August 28, 1973 The Journey Begins 13

I joined the Navy in April of 1972 by raising my right hand for the very first time. The Navy used the Delayed Entry Program to pre-sign willing young volunteers and at the age of seventeen, I was anxious to leave home and see the world. I remember my girlfriend at the time crying a bit and shortly before I joined, President Nixon escalated the bombing of NVA troops and Hanoi. On the day I signed up, 100,000 people in various cities around the United States protested the increased bombing. Needless to say it was not a great time to be in uniform. The support for the military was further diminished by various scandals and secret bombing campaigns were being revealed by the press on a regular basis.

In December 1972, I was finishing up Machinist Mate A school in Great Lakes Illinois while President Nixon ordered the launch of the most intense air offense of the war: Operation Linebacker. The attacks, concentrated between Hanoi and Haiphong, drop roughly 20,000 tons of bombs over densely populated regions. The outcry both here and abroad was fierce but it achieved the goal of bringing the North closer to desiring an end to the war.

In January of 1973, the Selective Service announced the end to the draft and instituted an all-volunteer military. I was just beginning my submarine training at New London when the announcement was made. Since I had volunteered before I was eligible for the draft, it did not mean much to me personally. But I did notice that many who were serving around me had chosen a Navy path to avoid the Army. Some were upset that they had joined now that the draft was gone.

The rest of 1973 was spent shuttling around the country to various schools. From New London, I was sent to Charleston to learn advanced skills related to the boat I would eventually join in Guam. The USS George Washington had already left Charleston after a shipyard period so I would not see her until the fall of 1973 in Guam. The schools and a short stint TAD at the Submarine Base in Pearl seemed like an endless wait. I officially reported on board on August 28, 1973 to the Blue crew which was preparing to leave Hawaii. Then came the day I took my first crew flight from Hawaii to Guam.

Guam

Guam is a hot and humid place no matter what time of year you show up. The trip from Anderson Air Force Base was in a vintage non-air conditioned military bus. I remember pulling up to the USS Proteus and how tired we all were from the long flight and heat on the ground. We went on board the tender and were assigned to submarine crew quarters. The bunks were stacked on top of each other and the smell was horrible. The George Washington was not back from patrol yet (the Gold Crew had her) so we waited for a few days doing not much of anything.

I watched the boat as it came into the harbor. It seemed kind of small at first but by the time it was tied alongside you could see the top and sides. Men were scurrying with the lines and some hoses of one kind or another and there were thick black cable being connected between the boat and the Proteus. The Proteus was a leftover from World War 2 and the crew on board were stationed there all year round. We just came for visits twice a year and many of us were glad to leave her when the time came.

The smell

Once the boat was tied up, the turnover process began. As a young Fireman, I was not aware at the time of all the things that would need to be completed in order to successfully transition between Gold and Blue. I was just very anxious to get off the tender and into the boat. The very first time I went down the forward hatch I noticed a few things. The first is the smell. A submarine smell is something you never forget. It is a mixture of diesel, mono-ethylamine, cigarettes, cooking residue, body odors and many other things. It gets into your nose first then into your clothes. It never quite leaves you. If I close my eyes, I can still imagine what it smells like.

The good thing about being a new kid is that you don’t have much time to think. The work comes fast and furious and you do not want the Chief to catch you skylarking. There is just too much to do. The crew that is leaving is packing up their stuff as quickly as possible for the long ride home. Within a few hours, the on-loading process for the coming patrol begins. Boxes of food both frozen and canned are waiting to be loaded and the only way they get into the boat is through the long narrow hatches with men stationed on deck and all the way to the lowest levels of the boat. You load until everything is in the boat. Your arms are aching in a way that you never thought possible. Same with your back and legs.

As an Auxiliaryman, our job was to also make sure we had enough hydraulic oil and essential other fluids. These evolutions often happened at night sine they tied up the hatches. There was very little sleep. Broken equipment needed to be repaired, flex hoses needed to be changed out and a hundred little tasks that needed completed were rushed in order to make the deployment schedule. Topside, the deck gang went between chipping and p[painting and helping with weapons moves. The Russians were waiting for us just outside Apra Harbor and even though we were technically at peace, we were also technically at war. You made no assumptions.

The rain

Guam is in a tropical environment and when the rains come, they leave you soaked to the bone. No matter what is going on, the rains will not stop the progress. You simply went down into the boat soaking wet and tried your best to dry off before your next trip topside. After a while, you just gave up trying. And everybody got a cold within a week. The Doc would hand out Actifed like it was candy to keep people from getting too sick.

