What a great time to have been a submariner… Riding the 711 Boat 3

What a ride

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Of all the adventures in my short life, the one that will always rise to the top is not just one single adventure, but a collection of adventures over a four year period that have one thing in common: They are all related to being a crewmember of the best submarine a man could ever hope for. The USS San Francisco (SSN 711) begins a journey towards her new life as a Moored Training Ship (MTS) on Friday November 4th. There are rumors that she might be delayed a bit, but her path now seems pretty clear. This mighty war ship will be partially dismantled and used to train the next generation of technicians and officers for their roles in the fleet.

The boat was launched on October 27, 1979 in Newport News Shipyard

Just a few days before she was launched, I reenlisted in the Navy after an absence from active duty of a few years. I was newly divorced, tired of living from paycheck to paycheck and ready to try my hand at being a sailor again. The Navy was a life saver for me since the economy in our area was in a serious mess and the prospects of a great future were non-existent. Three things happened in the year that would follow. I would join the crew of the pre-commissioning ship San Francisco, Ronald Reagan would run for President and ultimately win, and I met and married my beautiful wife Debbie. These three events made the adjustments in my life that helped me to achieve many of my unfulfilled goals.

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I missed the launching but didn’t miss anything else related to outfitting the ship. As a member of Auxiliary Division, I helped to put together the non-nuclear machinery thsat would support the ship’s operations and life. I discovered a love for developing and delivering training that would later transfer over to my achieving Master Training Specialist and a Bachelor of Science degree in Workforce Education Development. But I also learned to be a sailor and operate a ship that could do some amazing things.

He ain’t heavy, He’s my Brother

One of the other reasons this was a special assignment was that I was able to serve with my youngest brother Tom. We had a lot of crazy adventures together and one of my favorite memories was pinning my original pewter back Dolphins on Tom when he became qualified in submarines. I would later pin my San Francisco Dress Dolphins on my nephew Artie Anderson who followed in the family tradition of becoming a Submarine Auxiliary man. Tom’s son Theodore was a submariner as well but somehow we lost him to the Nuclear program. But we were very proud of each of them as they found their own paths.

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In the 36 years San Francisco has played a role in defending this country, she has had her share of good fortune and stark terror.

One of the most memorable of course was the collision that occurred a number of years back. I asked the author of the book  Making a Submarine Officer – A story of the USS San Francisco (SSN 711)  Alex Fleming: for permission to post just a small part of that story.

Note:  You can order your own copy here:  https://www.amazon.com/Making-Submarine-Officer-story-Francisco-ebook/dp/B0052YQLWA

January 8th, 2005, 1142 hours, near the Caroline Islands

           : There is a low rumbling which sounds to some like “God crushing a beer can,” and the ship slows instantaneously from 30 knots to 4 knots. The boat is well stowed for sea, so there are no projectiles, but every single person is thrown forward into the nearest vertical object. The people in the chow line end up in a huge pile in middle level. Rome and Litty are on the starboard side of the Diesel in lower level and they land in a heap on the deck. The OOD is thrown out of control, shouting Emergency blow even as he hits his head on a computer screen. The DOOW, Senior Chief Hager, is up out of his chair to update a status board, and he is thrown onto the ships control panel, shattering a gauge. His chair is thrown forward, breaking his leg. The Quartermaster flies fifteen feet forward and lands on the stern planesman, breaking the back of his chair. The JOOD is thrown forward onto the fire control displays in front of him, hitting his head and neck. The men in the smoke pit land on the pumps directly in front of them, except for Ashley, who is thrown forward 20 feet and hits his head on a pump assembly. Every single plate of food is thrown all over the galley. In the wardroom, one officer shoves his fork through his lip, and the Captain watches as one of the mess cooks flies over his shoulder and lands on the flat screen TV on the forward bulkhead.

            The Captain is pinned in his chair, but quickly recovers and runs up to control to find out what happened. He gets there after the Chief of the Watch has already thrown the emergency blow handles, but the ship is not going up. The DOOW is back in his chair, not saying a word about his broken leg, shouting out depths. The ship has a down angle, and it is clear from indications that something serious has happened to the forward ballast tanks. Matt Priests quickly recovers from being slammed against his stateroom wall, and runs back to the ER as he hears an emergency report of “Flooding in the ER.” He knows this is the most serious situation that a ship can have, underwater, doing an emergency blow with flooding in the ER. No submarine can get positive buoyancy with the ER filling with water, and for a moment, Matt is sure that they are all going to die. He quickly finds that the report was an error, and the water is just a leak from a cracked freshwater pipe.

