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

90 Days to nowhere… Submarine Documentary 1977 4

488101_417741151652089_799546593_n

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

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

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

 

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

Mister Mac

The First Thanksgiving (Updated from Original Post in 2013) 10

The First Thanksgiving

If you are expecting a traditional story about Pilgrims and Indians, you might as well go back to your search engine and try again. This is a story about my real first Thanksgiving that occurred somewhere in the western Pacific Ocean about 150 feet below the ocean exactly forty years ago today on board the USS George Washington. More about that later. First, I need to give credit to the people who provided what honestly would had been many real opportunities for Thanksgiving if I hadn’t been the self-centered little bastard that I was up until that day in 1973.

September 1973 003

I grew up (for the most part) in a suburb near a steel making town surrounded by every bit of privilege that a person could expect in the Sixties. Our house wasn’t overwhelming but it was warm and I had my own bed, some space in a closet for my clothes, and access to hot running water and a safe place to play.

Being a middle child, I was isolated from the curse of being the first with all the experimentation around proper behaviors. I was also old enough compared to my two younger brothers that I could get my way on some things. As a middle child though, I found a strong compulsion to focus a lot on ME. My oldest brother was named for my Dad and my older sister was the only girl of five children so it seemed like much of the family’s focus was on the “One” and Daddy’s girl.

(Since this was first written Liz has gone home to be with my Dad. She was a Warrior to the very end of her earthly life. She is missed by many but especially during the holidays).

Two things grow from a situation like that. A very active imagination, and a wish for a way to be different in order to stand out. I spent a lot of time on both.  I ran away from home three times as a kid and finally succeeded in the ultimate run away… at seventeen I convinced my Mom and Dad to sign the forms for me to join the US Navy. I was absolutely convinced that this would be the best way to get on with my life without all that interference and finally be my own person. Hey, I said I had a lot of imagination and I certainly don’t claim to be all that smart.

When you understand

My parents and Grandparents tried to provide us with not only the comforts of life but they made sure we were aware of all the traditions that were important including a big Thanksgiving celebration. Rumor had it (at least among us kids) that one of Grandpa Parkin’s relative actually came over on the Mayflower and was at the first big dinner.

Picture of the dining room in the Parkins Mansion. Not pictured is the card tables off to the side for the little kids that would come along later.

We always had the big turkey day at the mansion he owned and some of the silver looked detailed enough to support the story’s validity. The only time you actually saw these heirlooms was at Thanksgiving so of course it had to be true.

Parkins House

The “Big House” was a wonderful place for a Thanksgiving feast. The kitchen was huge with a large mixer that spent the day making real mashed potatoes. The rest of the counters were filled with every type of traditional food and the breakfast room was the repository for the pies and jellos that would be brought in to the formal dining room.

The dining room was nothing short of amazing. A large table in the center beneath the shining candelabra, a fireplace at one end, and of course an exquisite tapestry hanging on the inner wall above a side boy table groaning from the weight of the food and drinks already staged. China and real silver, BUTTER with no limit, and a bay window surrounded by colored electric lights looking out over the snow covered front lawn.

We had a lot of cousins

You would think that a boy would be thankful for all of this wouldn’t you? Sadly, I truly believe that while I had appreciation for it, I did not understand the meaning of thankful at all.

Fast forward to the fall of 1973. I had already been in the Navy for well over a year but had not gone to sea yet. I bounced around the country going to school after school as the Navy tried to prepare me for my role as a Submarine Auxiliaryman (the fancy name for an A-ganger).  From Great Lakes to New London to Charleston South Carolina and finally to Ford Island in Hawaii. Ironically, one of the main reasons I had joined was to get away from the boredom of being in a classroom. Like I said, I never claimed to be smart. Looking back at my service record and the “satisfactory” marks, I am sure there were a lot of Naval Instructors along the way that would concur.

The First Patrol

I missed what should have been my first patrol by a few days when my travel was interrupted in San Francisco on the way to Pearl Harbor. The summer of 73 was a pretty crappy time as I found out the Navy was not as well organized as I had believed it to be. Temporary duty in a barracks at the sub base in Pearl Harbor was a lonely time and made other issues in my personal life more complex. The letters from my high school sweetheart  went from nearly every other day to every other week and by the time I was got on the crew flight to Guam in October, they were non-existent. We didn’t have cell phones back then and you used a very expensive phone call only sparingly. It really sucked when you would call and she was “out with her girlfriends but we’ll give her your message.”

The crew flight and arrival were pretty overwhelming for a nineteen year old on his first trip. The main thing I remember is being shoved into the crews berthing on board the submarine tender Proteus which was what I would imagine it would have felt like on the ship that brought my great grandparents over from Ireland. The air conditioning didn’t work and the boat was delayed in coming in because of the weather.

When it finally did come in, I found out that “Non-Qual Pukes” did not rank very high on a submarine and my first rack was in a place called TDU alley. While submariners spend an inordinate time cleaning their ship, TDU alley is the one place that struggles the most due to its location near the Trash Disposal Unit directly above the berthing area. The one good thing about my rack was that I was inspired to stay out of it as much as possible which helped me qualify in one run.

After a really demanding refit, the ship finally got underway to its patrol station. I had sent my last letters off including the blank “Family Grams” to my girl and my family. You were limited to ten and I split them in half. I got the five from my Mom. That was all I would receive for that patrol.

At the beginning of the patrol, I was a helmsman/planesman. The job itself wasn’t that hard but under normal circumstances it was fairly boring. Back in the day you had a Diving Officer behind you in a leathered seat to keep you on depth and the Officer of the Deck somewhere behind you to keep you on course. The occasional drill mixed things up but for the most part it was drilling holes in the ocean with little change up or down, left or right. It gave you a lot of time to think which is not always a good thing for someone with an overactive imagination.

