discusses “The Demonstrated Success of the Submarine Boat.” The findings of the so-called “Endicott Board” in 1886, he says, first called his attention to the matter. This Board, composed of prominent Army and Navy officers with the then Secretary of War as president, expressed the opinion that submarine boats had not passed the experimental stage. An exhaustive and complete history of this type of naval vessel was appended to the Board’s report by a sub-committee of which General Abbot of the Engineers, and Commander, now Admiral Sampson were members. To one accustomed to the actions of Boards and to reading between the lines of a report. it was apparent that General Abbot and Admiral Sampson desired to accentuate the probable value of submarines, although the Board as a whole could only be brought to an expression in regard to them which was the merest platitude.

His attention thus drawn to the matter Admiral Hichborn continued a study of the submarine. It appeared that the art of brain-directed submarine navigation has been in process of development for at least three hundred years, and that many of the attempts to make it practicable would have been near enough to success to insure continued effort toward improvement, had it not been for the ultra-conservatism of seafaring folk. William Bourne, an Englishman has the credit of operating the first submarine boat, as such, in contradistinction to a diving bell. The records of Bourne’s operations have, however, been lost as his labors ended more than three hundred years ago.

In 1624 the Hollander, Cornelius Van Drebbel, took twelve persons for an under-water run in his submarine boat worked by twelve pairs of sculls, and carried “quintessence of air” for them to breathe——probably compressed air. During the succeeding twenty years the main principles of submarine navigation were well grasped. And in 1633 a Frenchman, whose name has been lost, built and operated a submarine boat at Rotterdam.

Later in the century an Englishman named Day is reported to have lost his life in a submarine boat of his own invention, through the crushing in of her hull by water pressure due to depth on her second attempt at submersion. After a long hiatus, in the records at least, Bushnell, of Connecticut, projected in 1771 and made operative in 1775, a small one-man-operated boat devised for work against ships at anchor. The boat possessed many of the features recognized to-day as essential for submarine navigation, notably buoyancy.

Fulton, in 1707, was pushing submarine navigation in France. Borrowing the ideas of Bushnell and applying them to more powerful craft, he made a long stride in the methods of under-water work. Fulton’s Nautilus was, for her time as efficient as the Holland of to-day- and met with the same kind of encouragement.

The first Napoleon appreciated submarines, just as he appreciated breech-loading small arms. But in both cases he submitted the designs to Boards, and the devices were promptly condemned. The French did not wholly abandon the submarine idea. In 1810 a committee of the Institute reported, after trials of the Coessin_ boat, that “there is no longer any doubt that submarine navigation may be established very expeditiously and at very little cost.”

From 1810 to the time of the United States civil war submarine boats were designed every few years, nearly all of them driven by manual power and most of them following the ideas of Bushnell in forcing them down by an application of power apart from the diving rudder.During the civil war both the Federal and Confederate Governments tried to develop submarines, and failed of success only because the “state of the art” was not studied, and crude devices were tried.

In 1863 the Brun boat, the Plongeur, was built at Rochefort, France and was one of the first to have mechanical motive power. She lacked diving rudders, attaining her depth solely by variations in weight. As a result there was no control in the vertical plane. Horizontal rudders were fitted, and the boat worked very well—-with the usual result, Admiral Hichborn adds that she was declared useless by a Board, and made into a water tank.

The importance of horizontal rudders was not grasped in spite of experience with the Plongeur. In fact one of the curious circumstances connected with the development of submarine navigation is that in very few cases does any evidence appear of the study of the art. Almost all inventors began de novo with the consequence that that our late patent files show designs had been reached a couple of centuries ago. During the last forty years attempts to solve the problem of submarine navigation have been almost constant and the progress has been generally forward, and these years may he considered the era of the power-driven boat

One of the last hand-worked submarine craft was the Intelligent Whale which attracted much attention because she was bought by our Government and became a United States vessel, although she possessed no feature superior to Fulton’s design a half century earlier and in many principles of design was inferior. She was an example of the power of conservatism, which practically prevented her use for studying the laws of immersed bodies, and was responsible on the one occasion she was operated, for manning her with an incompetent crew and trying her under ridiculous conditions which worked up a fright about the danger connected with her. A press account appeared crediting her with a total of forty-nine victims. As a matter of fact, no life has been lost in her from the time she was built in Galveston, just after the close of the civil war to the present day.

Since 1880 Europe has been experimenting with submarine boats, and in France, Spain and Italy the governments have encouraged the experiments. In France alone has there been government encouragement through a series of years; progress has been so great as to call forth official estimates and requests for the building of a submarine flotilla of 38 boats. The French type developed by the trials with an electric-storage motor boat, the Zede is a good one, deficient in import but sufficiently good for the economical French to be impressed with the great service submarines will bring to their mobile coast…

June 30, 1900 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL – The doubt lingers on In the America Naval Leadership

Of Admiral Hichborn’s article, of which we give a synopsis on another page, the “Army and Navy Gazette” says: “We cannot think that the Admiral has made out his case either in regard to the satisfactory nature of the Holland, or of her use, but in any case the same conditions do not rule for us as for the United States. We are inclined to believe also that the Narwal has proved herself a better boat than the Holland. But, as we have said before, it is the duty of the authorities in this country to find an answer to the ‘submarine,” and everything points to the fact that such an answer will not be found in a boat to operate under water.”

August 1900 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL – THE FRENCH NAVY.

A certain number of naval experts in France incline to the opinion that it might be better to substitute smaller vessels, of 6,000 to 8,000 tons, for the 15,000-ton battleships, these smaller ships to have equal powers of offence and defence, but a slower speed. To this idea M. Normand lends the great authority of his name, and he supports his views by extracts from the latest work of Captain Mahan.

Analyzing the French naval programme the “Engineer” says: M. Chautemps told his colleagues that the commercial war was a mirage, since there will be no such war. If the occupation of the commerce destroyers is gone, the French have found other reasons for abandoning their policy of relying entirely upon swift cruisers. The strongest of these is that, once blocked up in a port, they never could get out again. Moreover, France is the only country which has persisted in giving attention to this type of vessel, and as all other countries are pinning their faith in the battleships, the French naval authorities are beginning to see that they are perhaps wrong in not doing likewise. The failures of the new cruisers to come up to expectations are also largely r sponsible for this change of opinion. The Guichen is regarded as a disastrous experiment. Everything has been so far sacrificed to speed that her armor is inefficient, and she only carries two heavy guns. French naval critics are now wondering what is to be done with her.

