21 Days Under Water – The USS Pickerel’s 5200 Mile Journey at Periscope Depth 1

In 1950, the US Navy was coming to terms with its peacetime role in a Cold War setting. The Russians had obtained the German submarine technology along with the rocket scientists from captured territory. No longer content to be a coastal navy, the Russians were building their own fleet of new submarines with the ability to stay at sea for longer periods of time.  Atomic power was being worked on in secret but diesels still ruled the waves for the world’s navies.

This is a unique story about the USS Pickerel’s voyage from Hong Kong to Pearl Harbor. The entire voyage was made submerged at periscope depth. The depth allowed the boat to use its diesel’s for propulsion the entire length of the trip. I can only imagine making that run at periscope depth. Submarines are notoriously bad “rides” when they are going through any kind of seas and keeping the snorkel mast above the water line would be critical no matter what the waves brought.

The second part of the story talks about life on board the boat during the trip. Most submariners can appreciate the experience.

Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.), 10 April 1950.

21-Day Undersea Trip Of 5,200 Miles Made By U. S. Submarine

By the Associated Press

On March 15 a United States submarine dived into the Pacific off Hong Kong and didn’t surface again until 21 days later at Pearl Harbor.

In the meantime, the submarine had covered 5,200 miles. The Navy told of the trip yesterday. It did not claim a record, but officers said that this was the longest underwater run they had ever heard of. The precise time during which the submarine, the Pickerel, relied on its snorkel “breathing” apparatus was given as 505 hours, one hour over 21 days.

Importance Stressed.

The achievement, disclosed as the submarine service prepared to celebrate its 50th anniversary tomorrow, pointed up the growing importance being attached to undersea craft by Navy planners.

Recent tests showing that submarines can be used to launch guided missiles have made them a threat against coastal targets as well as sea commerce, thereby stepping up their potentialities in any future war.

At Pearl Harbor, Comdr. Paul R. Schratz of the Pickerel called the long voyage “all in the day’s work, just a routine test.”

He was asked whether the sub could be seen on the cruise, and without elaborating he said: “We had indications to the contrary.”

Pickerel Is New Craft.

The Pickerel was built at the Portsmouth, N. H., naval shipyard and was commissioned April 4, 1949. She went to the Pacific Fleet last fall.

The Snorkel apparatus with which the latest United States subs are equipped is a breathing tube which extends to the surface.

It was developed by Germany during the war, from a Dutch idea. By using the device, the submarine can operate under the surface on its diesel engines, which give it much more speed than can be had from the electric motors previously relied upon for submerged runs.

There is the added advantage of not having to come up to re charge batteries exhausted by the motors.

Fuel Supplies Only Limit.

Thus with the Snorkel equipment the time a submarine can stay down has little limitation other than fuel supplies. Pressure is being applied in this country to development of means to stretch that limit almost infinitely by application of atomic power.

Work is progressing on such an engine which would lift even the fuel and batteries requirement. An atomic-operated engine would operate indefinitely without refueling, for all practical purposes. The Westinghouse Corp. has acknowledged that it is working on an atomic power plant, but its development is expected to take from two to ten years.

American interest in submarine and anti-submarine devices has been spurred by reports that Russia is building the world’s mightiest undersea fleet—estimated currently at 250 to 300 vessels, only a small percentage of these are said to be snorkel-equipped.

German Plans Captured.

Like this country, Russia is reported to have captured German plans for a hydrogen-peroxide engine that would require no breathing tube at all. What is being done in that field either here or in the Soviet Union has been kept secret.

Along with submarine development work, the United States Navy is pushing defense measures against undersea craft.

Admiral Forrest Sherman, chief of naval operations, has assigned Vice Admiral Francis S. Low, wartime chief of anti-submarine work, to survey needs in that field. And Admiral Sherman himself has said that the Navy’s No. 1 project right now is to get more patrol planes and destroyers—both major weapons against submarines— back into the active fleet.

Along the same line Rear Admiral C. B. Momsen, assistant chief of naval operations for undersea warfare, said in an address here March 27 that he has reason to believe there will be an early development which will enable the United States to “drive submarines off the seas.”

21 Days Under Water Means Lots of Beards, 30 Movies

By the Associated Press

PEARL HARBOR, April 10.—

What do you do under water for 21 days and 5,200 miles? Comdr. Paul R. Schratz supplied the answers yesterday after commanding the snorkel-type submarine Pickerel from Hong Kong to Pearl Harbor without surfacing.

“If you feel like getting a good workout,” he said, “you just lie down until the feeling’s gone. Our main athletics were cribbage and acey-deucy.”

