I just finished reading my July 2001 issue of THE SUBMARINE REVIEW and found Captain Bob Styer’s One Subma-riner’s Sea Stories very interesting. It brought to mind my experience with the start up of the nuclear power training in New London, that involved Bob Styer and other familiar names.
When I was a student in Submarine School in the first half of 1950, I was a bachelor and enjoyed shore leave more than I did studying. In those days, the school posted your class standing for every examination in each of the various subjects. On one set of engineering exams, I stood #55 (out of a class of 60). Realizing my stay in New London might be very short, I did start studying. Near the end of the term I somehow managed to stand #1 on one tactics exam.
Almost five years passed and I received a set of orders to report to Submarine School for duty as an instructor. Along with the orders came a letter from the school asking what department I thought my talents could best be utilized in. Remembering the above related experiences, I stated I should be in the Tactics Department. When I reported, guess where they assigned me; Engineering!
I had only been teaching a couple of months when the school O-in-C, Captain Cy Austin, told me to accompany him to a briefing at SubLant headquarters. Being a lowly Lieutenant, I took a seat in the back of the conference room. Admiral Rickover was the main attraction of the day. I am not sure, but he may have been a Captain at that time. He told the assembled group that all officer students going through the school must have at least six hours of indoctrination in nuclear power. Some of the World War II skippers, notably Slade Cutter and Pinky Baer, had some rather strong comments about where all of these officers would be assigned, since NAUTILUS was just starting to operate. Rickover prevailed and it was determined that since the nuclear power plant turned the propellor, that subject would be assigned to the Engineering Department of the school. I now found out why I had been taken to the meeting. To ensure some continuity, it was determined that the instructor who had the most time remaining on his four of duty as instructor would be the nuclear power instructor. Since I was the last officer to report for duty in the Engineering Department, that mantle of responsibility fell on ME!
In March of 1955, Captain Austin and I flew to Idaho and spent a few days being briefed by Bob Styer and Bob Crispin. I remember that our orders specified that Cy Austin and I wear civilian clothes to Idaho, instead of our uniforms. Upon my return to New London, I went to NAUTILUS and gathered up some old movies, and overhead projector slides from Les Kelly and Nick Nicholson. I now had about two or three hours of material present. My problem was that I was allotted six hours to present the material. The individual class sections in those days was ten officer students. I managed to fill the six hours with some instruction, liberal and lengthy coffee breaks, and a slightly early dismissal from class in the afternoon session. I thought I was managing to get through the material in a somewhat satisfactory fashion, when I was asked some questions from a Lieutenant (jg) Carl Trost that I could not answer. After teaching the subject for about two classes, Bob Styer and Bob Crispin came to New London and took over my duties in a very outstanding manner. Some of my old students may remember those days.
Captain Thomas was commissioned at NROTC University of Notre Dame in 1945 and served in surface ships for four and a half years before starting a submarine career that lasted for 19 years. He finished his career in the amphibious Navy and retired in 1970.
MORE ON GREENEVILLE AFFAIR
Reference is made to “A Minority View on GREENEVILLE by Captain Byron in the October 2001 SUBMARINE REVIEW. It is considered the scope of the enquiry proposed by Captain Byron is far more extensive than required or appropriate.
From time to time in all walks of life new procedures are introduced and become standard practices without recognition as to some of the risks involved. Perhaps this occurred with the submarine emergency surfacing procedure.
It is accepted that in a real emergency there may be attendant risks associated with the submarine emergency surfacing procedure.
However, when practicing or demonstrating the submarine emergency surfacing procedures the possibility of encountering such risks must be reduced to a minimum. There are so many vagaries involved: the visibility for the last all-around look; the submerged time and speed prior to initiating the emergency surfacing procedure; the inability to ensure sound detection due to the capricious nature of underwater sound detections; etc.
Therefore, to minimize such risks it would seem prudent to only practice or demonstrate the submarine emergency surfacing procedures when airborne surveillance is available to monitor the area and, if surface contacts enter the area, is able to initiate a signal signifying “STAY DEEP AND CANCEL THE PRACTICE OR DEMONSTRATION SUBMARINE EMERGENCY SURFACING”.
If such a policy directive exists, it was obviously ignored. If such a policy directive does not exist, one has to wonder why.
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The Submarine Technology Symposium will be held at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory May 14-16, 2002. Register online: www.jhuapl.e-du/sts.
The annual NSL Symposium will be held June 12-13, 2002. Registration packets will be mailed to NSL members in April.