My Hitch, My Boats (1960-1968)

Submarine Training School

Basic Enlisted Submarine School (BESS) is the U.S. Navy’s submarine training school for enlisted sailor at Naval Submarine Base New London (NAVSUBASE NLON) in Groton, Connecticut, across the Thames River from New London. The school is a six-week introduction to the basic theory, construction and operation of nuclear-powered submarines. In the 1960s, it still trained for diesel, snorkel submarines. The course includes instruction on shipboard organization, submarine safety and escape procedures. This program requires passing extensive mental screening.

There are four high risk simulators at the school with which each student must prove proficiency:

  • Fire Fighting – Students are instructed in the differences between submarine and surface ship fire fighting and the special equipment used in sub-surface fire fighting.
  • Damage Control – Sailors are required to patch leaks and seal ruptured pipes before their compartment completely floods.
  • Submarine Escape – Personnel learn how to successfully escape from a disabled submarine.
  • Ship Control – i.e. “Dive And Drive.” Students learn how to steer and dive/rise the submarine.

covertraining_tower_new_londonFor 3 months, my classmates and I studied all the working systems of a WWII type diesel submarine. We practiced flooding and fire emergencies in simulators, exercised at sonar tracking and torpedo firing at simulated enemy submarines and ships, and practiced emergency escape procedures.

At this time the first 5 of what were to become the “41 for Freedom” Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines (FBMs) had already been launched and there was an urgent need to get them staffed with fully trained crews. Consequently, our class did not make an actual dive with a training sub as had been the norm but were hurried on through to graduation.

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4th from right, front row

In September of 1961, I graduated and was sent to the USS Amberjack (SS522). During the 60s, you first had to earn your Dolphins (qualify on subs) before the navy would send you on for a year of Nuclear Power training.

USS Amberjack (SS-522)

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Guppy II configuration as she looked when I served aboard her. The deck guns were removed during the GUPPY conversions.

522-patchDisplacement: 1,570 (surf.), 2,415 (subm.)
Length: 311′ 8″, Beam: 27′ 3″
Draft: 15′ 5″ (mean), Speed: 20.25 k. (surf.), 8.75 k. (subm.)
Complement: 81
Armament: 10 21″ torpedo tubes, 1 5″ deck gun, 1 40-mm. deck gun
Class: BALAO

The second AMBERJACK (SS-522) was laid down on 8 February 1944 at the Boston Navy Yard, launched on 15 December 1944 sponsored by Mrs. Dina C. Lang, and commissioned on 4 March 1946, Comdr. William B. Parham in command. The first submarine with this name, USS Amberjack (SS219), was sunk by the Japanese torpedo boat Hiyodori on 16 February 1943, less than 9 months after commissioning. To read more about the exploits and loss of the SS219, you can read her skipper’s two written war patrol reports and his radioed reports of the third patrol up until the time of her sinking. Click here to read the very poignant story.

Following shakedown training in the West Indies and in the Gulf of Mexico, AMBERJACK reported on 17 June for duty with Submarine Squadron (SubRon) 8. Operating out of the Submarine Base, New London, Conn., she conducted training missions in the North Atlantic, and, in November 1946, made a cruise above the Arctic Circle. In January 1947, the submarine entered the Portsmouth (N. H.) Naval Shipyard for extensive modifications and thereafter spent about a year undergoing a “Guppy” II conversion (from greater underwater propulsive power) during which her hull and sail were streamlined and additional batteries and a snorkel were installed to increase her submerged speed endurance, and maneuverability. In January 1948, she reported for duty with SubRon 4 based at Key West, Fla. She operated along the east coast and in the West Indies for a little more than 11 years. Her schedule included the development of tactics and independent ship exercises, type training, periodic overhauls and fleet exercises. During this period, she also visited numerous Caribbean ports. In July of 1952, AMBERJACK was transferred to the newly established SubRon 12, though she remained based at Key West and her employment continued as before.

The January 1950 edition of National Geographic Magazine has a 23 page article on the Navy in Key West with many pictures of the Amberjack and her crew. The author was on board during the steep ascent made famous in the photo at the bottom of this page.