            The Captain and Chief Hager in control are still watching the depth gauge, waiting for it to show upward movement. Finally, after almost a minute, the ship begins to rise, breaking the surface at 1143:52. The next forty minutes are a chaos of emergency reports, calls for the Doc, people trying to respond to ten different casualties, and people trying to care for injured shipmates. In shaft alley, an electrician named Brain Barnes does not know what else to do, so he holds Joey Ashley’s hand and talks to him, waiting for Doc Akin to arrive.”

You will have to buy the book for the rest of the story. I will also be adding the book to my Now Read This section of the blog.

On Friday November 4th, the change will start taking place. It will probably not be dramatic except for all the ghosts who I am sure will be on the pier. I earlier had thought I would not be allowed to go because of my heart issues. But frankly, my heart has never been the same since I left the San Francisco. Service on board her changed my life. I am pretty sure a lot of other people can say the same. It will be my greatest honor to stand on her decks one last time.

Thanks to all those who kept her going all these years. I am proud to have been called shipmate and even prouder to call all of you my shipmates.

Mister Mac (AKA Big Mac)

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Happy 115th Birthday to the United States Navy Submarine Force 3

Of the things I have done in my life, being privileged to be a Submariner is the one thing that stands out the most.

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Looking back in the mirror of over forty years, what made being a submariner so special was a combination of men, machines, methods and materials (as well as the environment we lived in).

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The men were bold and adventurous. In order to surrender your personal freedom and commit part of your life to operating in a steel tube (often for months at a time), you had to have a great sense of boldness. These are the men that forty years later I still call brothers. The shared sacrifice we made cemented that bond. They were the embodiment of trust and loyalty. They still are.

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The machines were part of this experience too. The ones we rode on are all special to us since they took us into the unknown and brought us safely home in most cases. Whether they were named after fish, men, cities or states, they were our boats. Some rode to glory in a haze of diesel exhaust and some silently lurked beneath the surface on an invisible field of power. What made them common was the pressure that pushed against their hulls when they were sent into danger.

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The methods evolved with the technology. The little pigboats that felt almost tethered to the shore were replaced by sleek combat vessels. Despite the horrific loss of 52 of them during World War 2, they emerged with more enemy tonnage sunk per capita than any other combat vessels. Post war, they ran picket duty against the new threat and became platforms for exotic missiles with a powerful projection. These warriors were at the front line of the Cold and Gulf Wars and although their stories will never be fully known, influenced the shape of the world for decades.

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Since Holland’s little boat first broke the surface, the materials have adapted for each new mission. Stronger, quieter, more adaptable to depths unfathomable in the old days, these boats are powerful voices in a world of threats.

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The environment continues to challenge our boats. Sea mountains, hurricanes, typhoons and classified threats to submarine operations will always be the wild cards that increase the risk. Any person who has ridden a submarine into the unknown without being able to see what is ahead knows what it feels like to commit your life to something greater than themselves. But our boats and our people continue to fight them and overcome the odds in the very face of the unknown.

 

Someday we will all stand and have to take account for our lives. On that day, I hope to still be wearing my dolphins. That is a sure way for St. Peter to know that I once did my time in hell and I am ready to come home.

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To my Submariner comrades, I wish you all a Happy Birthday

Mister Mac

The Submariner’s Wife 4

Navy wife… the toughest job in the Navy

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Mrs. Mac spent a few hours underway on the USS San Francisco SSN 711. One of my favorite memories is the dependents cruise from Maui back to Oahu back in the 80’s. I had just qualified as Chief of the Watch and was on watch when it was decided to do an EMBT blow for the families. This was in a more innocent time before the Ehime Maru and USS Greeneville collision.

Mrs. Mac learned all about boarding a submarine that had lost its anchor from a small motorboat in a gently swelling Maui channel. I think that actually scared her more than submerging. Once on board, she settled in to crews mess while I finished up my watch. Four hours later, I rotated back onto the BCP and Debbie got to sit next to me. The Captain came in to control and told the OOD that he wanted to do the blow. He saw Debbie sitting next to me and asked her if she wanted to help.