The first dive

At the end of the refit, things started to settle into a routine. The tanks were topped off, stores were loaded, the equipment that had been placed topside for repairs was all gone and the boat was ready for that first dive. I was in the control room standing messenger under instruction. That is about as low a position as you can find on a submarine. It means that you are an air consuming passenger without a real purpose in life. You really just did your best to stay out of everybody’s way as the boat approached the dive point. Strange new sights and sounds and a symphony of orders and replies fill the packed little space. Reports from all over the boat come rapidly in indicating that all spaces are prepared. The Officer of the Deck is the last man down and reports to the Conn.  The board goes straight and the order is given. Diving officer, submerge the ship.

The main vents are cycled open, you hear the rushing of the water and for just a moment, you pray to yourself. The boat takes a down angle, reports come in indicating a normal dive and then she settles out. The beginning of a very long ride begins. Mine took quite a few years to finish… It would end on the USS Ohio in another very rainy place called Kitsap County Washington.

You join a very selective community on that day.

For the rest of your life you will hear people ask what it was like and say things like, “Oh, I could never do that.” You just kind of smile and say to yourself that once upon a time, you thought so too. I kind of hope I make it another five years before I take my final dive. Old submariners will understand why.

Mister Mac

The World of Polaris Reply

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One of the best weekends of my life was our Perfect Scottish Weekend. We travelled the Highlands in August of 1991 and visited Newtonmore for a visit with Clan MacPherson. Then we went to Edinburgh for the world famous Tattoo. I hope you get a chance to visit it someday, it is breathtaking. Recommend that you make reservations well in advance for seats beneath the Governor’s box.

Mid way through the video clip attached you will see a Tattoo from an earlier time. The whole video takes about half an hour but for anyone interested in or having lived the Polaris story, this is a wonderful way to view the life we lived when not on the boats.

 

Enjoy, Aloha.

Mister Mac

The First Thanksgiving 8

The First Thanksgiving

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

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I grew up (for the most part) in a suburb near a steel making town surrounded by every bit of privilege that a person could expect in the Sixties. Our house wasn’t overwhelming but it was warm and I had my own bed, some space in a closet for my clothes, and access to hot running water and a safe place to play. Being a middle child, I was isolated from the curse of being the first with all the experimentation around proper behaviors. I was also old enough compared to my two younger brothers that I could get my way on some things. As a middle child though, I found a strong compulsion to focus a lot on ME. My oldest brother was named for my Dad and my older sister was the only girl of five children so it seemed like much of the family’s focus was on the “One” and Daddy’s girl.

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

When you understand

My parents and Grandparents tried to provide us with not only the comforts of life but they made sure we were aware of all the traditions that were important including a big Thanksgiving celebration. Rumor had it (at least among us kids) that one of Grandpa Parkin’s relative actually came over on the Mayflower and was at the first big dinner. We always had the big turkey day at the mansion he owned and some of the silver looked detailed enough to support the story’s validity. The only time you actually saw these heirlooms was at Thanksgiving so of course it had to be true.

Parkins House

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

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

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

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

The First Patrol

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

The crew flight and arrival were pretty overwhelming for a nineteen year old on his first trip. The main thing I remember is being shoved into the crews berthing on board the submarine tender Proteus which was what I would imagine it would have felt like on the ship that brought my grandparents over from Ireland. The air conditioning didn’t work and the boat was delayed in coming in because of the weather. When it finally did come in, I found out that “Non-Qual Pukes” did not rank very high on a submarine and my first rack was in a place called TDU alley. While submariners spend an inordinate time cleaning their ship, TDU alley is the one place that struggles the most due to its location near the Trash Disposal Unit directly above the berthing area. The one good thing about my rack was that I was inspired to stay out of it as much as possible which helped me qualify in one run.

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

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

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

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

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

Then came Thanksgiving.

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

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

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

Sitting at the table in the mess decks, I took stock of my life. A split with my parents, a doomed feeling about my girlfriend, being the lowest of the low on board a submarine far from home. Then someone came and sat across from me that I really didn’t want to see. I had been trying to get a checkout for my quals in the engineroom and this guy had blown me off more times than I care to talk about. He said the most amazing words I could remember: “Are you ready for your checkout now Mac?” We spent hours together hand tracing pipes and looking for valves. I would give anything to have that qual card back.

