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

Blockades and Submarines – An Opinion From a Master Submariner in 1939 Reply

Simon Lake was by any measure a Master Submariner.

A prolific inventor, he held over two hundred patents at the time of his death in June of 1945 (just a few months short of the end of the war that was largely shaped by submarine warfare).

American Inventor and entrepreneur Simon Lake (1866-1945) was on of the most influential early submarine constructors and introduced many innovations still in use today. His Lake Torpedo Boat Company designed and/or built 33 submarines for the U.S. Navy between 1909 and 1922

Lake was a dreamer and had many ideas about peaceful uses for submarines. As a young man, he had read Jules Verne’s 1870 novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Lake and was intrigued by the prospects of undersea travel and exploration.

This article was written in October 1939 as the world was gearing up for a war that would touch every single corner. On the very day this article was published, the last of the Polish army resistance fell to the German onslaught and the lights were beginning to grow dim all across Europe. Orders were secretly issued at the Reichstag to prepare for the occupation of Belgium and France. The Navy’s of the world were about to be tested like never before.

Lake made many predictions in the press through his lifetime. This one was very curious considering the time and ongoing incidents. It is interesting to look through the prism of history and see what actually happened.

Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.), 10 Oct. 1939. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress

Submarine Believed Capable of Voiding Blockade

Future of Convoy System Is Made Dubious, Says Inventor

War under the sea! What has been proved about it so far? What will the future hold? This is discussed here by the man who, more than any other individual, gave the world the modern submarine. He invented the even keel submarine, and every submarine made today uses at least 25 of his patents.

By SIMON LAKE.

NEW YORK. Oct. 10 (N.A.N.A.).— According to the British admiralty, German shipping has been swept from the seas in the first month of the war and England, as ever, rules the waves.

But Germany, according to my information, had 60 submarines before the war started, had parts for an unknown number more waiting to be assembled, and the shipyards and equipment to turn them out at the rate of 12 a month when needed.

With German shipping swept from the seas, it would seem that the blockade is on in force and the iron belt has been drawn tight around the Reich’s middle. , Supplies from nations that are in a position to and are willing to feed Germany overland are of an unknown quality.

But what if the submarine can smash a blockade by surface craft and can establish a blockade of its own? What if the submarine can become a cargo carrier and can run under any blockade that can be established by surface craft?

Depth Bomb Limited Weapon.

As was noted earlier, the depth bomb is a severely limited weapon, and the hydrophone—the only means by which a surface craft can possibly detect a submerged submarine and “aim” its depth bomb—works better for the undersea craft. In addition, no ship can be armored sufficiently to withstand a blow from underneath.

The submarine has other capabilities and potentialities which make the future of the convey system—on which Britain is relying so heavily—dubious.

The modem submarine is a vessel that can be built to almost any size desired. Just before the United States entered the last war against Germany, I was negotiating with the German government, for which I had done work before, for the construction of submarines that would carry 5,000 tons of cargo.

Our declaration of war, of course, ended the negotiations.

Reich Has Small U-Boats.

Germany’s fleet of submarines, according to the information I have, consists mainly of small U-boats.

I saw none there over 500 or 600 tons and longer than 150 feet, These craft carry six 21-inch torpedoes weighing about l ton each – each one capable of destroying a battleship—and make about 16 knots on the surface and 10 knots under water. This is slow, but the only time a submarine needs speed is when it is submerging.

Modern submarines can submerge, while traveling at 16 knots on the surface, to periscope depth (about 28 feet) in less than one minute. A submarine I built in the early 1920s did it in 56 seconds, and that time has since been bettered.

These submarines are built to operate chiefly in the North Sea and the English Channel. They have to stay close to their source of supplies. It is perfectly obvious that such submarines, operating in sufficient force, can block any harbor entrance or sea estuary that the controlling power desires.

Once the submarine became soundless and fired soundless, invisible torpedoes that sped through the water without leaving any streak, the only means of detecting it while submerged was through its periscope. The periscope left a wake if the submarine was traveling at periscope depth. But it is perfectly possible to build a periscope that will leave no wake. I know, because I have built one.

Periscope Unseen Now.

The periscope is a little arm about as large across as a silver dollar, camouflaged and hugging the surface of the sea. It is practically impossible to see, and yet there is just that bare possibility. However, science can now obviate even that.

I know—and, again, from my own research—that a submarine can be made that would be able to see a ship on the surface even while the submarine itself was submerged to a depth of 200 feet or more. Not only can it be made able to see the ship, but it can also fire on it from the bottom of the sea. Then, indeed, will ships be spurlos versenkt (sunk without trace). They will never know what hit them and will never be able to find out.