This question of speed has also given rise to a disappointment. Vessels which, in trials, go up to 23 knots will not do more than an average of 18 knots or 19 knots in long runs. Not only do M. Lockroy and his followers find their predictions with respect to the cruisers entirely falsified, but they are even more severely hit by the results of the trials carried out with squadron torpedo boats and the submarine boats. The torpedo boat is at the mercy of the quick-firing gun, and in future it will be reserved solely for coast defence.

The Government has abandoned any idea of building squadron torpedo boats, but will replace them with destroyers.

As for the submarines, the Minister would scarcely care to shock public opinion by condemning them, but he damned them with faint praise, so faint, indeed, that no one could have any illusions as to their value. It is obvious that the trials carried out with these vessels, which are to terrorize a hostile fleet, have not been a success. The submarine boat has got its famous “eye,” but it appears that the moisture condensing upon it renders it blind, and in any event the speed under water is so slow that there is little chance of reaching a vessel which refuses to remain still to be hit. The Minister, however, looks hopefully to the carrying out of improvements, which will make the submarine boat a formidable weapon. With this end in view a sum is to be set apart for organizing competitions of plans similar to that which produced the Narval a few years ago. Meanwhile, the place which the submarine boat is to occupy in future strategy is to attack blockading ships in the daytime, while the torpedo will be employed for the same work at night.

August 18, 1900 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL – FOREIGN ITEMS

Forest, a well-known French Naval Constructor, familiar with submarine boats and an enthusiastic admirer of them, has joined M. Noalhat, a civil engineer, in the publication of a work on submarine boats. Their history is traced to an apparatus described by Aristotle, as employed at the siege of Tyre. Cornelius Van Drebble, a Dutch physician, 1620; Merseune, 1634, and Simons, 1747, are given preference over Bushnell, whose design for a submarine boat dates from 1773. Fulton’s Nautilus and the submarine suggestions of the Frenchmen, Marquis de la Feuillade, Dr. Payerne, Phillip an American, Bauer a German, and James Nasmyth are also included in the early history of subaquatic, warfare, and Admiral Aube is given a prominent place. M. Forest contends that submarine vessels have now reached the stage of successful experiment, and must be reckoned with hereafter in the calculation of naval strength. He believes that the Narval will prove a complete success, and that the type of vessels, she represents will, impose peace upon the world. , Ericsson also reached the conclusion before he died that submarine attack in some form, would bring low the pride of great navies and equalize the conditions of naval warfare, by giving the weaker nations a, powerful means of defence within their possibilities.Battleships Ericsson was accustomed to speak of as “torpedo food.”

August 18, 1900 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL

The “Journal de la Marine” of France discussing the Holland submarine says: “Admiral Dewey holds that there could be nothing better for the defence of coasts and ports than submarines, but doubts their ” for service on the high seas. We do not share this latter belief and we believe that the use of extra swift under water craft would have if nothing else a great moral effect and in certain circumstances would play an important role. There would have to be special arrangements made, but these could be made.” Our French contemporary hopes that instead of the “epidemic of submarines” coming to an end as the English would like to see it, it will develop more and more, for we have in our hands a weapon which though not yet perfect can produce terrible effects and in certain cases annihilate the most powerful fleets.” The assurance of this French writer may be called extravagant considering that no submarine has yet been tested in actual warfare. Plenty of other weapons have in times of peace prospectively wrought great destruction, but have proved of little value in real war.

The last word:

In the February 2, 1901 ARMY –NAVY Journal article on the Congressional Hearings about the Holland’s first year, Admiral Hichborn probably save the day for submarines but sank what was left of his career.

Shortly before he testified, three senior ranking Admirals had just stated that continuing with the submarine experiment was not advised. One even stated that a few supporters of the mere idea were “crazy”.

Congressman Hawley of Texas was direct when it came to asking Hichborn his opinion.

Mr. Hawley: “Do we understand that your judgment with respect to these boats is that they are of such a character, and will play such a prominent and important part hereafter, that it will inevitably become the policy of this Government to construct this or a similar-boat’!”

Admiral Hichborn: “Without any question. It is also my opinion that the English Government will be following it up in a very short time: and I have more than just an ordinary reason for saying that, because I have communications from some of the leading architects of the English Government who take the liberty to write me and ask my advice. I can judge from the tone of their letters; and their whole disposition is to very soon have submarine bouts. No nation can be without them. You have got to have in war what every other nation has. It is no new thing for inventions of this kind, or changes of this kind, to be made in modern warfare to meet great opposition. if you will look at the history of our Government, you will find that all new undertakings have been opposed by the Navy Department, opposed by the people connected with it, and have always met with great opposition, and they have to develop themselves. I heard the Monitor referred to in that connection. If anyone follows up the history of the Monitor, he will fin that it took President Lincoln’s order to build that vessel, the opposition was so great.”

 Congress approved the growth of the submarine force. While there would be many struggles in the years to come, Admiral Hichborn’s willingness to take a personal risk ensured the Navy would have the submarines that in a few decades would make the difference in the Pacific while the sunken and damaged battleships were left aside.

Mister Mac

By God’s Help and Teamwork – The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal November 1942 Reply

Thanksgiving Weekend 1942 – Washington DC

The headlines on the front page of the Washington Evening Star on November 28th, 1942 were focused on the recent events in the Battle of Tunis in Northern Africa. Thanksgiving was just completed and the Navy football Team was lauded for a surprise win over Army in the annual traditional game. Mrs. Tom Girdler of Cleveland was granted a divorce in Reno Nevada from her husband who was a Cleveland Steel Manufacturer (Republic Steel) and manufacturer of airplanes in San Diego for the war effort. (buried later in the paper on page A-11 was the announcement of his nuptials to his 36 year old secretary on the same day).

But the interesting story was buried on page A11. Eugene Burns (associated Press War Correspondent) was finally able to file his reports on a battle that had happened between the dates of November 12-15.

In recent conflicts, the American people have been treated to nearly instant reports from the press about the actions of our armed forces. Almost as soon as the missile leaves the tubes of a submerged submarine, reports are made available to the public. Live shots from the shock and awe campaign in Iraq were spread all over the globe with the accompanying sirens of the Iraqi air raid system as a backdrop.

But things were different in November of 1942 and throughout most of the Second World War. Restrictions on information were considered necessary so that the enemy could not gain any advantage from having too much information. The full report from Pearl Harbor’s disaster was not even released until the following year. While rumors of the extent of the damage had already been shared by returning servicemen and civilians who fled the island, official confirmation was rare and sketchy.

So it is no surprise that the Navy and the press would be reluctant to share the complete story of what was later known as the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.

The battle that raged from November 12th to the 15th was both heroic and horrific. The stunning losses would not be revealed for quite some time after the battle but the losses in men and ships on both sides had consequences that changed the course of the war. Combined with the sacrifices of Marines and Army troops on the straggled little island of Guadalcanal, the road to Tokyo took a decidedly sharp turn on the final day of the battle.