A million things flashed through my mind but not one of them had anything to do with her being left handed. That simple fact would come into play in a few moments. After we got to depth and speed, he ordered the actuation of the EMBT valves. My beautiful bride reached up with her predominant left hand and pushed the plunger which let loose the 4500 pound beast through the tiny line. The muffler behind the BCP screamed in response which created a momentary freeze in Mrs. Mac’s left hand… the one grasping the aft blow valves. Sensing that this was not going to end well, I pulled her inoperative right hand away from the forward valve and shut the aft.

I have told this story a number of times over the past 32 years and never get tired of embellishing it. Mrs. Mac just smiles patiently as I do retell it and I am sure is thinking that she will ultimately choose which nursing home I get shipped to when all that submarining catches up with me.

She went on to do a stint in the Damage control trainer at Bangor but that’s a story for another time. I hold her in the highest esteem for her service as a submariner’s wife and give her much of the credit for my advancement to Chief and later Chief Warrant Officer.

I know submarining was sometimes hard on me. I believe it was just as hard on her in more than one ways.

Thanks, honey

Mister Mac

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I saw this today and hope you take a few moments to read this re-blog. It speaks a lot about being a submariner’s wife.

http://nonsensegirl.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/the-submariners-wife/

 

Our Homeless Days are Over 10

For my regular readers, I must apologize about the lack of new content recently. Work has been very busy and we have spent most of our free time doing all the chores needed to prove to the bank that we shouldn’t remain homeless. Considering how many of my brother and sister veterans remain homeless, I consider my self to be very blessed.

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We have moved about twenty times in the past 32 years which is pretty incredible if you think about how many moves that truly is. I think the worst period was somewhere in the middle when we moved from Seattle to Hawaii to Scotland and on to Norfolk VA in less than 4 years.

Our new house is in the country with a rolling hill setting and a little pond in the corner. I suppose its not much compared to some, but for us it is a great chance to start over for hopefully the last time. Angus the dog has been for one visit and we are hoping he adjusts to the stairs.

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He had never even seen stairs in the inside of a house prior to where we are staying now so it came as a bit of a shock.

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Did I mention we are in the country?  During one of our early visits, we saw a ten point buck run across the lower end of the lot. A few days ago when I went to let the locksmith in the house I got there just in time to see the blue heron fly away from the pond. I also stopped at the nearby hardware store for a few of what I am sure will be many supplies and met the local security guy named Bob.

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 Bob is a brindle bulldog and very laid back. I think we are going to get along just fine.

Next door were a few bison and the male seemed somewhat upset that the other two were not stampeding. By the time I left, they were.

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Lots of work to do. The pool is closed for the winter and we are putting a new coat of paint and fresh carpets inside. But we are both excited about the possibilities. I will finally have enough wall space to put up all the plaques and pictures from all those years sailing the seven seas. We even have a zombie room which is a lot more fortified than I had hoped it would be.

One of the plaques will be from my days thirty years ago on the USS San Francisco (SSN 711). I am proud of all my boats but she will always have my best memories overall.

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Great crew, great ship. But as I read the news this morning, I saw she is in Korea helping monitor the crazy guy up in Pyongyang. God be with you guys as you sail in a ship that was built with dedicated hands. She has been maintained and repaired through many troubled times. I hope you don’t have to do anything other than just monitor. But I also know you will do your job with integrity and pride.

Me, I will be picking up some more supplies this weekend under Bob’s watchful eye. I’ll say a few prayers too. I am looking forward to country life and will not take kindly to anyone who screws that up.

Mister Mac

They Never Lost Their Will to Win–The Battle of Cape Esperance 2

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The Battle of Cape Esperance, also known as the Second Battle of Savo Island and, in Japanese sources, as the Sea Battle of Savo Island, took place on 11–12 October 1942, and was a naval battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II between the Imperial Japanese Navy and United States Navy. The battle was the second of four major surface engagements during the Guadalcanal campaign and took place at the entrance to the strait between Savo Island and Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.

