ON BEING A SUBMARINER
9 June 1992
To: Commander Kirk Donald, USN
USS KEY WEST (SSN-722)
FPO New York 09576-2402
It was a rare privilege to be allowed to visit your magnificent ship during such an important event as Top Torp. Never having been on a submarine before, I found it an almost overwhelming experience which will take me quite some time to assimilate properly. I will share some of my initial impressions with you.
First, it had never dawned on me the extent to which your entire war fighting mission is so totally controlled by one indivi-dual – the captain, i.e., you. All the inputs from the operators go directly to you, and you make all the decisions. I don’t believe there is anything like it in any other war fighting team and/or machine we put together anywhere in the armed services. A corollary that also never had dawned on me was bow crowded and busy your command center is. People kept milling about, and you yourself had to jostle people aside to get your job done. That’s unlike anything I have seen or could have imagined. But this allowed me to stand over your shoulder and see bow you pursued your task — fascinating, to say the least. Of course, it helped to have the crib sheet from CAPT Dave Miller too, so I could see what you could not, i.e., where the opposition was.
Second, another strong impression is how crowded a submarine is. It’s hard for anyone to be deprived of solitude, and you have to be kept very busy to bear it. No wonder you work your people hard — I imagine that is essential in order to keep them function-ing during long deployments. I found it very gratifying to see how alert, calm, and generally content your crew appeared. Clearly, you pick and train them well; nevertheless, after months at sea under the conditions forced upon them in a submarine, I would have expected a greater impatience in their demeanor, especially with the prospect of shore leave so close at hand. I was very favorably impressed with your crew, and only wish I bad had more time to chat with the enlisted men. I toyed with the idea of asking to come along on the trip to Norfolk to get a better feel for what life on a submarine is like when it is not engaged in an important exercise, but desisted partly because I was not prepared to impose on you any more than I already had, partly because I would not have had much to do on board for a few days — and having nothing to do on a submarine is, as I said above, not a very attractive prospect for anyone.
Third, I had never thought about the unbelievable extent to which the physics of the undersea environment and the technology of your vessel determine everything that you do. When CAPT Mike Feeley walked us about the ship, it was impossible not to marvel at how every nook and cranny is crammed with various functions. Space is at such an enormous premium, obviously, and all systems are limited by that. But the war fighting aspects of it are even more fascinating. I never knew how difficult it is to read and interpret sonar displays, and the extent to which you have to use the statistical applications to make your decisions. You never really know anything for sure about the enemy, do you? You never see him, and you can’t be totally sure that you hear him, and you can never be certain that he really is where you guess he is. And then, when you send him a fish, you have only limited control in steering it to where you think he is. That is a very hard environment to fight a battle in.
And, finally, when you give away your position by firing something, you get incoming immediately. That means that you may stalk your enemy for hours or days, get one shot in, and then you have to bolt. The slow speed at which the battle is fought and the single opportunity you get when you do decide to strike are so unlike anything else in war. Yours is clearly one tough battle to fight in a very imposing environment where any technological edge becomes an enormous force multiplier. I don’t think I shall ever forget the feeling when the ship went from cruising speed to flank speed so quicldy at that depth – that was very, very impressive indeed.
Pardon the silly pun, but it was a deep experience, all of it, very deep indeed. It will be long before I forget any of it.
I wish you the very best in the Top Torp competition, and I will ask to be kept up with how KEY WEST does. Please convey my gratitude and kindest regards to all your crew.
I look forward to meeting you again some day soon.
Carl J. Dahlman
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense
(Requirements & Resources)
RIGHTING AN EDITORIAL WRONG
This letter is in regard to your miscellaneous news story on the decommissioning of the uss GUITARRO (SSN~S) on page 118 of the April edition (of the SUBMARINE REVIEW).
It is a sad state when even submariners cannot look past the downfalls of a submarine’s history. The article did at least attribute a “distinguished career” to the GUITARRO. The rest of the paragraph mentions “an embarrassing moment” and points out that it was the target of an Admiral Rickover joke.
As a former officer of the GUITARRO, I had to deal with this stigma 20 years after the accident. It would have been prudent that even one of the real distinguished firsts be mentioned by your staff. Some of these include the first submarine launch of the Tomahawk cruise missile, the first to forward deploy ADCAP torpedoes and some highly classified firsts on an overseas deploy-ment which earned the ship a Navy Unit Commendation (NUC) under CDR M. R. Kevan. The GUITARRO also earned two Meritorious Unit Commendations (MUC).
