This would have been written now whether or not Captain Bill Houley’ s summary of changes in the Submarine School curricula had appeared in the July 1984 issue of The Submarine Review. In fact, the idea of a return to my old command and after twenty-five years was germinated in a discussion with Bill at the 1983 Naval Submarine League Symposium. We didn’t make it in 1983; we didn’t make it on Bill’s watch; but we did make it in August 1984. Captain Rich Enkeboll was an enthusiastic host.
Bill’s article takes a load off me. I can concentrate on the things that intrigued me, and comment on a few things no one else can. Item : The Basic submarine course is about three months. I was in the first three months, pre-WWII shortened course the one which introduced Reserves to the Force. (They were recruited for “a summer in New England”, and some did not get back home for 30 years). The principal problem of that short course was what to eliminate from the previous six months course, what to save. When I returned as Officer-in-Charge in 1958, another policy question was before us. The nuclear course was in full swing but integration with the basic officer’s course was not considered desirable. In fact, it was not until 1979 that the diesel course was eliminated; and the nuclear course subsequently polished to its present 3-month Basic and 5-month Advanced Configuration.
Item: School boats. There aren’t any. There is neither time in the course nor force levels sufficient to permit daily or weekly school operations. Instead, alongside indoctrination is offered, but one of the unique features of Sub School is gone forever. No longer will the CO be able to assure the young wives that that diesel smell after a week underway is to be savored, not. to be put instantly into the washing machine. (See N.L. Day, 20 June 1959).
Item: Trainers, and that’s what I really went to see. They are miles ahead of 1960. The best advertisement of their worth is the fact that they are fully committed all the time on into the night. Back “‘then” we could not get the FC teams to use the attack teachers because they were too unlike the boats.
The present Navy trainer with its representation of Charleston approaches and channel, or New London or elsewhere, (in daylight or dark) provides better training than you could get at sea. It’s realistic, it’s quick, it’s safe.
The venerable Port Washington Training Device Center won the battle to design a Polaris launcher trainer. It was not what the SSBN people or the school wanted, and it did not do the job. Witness today’s four-floor launcher. That’s a trainer!
Sonar trainer — BQQ-5 or 6 just like the sonar room on board. Historic comparisons are unfair because there is no contest. However, integration of the BQQ-5 into the FCS MK 117 isn’t complete, so there is still a way to go. Nonetheless, it was impressive to watch TREPANG’s attack center and sonar teams engrossed in an ASW attack.
Diving trainers look the same although they are configured and programmed for the latest classes. Yet, the Chief-in-Charge says upgrading of all trainers is delayed by lack of funds. So what’s new?
Item: Gilmore Hall decor has changed.
The big WWII German paintings are gone and replaced by a collection of nuclear submarine photos. Not wrong, perhaps, but the staircase is no longer unique. There are lots of places with SSN/SSBN pictures. There was only one with those paintings.
Class photos are reduced from all to three because wall space ran out. Rich Enkeboll selected the first class of ten stalwarts 1917-18, his class 107 — in which I am front and center as the Officer-in-Charge — and Jimmy Carter’s class! But the model of the Holland is still on display. It was presented to the school by Mr. Floyd Houston of the Goldsmith and Tuttle Shipyard of Orient Point, Long Island on 9 June 1959, the day GEORGE WASHINGTON (SSBN 598) was launched. RAdm. Freddie Warder and Judge Eller, the Navy historian, and 1 were at the ceremony. It is not well known that John Holland did some of his construction work at a predecessor shipyard on Long Island. (To prove that this was an event of importance to ~a val History, I report a recent meeting with Judge ~ller at the Naval Academy. I mentioned the presentation in 1959. Not only did he recall the day; he instantly added that Mr. Houston was the model-maker!)
Item: The Officer-in-charge is now the CO. This change was suggested during my tenure but did not take place until Captain Lee Rathbun had the job in 1969. (In fact, his is the last name on the 0 in C plaque, and the first on the CO plaque). There are myriad advantages of an independent command for the school — policy, different chain of command, discipline, budget, and on and on. But there is a unique story about 0 in C/CO Submarine base relationship.
In 1959, the school ran a contest amongst staff and students for a design of a school plaque (everyone else had one). After a spirited competition, the winner was the wife of a Basic Oficer student,. We presented our fait accompli to CO Subase, Captain Weaver Garnett, only to be rebuffed. His rationale, fair enough, was “one Base plaque is enough”. So, we waited three months until Captain George Lautrup took command, carefully hiding recent records did the trick, and the school plaque was launched. It depicted a WWII submarine as shown in Sketch A below, (or maybe it was NAUTILUS?) In any event, it has been modernized as in Sketch B. but, it’s encouraging to see that tradition, even twenty-five year tradition, is real.
Item: Another tradition. In 1960 as I prepared to move down river to command FULTON, my son was graduating from New London High School. I decided the school could publicize its mission, and recruiting and emphasize the importance of education by awarding annually math/science prizes to five local high schools. I was pleased to learn that that tradition still lives — and, in 1984, the prize was given in eight schools.
Item: Tradition abandoned. The Subase New London landmark has been the Diving Tank. Alas, when funds are available, it will be torn down to be replaced by a swimming pool type escape facility. That means there will never again be an OMNIBUS TV documentary on the Sub school. Never again will Esther Williams have a chance to swim in the tank as she overplayed her starring role as hostess for the 1958 show (See TIME; 17 November 1958). Never again will Alistair Cooke, of current Masterpiece Theater TV fame, write to commend the school for its masterful handling of a major crisis by stating that “The School Staff performed above and beyond the call of duty in defending against a double-breasted attack”.
It is exhilarating to see a former command vibrant and moving forward successfully in an era of increasing complexity in submarines and submarining. What I saw made me both proud and pleased. In contrast, a visit to my WWII command, DRUM (SS228), at Mobile’s Battleship Park, left me with empty feeling that a fighting ship should not end its days like that!
0 in C Submarine School
June 1958 – 1960