IN YINO VERITAS
June 22nd, 1963, was a day such that the Navy is unlikely ever to see again.
In 1963 the Polaris program was finalized. The Special Projects Office of which I was Director, was ordered to build a total of 41 SSBNs. The entire force was scheduled to be operational by 1967. This meant a shipbuilding pace that was unprecedented for such complex ships. The two private shipbuilding yards, Electric Boat and Newport News, and the two government yards, Portsmouth and Mare Island, responded magnificently.
Our “Boat of the Month Club” saw the launching of 12 SSBNs in 1963. On June 22nd alone we launched four: TECUMSEH and FLASHER in Groton, JOHN c. CALHOUN in Newport News, and DANIEL BOONE in Hare Island.
Seizing on this exceptional day to publicize the urgency and importance of our task, my public information officer, CDR Ken Wade, planned to have me participate in each launching — though the events would take place on opposite coasts. Ken had me being rushed to airports under police escort, then sped by Navy Jet to the next port. Unfortunately, the submarines were launched at slack water, and his plan would have to conform — making our public relations blitz impossible. So settled for a trip to Hare Island for the launching of DANIEL BOONE.
The sponsor for DANIEL BOONE was Peg Wakelin, wife of our Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research & Development. I asked their two college-going sons who were at the launching if they’d like to ride the ship down the ways. Both were eager, so I arranged that space be reserved for the three of us. As soon as I had concluded my brief remarks in the Ceremony, the three of us climbed to the bow of the unfinished submarine. While Secretary James Wakelin gave the principal address, we stood topside within the lifelines awaiting the smash of the bottle of champagne and the exhilarating slide down the ways amidst cheers, music, and tooting of whistles.
As we took our places, next to us were men of about my age dressed in black, clerical garb. Both were tall, lean,friendly and ofopen countenance. I remarked pleasantly to them, “I guess you’re here because that’s Christian Brothers champagne being used.”
“Yes, how did you know? I’m brother Timothy and this is Brother Jonathan,” one of them said. He also noted that he was the expert cellarmaster of Christian Brothers Winery in the Napa Valley, not far from Mare Island.
I’ll never know how many of our ships received their baptism with that special brand of champagne. But no doubt another Christian Brother, John P. Holland, the “Little Professor” from Liscannor, Ireland, looked down approvingly as a descendent of his “first” submarine slid down the ways in Vallejo, California.
I. J. Galantin
HOW THE “NUKES” DO IT.
The tactical situation was: a submerged transit from Fort Lauderdale to New London; at 1/2 test depth; at Full speed; the time since last “at periscope depth” was 3 hours; and the present time was 1245 local.
The CO entered the Attack Center, coming from the Wardroom where the movie “Body Heat” had just completed its 5th showing and where the CO and Navigator had just agreed to a revision of the Night Orders.
CO: “Officer of the Deck, scrub the 0102 NAVSAT in the Night Orders, and get the 2153 pass instead, in 8 minutes. Revised Night Orders will be routed shortly.”
DOD: “Scrub the 0102 pass and get the 2153 pass instead, aye. I intend to come to periscope depth in the Transit Mode.”
CO: “Very well. Officer of the Deck, come up in the Transit Mode.”
COD: (Who is night adapted), “Chief of the Watch, rig for black. Sonar, Conn, coming to periscope depth in the Transit Mode. Helmsman, ALL STOP.” Then, after the submarine’s speed decays to 3-4 knots, “Diving Officer, make your depth 58 feet.”
Everything that followed this 30-second exchange or orders and acknowledgements was the standard series of watchstanders’ orders and acknowledgements common to the practice of going to periscope depth and obtaining a navigation satellite fix — modified only by those few items peculiar to this “Transit Mode” method or going to periscope depth. The CO had only to watch and enjoy the spirited and disciplined action. Four minutes after “NAVSAT onboard” was reported, and 21 minutes after the CO entered the Attack Center, the submarine was again at Full speed at transit depth — with a satellite relayed radio broadcast also in hand.
A submarine that transitions smartly and safely from the deep, fast Transit Mode to the Periscope Depth Mode, and back, with only such sparse communications between the skipper and Officer of the deck just might be “ready to fight.”
The young people that operate a submarine in this disciplined and aggressive fashion can take one heckuva lot or pride in their capabilities.
The crew that’s organized to operate shipwide in a similar fashion might also have a heckuva lot or fun.
I know it’s all possible — because that’s the way it’s done, even after seeing “Body Heat” five times.
Li Got to Negro
VADM BILL BEHRENS REMEMBERED
I had just passed my twentieth birthday and was serving my last year as an enlisted man in the Navy.The electronics training I had received assured me employment at RCA when I got out. So my life game plan seemed cast in concrete.
I was lying in my bunk, half awake, when the Executive Officer of my submarine, the CLAMAGORE, gave me a brisk shake and firmly demanded, “Get up, Ulmer, you’ve got to take an exam for the Naval Academy Prep School.” Then be slyly said, “Why you?”