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

Mister Mac

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

2016 Update

Since that Thanksgiving many years ago, I have learned that good things normally follow adversity. The country is pretty well divided now and it will take some serious leadership to heal. I am certain it can. Please remember that we should be grateful to live in a Constitutional Republic that ensures that mob rule will not prevail over the laws and nature of the country that was created so long ago. Blessings to us all this year and let us unite in a single voice of Thanks

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41 for Freedom; Answering a Threat Reply

On October 4, 1957 the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the first artificial Earth satellite.

This launch was a double blow to the fledgling American rocket program. It proved that the Soviets were able to accomplish something that the Americans had yet to do. It also proved that the Soviets had the ability to launch a ballistic missile capable of hitting anywhere in the United States. President Eisenhower and the congress reacted to the Sputnik crisis with vast amounts of money and programs designed to close the gap. One of those programs was the Polaris Program. But for this new solid stage rocket to be effective, it needed a platform.

The USS George Washington (SSBN 598) was the world’s first Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarine. It was built by the Electric Boat (EB) Division of the General Dynamic Corporation’s Groton shipyard. The hull of an attack boat currently on the ways at EB was cut in two and a missile compartment capable of carrying 16 nuclear missiles was inserted.

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A new ship design and a new weapons system

The Polaris A-1 missile was developed to complement the limited number of medium-range systems deployed throughout Europe. As those systems lacked the range to attack major Soviet targets, Polaris was developed to increase the level of nuclear deterrence. At this time there was little threat of counterforce strikes, as few systems had the accuracy to destroy missile systems. The primary advantages of ballistic missile submarines was their ability to launch submerged, which offered improved survivability for the submarine while also (like their Regulus predecessors) keeping shorter ranged systems within range.

The USN had forward-basing arrangements for its Atlantic-based Polaris fleet with both the United Kingdom and Spain permitting the use of bases at the Holy Loch in Scotland (established in 1961) and at Naval Station Rota (Polaris base established 1964) in the Bay of Cadiz. The forward deployment bases were much closer to patrol areas than U.S. East Coast bases, avoiding the necessity for lengthy transit times. In the Pacific, a Polaris base was also established at Guam in 1964. This forward-basing arrangement was continued when Poseidon replaced Polaris, starting in 1972, in what by then were the 31 Atlantic Fleet SSBNs. The 10 older SSBNs that could not use Poseidon were assigned to the Pacific Fleet in the 1970s. Polaris was not accurate enough to destroy hardened targets but would have been effective against dispersed surface targets, such as airfields, radar and SAM sites, as well as military and industrial centers of strategic importance. The military authorities, however, regarded Polaris as but one part of a nuclear triad including ICBMs and bombers, each with its own function. The task allotted to Polaris of ‘taking out’ peripheral defenses was well-suited to its characteristics and limitations.

The forward deployment strategy required some infrastructure. To allow quick establishment of bases and to minimize the impact on the host country, each base was centered around a submarine tender and a floating drydock, with minimal facilities on shore, mostly family support for the tender’s crew. The first Polaris submarine tender was the USS Proteus (AS-19), a World War II tender that was refitted in 1959-60 with the insertion of a midships missile storage compartment and handling crane. Proteus established each of the three forward deployment bases. Four additional Polaris tenders (USS Hunley (AS-31), USS Holland (AS-32), USS Simon Lake (AS-33), and USS Canopus (AS-34)) were commissioned 1962-65. In Scotland, the USS Los Alamos AFDB7 was erected in a body of water called Holy Loch where she served faithfully until 1991 when the base was deactivated.

A two-crew concept was established for SSBNs, combined with forward deployment maximize the time each submarine would spend on patrol. The crews were named Blue and Gold after the US Naval Academy colors. The crews were deployed for 105 days and at their home bases for 95 days, with a 3-day turnover period on each end of the deployed period. Crews were flown from their home bases to and from the forward deployment bases. After taking over the boat, the crew would perform a 30-day refit assisted by the tender, followed by a 70-day deterrent patrol. Sometimes a port visit would be arranged in the middle of the patrol. The home bases for Atlantic Fleet crews were Groton, Connecticut and Charleston, South Carolina. Pacific Fleet crews were based at Naval Base Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Two Polaris missile depots were established in the United States, Polaris Missile Facility Atlantic (POMFLANT) at Charleston, South Carolina in 1960 and later Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific (SWFPAC) at Bangor, Washington. To transport missiles and other supplies from the missile depots to the forward deployment bases, several cargo ships were converted to carry missiles and were designated as T-AKs, operated by the Military Sealift Command with a mostly-civilian crew.