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Amberjack snorkeling off Key west in 1950

Early in August 1959, after more than 11 years of operations out of Key West, the submarine’s home port was changed to Charleston, S.C. She arrived there on the 8th and reported for duty with her former squadron, SubRon 4. While working out of her new home port, AMBERJACK’s operations remained much as they had been before with one significant difference: she began making deployments to European waters. In August, September and October of 1960, the submarine participated in a NATO exercise before making a week-long port visit to Portsmouth, England. She returned to Charleston late in October and resumed her normal duties.  Between May and September of 1961, the warship deployed to the Mediterranean Sea for duty in the 6th Fleet.

I reported on board on 9 Sep 1961 in Charleston, South Carolina as a Seaman 1C, ET striker. My assignment for the first two weeks was that of a mess cook which was part of the initiation routine. We immediately left for sea as a hurricane was approaching and all USN ships were to put to open ocean in order to keep from pounding against the piers. We had been in the middle of some repairs that left us unable to submerge so we had ride it out on the surface. We tossed about like a coconut in the surf and I was constantly seasick for several days as we weathered huge seas. We couldn’t go out on deck so I had to lug garbage cans through the control room, up a ladder to the conning tower, and up another ladder to the bridge. Then I had to wait for the correct roll angle so that the garbage wouldn’t land on the deck when I dumped the contents over the side. All without vomiting along the way. If I did a good job the Conning Officer would let me stay topside for awhile to get some fresh air in my face. After the initiation period, I became a regular member of the Electronics gang in the Operations Department.

My duties included standing radar and electronic counter measures watches and maintaining the equipment. I rotated through helm, diving control and lookout watch stations, and my battle station was at the bow planes control station as I was pretty good at holding the ordered angle on the boat.

We made frequent stops in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where we ran sound profiles at the South Florida Testing Facility. The sea bed dropped to 600 feet within 3 miles of shore so it made for an ideal test range. We’d tie up at a commercial pier in Port Everglades, leave in the morning, run up and down the range most of the day and return to Fort Lauderdale liberty in the evening. While on this duty we would run Port and Starboard watches (typical in port) rather than 3 watches as at sea. Sometimes we’d leave one of the 2 watch sections ashore for liberty as we only needed 1 watch for the day. They just had to be back at the pier in time to tie us up. After a day on the town they sometimes had trouble catching the heaving lines.

On non-operational days we’d hold Open House on the boat for local visitors. We used to joke that the reason for us being there so often was because the skipper had a girlfriend there. I know many of the guys on the boat did.

We also stopped in Key West when patrolling the waters between Florida and Cuba. In 1962, we participated in a major fleet exercise, “Spring Board”. We and several other subs shadowed and “attacked” the military flotilla each night on the way to Puerto Rico. We were based in San Juan when not transporting and “locking out” Navy SEALs while submerged so they could “invade” Vieques Island in their rubber rafts.

Today it’s not uncommon for the boats to have armed personnel topside when entering constricted waters. But back then we didn’t have much experience with small arms except for occasional “shark shoots” after swim call. Aside from carrying a .45 when standing OOD, I only carried a sidearm one other time. Our crypto machine had been malfunctioning and needed to go to a secure shop at the Charleston base for maintenance. As I was fast tracked for the Nuclear program, I had already been vetted for a Secret security clearance. So the Operations Officer and I bundled the machine up in a locked canvas satchel with vent holes designed to sink to the bottom if we had to toss it off the pier. Then we each loaded our .45s, took hold of the satchel’s 2 handles and walked it up the pier and across the Navy yard to a building where 2 armed Marines signed for it and took it into a room behind a vault like door.

I earned my first Dolphins after qualifying as a Submariner on AMBERJACK in March of 1962. At the time, it took about 7 months to learn all the systems, controls and watch stations necessary for qualification.  In June, I was transferred to Nuclear Power Training School in Bainbridge, Maryland, to join the class starting that month.