To read the story in the Washington Star, however, you would have a sense of the battle but little detail of any use.

From the beginning of the battle to the end, the United States would lose more ships and Navy men than in any battle of its kind to date. It would also be one of the most significant surface actions ever recorded in US Navy history. But at a tremendous cost. 

Washington Evening star. [volume], November 28, 1942, Page A-11, Image 13

Jap Task Force Demolished Off Guadalcanal By ‘God’s Help’ and Teamwork of All Hands
Here are three delayed dispatches from Eugene Burns, Associated Press correspondent, giving an eyewitness account of the naval battle at Guadalcanal November 12 to 15.

By EUGENE BURNS,
Associated Press War Correspondent. WITH THE UNITED STATES PACIFIC FLEET, Nov. 16 (Delayed).

We have been slaying the Japs for the last four days. We left some 20,000 of their best pioneer troops swimming in the ocean. We sent tens of thousands of tons of their irreplaceable forced steel into the Jap sinkhole off Guadalcanal. As we steam away from that wreckage the “well done” from Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander of the Pacific Fleet, is still ringing over our loudspeaker system.

This we know: The entire Jap transport fleet of 12 vessels was hopelessly destroyed.

A Jap battleship was badly damaged and perhaps sunk by cruiser gunfire, and then seven torpedoes and several heavy bomb hits. Five Jap cruisers were badly damaged and perhaps sunk by shellfire and heavy bomb hits and torpedoes. Many Jap destroyers were hit and sunk. A Jap air group was knocked from the sky. Some of our heavy ships have yet to send in their bag. Indications are that it will be considerable.

(A Navy communique November 16 describing this action listed the Japanese losses as one battleship sunk, three heavy cruisers sunk, two light cruisers sunk, five destroyers sunk, eight transports sunk, one battleship damaged, six destroyers damaged and four cargo transports destroyed.)

The smashing victory, the biggest since Midway, took a Navy pilot to fly beyond the safe distance of his gasoline supply to locate the Jap transport fleet and to send back a more accurate disposition of the enemy than yet achieved in the Pacific war.

San Francisco Waded in.

It took the cruiser San Francisco, already damaged by a flaming crash-diving plane, to wade in and polish off a Jap destroyer, explode a Jap cruiser, and then slug it out with a Jap battleship of the Kongo class—8-inch batteries against 14 or 16 inchers at a range of 2.000 yards.

It took the Army’s B-17s and fighter planes to keep the Jap fleet harassed, to knock down their fighters, to soften the opposition, to demoralize the Jap air force and to give our attacking force much-needed protection. It took an Army transport with 6-inch guns to get into the fight. It took men in compartments deep below the water line to man their battle stations while relief crews stood by hour after long hour, until night came, ready to replace instantly worn out crews.

It took the marines, who had been bombed and shelled and harried for four months and who had talked of home and had cherished pocketbook pictures of loved ones and who had been sick with dysentery and joked about pulling their belts up tighter to stand off the Jap and to hold Henderson Field so that air superiority never was lost.

Battle Took God’s Help.

It took God’s help. The seamen will be the quickest to acknowledge it. Our striking forces moved in on the Jap with everything but numbers in our favor. The weather  was right. The disposition of the Jap was right. The disposition of our forces, gathered from thousands of miles, was right.

To fill out the background of the picture: For four months the Jap had perfected his plans for this knockout blow to keep this Tokio Guadalcanal air express, via Jap mandated and occupied islands, intact. His schedule was upset the dawn of August 7, when the biggest United States naval force ever assembled in the Pacific landed marines who proved a five-to-one match with the jungle-fighting Japs.

He then used Rabaul as a terminal to his hop, skip and jump route from Tokio by making his airpower available to the tips of his conquest. Because his planes from Rabaul could not gain supremacy of the air over Guadalcanal, he projected a terminal to Buin, Faisl, Rekata Bay, Gizo and Buka. The Jap used everything in the book to wipe out American forces from their projected Guadalcanal base. Submarines shelled positions, transports attempted and made landings. Small patrol boats, landing barges, destroyers, cruisers were used to bring in overwhelming numbers of Japs. They hacked at the marines. United States Army forces. Coast Guardsmen, day in and day out, night in and night out.

Camouflaged Invasion Barges.

At one time they had 50 invasion barges camouflaged with trees and brush on their way to Guadalcanal. Two young Navy carrier pilots hit that group and strafed it and sent it back to its base, after which the marine pilots joined with the Navy pilots to wipe it out. The Jap then prepared for a giant frontal assault to overcome any opposition and to take the field at all costs and to drive American forces into the sea.

On October 25 the Japs had what seemed overwhelming power massed to shell the island with battleships, to knock it out with a carrier-based airplanes, and to occupy it with a strong transport force.

On October 26 an American task force sought out the enemy ships in his own submarine filled waters northeast of Santa Cruz and although outclassed 2-to-l engaged him. We lost a carrier and a destroyer. The Japs suffered damage
to one carrier, perhaps the loss of a second and damage to several heavy
warships. More important, perhaps, the Japs had four air groups consisting of 167 to 177 planes chewed up. A carrier attacked by 84 planes knocked down 34.

Reorganized Striking Force

Without air protection the Japs retired and quickly reorganized a surface striking force to move into the Solomons in sufficient numbers for a frontal assault supported by heavy night bombardment by battleships. heavy cruisers and destroyers.

It was an A, B, C maneuver. The battleships, cruisers and destroyers would lie out 250 miles out of reach of our aircraft and protected by carriers farther back. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon they would begin steaming in at high speed for their night shelling.

On the afternoon of November 12, 25 Jap torpedo planes and eight fighters struck at our cruisers screening force and transports at Guadalcanal. One of 30 which were shot down crash-dived on the cruiser San Francisco as announced
by a Navy communique.

That night off Guadalcanal the Japs sent in their mighty sweeping force. They were engaged by what seemed a puny screening force of American cruisers and destroyers.

The hopelessly outmatched American force waded in. Typical of that night’s action was the work of the already damaged cruiser San Francisco. While blowing up a Jap cruiser, she engaged a destroyer on the side and sank it. Then she closed in on a Jap battleship of the Kongo class, called the Pagoda by our flyers because of its superstructure, and hit it 18 times at 3,000 yards. Other Jap units also were hit.

Dead in Water.

The Japanese battleship was observed next morning dead in the water. She got under way at seven knots when seven torpedoes were rammed through her hull and some heavy bombs penetrated her deck. The San Francisco received no vital damage.