41freedom

This is a list of the five Nuclear Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines classes that made up the “41 for Freedom:”

George Washington class

  • USS George Washington (SSBN-598)
  • USS Patrick Henry (SSBN-599)
  • USS Theodore Roosevelt (SSBN-600)
  • USS Robert E. Lee (SSBN-601)
  • USS Abraham Lincoln (SSBN-602)

Ethan Allen class

  • USS Ethan Allen (SSBN-608)
  • USS Sam Houston (SSBN-609)
  • USS Thomas A. Edison (SSBN-610)
  • USS John Marshall (SSBN-611)
  • USS Thomas Jefferson (SSBN-618)

Lafayette class

  • USS Lafayette (SSBN-616)
  • USS Alexander Hamilton (SSBN-617)
  • USS Andrew Jackson (SSBN-619)
  • USS John Adams (SSBN-620)
  • USS James Monroe (SSBN-622)
  • USS Nathan Hale (SSBN-623)
  • USS Woodrow Wilson (SSBN-624)
  • USS Henry Clay (SSBN-625)
  • USS Daniel Webster (SSBN-626)

James Madison class

  • USS James Madison (SSBN-627)
  • USS Tecumseh (SSBN-628)
  • USS Daniel Boone (SSBN-629)
  • USS John C. Calhoun (SSBN-630)
  • USS Ulysses S. Grant (SSBN-631)
  • USS Von Steuben (SSBN-632)
  • USS Casimir Pulaski (SSBN-633)
  • USS Stonewall Jackson (SSBN-634)
  • USS Sam Rayburn (SSBN-635)
  • USS Nathanael Greene (SSBN-636)

Benjamin Franklin class

  • USS Benjamin Franklin (SSBN-640) converted to carry the Trident C-4 ballistic missile
  • USS Simon Bolivar (SSBN-641) converted to carry the Trident C-4 ballistic missile
  • USS Kamehameha (SSBN-642)
  • USS George Bancroft (SSBN-643) converted to carry the Trident C-4 ballistic missile
  • USS Lewis and Clark (SSBN-644)
  • USS James K. Polk (SSBN-645)
  • USS George C. Marshall (SSBN-654)
  • USS Henry L. Stimson (SSBN-655) converted to carry the Trident C-4 ballistic missile
  • USS George Washington Carver (SSBN-656)
  • USS Francis Scott Key (SSBN-657) converted to carry the Trident C-4 ballistic missile
  • USS Mariano G. Vallejo (SSBN-658) converted to carry the Trident C-4 ballistic missile
  • USS Will Rogers (SSBN-659)

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George Washington’s keel was laid down at Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics, Groton, Connecticut on 1 November 1957. The first of her class, she was launched on 9 June 1959 sponsored by Mrs. 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 would 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.

Initial operations

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 1964, four years after her initial departure from Groton, George Washington put in to refuel, having cruised some 100,000 nmi (120,000 mi; 190,000 km). Following refit, George Washington shifted to the United States Pacific Fleet and a new home port at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

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Final patrol as ballistic missile submarine
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.

Service as an attack submarine
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.

Decommissioning
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.

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Commemoration
George Washington’s sail was removed prior to disposal and now resides at the Submarine Force Library and Museum at New London, Connecticut.

Career (US):
Name: USS George Washington
Namesake: President George Washington (1732-1799)
Owner: United States Navy
Ordered: 31 December 1957
Builder: General Dynamics Electric Boat
Laid down: 1 November 1958
Launched: 9 June 1959
Sponsored by: Mrs. Robert B. Anderson
Commissioned: 30 December 1959
Decommissioned: 24 January 1985
Struck: 30 April 1986
Homeport: Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
Nickname: “The Georgefish”
Fate: Recycling via the Ship-Submarine Recycling Program completed 30 September 1998

Badge:

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General characteristics:
Class and type: George Washington-class submarine
Type: SSBN (hull design SCB-180A)
Displacement: 5400 tons light

5959-6019 tons surfaced

6709-6888 Approx. tons submerged

Length: 381 ft 7.2 in (116.312 m)
Beam: 33 ft (10 m)
Draft: 29 ft (8.8 m)
Propulsion: 1 x S5W Pressure, Water Reactor (PWR)

2 x geared turbines rated at 15,000 shp (11,000 kW)

