Life Aboard a Diesel Submarine in the 1950s
Captain Kellogg is a retired submarine officer who served as Reactor Officer in USS ENTERPRISE (CVAN 65) and commanded USS NARWHAL (SSN 671) and USS FULTON (AS 11). On retirement he entered the seminary and was later ordained as an Episcopal priest. He went on to serve several parishes in Southern California and today lives in his second retirement in San Diego.
As I was preparing my talk for this evening, I realized that I could not just tell you about one submarine’s participation in Operation Hardtack, the atomic bomb tests in the Spring of 1958. I really had to tell you something about the submarine itself and the people who gave her life, the crew. I also had to tell you something about what it was like to be on board a diesel submarine in the 1950s. Yes, I will talk about Hardtack because that operation became the crown on the otherwise tarnished reputation of a submarine that existed for less than seven years. There are also some lessons to be learned from all this which I will try to pass on to you at the end.
First, a little background on the submarine itself. USS BONITA (SSK 3) was built at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in California. It was designed after World War II to be a small, inexpensive hunter killer platform, that is a submarine designed to sink enemy submarines. The keel was laid in March 1950, BO NIT A was launched in June 1951 and commissioned in February 1952. BONITA was one of three submarines of its class. When it was commissioned and for the first few years of its life it was known as USS K-3 (SSK 3), but when I first went aboard in early July 1956, it was BONITA, its name having been changed in December 1955. The other two submarines in the class were BARRACUDA (SSK 1) and BASS (SSK 2). BARRACUDA was home ported at the Submarine Base New London, BASS and BONITA at Submarine Base Pearl Harbor. BONITA had a rather bulbous bow which is really above the waterline except when trying to make any way through the sea. This bow contained the old passive BQR-4 Sonar which was highly effective at slow speeds, but its bearing accuracy was poor. The class was designed for a second passive sonar with higher bearing accuracy, the newer BQR-2, on a chin mount under the bow. But, as a cost savings, that sonar was never installed. Instead the World War II JT sonar, a T shaped device on the forward deck, was added to give bearing accuracy, but it had very limited range. Atop the bow was a piece of active searchlight sonar. It was used for taking a single ping range just before firing a torpedo. Its range was also very limited.
I went to BO NIT A right out of Submarine School. It was my first choice. One of our instructors at Sub School had been on the commissioning crew and had recommended it to me. Although I could have gone to most any submarine on the list because of my class standing, Margaret was pregnant at the time and I wanted to be around for the birth of our second child. The projected schedule of BONITA would assure me of that. Also we both wanted to go back to Pearl where we had been for my first tour on a destroyer. Although BONITA would be different from the fleet submarines and Guppies (for Greater Underwater Propulsion) we had studied in Sub School, I felt it still wouldn’t be too hard to qualify on, and I was really looking forward to the duty. Let me digress for a moment to tell you a little more about the submarine itself. I think it will help you understand why it was picked to be a target for an atomic device.
Some of the good features of the class were its simplicity in several areas. It had a dry snorkel mast, no main induction valve, half a fleet boat battery split forward and aft, no conning tower and therefore no safety tank, no low pressure blower for the ballast tanks, instead a diesel exhaust gas blow system similar to what the German submarine force had used during World War II, a simple remotely operated electrical control panel which kept the battery always available for propulsion, the newest fire control system, four torpedo tubes forward but none aft, all AC power rather than split between AC and DC.
Some of the bad features of the class were the propulsion diesels, the seawater to fresh water distilling plants, and the DC to AC motor generators. First the diesels: They were known as dinkies. World War II Fleet Boats each had one of them. Made by the Cleveland Diesel Division of General Motors or Fairbanks Morse, they were designed to keep a zero float on the battery while you were going. full on four on the main propulsion diesels. Most submarines kept in commission after the war had them taken off because they were hard to maintain, fairly inaccessible, and only marginally reliable. On the K class they were a pain to maintain, and using their exhaust to blow ballast tanks instead of a low pressure blower was especially hard on them. They leaked cooling water and lube oil like they were going out of style; rarely were all three in commission. On one occasion at sea we were down to zero in commission; our enginemen swore at them but could usually get them back running again in a few hours of back breaking work.