This determined action of our staunch little cruiser force and destroyers prevented any shelling of Henderson Field that night, thus enabling aircraft to operate from it to maintain local air superiority.

The next morning, Friday, November 13, two hours’ before day break, Lt. (j. g.) Martin D. Carmody, 25, San Jose, Calif., took off on search and found the Japanese transports by flying beyond his assigned area despite the fact that this endangered his return by lowering his fuel supply. After making his report—described by Lt. Hubert B Harden, Iowa Falls, Iowa, air operations officer, as the most accurate of any aerial report of the war in the Pacific—he flew his Douglas Dauntless back to the Japanese convoy and his bomb was a near miss off the stern of one transport. His group attacked other units, causing heavy damage to two heavy cruisers, perhaps sinking one of them. It was a raging furnace when the flyers left.

Led Flyers for Kill

Lt. Carmody returned to his carrier long overdue and later led attacking bombers and strafers in for the kill. Planes raked the transports with a murderous fire from guns capable of driving projectiles through thick steel plate. Discharged from screaming dive bombers the machine gun bullets can sometimes penetrate several decks and even pass out through the hull of a transport.

After the first group finished knocking out the escort opposition a pilot going in inquired of a returning pilot, “Did you leave any opposition?” “A little but nothing to worry about.” “There isn’t any task force there anymore. Just some transports. I’d say about five good ones left,” it was reported by one of the pilots of the second group which participated. A third attack group was told “I’d suggest you attack the good ones and dump ’em all. Just pick out any one and go to it.”

Carrier Strength Expended

Apparently the carrier strength of the Japanese had been expended the day before when 33 planes attacked our cruiser screening force and as they were engaged in protecting transports. The carriers during this last action apparently had pulled out and were streaking for safety.

On the afternoon of the 14th Lt. Macgregor Kilpatrick. 26, of Southampton. N. Y. “found and downed” a second Kawanishi which sighted our attack force. His wingman. Ensign William K. Blair. 26, of Toledo, said that it took about 40 shots apiece to drop the four-motored job flaming into the water.

During the night of the 14th one Japanese transport and three cargo vessels succeeded in getting to Guadalcanal attempting to land about 10 miles from the American Henderson field positions. These four ships were met with gunfire. A heavily damaged American cruiser limped out of port and completed the utter devastation of the Japanese transports. That night to complete the carnage several of our heaviest units moved into Guadalcanal and gave the Japanese a taste of heavy caliber gunfire. Marines who watched the engagement off Guadalcanal said that today’s firing was the heaviest they had heard.

Planes’ Attack on Battleship Left Only Oil Slick


WITH THE UNITED STATES FLEET IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC, Nov. 17 (Delayed) (A5).

Lt. Albert P. Coffin submitted the first report of how one small squadron of torpedo plane pilots torpedoed a Kongo-class Japanese battleship, two cruisers and four transports.

Lt. Coffin, who was graduated from Annapolis in 1934, was leading his flight through some protective clouds when he saw the enemy battleship, accompanied by a cruiser and four destroyers, steaming slowly past Savo Island, off the northwest coast of Guadalcanal. It was the morning of Friday, the 13th. (He was to learn later that the battleship had been hit earlier that morning by a torpedo from a Marine Corps plane.)
Lt. Coffin’s squadron climbed for a torpedoing position. The planes then dived and swooped down from opposite sides for their prize. Columns of water funneled into the air as the Americans’ torpedoes struck the ship’s vitals. The battleship stopped dead in the water.

This action occurred when the battleship was only about 20 minutes from a position to shell Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, where American Marines and Army troops were expecting a Japanese offensive to recapture the island.

May Have Saved Day.

By stopping this battleship short of its objective, Lt. Coffin and his fellow flyers may have saved the day for the Americans in their sea victory over the Japanese fleet during the November 12-15 fight. Navy officers said that if the battleship had succeeded in shelling Henderson Field, it might have been Impossible for our planes to use the field for takeoffs to help the surface ships during the fight.

Lt. Coffin’s torpedo squadron scored more hits on the battleship and, when last seen that evening, the ship’s stern was afire and men were abandoning the vessel. The next morning, the scene was marked only by an oil slick 2 miles in

diameter.
That was November 14. That day more Japs ships were intercepted by the squadron which torpedoed two cruisers, leaving one of the Mogami class, burning fiercely. The planes also set upon transports, making life most unpleasant for perhaps a division of 15,000 amphibious troops bound for an attack on Guadalcanal.

Turned to Landed Troops.

The flyers then turned their attention to troops and equipment that had been landed on Guadalcanal from four transports which had managed to escape the fire of American planes and surface ships.

Many bombs were dropped on these troops, Lt. Coffin said. During the entire action, every plane in Lt. Coffin’s squadron received at least one anti-aircraft hit, but not one man was injured. Lt. Coffin gave credit for his squadron’s performance to Marine Corps fighter pilots who “gave my planes splendid fighter protection which was beautifully coordinated.”

Log of Action.

“Those marines don’t know fear,” Lt. Coffin declared. “If one of them sees something he’ll go up and take a poke at it regardless.” The log of the attacks gives a picture of what Lt. Coffin’s pilot, with marine fighter protection, did during the battle:

November 13 – first attack. Fish (torpedo) on port side forward and on starboard side amidships. About 13 Zeros overhead. Moderate antiaircraft fire. Second attack. Hits on starboard side of the battleship and on her port bow. At this time the Kongo vessel was about 10 miles north of Savo Island and heading north at about two knots.

November 14—Third attack consisted of intercepting Japs’ ships 170 miles away. Found five cruisers and four destroyers. Lead cruiser of Mogami class. Hits on right flank starboard side. Hit and one near miss and direct bomb hits on second cruiser. Leading Mogami – class cruiser observed burning fiercely and second cruiser observed smoking. Fourth attack against Jap transports some 125 miles distant. Two undamaged transports hit with torpedo amidships. Six Zero fighters gave opposition. Thousands of Japs seen jumping overboard. Fifth attack diving on two transports dead in the water. Hit and near miss scored on each. The hit broke one transport in half.

November 15.—Raids made on four transports which had been aground west of Point Cruz. Direct bomb hits scored and ships burning fiercely. Remnants of Japs estimated at three divisions amphibious troops bombed and received Molotov baskets (bomb clusters) with our compliments

Opening Battleship Salvos Made Direct Hits on Japs

ABOARD A UNITED STATES BATTLESHIP IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC, Nov. 18 (Delayed).

Opening salvos of two United States battleships scored direct hits on the surprised Japanese fleet from a distance of about 8 miles in the historic naval battle off Savo Island the night of November 14-15.