After a three-year interlude operating along the east coast and in the West Indies, AMBERJACK made another Mediterranean cruise between 7 July and 1 November 1964.  She spent the ensuing 29 months working out of Charleston.  In 1967, the submarine made a three-month deployment to the Mediterranean between 23 April and 24 July.  On 2 September 1969, following another 25 months of operations along the east coast and in the West Indies, she embarked upon her last Charleston-based tour of duty in European waters during which she participated in another NATO exercise with units of the British, Canadian, and Dutch navies.  At the conclusion of the exercise, AMBERJACK visited a number of ports in northern Europe before returning to Charleston on 12 December 1969.

On 9 July 1970, AMBERJACK arrived in her new home port, Key West, her base for the remainder of her service in the American Navy.  She made her last deployment to the Mediterranean between 27 November 1972 and 30 march 1973.  On 17 October 1973, AMBERJACK was decommissioned at Key West, and her name was struck from the Navy list.  That same day, she was transferred to the Brazilian Navy and commissioned as CEARA (S-12).  As of the end of 1984, she was still active in the Brazilian Navy.  In about 1995, I met a business associate in Brasilia who was in the Brazilian Naval Reserve. He confirmed that the AMBERJACK/CEARA was still in operation at that time.

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The USS Pickerel (SS524) also recorded a very steep ascent. Here is one report of her experience:

pickerel 48Pickerel (SS-524), surfacing at a 48 degree up angle, from a depth of 150 feet, during tests off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii, 1 March 1952. “The purpose of this operation was to enable the Navy’s submarine experts to evaluate the sub’s capabilities and characteristics of the GUPPY-snorkel type sub. This picture was taken from Sabalo (SS-302). Her sonarmen kept Pickerel under observation while she was submerged and preparing to surface. During Pickerel’s maneuvering the sonar gear delivered the constantly changing relative bearing which enabled the photographers to make this shot as she broke the surface.” Note: The official record of the “surfacing” pictured above is that it started at 150 feet and reached a 48 degree up-angle. From a crew-member manning the helm during this evolution: “We started at 250 feet, flank speed. The surfacing order included ‘use 60 degrees’ (the highest reading on the -bubble-type’ angle indicator). “We overshot, and lost the bubble at 65 degrees. The maximum angle (72 degrees) was calculated later by the highwater marks in the Pump Room bilges. Thinking back, even with the bow sticking above water up to the bridge fairwater, the screws wouldn’t have been much above where we started, still pushing us upward. “First message from the Queenfish (SS-393) which was accompanying us: ‘What is the specific gravity of your Torpedo Room bilges?’ “As you may imagine, the C.O. was something of a competitive wildman, pushing to find out what the limits were for these new GUPPY boats, after putting up with the older WW2 boats. And, we had to beat the Amberjack’s (SS-522) record of 43 degrees.”

Click here to watch an explanation, by the actual Diving Officer, of how the Pickerel achieved this angle.

Nuclear Power Training School

The Navy’s Nuclear Power School is a technical school operated by the U.S. Navy to train personnel for shipboard nuclear power plant operation and maintenance of surface ships and submarines in the U.S. nuclear navy. The United States Navy currently operates 102 total nuclear power plants including 70 submarines (each with one reactor), 11 aircraft carriers (USS Enterprise has 8 reactors and all others have 2 each), and 4 training/research prototype plants.

I don’t recall whether I took a special test during the recruiting process or if my high school transcripts were sufficient but today prospective enlisted enrollees in the Nuclear Power Program must have a qualifying score on the ASVAB exam, may need to pass a general science exam, and must undergo a NACLC investigation for attaining a “Secret” security clearance as we did back then.

Enlisted personnel graduate from Nuclear Field “A” School for rating as Machinist’s Mate (MM), Electrician’s Mate (EM), or Electronics Technician (ET) and are advanced to the rank of a Third Class Petty Officer. In my case it was ET”A” school but there was no automatic advancement to E4, that had to be earned separately.

After “A” school, I went to Submarine Training School and then to a diesel submarine to qualify and earn my first Dolphins. I then was sent to 24 weeks of class room study at Bainbridge, Maryland. Originally, the school was located at the Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut. It was moved in 1962 to (the now former) Naval Training Center Bainbridge, Maryland. Mine was the first class to be assigned there for study.