Next, the distilling plants were not only unreliable but even when on the line did not make enough water to keep a crew happy. When BASS was being transferred from Pearl to San Diego, the Submarine Force Commander in the Pacific, commonly referred to as COMSUBPAC, had to scramble a Submarine Rescue Vessel, an ASR, to go out and provide water to her lest she begin to drift for lack of water to her diesels much less no water for the crew who were down to drinking and brushing their teeth with canned orange juice. Finally, the DC to AC motor generators, affectionately known as 75 KV As, were also unreliable and nearly impossible to parallel. We had two, we were supposed to shift them daily, but usually ran one until it tripped off the line, and then started the other one. This was almost every day anyway. But actually the biggest drawback of the class in the minds of those who ran the Submarine Force at the time was that it was just too slow.
You have to realize that the senior submariners then had all served on Fleet Boats in World War II. A Fleet Boat could make 21 knots on the surface, could end around most convoys, and could get to station in a hurry. Although Jane’s Fighting Ships said BONITA and the rest of its class could make 13 knots on the surface, that was pie in the sky. Unless you were in a flat calm for hours on end, the best SOA we could count on was about 6 knots, maybe 6.5, but in rough seas much less. In fact, whenever we made a transit any distance which required a movement report, not unlike an aircraft flight plan which gave our position within a few miles at specific times, the entire class would almost always have to make several movement report changes in transit due to the sea state or engine repairs. Now 6 knots plus or minus a little doesn’t sound so bad for a sail boat, but COMSUBPAC, then Rear Admiral Jumpin’ Joe Grenfell, a fiery, multiple Navy Cross winner from World War II, felt this was completely unsatisfactory.
Admiral Grenfell decided the class needed to put up or shut up. He therefore sent first BASS and then BO NIT A on an extended arctic patrol. I’m not sure what problems BASS had, but I can tell you a little about ours. We had to stop off at Adak both going and coming back to take on both fresh water and lube oil, despite carrying multiple 5 gallon cans of lube oil in the sail. We filled our forward escape trunk with fresh water and that was our supply for showers and washing until we returned. On station it was extremely cold and our snorkel mast would ice up while snorkeling, drawing a vacuum in the boat and periodically shutting down even the one engine on the line, due to the high vacuum cutout. But the worst problem was one we generated ourselves.
We had a submerged collision with a massive iceberg which wiped off our radar antenna, damaged one periscope, and took away our VLF and HF antennas. We were left with only the long wire to communicate. This happened when our conning officer saw what he thought were the lights of ships on the horizon, which by Captain’s orders he was to close, only to discover suddenly that what he had seen was the moonlight reflecting office. When we returned to Pearl, proud to make it home in one piece, more or less, with no one hun, COMSUBPAC was livid. Just as soon as the Submarine Base and Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard could effect repairs, he wanted us out of his sight. He was transferring both BASS and BO NITA to San Diego.
So you can see, when nine months later a submarine target was requested for Operation Hardtack, the 1958 atomic bomb tests at Eniwetok and Bikini, Admiral Grenfell had already decided to decommission both submarines: so why not volunteer us. He did. But before I tell you about the tests, let me again digress and talk about the crew. You see, it is the crew that makes a Navy ship, certainly it makes a submarine, not the hardware. Overall the Wardroom Officers were a tight knit group. When the chips were down we supported each other to the hilt. All submarine ward-rooms are that way. We had a good crew too. Hard working, dedicated chief petty officers and below who got along despite the close quarters and the many hours at sea. We had one plank owner still on board, that is a member of the commissioning crew. He was a second class engineman named Gignac. Gignac was in the auxiliary gang and knew the boat cold. He was a great help to everyone trying to qualify in submarines. One of my priest friends remarked to me recently that he thought submarine crews must be something like monastic communities when at sea. In many ways he’s right. Certainly, a submarine crew at sea is very considerate of one another. You would never leave a washbasin or shower after using it without wiping it clean, leaving it in as good a condition as you found it. But submarine crews also engaged in pranks against one another like stealing the door to the Captain’s Stateroom or hiding the seats to all the commodes. They may be like a monastic community in some ways, but they’re sure not very saintly.