Yes, why me? My head was now clear enough to make me wonder what was going on. He answered my quizzical stare with, “We can’t afford to have you wasting good bunk space any longer.” His typical sly little smile accompanied his order, “Go get some breakfast.”
My response was the only satisfactory one for Mr. Behrens; “Yes sir.” So I took the exam– a tough one. When it was announced that I had passed, the CLAMAGORE seaman gang gave me the ceremonial toss into the drink — as was the custom in Key West. Looking up from the water, I saw Mr. Behrens, who wanted to know how I could take time for a swim when there were so many administrative items to be attended to — and he added his congratulations.
My presence at Prep School was required on a short fuse. So, watching Hr. Behrens whip a lethargic shore establishment into action was really something to behold. In order to meet the tight deadline, my case had to be moved to the top of several bureaucratic priority lists including the physical exam and dental requirement for entry to the Prep School with ~ cavities. Moreover, Mr. Behrens was advised that the seven cavities I had, could not be filled in a single sitting. But persistently be pursued how it could be done in one afternoon session. The ensuing marathon drilling session — in the days of no novocain and slow-speed drills — caused me many moments when I actually wished Mr. Behrens would give up on me. Yet tirelessly be spared no effort in clearing obstacles between me, his candidate, and a fair shot at his Alma Mater in Annapolis.
On the day of departure from the CLAMAGORE, LT Behrens gave me a pair of embroidered dolphins. He explained that although I bad not earned them officially, he was making my qualification official and he hoped that they would provide an inspiration to return to the nboats” after I was commissioned as an Ensign. I was too inexperienced to understand the doors that LT Behrens bad opened for me. So, my perfunctory “thanks” at our parting fell far short of what he deserved.
Recently, after a long career in submarines, the importance of what Mr. Behrens had done for me was made dramatically apparent when I read of his death in the April SUBMARINE REVIEW.
I had waited too long. Now, all I can say is:”God speed you to safe harbors, Admiral Behrens. From the bottom of my heart I thank you for that wake-up call in CLAMAGORE — many years ago.”
Captain D. M. Ulmer, USN(Ret.)
Going through the April REVIEW, as I faithfully do upon each arrival, I was surprised to find the article A SILENT SERVICE on page 60. At first I was a little miffed about the tone of the “Editor’s Note,” but upon rereading the piece, I understood how it might have been misunderstood. You should realize that I am a strong supporter of the REVIEW, and of an honest discussion of the issues by capable people who pay appropriate care towards not inadvertently giving “aid and comfort to tbe enemy.” The issue that I obviously semantically mismanaged was that of less aware people discussing obviously classified information, including numerical specifications and performance values.
By the way, my reference to “fiction” was meant to apply to HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, whicb, if you or I had written we’d have gone to jail for, but to whose actual author several “ex-submariner” neighbors had divulged much sensitive information.
WWII EXPERIENCE – USEFUL TODAY?
With respect to FDW’s (Francis D. Walker?) note, “WWII Experience — Useful Today?” (Apr 86), he is in my opinion wrong. His contention that the experience . . . . “of those who took diesel submarines to sea against the enemy . . . . ” is of no benefit to the modern submarine commander just isn’t true. Obviously tbe systems, tactics, sensors, weapons, i.e.: the “technical parts” are radically different and anyone who gets ready for the last war will undoubtedly do poorly in the next. However, there are lessons in training for combat, flexibility, independence, aggressiveness, imagination and persistence that I consider timeless. These submariners can teach us lessons that may very well make the difference in success or failure in combat.
As a current Commanding Officer, I would ask FDW to write down his observations, ideas and conclusions from his combat experience and let me try to see if I can develop some useful ideas for modern submarine warfare from them. I promise him a receptive audience.
Commander W. J. RIFFER, USN
USS BOSTON (SSN 703)
INTERNATIONAL SUBMARINE ASSOCIATIONS
Baden, Austria was host city for the 24th International Submarine Congress from April 24th to the 27th, 1986.
Thirteen American submarine veterans were the first official u.s. delegation to the Congress, as we have been associate members of the British Division in the past — at the Congress in Deauville, France last year when the various nations urged we Americans to form our own Division and become part of the International.
The German President, Kurt Diggins, announced that the 1987 Congress location would probably be changed to the city of Willingen ,north of Frankfort, Germany. Captain Hannes Erverth, the current Commander of the German Submarine Force, and who had duty aboard the BLUEBACK in the 60s — and wears American gold dolphins — advised me that be would like to attend the u.s. Submarine Veterans of WW II national convention in Baltimore in August, 1986. Dr. Wolfgang Pohl of the German Nuclear Agency and a 0-boat veteran, advised that he and about 25 other U-boat veterans also planned to attend the Baltimore convention.
Later I presented each country copies of a letter from our National President James Haywood of the u.s. Submarine Veterans of WW II, stating that we want to follow and promote International policy extending a hand of friendship to the world’s submariners, and expressing honor, and respect for those who have gone before us.
The heartwarming and repeated welcome given to the Americans sure did help make a lot of new friends.