From August to early October, the Japanese had made numerous attempts to dislodge the force of Marines from Guadalcanal and the surrounding islands. Their overwhelming naval and air presence made life difficult on the islands, in the seas surrounding the islands, and in the air. The Marines at that time were undersupplied and had quickly learned that the weather and mosquitos were as formidable an enemy as the persistent Japanese. Causalities mounted daily and the issue was in doubt many times.

What made the situation worse was the nightly bombardment from the Japanese fleet.

The Japanese sent ships down the “Slot” on a nightly basis and made sure that the airfield and surrounding areas were bombarded with deadly accuracy and frequency. It wasn’t until late September that TF 64 led by Admiral Norman Scott on the USS San Francisco offered a serious countermeasure to the attacks. The scrappy group of cruisers and destroyers took on the new challenge and finally gave the Japanese a barrier to success in the night seas around the islands. That mission came with a heavy cost though for the Americans.

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The USS San Francisco was a well- built warship of the New Orleans Class. Weighing in at around 10,000 tons, she carried a full range of weapons including eight inch and five inch batteries.

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After the losses at Pearl Harbor of the main line of Battleships, the cruisers were the main surface ships left to carry the attack to the enemy. They proved their worth in the months to come as they battled a persistent enemy.

“On 7 October 1942, TF 64 departed from Espiritu Santo, the New Hebrides, and moved back into the Solomons to cover Allied reinforcements and to intercept similar operations by the Japanese. On 11 October, at about 1615, the ships commenced a run northward from Rennel Island, to intercept an enemy force of two cruisers and six destroyers reported heading for Guadalcanal from the Buin-Faisi, Bougainville Island area. The force continued north to approach Savo Island in The Slot from the southwest.

By 2330, when the warships were approximately 6 mi (9.7 km) northwest of Savo Island, they turned to make a further search of the area. A few minutes after setting the new course, radar indicated unidentified ships to the west, several thousand yards distant.

At about 2345, the Battle of Cape Esperance began.

Initial confusion caused both sides to momentarily check their fire in fear of hitting their own ships. Then, the battle was reopened and continued until 0020 on 12 October, when surviving Japanese ships retired toward the Shortland Islands. Salt Lake City, Boise, Duncan and Farenholt, had been damaged. Later, Duncan went down. Furutaka and a destroyer had been sunk during the surface action.” Two more enemy destroyers were sunk on 12 October by Marine planes from Henderson Field. After the engagement, TF 64 retired to Espiritu Santo.”

From that night on, the Japanese no longer owned the night. The sacrifices of so many men and ships paved the way towards ultimate victory in the South Pacific. Admiral Scott and the crews of TF 64 would not have long to celebrate their victories. The coming battles in November would bring the main action at Guadalcanal to a horrific climax under the night skies of Iron Bottom Sound.

Dedicated to the brave men  of TF 64 who fought under the most challenging conditions and never lost their will to win.

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Mister Mac

600 Ships – The Path to Victory started on the 711 3

After the upheavals in the Navy caused by the end of the Vietnam conflict, you can imagine how discouraged many people who wore the uniform were by the time the Carter years were at the three and a half year point. Blend in the miserable economy, high unemployment, interest rates never before seen and you can understand that the country in general was ready for a long stretch of misery.

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The fleet was limping along with limited growth and some of the key programs that were in progress (Trident and the Los Angeles Class submarines) were behind schedule, over budget and on the congressional radar for supposed savings. The entire military was in a sorry state and maintenance and upkeep programs on all types of equipment were falling away.

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Any hopes that the Navy would gain support by having the first Naval Academy graduate as President were swiftly dashed as the nation realized that Carter did not agree that communism was our greatest chief enemy. His policies were really directed to the arms race and support of NATO policies. The real vision for the Navy was to become nothing more than a bus service to troops that would be sent to Europe in case of an event in the central European countries.  According to Nathan Miller, noted historian and writer “ Naval strategists charged with this plan meant the surrender of the Pacific to the Soviets without a fight. “The Naval equivalent of the Maginot Line has been constructed,” declared Navy Secretary Graham Claytor, Jr.” From Nathan Miller’s The US Navy, A History.