When we left for Eniwetok I was the officer who had been on board BONITA the longest, less than two years. Dan Marangiel-lo, Naval Academy class of 1951, came aboard six months after I did. He was a bachelor. We were delighted when we heard he was coming, for we thought whenever there would be a wardroom family type get together, Dan would stand duty for one of us, since the rest of us were married. We were wrong. Dan was more of a party animal than any of us. If something was planned when he had the duty, Dan would try to get one of us to stand by for him. He was fresh out of Submarine School, but had a different background from the rest of us. After qualifying as an Officer of the Deck Underway on a destroyer, he had gone to MIT for post graduate training in engineering. He was on track to become a Submarine Engineering Duty Officer. All he needed was to ear his Dolphins first. He served BONITA as Engineer Officer. He’s probably the finest engineer I’ve ever known, although he could be rather frank with some of his superiors, which some probably took the wrong way. We’re still good friends. He finally married several years ago, lives in Annapolis, and Margaret and I had dinner with him when we were back there for my 45th Class Reunion in 1999. He graciously provided me with his personal remembrances of Operation Hardtack.
Our Operations and Weapons Officer was Bill Green, NROTC from use, Class of ’52. Another great guy, we became the best of friends. He and his wife Marge became Godparents to Carolyn, our third child. He also passed on to me his reminiscences from Hardtack. What you will hear in a few minutes will be a combination of Dan’s and his and mine. Bill also was a superb officer, coming to us kicking and screaming from USS SEA FOX where he had qualified. He was a real people person as well as a super competent officer. When BONITA was finally put in mothballs after Hardtack, Bill went off to Navy Intelligence School, while I headed to Nuclear Power School. But our paths crossed many times after that, and each time was a wonderful family get together. Bill had an outstanding career with many great assignments including command of the submarine TUNNY during Vietnam, a diesel boat based in the Philippines that Navy Seals used to infiltrate the Vietnamese coast. Much later he did a super job as Defense Attache in Rome during the Cold War. He retired just a year before I did from the deck of NAUTILUS, now lives in Coronado, and we still get together every few months or so. One of the greatest things about a Navy Career is that you make friends for life. I can think of no better friends than Bill and Marge Green.
en. The last two officers making up our unholy five were the skipper and the exec. Of the Exec, or XO, there’s not much to tell. He was the last one to come aboard shortly before we left San Diego for Eniwetok. His name I will leave out. He was competent enough but never did hit it off with the skipper, which was his undoing. On the way out to Eniwetok, as our Navigator, he failed to get up to call our turn into the long mine swept entrance lane. We overshot, causing us to have to go through waters that had not yet been swept for mines. The skipper never forgave him for this. The skipper was Bob Newbern, a dynamic, hard charging officer. When I qualified in submarines, he gave me his dolphins, which I still have. Captain Newbern had been one of my instructors in Submarine School. He was in the Weapons Department there. We called him Tubes Newbs for he really knew his stuff. He could also be a bit crude, rarely dismissing a class without remarking, “Time to go home and play with the baby’s mama.” After BONITA he went on to a great command, the submarine SAL-MON, where he distinguished himself winning more than one Battle Efficiency E. I’m truly sorry to say that he died this past year. Otherwise, I would have been delighted to have him share some of his reminiscences also. They would have added much to this talk. Far and above anyone else Captain Newbern was the reason we were able to bring BO NIT A back in one piece, rather than leave her on the bottom thousands of miles from home.
