Submarines: “from a boy to a giant”

theleansubmariner

One of my favorite pastimes is discovering unique stories about the United States Submarine force and the development through the ages.

There is no better witness to the phenomenal growth than that of one of the most profound influences on submarine operation and development: Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz. The most fascinating thing about this man was that he came from such a humble beginning in Fredericksburg, Texas where he originally desired an appointment to the Military Academy. Fortunately for the world, he failed to gain entry and instead went to the Naval Academy where he graduated  with distinction in his class.

His service record is covered elsewhere but one thing was common throughout was his understanding of the potential for a submarine force even when the very idea was being kept in check by the Admirals.

The Navy published a series of submarine brochures but these quotes come from the…

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USS George Washington SSBN 598 – First and Finest

theleansubmariner

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

A Global Cold War Warrior

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

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

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Fur Baby Mickey

Fur Baby Mickey

By John Petersen

Up in the morning for yet another day,

the same old routine of shower, coffee and on your way.

Most likely the wife and kids are still fast asleep,

You do all you can to get ready, without making a peep.

You know they won’t wake up, at this time they’re knocked out,

yet there is one member of the family who simply can’t let you out.

She came to you so long ago, a little thing with big feet and long ears,

with eyes that cannot be ignored, even after all these years.

Her love and devotion to you is relentless,

the attention she seeks from you seems endless.

You’ve allotted some time in your morning routine,

to give her the time she needs not only with you but to do her ‘thing’.

Off to work you go, and she’ll wait…

She’ll play with the kids and bark at the random bug,

she’ll lay in the middle of the floor in every bodies way.

She’ll dump her water dish after taking one or two slurps,

she’ll jump at the chance that with her someone will want to play.

If not, she’s patient, for in her mind she knows, there’s a clock in her mind,

It’s almost time…

“Daddy will be home soon, this I know, for it comes at always the same time.

Mom and the little ones, they brought me home one cold night,

and they presented me to Daddy, as a gift to his heart’s delight!

I was so tiny, away from my siblings in a new and strange place,

but to be held in his arms so close, the connection made my heart race!

Puppy chow and pee-pee pads, continual trips to the vet, a baby gate at the bathroom door,

crying all night for someone to answer, I know in my training I was a chore.

But I’m grown now…

It’s almost time, I can tell by how the family is suddenly doing things,

Daddy will be here soon, everyone is smiling and my little heart sings!

I can’t stay still, I’m running all around!

My hearing is unapproached, the thing he rides in I know the sound!

At the screen door, I cannot hold my delight,

My Daddy is home and within my sight!!

The family is happy to greet him, oh yes they are,

But I am just as happy to see my Daddy as he walks from his car!

my kisses may be sloppy, all wet and slobbery and such,

But I’m Daddies furbaby, and his Love is a gentle touch.

But now I’m older…

I don’t move as fast as I used to, most sounds I cannot hear.

I sleep a lot more these days, especially next to someone near.

I have ‘accidents’ now and then, to be expected, I guess,

Yet you never get mad at me when cleaning up the mess.

And yet after all these years, you tell me while scratching behind my ears,

That no one can ignore my eyes, the ones you hold so dear.

I love my hoomans”!

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Sailors Helping Sailors

Sailors Helping Sailors

By Garland Davis

Hambone’s story and a conversation with him on Facebook Chat about the Petty Officers Club in Yokosuka, also known as the Asshole Locker reminded me of this story.

I was CS1, leading cook in USS Mahopac. I got into a conversation with a CS1, the leading cook in USS Chandler. He was telling me they were getting ready to deploy and he had a problem. The only cook who knew hot to bake bread had transferred. He told me that he had never worked as a baker and didn’t know how to train a cook to do the job.

I started explaining to him the steps in the process for yeast-raised bread and pastry doughs. He was scribbling furiously in a wheel book and asking questions that could only be answered by a hands-on demonstration. We decided that I would come to the Chandler the next evening and hold a class in bread baking.

The next night we mustered in Chandler’s galley. I took the CS1 and two of his cooks through the process of baking yeast raised rolls by actually baking thirty loaves of bread and cinnamon rolls for breakfast.

It being a Friday night, Saturday morning we mustered at the Club where I was treated to many free drinks.

Many times, problems were solved, help was asked for, and received between fellow Petty Officers over a few drinks at the P.O. Club.