History is not kind to the remaining part of the Carter administration as the Middle east proved to be too surprising and too confusing for the hapless administration to deal with. The fall of the Shah in Iran, the rise of fundamentalist Muslim groups in his place, the invasion of Afghanistan and perceived weakness of the US in almost ever corner of the world destroyed most of the remaining credibility the United States had on the world stage. Much too late in the game, the affects of cutting the fleets growth was being felt all around the world.

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Modern war ships are not built in a day. The logistics and planning for these vessels in peacetime are influenced by a great number of factors including politics. Vessels during that era were forced to undergo lengthy deployments with cutbacks in training and preparedness. Breakdowns and lack of crewmembers stretched the already meager resources to the breaking point as Carter was obsessed with the Iranian hostage situation. Morale was at a breaking point and so was the equipment. Neglect is a strategy that only pious old fools think will be successful.

Then came Reagan

Immediately after the inauguration, plans were revealed that would change the Navy back to a three ocean Navy, capable of defending the nation, ensuring freedom of movement in the world’s oceans, and check the growth of the Iranians and other rogue states that would challenge global peace. In the words of the Ronald Reagan, the vow was made to never again be humiliated by the Iranians or anyone else.

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The pre-commissioning unit for the Los Angeles Class Fast Attack was informed that their commissioning ceremony in April of 1981 had just taken on a new significance.

Instead of the usual commissioning that would be viewed by Navy officials and family, the whole world was about to be treated to the ceremony. Two important guests were coming and the new location would be at the aircraft carrier piers in Norfolk Virginia in order to house the press for a special announcement.

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John Lehman, Reagan’s new Secretary of the Navy and Casper Weinberger, Secretary of Defense would bear witness to this proud new ship’s introduction to the fleet. While there, they would announce the most ambitious and costly peacetime buildup of the military and the Navy in the nation’s history. Nearly 500 billion dollars was announced that would be used to build the Navy back to a three ocean Navy of six hundred ships by 1989.

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As a crew member on the ship, I can assure you it was a powerful day.

The arrival of President Reagan in the white house reassured a nation that a new day had come. We would not just drift off into the night as another country without direction and purpose. The enemies who vowed to destroy us would have to face a protracted struggle with a determined nation and a Navy that was once again on the rise. I was proud to be in my dress blues that day. I can assure you that most that I stay in touch with from that time frame agree. Every year on July 11, you will see us in the submarine chat rooms and Facebook wishing each other a happy 711 day.

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Many will say that the Cold War ended for any number of reasons.

My fervent belief is that the end of the Cold War started on that day in April 1981 topside on the deck of the USS San Francisco.

At one  point in the ceremony, the Executive Officer is directed to bring the ship to life. The crew then runs across the brows, down the hatches and up the sail as the ship’s whistle blows. On that day, as we ran, we represented the hundreds of thousands that would follow us in all the uniforms of the services. America was back and we were going to retake our rightful place in the world. This was the turning point that spelled the beginning of the end for the Soviets and the Cold War.

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This country has the resources to defend itself and protect and serve other nations that are not so blessed. We have the capacity to build the best ships (Like the San Francisco SSN 711 which is in its 32nd year of operations). When we have the right leadership, we can overcome any attack and any adversary. Most importantly, we have the right people to man those ships and face dangers from every quarter.

My prayer each day is that the Spirit of Ronald Reagan will speak louder than the people who want to surrender our moral imperative and authority. To assume that other nations will do well by us by out of the goodness of their hearts is ludicrous and flies in the face of history.

When I wish you a happy 711 day, it is with the wish that we do remember the goal of using whatever means needed to defend and protect this great land. The thought of living in a land of delusional fools who believe in the good will of our enemies is too hard to accept.

God Bless America, God Bless the United States Navy, and God Bless the men who have served in and on the USS San Francisco SSN 711.

Mister Mac

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As much as today (April 24) is a day of remembering the great things about the 711 Boat, I thought is was good to also reblog one of the earlier blogs about the heroic crew that saved her (and the one who gave his all).

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Seven years ago, an event happened on the USS San Francisco that serves as a reminder that even in this day of modern technology and science, the ocean is still mightier in its capability to test man’s limitations. On January 8th 2005 at 0243 GMY, she collided with a sea mount resulting in massive damage to the bow section, 23 were wounded as a result of the collision and the tragic death of MM2/SS Joseph Allen Ashley of Akron Ohio occured the next day as a result of his wounds.