Before we could leave for Eniwetok, BONITA had 10 be configured for the tests. While we were being configured, our sister submarine BASS was decommissioned at Mare Island Naval Shipyard on 20 December 1957. For us however, this meant a three month availability at the old Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard, very close to where Candlestick Park is today on the south side of San Francisco Bay. First, four huge pad eyes were welded directly to the pressure hull protruding through the ballast tanks and seal welded to prevent escape of air from the tanks. These were to moor BONITA for the two blasts. Next, a means for venting and blowing ballast tanks from outside the pressure hull had to be devised. This was accomplished by adding piping to the vent risers of two ballast tanks leading to two valves topside, and adding high pressure piping with a shut off valve from the topside high pressure air charging connection and the internal ballast tank blow piping. This latter valve was marked with bright white paint so that divers could see it. Finally strain gages were installed throughout the boat and two 1,000 frames per second movie cameras were installed to get a feel for exactly what happens when the shock waves hit. An elaborate timing device was set up through a radio receiver to actuate the cameras at the exact time of the explosions. Since the atomic bomb tests meant that BO NIT A was less than likely to return from Eniwetok in serviceable condition, the boat was decommissioned at this time and placed in a new category called In Service Special. There was some debate whether we were still a United States Ship, but it was decided that it wasn’t worth making that change. During this time our crew was also pared down to just those we’d really need for the transit out and to maintain all the equipment on board.
During a battery charge the last night before we left the shipyard, one of our dinkies blower mechanism froze causing a brief fire. This in turn caused the engine to go hard down which required a blower replacement. Since the blower was bigger than our 25 inch hatches, this meant a pressure hull cut to remove the old blower and install the new one. Most skippers I’m familiar with would have stayed in the shipyard to get this done, but not Captain Newbern. He said, “We’re leaving as scheduled. We’ll get it fixed in San Diego.” And we did.
Also in San Diego Dan, our gifted Engineer Officer, made a couple of modifications to BO NIT A which were to prove very effective going out to Eniwetok and coming back. First he converted one of our auxiliary tanks to a fresh water tank. All submarines have four tanks inside the pressure hull to trim the boat, that is make it neutrally buoyant when submerged, and not only just neutrally buoyant over all but stable both forward and aft. These four tanks are Forward Trim, near the bow; After Trim, near the stern; and two Auxiliary Tanks, as close to the center of buoyancy as possible. At Sub School young officers must learn how to dive a submarine and trim it. That means getting it neutrally buoyant after a dive. There are diving trainers to teach this that can be programmed to make the boat heavy or light, forward or aft. The diving officer has to figure this out in his head by the way the boat responds and pump or flood as necessary to get the ship into perfect trim. The diving officer has speed control of the boat until he makes his report: “Trim satisfactory, Sir.” Only then does the conning officer take speed control. A favorite trick of conning officers is to order all stop after receiving a “trim satisfactory” report, particularly if his own evaluation of the trim indicates his diving officer was premature in reporting trim satisfactory. A submarine’s Engineer Officer normally computes the trim before the first dive after any time in port taking into consideration all weight changes since the last trim dive, such as torpedoes, stores, fuel, etc. Anyway, since auxiliary tanks are quite large, this gave us an ample supply of fresh water for the trip even if our distilling plants became even less reliable.
The second thing Dan did was to convert a hydraulic oil tank to a lube oil tank. This solved our lube oil problem, but unfortunately created hydraulic oil problems. On the way to Pearl we developed a number of hydraulic leaks that caused great concern. We were down to using only the hydraulically operated rudder which was vital to steer the boat. All other hydraulic equipment was isolated from the system. Captain Newbern even ordered Dan to research what else we could use on board for hydraulic fluid. Dan did this and reported that Wesson Oil was the best substitute available. From then on the cooks didn’t use any Wesson Oil until we got to Pearl. Dan recently wrote me, “Ned, I cannot tell you how many prayers I said in my bunk every night.” After Pearl we carried fifty 5 gallon cans of hydraulic oil secured by white line everywhere in sail and superstructure.