Then to the S1C Reactor facility at Windsor Locks, Connecticut, for another 24 weeks of instruction at the Nuclear Power Training Unit. This training involved the operation and maintenance of nuclear reactors. Graduates of NPTU are qualified nuclear operators and continue on to serve in the fleet. The enlisted school has a very high academic attrition rate.

Sailors in the nuclear ratings account for 3% of the enlisted Navy. While the rigorous training program differs in terms of content for the officers and enlisted ratings, the following topics are provided to all program attendees:

• Mathematics
• Nuclear physics
• Electrical power theory and generating equipment
• Nuclear reactor technology
• Thermodynamics
• Chemistry
• Materials science and metallurgy
• Health physics
• Reactor principles

The nuclear program is widely acknowledged as having the most demanding academic program in the U.S. military. The school operates at a fast pace, with stringent academic standards in all subjects. Students typically spend 45 hours per week in the classroom, and are required to study an additional 10 to 35 hours per week outside of lecture hours, six days per week. Because the classified materials are restricted from leaving the training building, students cannot study outside of the classroom.

031813_2347_2At the time I was at Bainbridge, the base was used primarily for a school for Radioman strikers fresh out of boot camp and a recruit training facility for female enlisted personnel. Our little piece of the base was segregated from the other operations. All of us in the Nuke program had had one or more years of sea duty including overseas ports of call. We were pretty “salty” compared to others on the base. Our CO was frequently asked by the WAVE Commanding Officer to keep us “randy hooligans” away from her girls.

We lived in large, two man cubicles in a special barracks. We were allowed to have sofas, reclining chairs, refrigerators and anything else we could scrounge up to ease the heavy study burden. I remember that after finishing our studies at 9 or 10 at night we would drive out to a local truck stop diner and eat huge plates of eggs, hash browns and bacon before turning in for the night.

slide_ruleFailing scores due to personal negligence, rather than a lack of ability, could result in charges of dereliction of duty under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Failing students could be held back to repeat the coursework with a new group of classmates, but such students were typically released from the Nuclear Power program to serve out their enlistments elsewhere. My final exam consisted of solving a problem in reactor design. All calculations had to be shown. Remember this was in the days before PCs or even hand held calculators. All the computations had to be done with slide rules!!! We even had arguments over the best slide rule manufacturers and materials!

Here are some pages from the test.

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From the early 1950s to the mid-1990s, Naval Reactors Facility (NRF) in Arco, Idaho trained nearly 40,000 Navy personnel in surface and submarine nuclear power plant operations with three nuclear propulsion prototypes — A1W, S1W, and S5G. Concurrently, from 1959 until 1993, over 14,000 Naval operators, including myself, were trained at the S1C prototype at Windsor, Connecticut.

USS_Tullibee_(SSN-597)

USS Tullibee (SSN597)

 

 

After graduating, I was sent to my first Nuclear submarine, the USS Tullibee (SSN597) (for 3 days!!) back at New London. I arrived just as she was returning from sea. After reporting on board and setting down my seabag, I was sent to the Reactor Control Panel to shut down the reactor. The Tullibee was a singularly unique submarine and the only one to carry the GE reactor and it was essentially identical to the S1C prototype that I had been training on at Windsor Locks. Apparently the Navy decided that I was needed elsewhere and after two nights on board I received orders to pack up and join the USS Roosevelt (SSBN600) in Holy Loch, Scotland.

USS Theodore Roosevelt (SSBN-600)

uss_theodore_roosevelt_ssbn600images

Displacement: 5,946 (surf.), 6,700 (subm.)
Length: 382′
Beam: 33′
Draft: 29′
Speed: 16 k. (surf.), 20+ k. (subm.)
Complement: 139
Armament: 16 Polaris A-1 missiles, 6-21″ torpedo tubes
Class: George Washington

Using components initially assembled for the Skipjack-class nuclear attack submarine Scamp (SSN-588), SSBN-600 was laid down on 20 May 1958 by the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, named Theodore Roosevelt and redesigned SSBN-600 on 6 November 1958, launched on 3 October 1959; sponsored by Mrs. Alice Roosevelt Longworth; and commissioned on 13 February 1961, Comdr. William E. Sims (Blue Crew) and Comdr. Oliver H. Perry, Jr. (Gold Crew) in command.