Within a very short time of the collision, the emails of previous San Francisco lit up with passed along messages. Speculation was the name of the game which seems to ghoulishly follow all tragedies at sea. The first thought was an underwater collision with another boat but a closer examination revealed that the damage to the sonar dome and the forward…

View original post 734 more words

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Seven years ago, an event happened on the USS San Francisco that serves as a reminder that even in this day of modern technology and science, the ocean is still mightier in its capability to test man’s limitations. On January 8th 2005 at 0243 GMY, she collided with a sea mount resulting in massive damage to the bow section, 23 were wounded as a result of the collision and the tragic death of MM2/SS Joseph Allen Ashley of Akron Ohio occured the next day as a result of his wounds.

Within a very short time of the collision, the emails of previous San Francisco lit up with passed along messages. Speculation was the name of the game which seems to ghoulishly follow all tragedies at sea. The first thought was an underwater collision with another boat but a closer examination revealed that the damage to the sonar dome and the forward ballast tanks was consistent with a much bigger collision: a seamount that was not on the charts available to the San Francisco.

I spent four years on the San Francisco and as a new construction team member, I crawled through every tank and ever void on the boat. As a plank owner, I remember the thrills (and scares) of putting the boat through her paces for Admiral Rickover. I will never forget the added pressure that he instilled in the crew as we did the irregular maneuvers to prove the boat’s sea-worthiness. But we hit every mark and sailed her to Hawaii for her first serious set of tours.

When I heard about the crash, my mind went back to the days of sailing at a high speed transit from one place or another. You can feel the rush of the water down the sides of the hull, every turn results in a feeling of pulling in one direction or another as the boat reacts, and the feel of the boat reacting to the churn of the prop is very noticeable. Crawling into your rack, you push the obvious into the back of your head (if you think of it at all). What if something gets in the way? I am not a great physics scholar but I believe that in my life I have been a great believer in the big physics laws. An object in motion… an object at rest…

For all the patrols and special operations I made on various boats, I consider myself to be incredibly lucky. A few typhoons and one hurricane gave us some real scares (stories for another time), but generally, we made the runs with very few issues. I had confidence on the builders of the boat (having watched them and sometimes helping them). I had great confidence in our Officers and Nav guys. Some of them were a little quirky but then they probably thought the same about A-gangers too. But we always operated the boat with the confidence that comes from being as ready as possible.

Having said that, I can only imagine the terror of lying in your rack and suddenly, with no warning, feeling the boat come hard upon a large sea mount. You can’t see anything, all you can hear is the noise from the collision, feel the uncontrolled stopping motion and the out of control nature of such a hit. I apologize to the crew members that were on board that day because my description only comes from a mixture of memories of operating the boat and an imagination that can’t correctly describe what you felt.

I will not post the gruesome pictures that are plastered all over the internet. As I said, having built the boat, I can feel myself hand over handing the ballast tank and thinking that it was incredibly strong. I know we had to do some hull cuts at one point and I can remember clearly what it took for us to cut through the skin of the shark. I can also remember the fact that the precious air need to conduct an emergency blow is partially contained in those same ballast tanks. I have ridden the boat a number of times from the depths on the cushion of that air and remembered how thankful to know that it was there.

All of us had heard stories about the Thresher and her death ride. The thought of losing that air for any reason was one of my greatest nightmares. Every time I did a rig for sea, this was one of my most stringent tasks. No errors allowed and hand check everything that could be hand checked. If I close my eyes, I can still see the gages on the BCP hoping that 4500 PSI would be enough.

The fact that the crew was able to hold it together long enough to get her back to the surface and then back to port is the greatest example of submarine training I can possibly think of. I remain proud of all submariners for their day to day bravery. This crew demonstrated that what may have seem improbable was indeed possible. It would be an honor and a privilege to serve with any of you guys on any boat anytime.

RIP Joey.

God Bless the Crew of the USS San Francisco

MM2/SS Big Mac

Big Mac in TR SSN 711

(AKA Mister Mac)

Mutiny? Not in my Navy… 2

To the best of my memory (and a search on Google) there has never been a mutiny on board a US Navy submarine. If there ever has been one, I am sure that one of my faithful fact checking readers will be reaching out to me. That’s cool. I hope I am not wrong since it is a really unique thing to be able to say about a force you have been a proud member of. I know there were quite a few folks that were disturbed when Crimson Tide came out for that reason but I never took the movie seriously for SOOOO many reasons. Not the least of which was Gene Hackman’s little pooch in his stateroom.