The 34-year-old skipper added in an interview:

“We took 30 movies along on the trip. We saw them all by the time we hit Pearl.”

Comdr. Schratz said the 67 enlisted men and eight officers abroad the 300 – foot sub “Just didn’t feel like eating much” during their underwater voyage from March 15 to April 5.

Most of the officers tried to make up by growing goatees and mustaches. Most of the crew grew full beards. These adornments didn’t last long once the men arrived here. Wives and sweethearts met them at the dock with leis and kisses.

“And. as soon as they got home, with scissors,” Schratz added.

The pickerel’s crew also whiled away some time watching tropical fish in a small aquarium they took along. The skipper, who plays first violin in the Honolulu symphony orchestra when he isn’t doing his day’s work under the Pacific, didn’t take the violin along.

Comdr. Schratz himself suggested the underwater cruise after taking part in exercises in Philippine waters.

“We used the snorkel breathing tube the entire voyage,” he said.

The Pickerel made the complete distance at periscope depth and made an average speed of about10 knots. The usual number of torpedoes for Pacific Fleet submarines was carried.

The 1,850-ton Pickerel is a standard fleet type submarine—only streamlined and with higher propulsive power than others of her class.

Mister Mac

 

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

 

 

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

Some Track Records Should Be Remembered Reply

1972 was a leap year and changes were going on all over the world. American involvement in Viet Nam was already significantly reduced to a support role and the last combat troops were scheduled to be out by August. The program of Vietnamization was well into its fourth year and the ARVN was placed in strategic locations that had previously been held by American soldiers and marines.

C-130A_57-0460_VNAF_TanSonNhut_1972

Nixon was holding secret talks with the Chinese to try and establish a more normalized relationship. Russia was worried about a closer North Viet Nam relationship with China and both sides had spent the previous year arming the NVA with thousands of new tanks, armored vehicles, missiles of every type, and an untold number of small arms and ammunition.

The NVA had been very patient in its long struggle with the South and its allies. They had been used to deprivation but their previous experience with the French in the early fifties and the Japanese before that were stark reminders that someday the foreigners would leave. Nixon and Kissinger were worried that a withdrawal before a peace could be signed would leave the South completely vulnerable and appear to be an America defeat (the first one in modern history)

Surprise!

The Easter Offensive by the North was the first sign that all of the predictions about the NVA were incorrect. Years of negotiations convinced many American politicians that the north would respect the zones set up by various treaties. Armed with the new hardware, the NVA proved them all to be wishful thinkers. They stormed straight through the demilitarized zone and engaged the ARVN army where he stood.

arvn_apc_1972_700

It was only the intervention of US airpower in the form of Operation Linebacker that kept the battle from turning into a rout. President Thieu had watched his own commanders reaction to the massive invasion and saw that they were still not ready for the tasks that Vietnamization was supposed to have prepared them for. In the end, the attack was recorded as a South Vietnamese win since so many of the units from the north were stopped and hurt badly.

linebacker

Back home, America had already shown its war weariness. Protests from San Francisco to New England had divided the country like nothing had since the civil war. It was an election year and Nixon knew that he had to do something to complete our “honorable” withdrawal from all of the situation. President Thieu was very reluctant to see American air power gone.

Large portions of the NVA still remained in control of parts of the south. Thieu was being forced to accept their presence since removing them would require a re-engagement of the forces that had just been removed. Nixon pressured Thieu to accept the terms of the cease fire. He got Thieu’s to agree to an in-place arrangement by offering "absolute assurance" that he intended to take "swift and severe retaliatory action" if North Vietnam should violate the terms of the agreement. He sought to remove the other roadblock, the stubborn attitude of the government in Hanoi, by ordering a resumption of the bombing of the heartland of North Vietnam.

History records the rest of the story and should be an abject lesson to the Afghanis. The war lasted for a while longer but once it was clear the American’s were not coming back, the North was relatively free to prepare for the final conquest. Even up until the final days, American politicians were taking assurances from the Cambodians and North Vietnamese that there would be no reprisals and peace would return to the region.

And peace did return. At the point of a bayonet. All of the people who protested sat silently by while millions were killed and millions more were enslaved. The blood of those people is forever on the hands of people who misunderstood the nature of the enemy. We are guilty of giving those who oppose us too much credit for thinking and reasoning like we do. I don’t know if we will ever figure out that there are just some people and groups that want to destroy our way of life. No amount of scripture, negotiation, pleading for a sense of fairness, or seeking a level playing field will ever fix that.

sail away

Just like Viet Nam, the war will not be over when we withdraw from the Middle East. At some point, someone is going to have to finish the job. This is one track record that has a heavy cost.

Mister Mac