The pervasive attitude that GUITARRO was a jinxed boat was always a topic the wardroom’s throughout its history bad to overcome. Electricians always blamed unidentifiable intermittent grounds on the sinking and that the water had deteriorated the ship’s cabling and connections a generation later. I once over-heard an EMl talking to a prospective prototype student say, “Don’t come to GUITARRO. It’s been an electrician’s nightmare since day one.” Other casualties just seemed to reinforce the GUITARRO’s accident-prone existence such as the infamous battery fire in the mid ’80s with a PCO class on board.
The cursed boat atmosphere did not help morale. Personnel incidents were woven into the legend of GUITARRO. The crew seemed to expect the worst to happen.
These problems existed even on the boat’s last deployment where the ship suffered a propulsion plant casualty while de-ployed. I was the OOD on that fateful mid-watch. That sequence of events had more impact on my outlook toward submarine life and its personnel than anything else in my 3″11 years on board. The crew buckled down in sweltering beat to return the ship to operation and complete the mission. There were no complaints, just professionalism, teamwork and sense of duty. The Engineer was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal (NCM) for his efforts. I was proud to be a member of that crew.
I am sorry that the SUBMARINE REVIEW could not see it appropriate to acknowledge the positive aspects of the GUITARRO’s 20-year career. Unfortunately, from launching to decommissioning, the GUITARRO was simply known as the Mare Island Mud Puppy.
LT Rick E. Dansey, USN
A CALL FOR THE BALANCED VIEW
If ever one wanted a case study of the manic/depressive approach to defense policy that runs amok in the Bedlam of the Beltway, he has only to look at submarines.
As recently as three or four years ago a large body of unin-formed opinion advanced the proposition that SSNs would sweep the surface navy from the seas. SSNs were the new capital ships and when would the crusty old U.S. Navy wake up to the fact and stop building those carriers, amphibs, and other assorted targets for torpedoes? A skillful writer of strong opinions, John Keegan, illustrates. In The Price of Admiralty. Keegan con-cludes with a chapter titled “The Empty Ocean; which explains to the lambs that only warships that submerge will survive in future wars. I don’t suppose that OP-02 and other submarine officers thought they were living in a bed of fiscal roses even then, but the garden was lush with expressions of the inevitable future dominance of submarines.
Now the U.S. undersea fleet is fighting for its very existence. The new amateur opinion is that submarines are quite useless and what is needed is Marines on amphibious ships and minesweepers, and not very many of them. It is a paradigm shift that never was, for both extremes view submarines through the narrowest of lenses, heedless of the future, of the adapt-ability of submarines and other naval forces, and of the need for balance in technological development, the industrial base and operational skills.
I can only wish for all submariners that sanity may prevail over the feast or famine, live-for-the-day, off-with-their-heads madness that is rampant, else Lockwood’s “Sink ’em all” be replaced with “Scrap ’em all.”
Wayne P. Hughes, Jr.
Naval PostgradUllte School
SUBMARINE MEMORIAL IN FORTALEZA, BRAZIL
About two weeks ago an impressive memorial was unveiled in the port area of Fortaleza, Brazil. It consists of a submarine sail mounted in a pool of water to represent a submarine surfacing. The sail came from the Brazilian submarine CEARA, the name of a Brazilian state of which Fortaleza is the capitol. So the memor-ial has much local interest. A museum is planned alongside the memorial and is intended to provide a history of the boat from its launching to its scrapping (five years ago).
The CEARA was the ex-USS AMBERJACK and was sold to Brazil in late 1973, arriving here on 30 January 1974. It would seem to be a wonderful gesture to provide the museum with material relevant to the years when uss AMBERJACK (SS-522) operated with the U.S. Navy. I know from talking to local people that they would greatly appreciate anything we might be able to get them.
Therefore, I wonder if I might ask the NSL to see what you might be able to obtain. It would seem that what might be of particular interest are things like:
- Pictures of the launching of AMBERJACK and at various times during her service.
- History of the ship.
- Listing of Commanding Officers.
- A plaque (probably unobtainable) or a copy of the logo.
- Pictures of the decommissioning and transfer of ownership to Brazil.
- Letters from any former crew members who might have special anecdotes to relate.
I might also mention that we have an excellent glossy picture of the memorial at its dedication which we will give to the NSL. The dedication was attended by five Brazilian admirals, active duty and retired, and they included the former Minister of Marine (Secretary of the Navy).
I should also mention that the memorial and museum are being underwritten by private sources, primarily by the Sociedade dos Amigos da Merinba (Society of the Friends of the Navy) which is comparable to the Navy League in the United States.
[Editor’s Note: Contributions of memorabilia can be sent to: CAPT Charles Pollack, USN(Ret.), Yacht REVERIE, NATO, P.O. Bar 1418, Sarasota, FL 34230, USA
REQUEST FOR HELP BY RECRUITING COMMAND
News reports concerning the downsizing of the armed forces have fostered misconceptions about the viability of the Navy as a good job and career opportunity. These misconceptions have begun to hinder our recruiting efforts.