Model of SSBN598 (1st of George Washington class)

Five days after commissioning, THEODORE ROOSEVELT departed Mare Island, bound for the east coast. On 7 March, she became the first fleet ballistic missile submarine (FBM) to transit the Panama Canal. Four days later, she arrived at Cape Canaveral, Fla. After successfully firing her first Polaris A1 missile on 20 March and completing her shakedown training, the submarine arrived in Groton, Conn., on 1 May for post-shakedown availability at the Electric Boat Co. yard. She completed those repairs on 24 June and departed Groton, bound for Charleston, S.C. THEODORE ROOSEVELT stopped at Norfolk, Va., along the way and arrived at Charleston on 7 July. Between 7 and 19 July, she loaded Polaris missiles at the Naval Ammunition Depot, Charleston, and made all other preparations for her first deployment. On the 19th, she stood out of Charleston on her first deterrent patrol. She concluded that patrol on 23 September at the FBM base at Holy Loch, Scotland. Over the next three and one-half years, the submarine made 15 more deterrent patrols departing from and returning to the Holy Loch base in each instance

I reported on board on 3 September 1963 after flying from Quonset Point via Harmon, Nova Scotia to Prestwick, Scotland. I flew on a military transport turboprop to join the Gold Crew, which was already on board alongside the tender in Holy Loch. A few weeks later we departed on what was to be my first of 4 patrols during this period. Late in the spring of 1965, she departed Holy Loch on her 17th and final patrol of the deployment. She concluded that patrol and the deployment when she arrived in Charleston on 15 June. She unloaded her 16 Polaris missiles and then departed Charleston for New London Conn., where she arrived on 26 June.

At New London, THEODORE ROOSEVELT entered the yard of the Electric Boat Division for an extensive overhaul. Our time in the EB drydock was extended because of labor disputes at the shipyard. Between July 1965 and January 1967, she had her nuclear reactor “refueled” and her Polaris weapon system modified to accept the more advanced Polaris A3 missile. The FBM submarine completed overhaul on 14 January 1967 and launched into sea trials and refresher training, all of which culminated in the successful firing of a Polaris A3 missile at the Cape Kennedy (Cape Canaveral) missile range late in April. The Gold Crew flew to Cape Canaveral to relieve the Blue Crew. We spent several weeks at the Cape while we readied and successfully fired a Polaris A3 missile along the Eastern Test Range.

 

This is an actual photo of our A3 launch taken from one of the monitoring boats nearby. Our Weapons Officer autographed it on the back. (click photo to enlarge)

At the end of the training period, she returned to Charleston to load missiles and to prepare for another series of deterrent patrols out of Holy Loch. She embarked upon her 18th patrol on 1 June and completed that cruise at the Holy Loch base.

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Eight months after reporting on board, I re-qualified and earned my second set of Dolphins. The 2nd and 3rd documents below are my fully completed qual cards.

