Several months before reporting aboard my very first submarine, a GUPPY IIA in San Diego, it had been involved in an incident resulting from the old “Low power? I thought I was in high power!” syndrome. In the resulting micro-close encounter with a destroyer bull, #1 periscope and several other retractable masts had incurred extensive damage, all of which had been repaired by the time I joined the boat. Repairs to #1 scope, however, were far from ideal. When #1 was raised it was impossible to train, even with assistance, if the packing was tight enough to prevent heavy leakage. We tried to strike an imperfect balance between the ability to walk the scope around and the amount of water which inevitably cascaded onto the scope-jockey whenever it was in use at periscope depth. As a result of all this, most OODs and the commanding officer became habituated to donning one of those infamous rain parkas before raising #1 scope. You all remember those wonderful rain parkas-one size fits all, a high-thigh-length and loose fitting hooded garment guaranteed to raise such a sweat on even an immobile wearer that one will be just as wet with it on as without it.
One fine day during a type training week, we were scheduled to make a rehearsal torpedo approach against a single, zig-zagging target. The CO, a portly gentleman about six feet tall, had a good enough sense of humor but was otherwise extremely sensitive about his own sense of dignity and self-image. As was customary because of the leakage problems with #1 scope, he appeared in the conning tower decked out in his rain parka. (Remember the old conning tower, with the two periscopes positioned fore and aft, and with only about three feet between them?) The approach started normally, with the boat at periscope depth and with the target just slightly over the hill and positioned somewhere off the bow. The CO was the approach officer, making a number of observations using #1 scope. As was his custom, the CO would ride the scope up as the eyepiece and handles cleared the well, ordering the periscope assistant to stop the upward travel as soon as could see the target over the wave-tops. This practice usually resulted in a posture with flexed knees and with the posterior pushed out behind, because he was bent over from the hips.
As the approach progressed, the target zigged such that the CO decided to shift the firing torpedo tube to the after torpedo room, and be maneuvered the boat so as to take the target under fire from that extremity. At about this same time, he ordered a slightly increased depth and shifted from #1 to the longer #2 scope. We were now rapidly approaching the firing point, and target’s position was tracking as almost dead aft. Ordering another observation, he rode #2 scope up out of the well, stopping the upward travel of the periscope when it was about midway between deck and overhead. Something about the target’s appearance caused him to say breathlessly, “Hey, XO, take a look at this.” As ordered, the XO started raising #1 scope so that he, too, could look at the dead-aft target.
As #1 scope cleared the periscope well, it was literally brushing against the CO’s posterior, which was outhrust due to his ride-the-scope-up posture. Feeling the scope moving against his rear end, he tried to hunch his hips forward slightly in order to increase the clearance between his nether parts and the barrel of #1 scope. Too late, and not enough! As #1 continued its upward motion, its stop rod hooked under the tail of the CO’s rain parka, which was pooched out behind him due to his doubled over posture. Inexorably continuing its upward travel, the stop rod hoisted the CO to the overhead, two-blocking him in a very embarrassing position. With both hands on the handles of #2 scope and his arms outstretched to maintain his hold on the handles, his hind quarters were about a foot higher than his head, and his feet dangled helplessly as he danced an unsuccessful jig trying to find terra firma.
The following exclamations and orders then ensured, all in very short order:
CO (excitedly), “GET ME DOWN! GET ME DOWN!”
XO (calmly), “Get me down, Aye, Cap’n. Lowering #1 scope.”
Diving Officer (firmly), “Aye, Cap’n. FLOOD NEGATIVE! FULL DIVE, BOTH PLANES! MAKE YOUR DEPTH ONE
FIVE ZERO FEET!”
Rehearsal torpedo run aborted.