The COB must have seen how bored I was getting so he arranged for me to have a brand new experience:

Mess Cranking.

Up to this point, the Navy had been a pretty disappointing experience overall. Where was the part about going to exotic places and being honored for heroic deeds? The first day in the scullery as the new guy was overwhelming. There were no automatic dishwashing machines in the day and everything was done by hand and then sanitized in a hot sink. Meals on a boat are chaotic to begin with because of the tightness of time between watch changes. You learned pretty quickly that if you didn’t keep the dishes flowing through the wash and rinse cycle, people would be yelling at you through the little window where they passed dirty dishes and silverware.

When you weren’t washing dishes, you were compacting trash and filling wet bags to shoot out of the TDU. That is a vertical torpedo tube that is sealed on both ends until you fill it with trash and then a technician comes along and flushes it out of the bottom of the boat. I have often wondered how many of those TDU cans ended up on the bottom of the Marianas trench.

The TDU (Trash Disposal Unit) I spent a lot of time on my first two patrols in this room The smell of rotten eggs will never leave my memory

The days speeded up quickly but sleep seemed to be in short supply. But pretty soon I developed enough of a rhythm that it all fell into place. I was busy but not too busy to hurt inside for the seeming loss of a love and the distance I found between me and my parents. Things had not worked out like I planned and it all seemed like I was completely out of control.

Then came Thanksgiving.

I must not have been paying attention very much to the calendar. I had mastered the scullery well enough to be promoted to the galley helper and occasional wardroom backup. We had a Philipino Commisaryman Chief who ran the whole operation and he was very good at keeping us squared away. Like most of his rate, he knew the importance of a well-run galley and wardroom. He also recognized the importance of holiday meals and made sure that the big ones like Thanksgiving were perfect. The two days leading up to Thanksgiving were probably the hardest working days of my Naval career (at least up to that point).

I will admit that the smell of the turkey’s baking that day will stand out as one of the most powerful memories I have. We worked for hours preparing the mashed potatoes and yams. Pies were very carefully made and the Chief had told the Diving Officer that if he did any angles while he was baking, he should not expect a drumstick on his plate. The older qualified guys would try and sneak into the galley for a taste and I found out for the very first time in my Naval career that I had power. If you had been an asshole up to this point, it was up to me to grant you a taste. Some got in, some had to work a little harder.

Unlike the other meals served on board, this one was not a chaotic event. Oncoming watch-standers ate with a little more purpose and the off-going section mingles in with the off watch guys. People seemed a little more respectful of the hard work that went on behind the scenes. The Chief had the lights turned down lower and some Pilgrim and Indian decorations had magically appeared. The Captain came in and thanked all of us for the hard work that went into the meal. As the galley and mess decks emptied out, I felt satisfied in a way I had never felt before.

Sitting at the table in the mess decks, I took stock of my life. A split with my parents, a doomed feeling about my girlfriend, being the lowest of the low on board a submarine far from home. Then someone came and sat across from me that I really didn’t want to see. I had been trying to get a checkout for my quals in the engineroom and this guy had blown me off more times than I care to talk about.

He said the most amazing words I could remember: “Are you ready for your checkout now Mac?” We spent hours together hand tracing pipes and looking for valves. I would give anything to have that qual card back.

I am thankful I was able to experience all of those things early in my career. Nothing was given to me and I found the joy of hard work resulting in a payoff.

It truly was my first Thanksgiving.

Mister Mac

Oh by the way… the girl dumped me. I was then free to have some of the most amazing adventures in my life all around the world. And it helped me be ready for the time when I would find the true love of my life.

2018 Update

It has now been forty five years since the first Thanksgiving. I am incredibly blessed to still be alive despite a number of interesting twists and turns. My heart has decided it wasn’t fond of the pacemaker/defibrillator that was installed a few years ago and it literally tried to escape my chest on its own. After a long healing process and a lot of changes in my life, the heart is actually stronger now than it was before the surgeries.  This year, I even managed to get back into an old uniform that I hadn’t worn since 1992.

I am very thankful for you to have been a part of my story. The blog is still going strong and I have a number of stories waiting to be told.

I hope your Thanksgiving is a time of great peace. Always remember that somewhere this day, a nineteen year old is scrubbing out a turkey pan thinking about their own family while the boat sails silently under the sea.

 

FBM Blue and Gold – The Beginning 2

Thanks to shipmate Tim Lutes  STS2(SS)  USS George Washington SSBN 598 for finding this little gem and posting it on FB.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=HGrDJSHmXZU#!

I sailed on the GW when she was about twelve years old and had clear memories about how old she was (at least every time something broke).

598 1973 Pearl Harbor

At different points in my four patrols we suffered a failure of the fairwater planes in a typhoon, the rudder ram during a high speed run, fire in the machinery room (O2 Generator), and others that I still wake up to at night sometimes.

Watching the small clip took me right back to being a helmsman staring at the grey panel and very old fashioned depth and speed indicators. What a far cry from my last boomer tour which was on the USS Ohio in the eighties. Both were examples of man’s ability to create rapid advancements in the face of danger.

Ohio bow shot

 

Could we do it again?

I keep hearing whispers about unmanned submarines that can be deployed for much longer periods of time. As an old submariner, I wonder if our technology has advanced far enough to actually replace the sailor that react to the unforgiving nature of the deep blue sea?

 

But then again, I’m getting old. I can hardly imagine what my Grandfather Mac’s reaction would have been to see a ship that didn’t need coal to sail. Or one that operated greater than 400 feet below the water on a daily basis for months at a time.

 

John C MacPherson WW1       1911 battleship

Mister Mac