1 x 7-bladed screw

Speed: 20 kn (37 km/h) surfaced; +25 kn (46 km/h) submerged
Range: unlimited except by food supplies
Test depth: 700 ft (210 m); (maximum over 900 ft (270 m))
Capacity: 120
Complement: Two crews (Blue/Gold) each consisting of 12 officers and 100 enlisted men.
Armament: 16 Polaris A1/A3 missiles; 6
X 21 in (530 mm) torpedo tubes (Mark 16, Mark 37, or Mark 48 torpedoes)

Happy Hogmanay 5

The Scots invented many things over the years that have proven quite useful to mankind. The list of inventions and innovations is enough to make your head spin, so suffice it to say that they were (and are) a very clever people. See more here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_inventions_and_discoveries

Watt Steam Can you hear me now US NavyGlobal Warming started here Important stuff

One of my favorite inventions though is the Celebration of Hogmanay. There are many legends of how the celebration came about. Hogmanay’s beginnings may harken back to the celebration of the winter solstice among the Norse, probably incorporating customs from the Gaelic celebration of Samhain. The Vikings (or what we call uninvited guests in my side of the house) celebrated Yule, which later contributed to the Twelve Days of Christmas, or the “Daft Days” as they were sometimes called in Scotland. The whole winter festival program went underground with the Protestant Reformation and ensuing years, but came back with a vengeance near the end of the 17th century.

Throughout Scotland it is celebrated in many different ways but one of the most common customs is known as First Footing. This invention is nothing less than pure genius. The first person who steps across your doorstep is supposed to set the stage for your luck for the rest of the year. That person will traditionally bring a gift such as salt (less common today), coal, shortbread, whisky, and black bun (a rich fruit cake) intended to bring different kinds of luck to the householder.

Haggis

Food and drink (as the gifts) are then presented to the guests. This may go on throughout the wee hours of the morning and well into the next day. I can’t prove this but I have even heard that the celebration now can extend into the middle of the month of January… Brilliant!!!

Traditionally, tall dark men are preferred as the first-foot. (There are some neighborhoods in the US where this may actually not be a good thing but tradition is tradition).

One Hogmanay custom which has spread almost the world over is the singing of the Robert Burns classic “Auld Lang Syne”. It is common for the participants to link arms and sing it at the first stroke of midnight. Most people who have heard it before can be seen to tear up a bit… especially if they got a jump on the first footing custom.

The world could use a little Hogmanay. We could all use a blessing for our lives and homes. Our country is a blending of many wonderful cultures and the ability to bring the best of those cultures into our homes without destroying our American culture is one of our strengths. But tonight, as American as I am, I will be listening to Black Watch recording of Auld Lang Syne.

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God Bless you and yours. May this New Year bring the best to your life and thank you for letting me take up a bit of your day.

Mister Mac

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          Scottish Settler 001

My Trusty Old .45 First Posted in 2011 (with Updates on the 2018 CMP Sales) 3

As a kid growing up, one of my favorite shows was a realistic World War 2 action series called “Combat!”.

Sergeant Saunders (Vic Morrow) was my hero and his adventures with Kirby, Little John, Cage and Lieutenant Hanley and Doc. The series ran form 1962 to 1967 which is pretty remarkable since the actual American Army involvement in the ETO from Normandy to surrender lasted less than a year. Interestingly enough, the platoon never actually made it out of France in the whole five years.

CombatDVD

The part that I really loved about the show was the weapons. You could get a real sense of the war from the scenes where the platoon fought harsh battles with overwhelming forces of Germans. Week after week, you could see the ability and limitations of those guns. From the Thompson to the M1 Garand, each weapon played its role. But none seemed more important than the trusty old .45 that Saunders and Hanley both carried.

45

That weapon was a sign of authority and normally only carried by higher ranking folks. It was a significant weapon since it was at the ready if you ever blew through your whole supply of ammunition (easy enough to do when you are surrounded by dangerous enemies). It was the last ditch weapon besides the combat knife they all carried but it was the one I wanted the most. Apparently based on the proliferation of anniversary replicas of the 1911 A1 45 caliber semi-automatic pistol this year, I really believe I was not the only one who felt that way.

We would play combat in the neighborhood and I always managed to have a replica tucked into my waistband (made of plastic and mostly green colored). I think I can only remember having a holster once or twice but it didn’t matter. Along with my other weapons, that 45 gave me a feeling of confidence that I would be able to kill or capture anything that came down the Cemetery Hill behind our house. Those were great years since just like Combat, when someone was shot the camera always managed to be looking the other way. You may see dead guys lying around but you rarely saw any blood shooting out of them.