At Pearl Harbor we replenished all our supplies, including oil. There Captain Newbern made a courtesy call on COMSUBPAC who told him in no uncertain terms not to bring BO NIT A back, that he didn’t want to spend any more money on a piece of junk.
Arriving in Eniwetok was also quite an experience for a submarine used to operating solo. We realized that we were truly a very small cog in a very large wheel. There were 44 ships involved one way or another in the series of blasts. At first it was hard to find the right people to talk to. As someone said, there were 10,000 men in Bermuda Shorts on a very small island, and no one seemed to be in charge. When we finally looked at the plans for the first test we were involved with, a deep explosion in very deep water with BONITA at a range of about 4,000 yards, heavy and suspended from large floats, we concluded that the chances of the boat surviving and not going to the bottom were minimal. “Why don’t we do the shallow water test first?” we asked. ..That’s not what the schedule calls for,” was the reply. “Well, can the schedule be changed?” “No chance.” Characteristically, Captain Newbern would not accept this answer. We had a wardroom meeting, and after much discussion he decided the only way for the boat to survive the first test was for us to man her. He then volunteered all of us except the XO, who was to remain in charge of crew members who stayed on our support ship USS HOOPER ISLAND. Captain Newbern ordered Dan, Bill, and me to get one strong section of volumeers to be on board for the test. He then went to see the Chief of Staff to the Admiral in charge of the tests. When the skipper proposed that we man BONITA for the deep water test, he was told, “No, do it as planned.” “Well, then,” he replied, “I’d like to send this message.” He pulled a typed message out of a folder addressed to the chain of command, including the Chief of Naval Operations, requesting that he be absolved of the loss of BONITA before the shallow water test could be conducted. The Chief of Staff blinked, told him to hold the message, and said he’d see what he could do.
Two days later the word came back that we could man the boat. Since the range to the blast of 4,000 yards was too risky, we would move out to 6,000 yards for an extra safety factor. There would also be another submarine there, USS STERLET another 1,000 yards farther out. As both Supply Officer and Communications Officer, I had already started off loading all consumables and classified publications to HOOPER ISLAND; so I had to get them all back on board. Captain Newbern didn’t want any volunteers on board for the test to think there was any chance we wouldn’t survive it. He was right. Most of us were more than a little apprehensive.
We then devised our own plan as to how to rig the boat for survival. First off, we would rig BONITA for depth charge which meant all watertight doors were dogged shut and bulkhead flappers in the boat’s ventilation system were closed. We also decide to secure all sea water lines into the boat during the countdown so that the over pressure would not cause any internal ruptures. This included all depth gage stops. This caused some amusement just before the test when Captain Newbern noticed that we were getting shallower and shallower (the depth gages were drifting after the stops were secured). He shouted at Dan who was on the dive with some colorful profanity I will leave out. Dan reported very quietly that the stops were shut, at which the skipper apologized. In addition we added a simple tape recorder of our own to monitor what went on in the Control Room and Conning Station. This was great fun listening to later, hearing the voices rise in octave levels the closer the countdown came to the blast. When the blast occurred, a brief roar was heard on the tape, then nothing. The first of three shock waves had blown the power cord out of its socket.