The action was related today by the communications officer on “unidentified ship” which participates in the mighty blow which, sank one Jap battleship or heavy cruiser, three heavy cruisers and at least two Jap destroyers in addition to several ships damaged. Here is his story:

“On the morning of the 14th we received reports of heavy Jap bombardment of Guadalcanal. Our first job was to get there. We were too late. That day we milled out of sight of the Japs. We received news that two large groups of Jap transports with escorts were on the way to Guadalcanal. One group consisted of two battleships, one heavy cruiser, two light cruisers and about six destroyers.

‘‘Engage and Destroy.”

‘‘Orders were given to us “engage and destroy Jap transports which were crippled by air attacks during the day.’ “About 6 p.m. we made our first definite change of course to Savo Island. At sunset, about 7:46 p.m., we went into battle stations. An announcement of our task and known disposition if the enemy was made to the men in keeping with our normal policy of keeping our men intelligently informed.

When that news was delivered the men were asked ‘Men, what is your answer?’ Every man responded ‘Yea!’
A captain or Marines said over the speaker system, ‘the Marines are ready to give them hell any time.’
“Our best record of going into general quarters, was bettered by one and one-half minutes. The men were out to break records. This was the chance we wanted.

“Shortly after 9 o’clock we saw fires which appeared to be explosions to the northwest, about 30 to 40 miles west of the Russell Islands. It is my belief that the Japs were either firing upon their own units or that they were dispatching their own damaged ships to the ocean floor.

Tension on Ships Increased.

“As we approached Savo Island the tension of our ships increased. Our men began seeing things that were not there. Innumerable false reports were received. Rocks looked like ships and shadows like submarines. The men were straining to get a Jap target. “As we came around at 11:15 p.m. we passed over the spot where the cruisers Astoria, Vincennes and Quincy had been sunk August 9.

This word was passed to all hands. Our men were even more determined to get the “There was a quarter moon, the sky was overcast about 60 to 70 per cent. The water was nice and smooth, perfectly calm. “At 12:50 a.m. I sighted what first suspected to be the enemy. My eyesight is unusually good at night. “Right after that others saw three ships. “We received orders, ‘Commence firing when ready.”

Direct Hit on First Salvo

“Our first ship’s first salvo set her target on fire. It was a direct hit. “Within 15 to 20 seconds our target was lined up. We also got a hit on our first salvo. I could see fires start. “The Jap fire started after we got off three salvos. I counted at least six and possibly eight Jap ships returning the fire.

“After firing several minutes, our ships saw two large explosions near Savo Island and silhouetted against them were two large ships, either heavy cruisers or battleships, about 12.000 to 14,000 yards away.

“This engagement lasted about 10 minutes, I would Judge. It was furious. Then we had about a 5 minute lull. During the lull three Jap ships were reported on our starboard beam and suddenly the Japs illuminated us with searchlights. They were right on us. Their range was about 5.500 yards.

One of our ships started firing almost as soon as the Jap searchlights showed up.

Jap Searchlights Went Out.

“Our salvo was still in the air en route to the Jap ship when the Jap searchlight on the leading ship went out.

“The Japs did not begin firing until 20 seconds after their illumination. This is slow.

“The leading Jap ship was enveloped in smoke. It billowed up in great volumes. I am of the opinion that it was a battleship because it had four searchlights on it.

“Our battery concentrated on the second Jap vessel, and her search lights were knocked out. Smoke issued from her also. I believe she was a light cruiser.

“The enemy ceased firing. We fired several more salvos at her in the general direction of the smoke, but the engagement was finished. We ceased firing at 1:02 a.m., the engagement including a five-minute comparative lull lasting 44 minutes.

Jap Fire Opened Safe.

“During the illumination of the second engagement, they hit us. The hits sounded like big chunks of hail dropping on a tin roof. “We had a useless safe aboard which we could not open because the combination was lost. The Japs opened it for us with an 8-incher.

“The supposition that we caught the enemy by surprise I believe is correct.

“Our losses were about 2 per cent of our crew killed and 3 per cent Injured.

“Our bag was one possible battleship or heavy cruiser; three heavy cruisers; at least two destroyers.

“The enemy knows we hit him well.”

 

The actual battle was much more remarkable in its dramatic fury and devastation on both sides

The Task Force that was employed by the American on the morning of Friday the 13th was badly mauled. Admiral and seaman both shared the crushing blows from the Japanese guns and torpedoes.

In the 34-minute Cruiser Night Action of 12-13 November, one of the most furious sea battles ever fought, our ship losses admittedly were large. The enemy, however, suffered more severely, and his bombardment of Guadalcanal was frustrated with results which became impressively apparent during the next two days. United States losses were as follows:

Sunk                                                 Damaged

CA      0                                                          2 (Portland, San Francisco)

CL      0                                                         1 (Helena)

CLAA 2 (Atlanta, Juneau)                                     0

DD 4 (Barton, Cushing, Laffey, Monssen) 3 (Aaron Ward, O’Bannon, Sterett)

Casualties on both sides were heavy, with the American force having the serious misfortune to lose both its commander, Admiral Callaghan, and its second in command, Admiral Scott.

In the opening salvos, Both Admiral Scott and Callaghan were killed along with MOH awardee Cassin Young and many others on the bridge of the USS San Francisco. The Atlanta was sunk in a blaze of gunfire and the Juneau infamously was sent to the deeps by a Japanese submarine’s torpedo taking along with her the five Sullivan Brothers.

Tenacity is such a mild word compared to what they showed.

It is probably just as well that the country did not have a better idea of how significant the victory in the waters off of Guadalcanal were or how costly. In the end, it was the sheer tenacity of the American Naval fighters that carried the day. It was the spirit of never giving up that the Marines and Army troops on the little island displayed that proved that the Japs could be stopped and their fortunes reversed. These men were giants.

“The fight for this small corner of the south Pacific had cost the Allied navies 24 destroyers and larger warships totaling 126,240 tons, which included two fleet carriers and six heavy cruisers. The Japanese lost two battleships among a total of 24, totaling 134,839 tons. While naval losses were relatively even in terms of tonnage, on the ground Japan lost a great deal more men compared to their American opponents. Japanese lost 25,000 men in action or to starvation and disease out of 60,000 deployed; meanwhile, the Americans had only lost 1,600. Far greater numbers were lost on the seas, but neither side ever counted how many sailors and naval officers were lost during the campaign. Before this campaign, Guadalcanal was an out-of-way tropical jungle island that hardly any had heard of. After, the battles on and near Guadalcanal would come to be known as among the bloodiest in the war across Pacific. “For us who were there,” said Morison, “… Guadalcanal is not a name but an emotion, recalling desperate fights in the air, furious night naval battles, frantic work at supply or construction, savage fighting in the sodden jungle, nights broken by screaming bombs and deafening explosions of naval shells.”