If you think about it, the absence of a mutiny in our sub forces is as much a statement about our character as anything else. First, you are putting your hands into the lives of a few people every time you dive below the waves. Everybody has to trust that no one in charge of any of the water tight integrity issues has taken any shortcuts. Even the most mundane rig for dive items must be accounted for and verified. An example of that is what happened one night before we got underway right after the shipyard period for new construction was finished on the San Francisco (SSN 711).

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The DCA and I were completing our rig for dive procedures which included the verification of the Emergency Blow system. We had hand checked every valve forward and were finishing up in shaft alley. It had been a really long day and it was close to midnight. The last check that we had was the stowage of the valve hand wheels in their proper place in the overhead. The DCA was a very thorough guy and wanted to make sure they were rigged so that they would not fall out of the overhead at the wrong time. As he checked the last one, he slipped a bit and lost his footing. The reason he slipped was because the valve was supposed to be pinned in place but was a defective pin. That valve hand wheel escaped from its holder, through his fingers and directly onto the top of my foot about 10 feet below the Lieutenant.

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At 32 feet per second squared, it did not have much time to reach full velocity at ten feet. The weight was enough though to have a serious impact on my right foot (right behind the place where the steel toe stopped. I am kind of a pain wimp so the blinding and searing feeling I had right at that moment reduced me to a sobbing mess. Now in my defense, we had been working twenty hour days in preparation for the dive and I was a little burned out but frankly, I fell backwards pretty quickly and only remember being strapped in the stretcher and dragged thru the engine room.

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When we got to the after escape trunk, it was a little crowded. Someone had made the decision back in shaft alley to remove my foot ware. I had my arms strapped in the stretcher which was actually a good thing since Tisdale was guiding the stretcher and used my now naked foot to clean off any dirt that may have been on the sides of the chamber going up. It kind of made it hurt worse. I got a fast ride to the Naval Hospital and my wife broke a few laws getting down to be by my side. Despite my best efforts (and Tisdale’s help) nothing was actually broken. I returned to the ship and made the dive.

We trust each other to do the right thing. If not, we die. So it really is a mark of pride that we have made so many thousands of dives in all kinds of conditions and wars (Hot and Cold) without a single mutiny.

Other Navies have not been so successful in achieving 100%

The end of World War 1 in late 1918 found the German Navy in a very peculiar position. On land, the German Army had been stretched to its limits and the arrival of the Americans changed the balance of power immensely. The German Navy was still a credible force in many ways and even in the later part of the war, submarines were still able to have some influence. In my research about Mutinies, this story was particularly interesting. From uboat.net:

http://uboat.net/history/wwi/part6.htm

“In November 1918, SM U 135 (Kptlt. Johannes Spieß) was given what can only be called the most peculiar U-boat mission of all times: actions against ships of its own navy. Together with the 4th Torpedo boat Half-Flotilla, SM U 135 ended a mutiny aboard two German battleships (SMS Thüringen and SMS Helgoland) with the threat of torpedoing the ships. But mutiny was still spreading amongst German ships and even the ace of aces, Lothar von Arnauld de la Periere, returning from his first and last patrol with the new U-cruiser SM U 139, where he was very nearly killed by his last victim *, was forced to hand over his command to the mutineers.

wwi_pic17

The strange mission of SM U 135, however, was the last U-boat action of the war. From late November 1918 until April 1919, according to armistice conditions, the 176 operational U-boats ** were handed over to Britain and interned in Harwich, partly under abasing conditions for the Germans: The White Ensign had to be hoisted on top of the Kaiser’s Ensign as if the boats were taken as prizes by the Royal Navy and the British sailors looted the boats, stealing all loose equipment they could lay hands on. The U-boats, all in all representing a value of about 207 million Gold Mark, rusted in port until they were dispersed among the allies ***, used for tests and later scrapped. Many nations, among them the USA and Japan, took advantage of the high technological standard of the German boats and built new classes of submarines after their German models – although the copies were never as good and as successful as the originals. In the Treaty of Versailles, which by the whole of Germany was regarded as extremely unjust, the defeated, diminished and humiliated German Empire was prohibited to build or possess U-boats in its minute fleet, which was reduced to a shadow of its former self.”