On the day of the first test, code named WAHOO, we got underway early, waving good by to the XO and about half of our enlisted crew on the support ship. They kidded us a little, but there was concern on their faces. We made our trim dive in deep water and took our station at periscope depth and slow speed on a 6,000 yard radius circle from the blast point. We kept the blast point on our beam and slowly circled. STERLET did the same 1,000 yards farther out. The nuclear device was suspended from an anchored barge at a deep depth. On the barge were antennas to receive the signal to detonate the device. The long countdown came over the radio to all in the area. There were at least three old destroyers and possibly other ships, unmanned, that had been towed out to Eniwetok also in the circle at shorter ranges than we were from the barge. My station was all the way aft at the normally unmanned, except for battle stations and maneuvering watch, manual propulsion control panel. With me was an Engine· man who will remain unnamed, very competent, but very nervous. I was manning a sound powered telephone headset on the line with other manned stations. The countdown was being relayed to all of us from the Control Room over the General Announcing System.
At 1330 on 16 May 1958 WAHOO blew. When the blast went off, it sounded to me like a freight train was running over us. The boat shook violently, light bulbs broke, dust and debris flew everywhere, and all the lights went out as our 75 KVA tripped off the line. The Engineman with me soiled himself, but then ran as fast as he could to get it back on the line, which he did, while I made my damage report to Control. What I called a freight train, Dan and Bill described as three separate shock waves. The first one was the direct wave; the second, a bit milder, the bottom reflection; and the third, milder still, the surface reflection. Dan pointed out to me recently that if the direct shock wave and bottom reflection had arrived much closer together, there would have been serious trouble. After we surfaced to return to HOOPER ISLAND we noticed that both of our escape trunks had water in them. This phenomenon we didn’t understand until after the second test.
We learned from one of my classmates on STERLET that they had their problems also, including a loss of power and a number of minor leaks. A few days later they let us see the movies from our 1,000 frames per second cameras. These showed us a ripple effect as the shock waves hit, wrenching both BONITA and all the mounted equipment in the Control Room. I vividly remember seeing the ripple go through the Fire Control System, which we could never get to work again, by the way.
Before I describe the second test, l feel I need to tell you a little about what Eniwetok was like in the Spring of 1958. When we arrived, the place was not really geared for submarine crews. There was only one place an enlisted man could go for some liberty, a very small island called Elmer with a very small beach with a shark net. On it there was an open air pavilion at which beverages were sold. Beer and any kind of a high ball went for 10 cents each, soft drinks were 15 cents each. There may have been some snack food too, but not much. When we arrived, the liberty policy for enlisted men was 10 percent of each crew due to the lack of recreation areas. The good Captain Newbern quickly got that changed for our crew, and we basically could send up to half of ours to Elmer. The only way to get to the island was by Mike Boat which picked up liberty parties about noon and returned them in the early evening. There was also Shore Patrol assigned to this so called recreation island as I recall, three or four petty officers and one officer. You can imagine what would happen in the hot afternoon sun with alcohol cheaper than soft drinks. People on liberty got very drunk. On one occasion they overpowered the Shore Patrol, who were not allowed to drink when on duty, stripped them buck naked, and sent them back with no clothes at all. After that, when I was assigned as Shore Patrol Officer, I made sure I had big strong non-drinking petty officers along with me. A few in our crew got in trouble after drinking too much, but for the most part we were model citizens. We had one Second Class Engineman named Ashley, formerly a First Class Engine· man, whom the skipper had to order not to drink at all, and he actually obeyed. Our boat’s saving grace was a volleyball tournament in which we entered a team and won, against several larger commands. This really perked up crew morale and kept us going for the next test.
We got underway for the second shallow water test, code named UMBRELLA, early in the morning on the day before the test. This was the test the Submarine Force was most interested in, since a nuclear tipped torpedo was in the design stage. The Submarine force needed to know how far the stand off range had to be so that the submarine that fired the torpedo didn’t sink along with the target. As I recall, most of us were on board, and all consumables and classified publications had been offloaded to secure stowage on HOOPER ISLAND. We arrived in position, bow on to the device at a range of 1,000 yards. Chains with heavy weights attached were secured to our four pad eyes. Dan trimmed the boat some 10,000 pounds light. The outer door to one torpedo tube was opened to simulate the firing of a wire guided torpedo. We all left BONITA and got onto a Fleet Tug. Dan and Captain Newbern were the last ones off. They opened the vent valves topside, and it took BONITA 23 minutes to submerge. This was a rehearsal run, and the divers in scuba gear went down and opened the painted white blow valve topside. The boat surfaced nicely, though with a slight down angle, with the diver riding up on deck and securing the blow and vent valves. Now we were ready for the actual test. We went back on board to recheck everything and spent the night in the moor.