General Alexander Vandegrift, the commander of the troops on Guadalcanal, paid tribute to the sailors who fought the battle:

We believe the enemy has undoubtedly suffered a crushing defeat. We thank Admiral Kinkaid for his intervention yesterday. We thank Lee for his sturdy effort last night. Our own aircraft has been grand in its relentless hammering of the foe. All those efforts are appreciated but our greatest homage goes to Callaghan, Scott and their men who with magnificent courage against seemingly hopeless odds drove back the first hostile attack and paved the way for the success to follow. To them the men of Cactus lift their battered helmets in deepest admiration.

Mister Mac

 

October 27, 1922 was the very first Navy Day in the United States 1

October 27, 1922 was the very first Navy Day in the United States.

Former President Theodore Roosevelt had been born on that day and it was selected by the Navy League and the Navy Department as the most appropriate day to celebrate the United States Navy.

This celebration was not just held in the United States. Newspapers at the time reported that celebrations were held in London, Paris and Rome (among others). Washington DC practically came to a standstill that day as ceremonies were held at Arlington and the statue of John Paul Jones. The War Department was shut down so members could attend one of the dozens of events around the city.

New York was also a large center for celebration as the Atlantic Fleet was at anchor in the East River. Carnegie Hall hosted a special musical celebration of patriotism and flags could be seen all across the city. All across the country, the nation stopped for a few moments and took stock of its Navy.

Evening star. [volume], October 27, 1922, Page 4, Image 4

SPIRIT OF ROOSEVELT ABROAD AS NAVY HONORS HIS NATAL DAY

The spirit of Theodore Roosevelt walked abroad in Washington today.

Formal celebration on his birthday was claimed by the Navy for Its own and there is none who would challenge the Navy’s right to revel in memories of Roosevelt, to pay gladly the debt of gratitude it owes to him. But, aside, from all this, from the prepared addresses on Navy day that dealt largely with his sayings and his works for the Navy, there ran a curious undercurrent of talk among men everywhere that bore witness to the place the dead President had made for himself In American hearts.

Name in Conversation.

It was natural that around the Navy Department Roosevelt’s name should And Its way into every casual conversation as older officers paused to chat a moment In the long corridors. Many of these had personal stories to recall of his fearless career as assistant secretary of the Navy, the post his son and namesake now holds. Traditions old in the Navy were shattered In those days and new traditions, dear to the hearts of sailor folk of today, were built up In their place around the dominant, energetic, eager personality that even an assistant secretary ship could not subdue.

But It was striking that the talk of Roosevelt was not confined to the Navy or the Army or to government circles, but ran everywhere about the Nation’s Capital. From lip to lip little, intimate, human pictures of the man were sketched as men who knew him met In clubs or on corners In the hurry of a busy day. A tale that brought about quick laughter here; there a terse, cutting epigram repeated; or again the story of a lighting moment vividly recalled by men who shared that moment with him, a veritable unwritten legend of a great American was In the making hour by hour.

Hard to Realize He Is Gone

Perhaps this was more true In Washington than elsewhere In the nation.< for It was hard for these men who knew him In life to realize that the sturdy figure with slouch hat jerked down over his eyes might not come trudging down Pennsylvania avenue even as they talked. But It seemed that this curious Informal celebration of Roosevelt’s birthday must also be nationwide as was the tribute paid his memory in the set events of Navy day.

That he has left a lasting Impress of his fearless Americanism on the hearts of his countrymen for all time, none who heard the undertone of Roosevelt memories that lay beneath Washington life today could doubt.

Why 1922?

Under the headlines was the unspoken fact that the country had just completed several years of arms control negotiations that directly impacted the current and future naval forces of the world. The death and destruction of the first World War were a recent memory and many in the country and the world honestly sought a way to reduce the tensions and danger of unbridled shipbuilding.

The World War did not settle many of the major concerns of the world including expansionism, colonialism, and empires. In fact, if anything, it made things worse. Out of the ashes, unnatural divisions of countries with artificial boarders and the reassignments of far flung imperial assets from one ruling nation to another merely postponed the conflict that would revisit the world in the late 1930’s.

“The Contracting Powers agree to limit their respective naval armament as provided in the present Treaty.”

The Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 was well intentioned but in many ways probably made the march to the next war inevitable. While the size and weaponry of the last conflict were limited, the treaty opened a Pandora’s Box of new weapons and tactics that would make the Second World War even deadlier than the first.

The Navy Leaders and the members of the Navy League (which had been formed under the encouragement of Teddy Roosevelt) both had a vision of Naval Supremacy. Without so much as saying so, they also had a fear that the treaty disease would shrink the Navy to such a small size that it would be unable to meet the threats of a two ocean war. Seeing so many first class battleships destroyed and new ones cancelled had to be a frightening prospect for this group.

So Navy Day was born

All of the celebrations and the pomp and circumstance were carefully designed to appeal to the American public’s nationalistic tendencies. Every note was played and every song was sung with the idea of reminding the American public that without a great Navy, the nation itself would struggle to be great. The politicians were free to pursue peace at any cost, but the Navy would do what it did best: fight for its survival. Even as the well intentioned peace mongers were busy planning on the destruction of the Navy, the Navy was putting on a global show of power that would ensure its future.

Not everyone was on board

Besides the politicians involved with the disastrous Washington Naval Limitation Treaty effort, there were many organizations agitating from the sidelines. Below te story about the former President was a cautionary article from the National Council for Reduction of Armament.

Bigger Navy Opposed.

Navy days is indorsed in part and opposed In part in resolutions adopted by the executive board of the National Council for Reduction of Armament. The Navy Is praised for the part which it played in the achievements of the Washington peace conference. Alleged efforts to increase the size of the Navy are condemned. The resolutions state:

“Navy day” as announced by the Navy League and indorsed by the Navy Department of the United States government, has, as we understand, two purposes: first, to Improve the morale of the United States Navy, which is said to have been lowered as a result of the Washington conference and the world peace movement which bids fair in the course of a few years to reduce the world’s navies to police forces: second, to appeal to the well-known patriotism of our people for further sacrifices in order to add to the size of the Navy and Its personnel, with a substantial increase In the appropriation. “The executive board of the National Council for Reduction of Armament Is in hearty sympathy with the first of these purposes and recommends to our affiliated organizations co-operation with others in this movement to keep the Navy efficient.