Just as all childhood games come to a close, so did our time in combat. The players gradually drifted away to do other things and eventually there were not enough guys to mount a decent campaign. It was a shame since that was about the time that war toys hit their peak. Johnny Seven OMA (one man army) Thompson subs made of real wood and metal, and all manner of die cast pot metal rifles and accessories.

Johnny seven secret_sam_ad_dr10

Then in a few short years, they were all gone, victims of an increasingly gun wary populace. Some blame could be attributed to a series of high profile assassinations and some blame could be given to the escalating war in Viet Nam. In any case, it didn’t matter to me because in the following years I discovered that girls had better things to offer

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My attraction to actual guns was frustrated by the fact that despite a long military heritage, we had no weapons in the house. Okay, an old Spencer Repeater from the civil war was present but you certainly wouldn’t fire it. My Mom and Dad refused to even entertain the purchase of a .22 so I had to live a life of complete firearms celibacy.

July 4th weekend 2009 017

All that pent up frustration finally led to the only action I knew would get me closer to my goal. That is why at the age of 17 I convinced my folks to let me sign up for the Navy as a Gunners Mate designee. I was destined to ride into combat on a PBR somewhere in Southeast Asia and no one was going to stop me.

MM Rate Book

Except maybe a classification clerk in Boot Camp who changed my field to Machinist Mate designee. I don’t know what that person’s name was but I do remember feeling cheated at the time. What little I knew of Machinist Mates I read in my trusty Bluejackets manual and there was hardly even a mention of a weapon. Not only that but all of our weapons training in Boot Camp was cancelled meaning I was to graduate to the fleet with NO WEAPONS TRAINING at all. But a contract is a contract and I followed the path that I was sent on.

After another year of school and temporary assignments, I finally found myself on the crew of the USS George Washington. The most amazing thing then happened. I was assigned to assist the Petty Officer of the Deck in guarding the topside of the ship.

To do this, they issued me my very first .45

Now mind you, I had still not shot a weapon (even in training) but the need was there and in the darkness of the evening, my Petty Officer showed me the actual workings of the weapon. Well, relative darkness since we were tied up to the Proteus and those powerful security lights were starkly bright in some places.

Proteus early 70s

I am not sure who we were guarding the boat against. If any swimmers had appeared they would have been easily spotted by the watches on the Tender or by us. I was prepared to draw my weapon and insert the clip as I had been shown, draw back the slide and proceed to empty the first magazine. Yes, that’s right, I was standing topside watch with a gun I had never fired that was not loaded. I never once feared that I would flinch in my duty or fail to remember the exact sequence of actions to put bullets on targets.

45 2

Two things happened during the next upkeep period that forever changed my views about my role as a combat character. The first was my first trip to the firing range. We were issued stock .45’s which had probably actually been built in 1911 and were so loose, they rattled as you handled them. As anyone who routinely shoots can attest to, the guns we had would challenge the most magnificent and experienced marksman. The fact that I have small hands did not aid in my aim either. I did a pitiful qualification round (actually more of a familiarization round).

The day was not a complete waste however since we were allowed to have one magazine each on the ship’s Thompson. Yes, that’s right, another one of my dreams come true. I doubt I hit anything at the Marine range that day in Guam but our visit was cut short when one of my shipmates underestimated the climb rate of a Thompson being fired full auto. The Marine Sergeant was not impressed at all with the holes that suddenly appeared in the tin roof of the dugout where we were firing. Especially since he was standing on top of the roof a few yards away. We were asked to leave.

thompson

 

The second thing that happened was on my last night as a Topside Petty Officer.

As you may recall, the Proteus had those magnificently bright security lights on top shining down on our boat. It was a mid watch and we had just settled down into a routine of drinking coffee and imagining what it would be like to sleep an entire night without being woken up for any reason. Liberty had just expired on the tender and we could see shadows of people moving about the decks above us. Our own crew was also returning from Andy’s Hut and you could tell there was a dust up by the torn shirts and sailors helping the less fortunate down the brow.

Apparently earlier that evening, there was indeed an altercation between our boys and some tender folks. I don’t know who the winner was, I just remember the OOD from the tender coming down the brow and informing me that he expected all of our guys to stay on board for the night and sleep it off. We both saluted him and said the obligatory Aye Aye sirs and we all went about our business.