The next day it was for real. This time Dan had the escape trunk hatches wired shut so that no sea water would get in, he thought. We repeated the previous day’s sequence and waited out the test on the Fleet Tug. At 1115 on 9 June 1958 UMBRELLA went as scheduled. This time we watched the test from about 10,000 yards away. It was quite a show. We stayed there until after BONITA was surfaced by the diver, and I heaved a sigh of relief when I saw her pop to the surface. We waited as BONITA was checked for radiation, and when the all clear signal was given, our Fleet Tug took us along side. Dan went over to the boat first, unwired the escape trunk hatches, and proceeded below with a C02 sniffer to check each compartment. Again he found water had entered the boat through both escape trunks. We later learned that for both blasts after the initial high pressure shock wave there is also a very low pressure that follows. This low pressure lifted the hatches off their seats thus bringing in sea water. When Dan reported the air in boat was okay, we got back on board and got the boat ready to return to HOOPER ISLAND as soon as the chains with the weights could be removed from the pad eyes topside. When we finally got alongside and secured, I was exhausted, and although we had been told to wash thoroughly, I fell asleep on the wardroom transom.
The next day we were confronted with a new problem. HOOPER ISLAND had taken radiation readings on us and determined that none of us could come on board without first being frisked with a radiation detector and walking through a shoe washing solution. Again Captain Newbern got into the act and solved this dilemma rather quickly. We had to get everything locked aboard HOOPER ISLAND back on board before we could head for home. This we did while Bill got his sailors to wash us down topside and throughout our superstructure with fire hoses from HOOPER ISLAND to eliminate areas of higher than allowed radiation levels. A few days later after conducting one final trim dive, the last one for BONITA, with permission from the Operation Hardtack Commander, we were underway for Pearl. Just before we left, the crew painted a new insignia on each side of the sail. It pictured an atomic bomb blast with two hash marks underneath it, symbolizing what we had survived.
When we arrived in Pearl and later in San Diego, it was a different story than before. We were hailed as conquering heros even by COMSUBPAC. In our formal report of the two tests Captain Newbern recommended that never again should a submarine or, for that matter, a surface ship have to serve as a target for such tests. He had learned from some of the scientists on Eni-wetok that you could get the same kind of information from shaped charges at varying distances which could be correlated to an atomic blast of any magnitude. Although I don’t know whether this was ever adopted by surface ships, I do know that it was adopted by the Submarine Force, and no submarine ever went though any atomic tests after BONITA. As a footnote, the last atmospheric test at Eniwetok was conducted in 1962, Operation Dominic. After that all United States tests went underground on our own turf.
BONITA finally returned to San Diego, and stayed there for about a week so the crew could get together with their families, and then departed for her place of birth, Mare Island Naval Shipyard. Most of us took our families up there with us. Captain Newbern was relieved just before we left to take over SALMON. One last postscript, while at Mare Island we continued to look for ways to keep the crew’s morale up. We entered a team in the flag football league there, and we won the afloat championship. All of our officers played on the team, keeping the great spirit of camaraderie with the crew we had developed on Eniwetok. On the morning of 7 November 1958, I and what was left of the crew departed BO NIT A for the last time.
Before I close and open up for any questions you may have, let me pass on one more lesson learned from the short life of BONI-TA. That is, “You just can’t build an inexpensive submarine that is worth much at all, unless you man her with a crew of courage and heart.,.