We advocate this the more enthusiastically because the American Navy has earned the gratitude of civilization by the conspicuous part it played at the Washington conference which launched the epoch making movement to emancipate the world from the curse of competitive armaments. At the same time, we cannot support any attempt under present world conditions in direct contradiction of the spirit of the Washington conference and in the face of our estimated deficit for 1923 of $672,000,000, to add to our already disproportionate military expenditures”

The Navy of the 1920’s did continue to shrink and it took the ingenuity of many officers and sailors to continue the improvements that would lead to a stronger force when the time came. Submarines, aircraft and new ship types were all part of the efforts which lead helped the Navy to quickly adapt to the changes wrought by the sneak attack at Pearl Harbor.

Navy Day lasted from 1922 to 1947 when another group of civilians with good intention but very little vision for the future finally killed it. But they could not kill the American spirit or the spirit of a strong and powerful Navy in the hearts and minds of many Americans.

Happy Birthday President Roosevelt and Happy Navy Day to all of those who care about freedom.

Mister Mac

The Birth of the Atomic Fleet – When Science Fiction was Dwarfed by Science Fact Reply

The Birth of the Atomic Fleet

In 1950, the same year the USS Pickerel conducted a remarkable journey from Hong Kong to Hawaii in just 21 days under snorkel, the President of the United States, President Harry S. Truman, authorized the building of an atomic submarine for the first (August 1950).

Pundits and politicians had been predicting that the potential for nuclear power in a submarine was two to ten years away from being realized. What they did not know was that when Captain Rickover steered the engineering work on an atomic engine to Westinghouse in a place called Bettis in 1948, his vision was to make the atomic sub a reality well before anyone expected. Rickover chose Westinghouse because he knew they had the practical engineering capability to do something that was being delayed by the scientists and bureaucrats of the Atomic Energy Commission.

As early as 1946, Naval Leaders like Admiral Nimitz understood that the submarine was the future of naval warfare but needed to extend its time at sea and it’s conceal ability with a new type of propulsion. The harnessing of the atom provided just such an opportunity. The commitment to build and operate the Nautilus was a bold step for Truman and the Navy.

1950 was the fiftieth year of the American Navy Submarine Force

But August of 1950 was a very challenging time for the country and the world. The Cold War was heating up. On June 25, 1950, the North Korean Army (backed by the Soviet Union and Communist China) boldly invaded the south. The Russian navy was operating large numbers of submarines in the area and newspaper articles warned of the danger of a third World War starting. Troops were still largely shipped to the danger spots of the world by ship and the existence of enemy submarines in the approaches to Korea was a real danger.

The United States had rapidly mothballed much of the fleet after the war while disbanding the forces needed to operate them. Trained men were not available and the fleet struggled at first to manage its commitments in a very hostile world.

The promise of an atomic powered vessel with nearly unlimited fuel promised a solution for many of the Navy’s concerns.

Rickover saw this and with sheer determination and will power, shoved the Navy and the World into the Atomic age. He was a practical thinker and not a sentimentalist in any way. His vision was to see a Navy second to none powered by the most advanced technology that man could imagine. He succeeded in a way that still has an impact today.

This post includes material that comes from a book that was published in 1964 by the Atomic Energy Commission called Nuclear Powered Submarines.

This book was written a short ten years after the Nautilus was commissioned and shows the rapid progression of the nuclear submarine fleet. In ten years, the Nautilus was eclipsed by the newer and sleeker boats that were themselves to be eclipsed again within a decade. Those boats would be dwarfed in size and capabilities and later joined by behemoth aircraft carriers that could go decades between fueling.

Nuclear Powered Submarines. U.S. Atomic Energy Commission

Forward

The application of nuclear energy to submarine propulsion has caught the imagination of people everywhere; no scientific proficiency is needed to understand the value of such a development. We can all share pride in the arctic achievements and the globe-circling adventures of our nuclear submarines. How- ever, it is considerably more difficult for the average person to appreciate the magnitude and complexity of the engineering involved in actually building and operating these ships. This booklet is intended to help you obtain such an appreciation.

Young people particularly are attracted to these ships and the atomic plants that propel them. Often young people mistakenly think that atomic energy somehow magically simplifies everything and that it must be easier to work with such plants than with more conventional machinery. Nothing could be further from the truth. More knowledge and understanding are needed; knowledge of science, of engineering, and of the fundamental laws of nature. I strongly urge young people who may be thinking of entering the atomic field to study the basic subjects of chemistry, physics, metallurgy, mechanical engineering, and, of course, mathematics. Then, if they have superior intelligence, insight, and especially an affinity for hard work, they may be able to participate in a program which combines both the excitement of a technological frontier and the pride of contributing to our national strength—our growing atomic Navy.

H.G. Rickover

The Nuclear Powered Submarine

The advent of the atomic age has revolutionized our undersea Navy. The introduction of nuclear power has converted the submersible surface ship of yesterday to a true submarine capable of almost unlimited endurance.

Events have followed swiftly since the pioneer nuclear submarine Nautilus entered fleet service in 1955. Records established by the Nautilus for submerged endurance and speed were soon eclipsed by submarines of later generations such as Seawolf, Skate, Skipjack, and Triton. Skipjack, first to incorporate the blimp-shaped hull, ideal for under water mobility, broke all existing records to become the world’s fastest submarine. The Navy reports, within security limitations, that today’s submarines travel in excess of 20 knots.

Nuclear submarines also have opened up the waters under the Arctic ice pack for operations. In 1958 the Nautilus made a historic voyage from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic via the North Pole. The Skate has three times journeyed to the top of the world, twice surfacing at the geographic North Pole as well as making numerous surfacings in polar lakes.

The marriage of the nuclear submarine and the ballistic missile has been one of the most significant developments in the free world’s defense structure. Since 1960, nuclear submarines capable of submerged firing of the Polaris missile, armed with a nuclear warhead, have been patrolling the seas that constitute 70 per cent of the earth’s surface. Missiles aboard the first two generations of Polaris submarines—the George Washington and Ethan Allen classes—have a range of 1,200 to 1,500 nautical miles. A new Polaris missile capable of hitting its target 2,500 miles away has been developed. These are aboard a third generation of Polaris submarines—the Lafayette and Alexander Hamilton.

The First Nuclear Submarine

Authorization for the first atomic submarine was signed by President Harry S. Truman in August 1950. This was to be the USS Nautilus. The Chief Executive gave the world an idea of what could be expected from the ship: “The Nautilus will be able to move under the water at a speed of more than 20 knots. A few pounds of uranium will give her ample fuel to travel thousands of miles at top speed. She will be able to stay under water indefinitely. Her atomic engine will permit her to be completely free of the earth’s atmosphere. She will not even require a breathing tube to the surface.” On January 21, 1954, the Nautilus slid into the Thames River, New London, Connecticut.

This article was developed on the eve of the Navy’s 243 Birthday celebration (2018). The efforts of the early pioneers in the AEC, the Navy, the men and women of Western Pennsylvania and the builders can all be proud of the realization of the dream.