THEODORE ROOSEVELT’s second tour of duty operating from the Scotland base proved to be very brief in comparison to her first. Between mid-June of 1967 and February of 1968, she completed her 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st patrols. On 16 February 1968, I left the ROOSEVELT for transfer to ET”B” School at Treasure Island, California. The boat was leaving on a Gold Crew patrol the same day. On 20 March 1968 while returning to Holy Loch from her 21st patrol, the submarine ran aground off the western coast of Scotland. After drydocking for temporary correction of the damage, she departed Holy Loch on 5 April to return to the United States for permanent repairs. Between 18 and 20 April she unloaded her missiles at Charleston and then headed north to New London. On the 23d, she arrived in the yard of the Electric Boat Division and commenced an extended repair period. Labor disputes caused delays, and THEODORE ROOSEVELT did not complete her repairs until mid-October. She spent the latter part of that month in sea trials and then departed New London on 2 November on her post-repair shakedown cruise. She visited Norfolk, Puerto Rico, and St. Croix before concluding the cruise at Charleston on 27 November. She conducted training operations out of Charleston before deploying to Holy Loch again early in 1969. That tour of duty lasted until May 1971. During the interim, she conducted nine more deterrent patrols, returning to Holy Loch for refit after each. On 12 May 1971, she stood out of Holy Loch on the 31st patrol of her career. On 20 July, THEODORE ROOSEVELT arrived in New London completing both the patrol and the deployment. She remained in New London for three weeks, during which time members of her blue crew and her gold crew were brought together into a single overhaul crew while other members of both crews moved on to other assignments. On 10 August, the FBM submarine headed south to Charleston where she arrived on the 13th. Over the next month, she underwent refit and then departed Charleston on 11 September for special operations. THEODORE ROOSEVELT returned to Charleston on the 30th and remained there a week and a day before returning to sea for another three weeks of special operations. The ballistic missile submarine reentered Charleston on 1 November and began a pre-overhaul restricted availability. Three weeks later, she officially began her refueling overhaul, which lasted for more than two years.

THEODORE ROOSEVELT completed her overhaul in January 1974. During the following two months, she conducted sea trials out of Charleston. In April and May shakedown training and nuclear weapons certification preparations occupied her time. In June, she conducted a one-week midshipman familiarization cruise out of New London, and then underwent nuclear propulsion safety training before “deperming” at Norfolk. In mid-June, she received word of her reassignment to the Pacific Fleet with her new home port to be Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Between July and September, THEODORE ROOSEVELT conducted another midshipman training cruise; then settled into pre-deployment training and preparations. The submarine departed Charleston on 20 September, transited the Panama Canal on 5 October, and, after a nine-day stop for missile load out at Bangor, Wash., continued on to Pearl Harbor, where she arrived on 4 November. Six days later, she departed Pearl Harbor, bound for the Marianas. She entered port at Guam two weeks later, underwent refit at her new advanced base there, and began her first deterrent patrol in the Pacific Ocean on 31 December. THEODORE ROOSEVELT conducted patrols out of Guam until 16 December 1977 at which time she departed on her 43rd deterrent patrol. She continued operations and made her 600th dive on 3 October 1979 and then checked into Bremerton and was decommissioned 28 February 1981 and disposition was completed at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard on 3 April 1995.

Recycling program

41freedom_full“Submarine building proceeded at a furious pace in the early 1960s, as the United States strove to deploy a major component of its Strategic Triad. From 1960 to 1966 the U.S. Navy launched a total of 41 SSBNs, called the “41 for Freedom.” All were named for eminent figures in American history and divided among the 5 ship Washington Class, the 5 ship Ethan Allen class, the 19 ship Lafayette Class and the 12 ship Franklin Class. Initially, each boat carried 16 Polaris nuclear missiles that could be launched underwater toward distant targets. Conversion to Poseidon missiles began in 1972. Further modification allowed Franklin-class boats to convert to Trident I missiles beginning in 1979.”
“41 for Freedom” refers to the US Navy Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) submarines from the George Washington, Ethan Allen, Lafayette, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin classes. These five classes of ballistic-missile submarines were limited by the 1972 SALT I Treaty which limited the number of American submarine-launched ballistic missiles to 656 missiles, thus totaling forty-one submarines with 16 missiles each, hence the nickname “41 for Freedom”

Electronics Technician “B” School
Treasure Island, California

In   , I left the Roosevelt for 48 weeks of Electronics Technician “B” School.

The first 4 months were primarily devoted to math including differential and integral calculus. We were still using slide rules just we did 6 years before in nuclear power school. During ET “A” School in 1961, it was all about vacuum tubes except for a very brief introduction to discrete semiconductors during the last week. Now we were getting a brief intro to integrated circuits.

I remember the math classes most clearly but there were course on electronic theory and design.

I didn’t get to finish “B” school or a 20 year career.

While I loved the life on the boats, I was getting jaded with the regimens and constrictions of the nuclear field. Several times I had volunteered for different programs only to be told that I had been flagged for instructor duty at Arco, Idaho at the    facility.