Sometime after 0100, it happened. From somewhere behind those powerful bright security lights, objects started flying towards the submarine. I cannot recall all of what was thrown but do remember having the presence of mind to remember my training (or what there was of it).

1. Is your life in danger?

2. Is the life of anyone under your charge in danger?

3. Is the ship or its weapons in danger?

4. if yes to any of the three, don’t be a damn fool, call away a security violation and lock and load.

Finally, a chance to prove I would take a bullet if I had to. I was shaking so bad that I dropped the first clip. I quickly recovered and with a flourish that would make Vic Morrow proud, I locked and loaded my first round. What I did not take into account however was that the tender guys, upon hearing security violation and seeing the two of us aimlessly pointing our 45s at the upper lights, would react with their own team which consisted of a lot of Marines with M-16s, shotguns and M-14s. At that point I realized we were probably outgunned.

We were all frozen in time for a few minutes trying to sort out what to do next when the Duty officer came up from down below with his .45. There were some heated words between the two ships but it became apparent that this was nothing more than some drunks trying to exact the last word. We all stood down and I was anxiously waiting for my heart to restart. The next day, a debrief was held and to the Captain’s credit, he gave us some slack. The ship would leave for patrol the next day and we all had a few months to get past the event. I qualified below decks watch and was never again to stand topside watch on the GW.

I carried a .45 a number of other times in my later career.

This time, I made sure that I had more than enough practice and always viewed the duty with a lot more respect. The last time I carried it was during the first Gulf War. I had recently been promoted to CWO2 and was at my first duty station as an officer.

The night the attack in the Gulf started all of the officers were recalled to the command and issued .45s with two clips. We were instructed to keep them with us at all times and be ready. To this very day, I am not sure who thought Holy Loch Scotland was in imminent danger from either Scuds or the Republican Guard, but by jiminy, we were ready to repel boarders on the Los Alamos.  Fortunately our role only lasted for a few days and the weapons were returned to wherever they came from.

Holy Loch 1989

Some lessons about the .45 I will take to my grave:

  • Its better to have one and not need one than the opposite.

  • Even the best gun in the world is almost useless if it isn’t loaded and handled by someone who is trained

  • If you are going to carry it, be prepared to use it. If you pull it, make sure you mean to fire it.

  • A .45, like any other weapon, is useless if you think the guy aiming his gun at you won’t pull the trigger. You might as well just hand him your weapon and bend over and kiss your ass goodbye.

I am glad that I got to be part of history by carrying this venerable old weapon. I am also glad I never had to actually use it .

Mister Mac

 From an interview with Rick Jason, his co star on the series:

Vic Morrow had an absolute dislike of firearms. He used a Thompson submachine gun in our series, but that was work. In any other respect he’d have nothing to do with them. On one of the few days we got off early while there were still several hours of daylight left, I said to him, “I’ve got a couple of shotguns in the back of my station wagon. You want to shoot some skeet?”
Without so much as a pause he responded, “No, thanks. I can’t stand to kill clay.”
He knew he could always break me up and during our five years together he did it quite a bit. His sense of humor happened to tickle my funny bone and he knew he had my number.”

I would have never guessed that.

2018 CMP Update

M1911 sales will be random

Pricing will vary

Seriously: Mail order only!

Sales will take some time

The CMP follows the law

The organization notes that all laws concerning the sale of the handguns will be “strictly obeyed.” And according to longtime CMP members, this will mean a rigorous background check process.

“[It] sounds like, in addition to the normal CMP requirements, you’re going to have to pass an NICS background check in advance and mail that off with all the other normal paperwork,” Gates told Task & Purpose. “They then ship the pistol to your dealer, and then you’ll have to do a second NICS background check and all the relevant state and federal paperwork.”

All of the current information is located at this page:

https://infosource.vet/civilian-marksmanship-program-reveals-plan-for-sale-of-surplus-m1911-pistols/

America’s Day Begins in “Guahan”… (that’s gonna take some getting used to) 8

Ah, Guam, garden spot of the Pacific. “America’s Day Begins in Guam” said the license plates of this little island paradise for many years. Guam (Guahan)  is an organized territory of the United States and has played a key role throughout its long history with the US. It was also a launching point for countless FBM patrols during the Cold War and still serves as a forward sentinel today.