Happy Birthday 1947 – Predicting the Future of Naval Warfare 1

The official Navy Birthday is now celebrated on October 13 every year thanks to Admiral Zumwalt declaring that day as the one to remember. But it has not always been celebrated on that day or with the same focus.

In 1947, the aftermath of the Second World War was being felt all around the world. The Iron Curtain had been declared, the Cold War was starting to emerge and the Navy was undergoing many changes. Historians tell us that there was a tremendous amount of pressure to amalgamate all of the services into one post war structure under a unified Department of Defense. The Navy fought most fiercely against this unification since it was not convinced that the Army would be able to understand the needs of a nautical force.

The article that follows came from the United Press services but reading it from a Navy Historian perspective, I can see the influence of many of the Navy’s leaders in the words and ideas. What is remarkable for 1947 was how right the predictions ended up being. I thought it fitting as we approach the 243rd Anniversary of the Navy that this article would be a great post to share. I hope you agree.

Navy Expects War With Russia Next

WASHINGTON, Oct. 25. 1947 — (UP)—

The Navy, celebrating its “birthday” Monday, is vigorously preparing for the greatest fundamental changes in its 172 year history.

It has a fistful of ideas for ships, new weapons and new ways of fighting that to promise a revolution in warfare.

Submerging capital ships, rockets armed with atomic, planes that can outrun he sun, clear skies when you want them — these are only a few of the dramatic ideas the Navy is considering.

Deep in the secret file until very recently was a development that seems tame by comparison but is actually of tremendous importance. It is “Radac” a revolutionary method of answering battle questions at the speed of light.

Details of Radac—rapid digital automatic computation— are locked up as tight as the Navy Knows how but the only announcement of its existence compared it in military significance to radar —king of war due inventions.

Many advances are a long way off, but even in the next few years the Navy would not fight a war with the weapons of World War II.

Carriers are switching to jet planes. Cruisers are getting completely automatic turrets. Destroyers are being equipped with new intricate detection devices. Submarines are learning to use the German “schnorkel/’8 breathing tube that allows a sub to stay concealed for weeks at a time.

None of these inventions played in a part in the war. Their development is a delayed dividend on war research.

Our original Navy idea was a fleet of ships to defend the shores of the United States against an enemy. For such a purpose the present day powerful fleet has no equal. But if the United States is to do anything about keeping peace in the world and supporting small nations against aggression, then a different kind of fleet is needed.

It will have to go anywhere in the world and fight if need be not other ships but planes and submarines defending foreign shores, perhaps with atom bombs. It will have to protect and land troops and supplies unless atomic war eliminates the need of an invasion.

Navy leaders do not say so publicly, but their private nightmare features Russia seizing the Middle East and Europe with her huge army and the U.S. trying to carve a foothold for an expeditionary force by the use of sea and air power.

Regardless of whether this is a realistic estimate, the American fleet is slowly being prepared for such a mission.

The battleships designed to fight other battleships, is dead. Its place will be taken by a new type vessel, the guided missile ship.

Two experimental ships are being constructed, using the unfinished hulls of other type ships. In the same way the first aircraft carriers were converted from other hulls.

The main weapons of the new type will be guided missiles and rockets. The huge 1-inch rifle, with its amazing accuracy, is obsolete.

The ram jet engine for a guided missile has done better than 1,500 miles per hour under test, but years will pass before it can carry a warhead and have a good range.

Rockets are closer. The first big ship rocket, the Neptune, is scheduled for test next year. Capable of 235 miles range with a light load, it is designed to teach scientists how to build big rocket weapons rather than be a weapon itself.

Marking the first such experiment, a German V-2 rocket was fired last month from the carrier Midway, but it behaved erratically and exploded six miles from the ship. One leading admiral said later that the information obtained could have been discovered by a little study and thinking.

Although the Navy does not contemplate arming its carriers with 45 – foot rockets, shipboard testing of the Neptune will probably be undertaken on a carrier. The guided missile ships are a long ways from being finished.

Defense of all ships, but especially the guided missile ships, which will have to carry the brunt of the attack, will bring many changes.

Ships will have to be sealed against radio-activity, all fighting and navigation done from below decks. Radar antennas, gun directors and other equipment which cannot withstand the shock of atomic bomb blast will have to be strengthened or made retractable into the hull.

Propulsion by atomic energy has been predicted variously for the next five or ten years. The Navy’s best ships will have to be equipped with it, bringing such changes as eliminating the smoke funnel, increasing range, providing more space for armament, probably higher speeds.

With superstructure and funnel cut down, the capital ship will look like a submarine and may end up being just that.

As I think about ships like the Ohio and Virginia Class submarines operating in tandem with the nuclear powered super-carriers and their amazing fleet of technological warriors, I wonder what the authors of this article would think today. I also wonder what the future of the Navy will be as we experiment with the new weapons that would not have even been imagined in that day. Especially the ones named after the man who set the Navy’s Birthday as October 13.

Mister Mac

 

 

Post Number 637 – Commemorating the USS Sturgeon SSN 637 7

Workhorses of the Cold War

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

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

Service and Sacrifice seem to fit that title very well.

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

 

SSN-637 Sturgeon class

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

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

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

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

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

SSN 637 USS Sturgeon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mister Mac

 

 

Post Number 633 – USS Casimir Pulaski SSBN 633 1

A salute to one of the many unsung heroes of the Cold War:

The USS Casimir Pulaski (SSBN-633)

USS Casimir Pulaski (SSBN-633), a James Madison-class ballistic missile submarine, was the second ship of the United States Navy to be named for Casimir Pulaski (1745–1779), a Polish general who served in the American Revolutionary War.

Lafayette Class Ballistic Missile Submarine: Laid down, 12 January 1963, at the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corp., Groton, CT.; Launched, 1 February 1964; Commissioned, USS Casimir Pulaski (SSBN 633), 14 August 1964; Decommissioned and struck from the Naval Register, 3 July 1994; Disposed of through the Nuclear Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program, 21 October 1994 at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, WA.

Specifications: Displacement, Surfaced: 7,250 t., Submerged: 8,250 t.; Length 425′ ; Beam 33′; Draft 32′; Speed, Surfaced/Submerged 20+ kts; Complement 120; Test depth 1,300′; Armament, 16 missile tubes, four 21″ torpedo tubes; Propulsion, S5W Pressurized Water Nuclear Reactor, two geared turbines at 15,000 shp, one propeller.

For a comprehensive in depth look at the 633 boat, click this link…

https://www.usscasimirpulaski.com/

 

Thanks to all who served on her and protected our nation during the Cold War

Mister Mac