Against such submarines, all the convoy system does is offer more targets and greater opportunity for damage. Such submarines could not only smash or seriously cripple a blockade, but set up a blockade of their own. In the last war undersea mines and vast systems of heavy chain nets were used to keep submarines from harbor mouths, but submarines can be equipped readily with antennae that will feel out the mines. Once a submarine locates a mine, it can send a diver out to “capture” it and take it home for a souvenir.

Submarines can also be equipped to lift nets, or, if the nets are too heavily weighted, there is nothing to prevent them from feeling them out and sending a diver ahead to cut through them with a torch.

As a man who has devoted his life to the submarine, I can say that these are grim truths that I have been relating, and there is no cheer in them for me. I relish the defensive prowess of the submarine, and I shall always remember with joy what Admiral Sims told me in 1932, after the Japanese had gone up the river back of Shanghai and blown holes into the city with their ships.

“If the Chinese had had two of the submarines you built 20 years ago,” the admiral said, “the Japanese wouldn’t have come within 5O miles of that river.”

But the submarine has become a dark, almost invincibly deadly thing, striking with tremendous force from impenetrable cover. I envisaged— and still do—a gentler use for it.

Someday the submarine will make man richer. It will take food from the sea for him and oil and gold and coal and radium, all of which have been discovered in great masses at the bottom of the sea. Someday, when war will be no more.

sunk apr25 1943

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

 

 

USS George Washington SSBN 598 – First and Finest 4

Just a short history of the submarine I qualified on 44 years ago.

 

A Global Cold War Warrior

USS George Washington (SSBN-598) was the United States’ first operational ballistic missile submarine. It was the lead ship of her class of nuclear ballistic missile submarines, was the third United States Navy ship of the name, in Honor of George Washington (1732–1799), first President of the United States, and the first of that name to be purpose-built as a warship.

George Washington’s keel was laid down at Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics, Groton, Connecticut on 1 November 1958. The first of her class, she was launched on 9 June 1959 sponsored by Mrs. Ollie Mae Anderson (née Rawlins), wife of US Treasury Secretary Robert B. Anderson, and commissioned on 30 December 1959 as SSBN-598 with Commander James B. Osborn in command of the Blue crew and Commander John L. From, Jr. in command of the Gold crew.

George Washington was originally laid down as the attack submarine USS Scorpion (SSN-589). During construction, she was lengthened by the insertion of a 130 ft (40 m)-long ballistic missile section and renamed George Washington; another submarine under construction at the time received the original name and hull number. Inside George Washington’s forward escape hatch, a plaque remained bearing her original name. Because the ballistic missile compartment design of George Washington was intended to be reused in later ship classes, the section inserted into George Washington was designed with a deeper test depth rating than the rest of the submarine.

George Washington left Groton on 28 June 1960 for Cape Canaveral, Florida, where she loaded two Polaris missiles. Standing out into the Atlantic Missile Test Range with Rear Admiral William Raborn, head of the Polaris submarine development program, on board as an observer, she successfully conducted the first Polaris missile launch from a submerged submarine on 20 July 1960. At 12:39, George Washington’s commanding officer sent President Dwight Eisenhower the message: POLARIS – FROM OUT OF THE DEEP TO TARGET. PERFECT. Less than two hours later a second missile from the submarine also struck the impact area 1,100 nmi (1,300 mi; 2,000 km) downrange.

George Washington then embarked her Gold crew, and on 30 July 1960 she launched two more missiles while submerged. Shakedown for the Gold crew ended at Groton on 30 August and the boat got underway from that port on 28 October for Naval Weapons Station Charleston, to load her full complement of 16 Polaris missiles. There she was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation, after which her Blue crew took over and embarked on her first deterrent patrol.

The submarine completed her first patrol after 66 days of submerged running on 21 January 1961, and put in at Naval Submarine Base New London at New London, Connecticut. The Gold crew took over and departed on her next patrol on 14 February 1961. After the patrol, she entered Holy Loch, Scotland, on 25 April 1961.

In 1970 ten years after her initial departure from Groton, George Washington put in to refuel in Charleston SC, having cruised some 100,000 nm (120,000 mi; 190,000 km). George Washington shifted to the United States Pacific Fleet and a new home port at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii after the refueling.

On 9 April 1981, George Washington was at periscope depth and was broadsided by the 2,350 long tons (2,390 t) Japanese commercial cargo ship Nissho Maru in the East China Sea about 110 nmi (130 mi; 200 km) south-southwest of Sasebo, Japan. George Washington immediately surfaced and searched for the other vessel. Owing to the heavy fog conditions at the time, they did see the Nissho Maru heading off into the fog, but it appeared undamaged. After calling out for a P-3 Orion to search for the freighter, they headed into port for repairs; the crew was later flown back to Pearl Harbor from Guam. Unbeknownst to the crew of the George Washington, Nissho Maru sank in about 15 minutes. Two Japanese crewmen were lost; 13 were rescued by Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force AkiGumo(ja) and Aogumo(ja). The submarine suffered minor damage to her sail.