Just before leaving the Roosevelt for ET “B” school it was necessary for me to extend my enlistment for another 2 years in order to finish the school and put the knowledge to use for the Navy. On a whim I asked the Yeoman to add a line to my extension agreement that stated that I would extend provided I would receive overseas shore duty upon graduation. I had in mind a job in communications in a foreign embassy. I was a little surprised when he wrote it in.

While waiting for school to start, I was assigned as a Barracks Master at Arms. During this two month period and 10 months at school, I became very disenchanted with Navy. I saw a lot more of it during that time than I did in the somewhat cloistered environs of the submarine force.

About 6 weeks before I was due to graduate, my orders for my next duty station came in. They were for Arco. I thought about it for a few days and then went to the OIC and pointed out the overseas shore duty provision in my extension agreement. He blew up and said that was bullshit and never should have been written in. After a lot of arguments on both sides he said he was going to send it to the JAG for review.

I expected some further discussion and to maybe be offered another submarine which I probably would have accepted. But when I was next called to his office he informed me that if I didn’t withdraw my position, I would not be allowed to graduate and be immediately transferred for discharge processing. I think they were bluffing and it pissed me off. So I packed my seabag and cooled my heels until my orders came in. They were to the USS Diodon (SS-347) out of San Diego.

USS Diodon (SS-349)

DiodonUSS DIODON (SS-349)

SS349_Diodon_patch_1024x760

Displacement: 1870 tons (surf.), 2391 tons (subm.)
Length: 311.7′
Beam: 27′
Speed: 20.25k (surf.), 8.75k (subm.)
td. 400′
Armament: 1-5″/25 deck gun; 6-21″ torpedo tubes fwd, 4-21″ torpedo tubes aft
Complement: 6 officers – 60 enlisted men
Class: “BALAO”
Keel laid by the Electric Boat Co., Groton, CT,

1 JUN 44; Launched: 10 SEP 45; Sponsored by Mrs. Genevieve Cullinane;
Commissioned: 18 MAR 46 with LCdr James M. Hingson in command;

USS DIODON (SS-349) arrived at San Diego, CA, 5 July 1946, and during the next 4 years joined in training operations along the west coast, in Alaskan waters, and in the Hawaiian Islands, as well as training members of the Naval Reserve.

DIODON was extensively modernized at Mare Island Naval Shipyard between August 1947 and March 1948.

On 14 September 1950 DIODON sailed for the Far East, rescuing six aviators off Guam during her passage. She trained frigates of the Republic of Korea in anti-submarine warfare in Sagami Wan, Japan, and from 30 October to 28 November made a simulated war patrol. She passed undetected through Tsugaru Strait to Otaru, Hokkaido, then continued her patrol undetected as she observed and photographed shipping in La Perouse Strait.

DIODON returned to the west coast for overhaul from February to May 1951. Resuming her west coast operations, DIODON aided in the training of Canadian naval air and surface forces out of Esquimalt, BC, from October to December 1952. She returned to the Far East from March to September 1954, again conducting a surveillance patrol in La Perouse Straits from 24 May to 22 June.

During her west coast training operations in the next two years, DIODON again operated with the Canadian Navy, and in March 1956 admitted visitors by means of a submarine escape bell while 130 feet below the surface during rescue drills.

During her 1956-57 tour of duty in the Far East, DIODON visited Brisbane, Australia, for the celebration commemorating the great victory of the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942. She served again in the Far East in 1958-59 and 1960.

I reported on board on 25 October 1968 as Leading Petty Officer. As requested by the CO, I began outfitting all the electronics systems for an imminent WestPac (Western Pacific) cruise. It was my understanding that she would be operating in hostile waters. In addition to ensuring all electronics were operating at 110%, I rigged the Conning Tower with sophisticated (for the time) audio recording equipment so that all observations and commands would be officially documented. I briefly had second thoughts about my decision to leave the Navy as I would like to have gone on this mission. She left for her last tour of duty on 20 January 1969 when I was transferred to the Separations Center.

Upon returning to San Diego DIODON was decommissioned and was struck from the Navy List on 15 January 1971 and sold for scrapping 12 May 1972.

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