I am not sure how I would feel if I was a German U Boat commander. On the one hand, you have been trained all of your life to follow orders. But at that point in the war, the Kaiser had proven himself to be a man with limited understanding of the consequences of his actions. The mutineers at that time were “infected” with the disease of communism and saw a justifiable reason to overthrow a government that had so foolishly plunged a nation into war and now disastrous defeat.

I am sure it can’t have been easy. Their guys were some of the bravest and some of the best submariners in the world. So here is the question:

At what point does patriotism and loyalty towards a cause that has proven itself so vile that you feel the need to react?

Does the Constitution still need to be followed? If the leader of the country does not follow the same rules he wishes others to follow, how long is it before people say enough? Where will we find men and women brave enough to say enough?

Just a question. Is it November yet?

Mister Mac

With the way things are going right now, I really wish we had another escape trunk to get out of when the boat starts going down.

Angles and Dangles 1

USS%20San%20Francisco%20(SSN%20711)%20patchA

I think every sub guy has his favorite boat and as I have indicated before, my favorite was the USS San Francisco (SSN 711).

Maybe it was because I was on the pre-com crew and saw her come to life. Maybe it was just the combination of characters that served on her (many of us for four years). Maybe it was the way she was configured to carry conventional weapons and act as a true hunter killer. But whatever the reason, she was just an awesome boat.

C _ 711 Fleet Week 1981

Like any submarine, we drilled and prepared for any number of routine and emergency operations. I loved being in the control room and I especially loved being the Chief of the Watch. Everything around you is carefully rehearsed and its like a symphony of activity where each instrument adds something to the spirit of the evolutions. Even seemingly routine evolutions like snorkeling have a touch of excitement as you remember that you are on a moving boat under water in a sea that could contain any number of surprises.

Hartford3[1]

USS Hartford

Any failure of any of the numerous safety devices could send the boat on an unexpected depth excursion.

A stuck induction valve could result in thousands of pounds suddenly rushing down into the ventilation system resulting in a disastrous outcome. In many cases, the ability of the crew is the only thing that spells the difference between survival and death.  The halls of submarine history in the cold war are filled with stories of recovering from the unexpected. Even the San Francisco survived an almost unimaginable tragedy.

N _ Drydock

It was not surprising though that the Navy kept her alive after the event that nearly sank her. It is a testament to the shipyard who built her and the men who have maintained her all these 30 plus years. The clip below is a recent visit with some civilians that show her importance even today:

 

USS San Francisco SSN 711 30 years and beyond

One of the exercises the visitors got to experience was something called angles and dangles.

These events help the submarine and her crew to practice for a number of casualty responses. They also serve another key purpose besides testing the ship and crew. They are used to shake out the things which are not stowed for sea.

Stowed for sea

Everything on a submarine has its place. Every big thing has a proper way to be stowed. The best way to test whether or not the crew properly did its job is to subject the boat to twenty degree excursions (both up and down). High speed turns also cause the boat to do some pretty unusual things. Anything that is improperly secured will be dislodged and cause a good deal of embarrassment to the division and individuals who took short cuts or didn’t do the right thing. Fleshing out these imperfections is a tradition as old as submarines.

Discovery at the wrong time can be fatal

As embarrassing as it is for a heavy tool or piece of equipment to go flying during angles and dangles, imagine what it would be like for that to happen in the heat of the chase? Sound transmits very well through the water and even a dropping hammer can warn the enemy of your presence. The results can be devastating in times of critical national danger.

The Primaries

I hear a lot of people complain about how the Republicans are tearing into each other during the current primary process. There may be some excesses but truthfully, I want there to be an honest vetting of all of the candidates. You can bet that any loose ends will come undone during the actual election and its just too important that all of the flaws and weaknesses are revealed now. There needs to be a solid alternative offered if the country is to get past the current regime.

Sit back and enjoy the ride. If you need to go to your rack,

don’t forget your speed strap.

Mister Mac

ORO EN PAZ, FIERRO EN GEURRA