With the heightened security these days. I probably couldn’t get past the Quarterdeck of a ship unless I was ship’s company.

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Getting Trained and Respect:

Getting Trained and Respect:

By Jim ‘Hambone’ Hampton

I reported to the MacKenzie DD-836 in Yokosuka in Oct 1961. I was told I would be a BT. Didn’t know what it was. Then the CHENG pointed to this little short Mexican and said, he is your boss. He was 5′ 3″ tall. Until I was transferred for Separation in May 65 he was my boss and the meanest SOB I ever met.

I caught him at BT2. Joe (by God) Bibanco was his name. By god, I told you, many things.

Time passes and I am transferred to Sterett in June 1968.

We go back to Yoko, I make BT1 and I walk into the PO Club for a liquid lunch.

There sits old Joe. Now a BT1 back on the MacKenzie from the Blue DD-744.

Joe wanted to take leave. He had a BT2 that was dedicated but not too sharp.

So Joe asked me to meet the guy in the club every day and go over his work list and answer his questions. So I did.

But of course he had a Leslie regulator all torn apart by a BT3 and no one knew how to reassemble it.

So I carry my sorry ass over to the After Fireroom on the Mac after liberty call.

I gave a lesson on how to put new parts in it as I put it back together. I handed it to the BT2 who had twice the amount of time in the Navy as I did. Can you supervise putting it back on the pump I asked? Yes, sir, he responded.

I laughed my ass off. I was 25 then.

But old Joe thanked me and got me drunk.

But the point I am trying to make is.

A former FA had grown up and caught him as First Class.

He was the first person I called when I made Master Chief.

He passed in 2000 from Prostate Cancer. He was buried at sea off the Carrier Stennis.

We remained friends until he died. I think of him often.

Rest Easy Joe

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Life in a Steel Pipe

Life in a Steel Pipe


by Bob ‘Dex’ Armstrong

My daughter said, “Dad, it looks like all you did was have fun…” I guess it looks that way to folks who never did what we did for a living. Most people have no idea what life was like inside one of those steel monsters. People always ask… “When you were underwater, could you see out?” They have the idea that submarine duty is like riding a glass bottom boat in Tarpon Springs, Florida… We just enjoyed life and watched fish go scooting by.

Walt Disney caused folks to think like that. In his rendition of the Jules Verne version of submarine service, his boat had a big glass window… Folks sat in big, overstuffed red velvet chairs, smoked imported tobacco, drank sherry, and watched the crew go out some magic hatch and play grab-ass all over the ocean floor. That boys and girls, is pure, unadulterated bullshit… Strictly 20,000 Leagues of Grade A horse manure.

You can’t see out… It’s hot… It stinks… You’re cooped up in less moving around room than you have in your garage. You share your living space with very active, one-inch long, multi-legged wildlife and 80 two-legged critters.

Without stupid activity, life could become unacceptably boring. There were times when life was so uneventful, you could actually hear your toenails growing.

So we did nutty stuff. We spent hours thinking up stupid stuff to do. It was either that, or a trip to the loony bin. When you lived in the North Atlantic, the only circus that came to town was the one you created in your head. We had to manufacture any fun we had.

For example… Only boat sailors will think this is funny… Why? Because they did it. If any submariner tells you he never pulled this one… He’s lying.

When you got some JG or fresh ‘out of the cabbage patch’ lieutenant standing the diving watch… You waited. You waited until he had trimmed the boat. Then by twos and threes, you made your way to the forward room… You waited some more. Then all of you moved by ones… Twos… Until all of you were in the after room. The boat would take on weird angles… The diving officer compensated… The trim manifold operator laughed as he responded to instructions…

“Pump 500 lbs. aft… No, forward… Wait… Make that after trim… Forward trim… Belay my last… Make that zero bubble! More dive on the stern planes… What the hell’s going on? What’s happening??? Boat’s really acting weird…”

It never took long for the COB to get a handle on what was going on.

There was another outbreak of crew lunacy on Requin… Most possibly the best… At the very least, the most memorable.

If you visit the Requin in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she’s sitting out in the river in front of Three Rivers Stadium. If you go through the boat, you will find a little aluminum fish dangling over the control room chart table… Hanging down on a bead chain with the legend ‘ODIN’ die-stamped in the aluminum.