Guam was discovered by Ferdinand Magellan and was a colony of Spain until the Spanish American War when it was surrendered to the United States. It was captured by the Japanese the day after Pearl Harbor and remained in their hands until 1944. There are many stories of the courage of the Guamanian people under the harsh hands of the Japanese invaders. July 21 is commemorated each year as Liberation Day. The last Japanese soldier actually surrendered in January 1972. One can only imagine the shock he must have felt at the sight of the hundreds of B52 jet missions taking off from Anderson.

Guam’s location made it an important part of America’s strategy during the Viet Nam and Cold Wars. Despite being in the path of Typhoon Alley, Guam was an ideal location for air and naval bases which is one of the reasons the US wanted it back from the Japanese.

As any tender or boat sailor who has ever been there can attest, there are only two seasons in Guam: Wet and wetter with an annual rainfall average that comes close to topping 100 inches. The coolest months are generally January and February and the humidity is probably the lowest then.

The military bases comprise nearly 30% of the island’s total land area. This makes it a key hub for all of the US military in the western Pacific. Despite the size of the armed forces and their dependents, there is actually no danger of the island tipping over.

How this Admiral kept a straight face during this questioning period is beyond me.

My first visit to Guam was on my way to meet the USS George Washington for my first patrol. We landed in a contracted jet plane at Anderson Air Force Base and busses took us to Polaris Point to wait on the USS Proteus for the ship to return. The stay on the “Old Pro” was rather interesting since I had never been on a naval ship before. The berthing area was cramped and it was kind of confusing figuring out where to go on the ship to eat.

Proteus early 70s

The USS Proteus (AS 19) was typical of all the early Polaris program support ships. She had been built for WW2, was decommissioned in 1947, and recommissioned in 1960 and modified to handle the Polaris missiles which would be part of the FBM program. For an old ship, she made the rounds. Holy Loch Scotland, Rota Spain, Charleston SC, and of course several long tours in Guam.

USS_Proteus_USS_Partick_Henry_HolyLoch_1961

When I first saw her in Guam, she had just completed an overhaul in Mare Island and a short stop in Hawaii to repair a boiler explosion. She completed a shakedown cruise and relived the USS Hunley in January 1973. She stayed for her final FBM tour until 1978. It is rumored that she was kept afloat all those years by sitting on the standard issue navy ceramic coffee cups that the boomer boys would throw over the side, but I am sure that was just a rumor.

Galley on Proteus

It wasn’t long before we discovered Andy’s Hut. This was a small outpost of entertainment on the harbor with a few types of entertainment and of course some cold beer. If I remember right, the two choices we mostly had at that time were Olympia and Budweiser and both tasted like they were chock full of vitamin formaldehyde.  But we were young and it was Guam. Andy’s Chateau By The Sea was also home to a number of small USO shows that were brought in to keep the sailors and Marines from remembering that they were on Guam.

The boys on the tender worked hard to keep the boats in shape. I think an entire book could be written about the memories of Polaris Point, but that’s for another day. I sincerely thank each and every one who worked so hard to keep us in good shape.

Proteus 80s

My favorite memory of Guam actually came in 1982 when I was on the USS San Francisco. We were in the middle of a West Pac and the wives were permitted to come to Guam and visit us during a pier side overhaul. My wife of a few years made the long plane flight from Honolulu and we were both looking forward to a great reunion together. As the plane circled the island, the pilot told them to buckle in for their approach to Guam. The wives looked out their windows and all said the same thing: “Where is it?” As the plane went lower and lower with no landing field in sight, there was a moments pause for all of the passengers. At the last minute, the plane dropped down on the coral packed runway and finally came to a stop in front of the small terminal.

I was waiting with the other husbands when the wives emerged from the plane and came down the ramp. The most beautiful blue eyed blonde I can ever remember seeing came up to me and said “Hi sailor, waiting for me?”. I held her tight and after a really long kiss she looked at me and said “When I married you I told you I would follow you to the ends of the earth. Well, I am here”.

We had a great visit together and we will always have wonderful memories of that time together. The truth is that many people who have been there over the years have come to appreciate the natural beauty and splendor of this little Paradise in the Pacific.

From a practical standpoint, Guam has once again emerged as an important part of our countries future. She is a forward base for air and naval forces once again and will stand at the crossroads of history for years to come. Just as I once prayed that we would never have to perform the mission of the boomers who sailed from there, I pray that we will never have to use her in future conflicts. Unfortunately mankind does not have a very good track record.

Hafa Adai

Mister Mac