Despite some uncertainty regarding the future size and role of the Nary, it is certain that our Navy-Marine Corps team will be central to any national defense strategy. Thus, our Navy of the future will continue to require intelligent, highly motivated young men and women who desire the opportunities that the Navy provides. Unfortunately, force restructuring, downsizing, manda-tory force-outs of career people by the other services, and early retirements have led many to believe incorrectly that the Navy is no longer a good choice. Some people, in fact, believe that the Nary has stropped recruiting!
I need your help in dispelling these myths. Career opportu-nities are still available — the downsizing has not changed that. This year, we are accessing 58,000 men and women, more than 30,000 of whom will move directly into technical fields such as aviation, nuclear propulsion and electronics. Next year, we plan to access more than 60,000. We continue to provide excellent scholarship opportunities. All new Navy men and women can receive $10,800 ($9,000 for a three year or less enlistment) and some will receive up to $25,000 in educational assistance through the Navy College Fund.
Through the Naval Submarine League, thousands of people across the country can be informed about Navy career opportu-nities. Whether your members can provide assistance to their local Navy recruiter or simply spread the word about Navy opportunities, the assistance to recruiting would be invaluable.
Each Navy Recruiting District across the country is supported by a Recruiting District Assistance Council (RDAC) which helps coordinate efforts to assist our recruiters in bringing the message of Navy opportunity to local communities. I encourage your local chapters to coordinate their activities with the RDACS.
I greatly appreciate whatever you and the members of the Naval Submarine League are able to do to assist Navy recruiting.
Rear Admiral J. M. Barr, USN
Commander, Navy Rectuiting Command
[Editor’s Note: The enclosure to RADM Barr’s letter, a list of Rectuiting District Assistance Council chainnen, has been provided to the Presidents of the NSL Chapters, and is also available from NSL Headquarters. (703) 256-0891.
REQUEST FOR INFORMATION RE: USN SUBS IN 1944
I am in the process of doing research for a book. This will be a biography on Major Harold J. Mann, U.S.AAF. Although be flew as a bombardier in a B-29, the silent service is very important in his life’s story.
On August 20, 1944, his B-29 was damaged while bombing the coke plants in Yawata, Kyushu, Japan. They headed for the East China Sea hoping to link-up with the submarines on lifeguard duty there. The radioman was in voice contact with two boats using the code names “Clever Clarey” and “Larapin(g) Lulu.” Before they could reach safety, they were forced to bail out due to the fires in the bomb bay gas tanks. The radioman was killed. Two others were strafed in their parachutes and killed. Maj. Mann escaped this fate by dumping the air out of his chute and free-falling to a safer altitude. He landed on Iki Island and was captured and beaten. Later be was tortured. He and his pilot, Col. Richard H. Carmichael, were kept in solitary confinement for eight months under a death sentence for the war crime of bombing Japan. They eventually ended up in the P.O.W. camp at Omori. They, along with about 34 others, were listed as Specilll Prisoners for being air-crew personnel. These men were all together in one barracks and were not allowed to mingle with the other prisoners.
Maj. Mann received war and camp news from a man in a red beard who spoke softly outside his window while he pretended to be otherwise occupied. This man turned out to be CDR Richard H. O’Kane for the TANG. He and his few surviving shipmates were also kept here. Another captive was Gregory Pappy Boyington. Maj. Mann survived the war. Motivated by his war experiences he became a doctor.
With the assistance of Admiral O’Kane, “Clever Clarey” and “Larapin(g) Lulu” have been tentatively identified as Bernard A “Chick” Clarey and John E. Lee. I have received confirmation from Admiral Clarey and Admiral Lee and the National Archives that their boats, PINTADO and CROAKER were in the East China Sea on lifeguard duty that day. Unfortunately none of these sources can confirm the use of “Clever Clarey” and “Larapin(g) Lulu” as an identifier that day.
In order to add the human touch to this story, I am trying to contact anyone who may recall the use of these code names. I would imagine that my best results would come from the former radiomen, chiefs and officers of PINTADO and CROAKER. Their comments and recollections would be very helpful. I’ve been in touch with Cal Wentzel, a radioman from CROAKER, who believes he recalls the “Larpain” from somewhere but is not sure if it is only the power of suggestion.
In the letters from both Admiral Clarey and Admiral Lee, they have no recollection of these names being used. Do you feel these names may have been used by a crewman on a spur of the moment decision? Do you think perhaps “Clever Clarey” was used in a less than flattering light? Would it be possible for you to run an add in your magazine requesting assistance from crew members of both PINTADO and CROAKER?
Thank you for your help and cooperation in this matter. Please feel free to write or call me collect with any comments or suggestions.
116 Penny Pack Circle
Hatboro, PA 19040