They’ve got tour guides… Non-qual wanna-be fellows who make up answers for John Q. Public to cover what they have not the slightest clue about. There are as many stories about that little fish as there are tour guides.

Here is the straight dope. I was there… I was one of the idiots involved in it and had a front row seat in the “I will shoot the next Viking” major ass chewing.

Stuart was the primary instigator… A major player and father of that aluminum fish. I am not ratting on a fellow shipmate… Far from it. At reunions, Stuart is a celebrity… He starred in a video, signs autographs and I am told, will contract to father children for anyone wishing to have a certified diesel boat maniac in their family tree. Knowing Stu, it would probably fall out of the tree and land on its head. Stuart deserves the credit line on this one.

It was winter… Up north, cold as a witches’ tit… We had rigged in all the brass monkeys. Before we singled up and took in the brow, we got this film, The Vikings. Great flick. Some other boat in SUBRON SIX gave it up, as I recall, because we got orders that didn’t allow time for a movie run.

We showed it the first time, the second day out… Good movie. We then saw it six or seven times in a row. Weird story… If you haven’t seen it, rent the video. Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Ernest Borgnine, and I think Curtis’ wife at the time… Some good lookin’ blonde.

The Vikings were a ratty-ass looking bunch. They did a lot of drinking… Fondled a lot of blonde, blue-eyed women and went to sea on a regular basis. It sounded familiar…

One night, someone announced that we, the crew of the Requin, had to be the spiritual descendents of the Vikings. WHAM!! In that instant, we all became Vikings. Everyone spoke in Scandinavian, Minnesotan, Inger Stevens dialect.

“Ja Sven, you see da cheef? He’s da beeg fella wit da beeg moudt!”

Everybody got into it. The skipper became Ragnar… The exec, Einar… We turned our foul weather jackets inside-out so the brown, hairy looking fake fur stuff was on the outside. We made cardboard horns and stapled them to both sides of our watch caps. When we passed each other going fore and aft, we banged our chests and yelled, “O-O-O-DIN!” (Taken from what they did to greet each other in the film).

In the movie, this old crone, old wrinkled wise woman, gives Tony Curtis this fish made from a ‘falling star’ i.e. meteorite… It was magnetic and was considered to be major magic because it always returned to point north. With this fish always pointing north, the film had Viking ships cutting through pea soup fog and running back and forth between Norway and England like a cross-town bus. Stu went down in the pump room and built us an aluminum fish and die stamped “ODIN” on it.

He hung it from the MC box over the control room chart table… It dangled and swung back and forth. Every time some clown from the after battery would pass through the control room, he would give it a little ‘start swinging’ tap. This eventually drove the Chief of the Boat stark raving nuts! He would foam at the mouth… Get red… Veins would pop out of his neck… Words like, “God save us from these unruly children” and “In the Old Navy, the old man would rake your useless butts over the coals.”

Why did ODIN stay where he was? Simple… The skipper liked it.

As time passed and we became more and more ‘Viking’, the exec put on his “Enough is enough” voice and announced over the 21MC that the crew of Requin had just gotten out of the Viking business… All stop… Don’t answer anymore Viking bells… Over… El stoppo.

Ten minutes later, some idiot tapped into the 21MC and whispered,

“ODIN LIVES… O-O-O-DIN…”

The exec lit us up like a Christmas tree. From then on, we looked around for officers before giving each other the silent Odin salute.

When we came in and the exec opened his vertical uniform locker and removed his ‘hit the beach’ hat, it had grown a pair of cardboard horns. It had to be a miracle because the COB used everything but truth serum to get the rats to rat on whoever did it. I think the Chief finally recognized that the leadership of Requin may have pissed Odin off.

All the exec said was,

“You sonuvabitches never comprehend when the game’s over and it’s time to pick up your toys and put them away!”

He was a deep thinker… We had no idea what in the hell the man was trying to communicate… We knew if he was really serious, he wouldn’t be standing topside talking to the OD of the USS Grampus wearing a hat with cardboard horns attached to it.

Life was uneventful so we fought boredom any way we could. Most of the time submarine sailors won.

Forty years later, a group of late middle age bastards stood in the control room and watched Stu, the originator, replace ‘ODIN’… And we yelled, “O-O-O-DIN…” and banged our chests. We were young again and someone in the crew’s mess yelled,

“Jeezus, the idiots are at it again!!”

 

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