The accident strained U.S.–Japanese relations a month before a meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki and President of the United States Ronald Reagan. Japan criticized the U.S. for taking more than 24 hours to notify Japanese authorities, and demanded to know what the boat was doing surfacing only about 20 nmi (23 mi; 37 km) outside Japan’s territorial waters.

The U.S. Navy initially stated that George Washington executed a crash dive during the collision, and then immediately surfaced, but could not see the Japanese ship due to fog and rain (according to a U.S. Navy report). A preliminary report released a few days later stated the submarine and aircraft crews both had detected Nissho Maru nearby, but neither the submarine nor the aircraft realized Nissho Maru was in distress.

On 11 April, President Reagan and other U.S. officials formally expressed regret over the accident, made offers of compensation, and reassured the Japanese there was no cause for worry about radioactive contamination. As is its standard policy, the U.S. Government refused to reveal what the submarine was doing close to Japan, or whether she was armed with nuclear missiles. (It is government and navy policy to neither confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear weapons on board.) The Navy accepted responsibility for the incident, and relieved and reprimanded the George Washington’s commanding officer and officer of the deck.

On 31 August, the U.S. Navy released its final report, concluding the accident resulted from a set of coincidences, compounded by errors on the part of two members of the submarine crew. After the collision with the Nissho Maru, the damaged sail was repaired with parts from the sail from the USS Abraham Lincoln which was waiting for disposal at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

In 1982, George Washington returned to Pearl Harbor from her last missile patrol. In 1983, her missiles were unloaded at Bangor, Washington to comply with the SALT I treaty. George Washington made 55 deterrent patrols in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in her 25-year career

George Washington continued service as an attack submarine (SSN), returning briefly to Pearl Harbor. In 1983, she departed Pearl Harbor for the last time and transited the Panama Canal back to the Atlantic and to New London. George Washington was decommissioned on 24 January 1985, stricken from the Naval Vessel Registry on 30 April 1986, and scheduled for disposal through the Ship-Submarine Recycling Program at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Recycling of the ship was completed on 30 September 1998.

George Washington’s sail was removed prior to disposal and now rests at the Submarine Force Library and Museum at Groton, Connecticut.

Gone but never forgotten

Mister Mac

Now More Than Ever – a Strong Navy and Peace 5

The Navy League has been tireless in its mission to support the sea services throughout the last 116 years. From its founding in 1902, they have tried to always live the spirit that Theodore Roosevelt embodied when he said “A good Navy is not a provocative of war, it is the surest guarantee of peace.”

Three years after he said those fateful words, the world was changed forever on May 27, 1905 when a smaller Japanese fleet defeated the powerful Russian Navy in the Straits of Tsushima.

This unexpected naval battle set the tone for naval conflict for the next century. It showed that a willful and resourceful nation could project sea power and influence the course of history in a way that the world would have to notice. It clearly demonstrated that no country, no matter how small or limited in resources, should ever be taken for granted.

Despite that warning, America was not ready for the Great War that was to come. We had lulled ourselves into thinking that the vastness of the oceans surrounding us would keep us from harm. We were wrong. An entirely new menace called the submarine destroyed that perception of safety once and for all. 100 years ago today, fighting men and women would serve in a cause that should have been avoidable. But the oceans brought the threat to us.

As many countries did, we relied on the promise of peace through disarmament when that war completed. The navy was shrunk and a peace dividend was expected in its place. It never came. Instead, the Axis of Japan, Italy and Germany once more used the oceans to project their power. We were ill prepared for that war too, but the drive and determination of the American people carried the day once more.

The global situation is much the same today as it was before the major wars. Countries are once more expanding their forces and influence through sea power.

  • China is pushing the boundaries in the seas and islands around her country that once enjoyed freedom;
  • A resurging and aggressive Russian Navy has a global reach and an eye on returning to their once unlimited status
  • Rogue nations that are seeking to capitalize on technology are once more challenging freedom around the globe.

 

On Memorial Day, we honor the fallen. We remember their sacrifices. But we honor and remember them best when we remain ever ready and ever vigilant. We pay them the ultimate tribute when we are once more ready to defend that which they gave everything for.

The Navy League stands with all of our sea services in paying honor and tribute to our fallen. We stand for maintaining the strongest military on the face of the planet. America stands for freedom in this world. In the face of so many challenges, maintaining that strength is the only way to maintain our freedom. America needs to be alert now more than any time in history.

Mister Mac

Primus in Pace – USS George Washington SSBN 598 2

Post #598: Primus In Pace

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

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

Primus in Pace

My Qual Boat : 1974

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

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

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

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

 

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

The new kid

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

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

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

Man Battle Stations – cue the really annoying electronic alarm

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

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

There was no place to go.

