When all the admirals arrived and began touring the boat, one of the aides tried to wake one of my crew sleeping on top of a wastebasket leaning against a panel full of knobs and pointed objects. One Admiral quickly told the aide to let the man sleep as he must have really earned it. I replied that he was one of my crew. Some of the people were impressed with our equipment installations so I pointed out the individuals responsible. There was a short meeting in the radio shack between Vice Admiral Grenfell, Rear Admiral Ramage, several Captains from the Pentagon, LT Brand and myself. I told them this was a waste of time, equipment, and personnel – to install this equipment for just one mission. I did not realize the WATERBOY Project had already been approved and funded.
The summer of 1963, Norm Brand was transferred and replaced by another officer with very different ideas on how things should function. For one thing, he did not trust the crew with about 20 gallons of 190 proof alcohol. He also decided he wanted all the submarine plaques we had mounted on the wall in my office moved to his. I reminded him these had been given to the individuals for their excellent work on the respective boats. He said he would be down the next day to take them up to his office. The next morning, there were only two or three in my office as the crew quickly removed those given to them by the skippers.
I wanted to make one more trip as a vacation since I would only work about 12 – 16 hours per day instead of 16 – 18 hour per day and get sub pay. He refused to acknowledge who was to make the trip until just a couple of days before leaving.
Therefore, I told him I would refuse to go and he could not make me. He checked with the skipper Captain Barnes of the USS CORPORAL (SS-346) who stated he would not take anyone not a volunteer. Thus, he finally acknowledged that I could go. Since I was scheduled to receive my commission during this trip, it was necessary for me to ensure the necessary papers would accompany me.
This trip included a Sonar technician with special training as the boat had the new PUFF sonar capable of tracking targets passively. In addition, the boat was configured to mask the boat against active sonar at periscope depth using special pipes located at the forward part of the hull. The boat would pump air into these pipes creating very small air bubbles that float to the surface. This tended to mask the sound of our diesels while snorkeling. From the start of the trip, the skipper had me eat with the officers and even put me to work as diving officer and officer of the deck when on the surface.
Portsmouth, England and British Submarine Sweaters
Our liberty port was Portsmouth, England for about ten days. Some of the crew were able to get one of the British submarine sweaters but for what I considered a high price. I decided to research this and located the one individual who had unlimited access to these sweaters. The Sonar technician and I arranged to swap one carton of cigarettes for one new sweater. Then we went back to the boat and told the crew we could get them a new sweater for only two cartons of cigarettes. We collected so many cartons we had to borrow a couple of sea bags to transport them. It is usually strange to see a Chief lugging huge cardboard boxes on board a boat but that was me! We were able to provide every crewmember with at least one sweater while we had two British sea bags full of our bounty.
When we departed Portsmouth, the boat began experiencing some problems with the snorkel mast. We received permission to pull into Holy Loch, Scotland for repair by the Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) tender. During the time we were tied up to the tender, I visited a number of repair shops trying to improve our lot. For example, the 16mm projector we had was in such poor shape it would never last an entire movie. Fortunately, I knew how to service it and was able to keep the crew happy. I discovered they had new units on the tender for issue to any FBM boat. Therefore, I worked a deal with a couple of sweaters to borrow a projector. When our departure was delayed for an hour, the skipper remarked that I seemed very nervous or eager to get under way. Both of us breathed easier once we had left the harbor behind. Only then did I tell the skipper what all we had collected on our visits to the tender. He just about had a baby, but I told him he could always just plead ignorance.
Repairing the 8-B periscope While on Wartime Patrol
This was the most interesting and challenging trip I ever made on a boat. Just about every day a unit failed and by the time we returned to New London, I had so many jury-rigs in place the Skipper kept me assigned until I was able to remove every one of them. The most challenging was when our 8-B periscope was jammed between high and low power, making the periscope useless. Since they had the manuals for it on board, I spent a day or so studying it and presented my recommendation to the skipper. I believed the linkage operated by the hi-lo handle had slipped a gear tooth. Of course, some of the crew argued that we could not touch it, as there were very specific instructions by BUSHIPS on the matter. So, I asked the skipper, “are we on a wartime type of patrol or not?” He replied, “yes” and asked me to see what we could do. Therefore, I had one of the machinists manufacture a valve fitting to connect a nitrogen tank to pressurize the scope. We put a tank of nitrogen (not water pumped) in the freezer to freeze any water it contained. We then raised the periscope up, placed a couple of wooden beams across the scope well, and then slowly lowered the scope and its E&E adapter on these beams. I then removed the faceplate and found the linkage gear teeth on the crown of the handle’s gear teeth so I popped the linkage, made sure it traveled freely and then replaced the faceplate. We then filled the scope with nitrogen to about ten times its rated pressure, very slowly waiting fifteen or twenty minutes and then bleed it off. This entire operation took me a good 24 hours from start to finish and the scope functioned properly all the way home. Oh yes, I also followed the antenna policy that I stressed for all boats heading north. Metal contracts slightly in the cold and expands when warm. Thus, when antennas are serviced during warm weather and then subjected to cold, the metal contracts allowing water to get past the “O” rings on the antenna. By surfacing after a couple of days in very cold water, you can add a turn or two to tighten up the screws.
The problem with the 8-B scope we experienced never happened before. I spent hours on my trips to Kollmorgan trying to cause the scope to mechanically fail. How the young Ensign did it, I do not know.
There were a few times on this trip when I expected we might be forced to the surface at least. Thanks to our boat being a FRAM-3 configuration, which meant another 15 feet of length and extra battery capacity. Our “friends” up there are not above trying to sink us. I remember the SKATE came back from a trip in 1961 and tied up on the opposite of our pier. The boat was late and arrived at dusk. Therefore, I stood on our deck watching to ascertain if I knew any of the riders. When Bill Harmon came up, I yelled we would be ready for you in a couple of months. Harmon replied that this was his 13th and last trip, as he got the message. I did not understand this at first but later making my rounds of the boat, I noticed the yard workers had removed a bunch of black cardboard from several large holes in the Skate’s sail. Then I understood what Bill Harmon meant.
Featured Image: Captain Beach, Commanding Officer of USS Triton on the 8-B Scope, photo courtesy William Hadley
Source: NCVA CRYPTOLOG Spring/Summer 2012