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

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

The wave

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

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

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

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

Fairwaters jammed on full rise

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

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

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

A different kind of war, a different kind of warrior

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

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

 

Saying Goodbye

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

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

 

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

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

Mister Mac

Post number 597… Submarine Number 597 6

An odd kind of submarine

USS Tullibee

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

 

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

From an article on Global Security.org

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

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

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

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

SSN-597 USS Tullibee Patch

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mister Mac

 

The Crew 5

The Crew

As I look back over the past forty five years, I keep wondering what it was about serving on submarines was the part of my life that had the most impact on my life. As I look around social media, it’s not too hard to see that I am not alone in that view. Don’t get me wrong. My marriage to Debbie and my parents were impactful and meaningful in many ways that transcend the service, but no other single thing has been as much of a driver as those days on board the boats I was a crew member of.

You can get a little tunnel vision looking back across all of those years and forget there were bad things. Not enough sleep, separation from the family and real world, stress that was off the charts surrounded by unbelievable boredom and sleeping on a foam mattress in a space the size of a coffin (if you were lucky). But there are the good memories that seem to overshadow most of those. When you are young and new to the game, it’s getting a signature on your qualification card. Not just an easy one but one of the really complicated ones that require an inordinate amount of knowledge and skill. With each succeeding signature, you come closer and closer to that goal. Not just the physical symbol of the dolphins, but knowing that you will be seen as a fully qualified member of the crew.

The current trend for many millennials is something called person branding. Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands. While previous self-help management techniques were about self-improvement, the personal-branding concept suggests instead that success comes from self-packaging. Tom Peters, a management Guru, is thought to have been the first to use and discuss this concept in a 1997 article.

Personal branding is the ongoing process of establishing a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others about an individual, group, or organization.

Being a submariner has always been about personal branding but in a bigger way. The focus as you qualify is very inward. You are trying your best to learn the knowledge and become an expert in the skills that make a good submariner. From damage control to operating the ship’s systems, you must be able to contribute in every sense of the need when the ship is operating or when it is involved in a casualty (real of practice). And everyone on board is a member of the combat and casualty teams. You might be a phone talker or you might be the nozzle man on the hose preparing to fight the infamous deep fat fryer fire but you will play some role.

My first experience on an aircraft carrier as a Chief (I was teaching classes while the Nimitz was underway) was a real eye opener. A drill was announced over the PA system and I was trying to rush to my battle station. What stunned me is that not everyone was moving at the speed of light to get to where they should have been. Only designated “Flying Squads” of DC men were in motion. I cannot even imagine that happening on any submarine I ever served on.

But the inward focus gives way to a crew focus once you qualify as a submariner. You have about five minutes to gloat that you have achieved something many never do or could do. Then you start to focus on actually learning how your role is part of the crew’s success. You qualify increasingly more complicated roles on the boat and you learn that you are now expected to train the ones that will come behind you. It is stunning when I look back how quickly the transition from non-qual to subject matter expert comes. Not because you are that amazing of a person but out of necessity.

The first time I found myself “in charge” was when I learned what real challenges are. Even on submarines, there is a small team for nearly every task (with the exception of the Corpsman and sometimes the Ship’s Yeoman). All of the other divisions have work related to their equipment and division’s responsibility. Each of those divisions need leaders and when you suddenly find yourself in charge on that special day, you pray that your training and the coaching you have received will be enough.

The branding for a submarine is twofold. You want to come back to the surface every time you dive and if you have any pride at all, you want your boat to be known and remembered as being the best. To be the best, you must first outperform the enemies abilities but you must also consistently rise to the top among a group of submariners that already think they are the best crews; your Squadron Mates.

To get there, you drill. Drills mean getting more proficient and better able to manage the unlimited challenges presented by operating in the ocean’s depths. All of that means sacrifice. Since there is no place to hide, sleep deprivation and personal sacrifices become common place. Tempers can often flare and we are often pushed to the limit. But the ship’s that drill the hardest are the ones who are rewarded with the recognition of external teams and the personal satisfaction of knowing you can take almost anything the ocean can throw at you.

All of this binds you together as a crew. The longer you serve on a boat, the more your personal brand is overshadowed by the brand of the boat. If you are really lucky, this will last for the rest of your life.

I have been away from the Navy and submarines now for many years. But I still proudly display my dolphins as the single greatest achievement of my career. More than my rank, more than my awards, more than the letters and medals that came from those days. I will always be glad that when my nation needed me, I was lucky enough to volunteer twice and serve with the greatest crews I could have ever asked for. That certainly includes my non-submarine crews but I am eternally grateful to have earned my fish.

Mister Mac