Ingrid, Ned, Hugh and Ingie, I offer today a remembrance of your husband and father as I, and several hundred other U.S. sailors, saw him on a daily and continuing basis.
He was truly our CAP ‘N. No matter what rank an officer holds when he has command, which is the best job in the Navy, all his officers and men call him CAP ‘N. Ned Beach held that position while at several ranks and for a lot longer than most of us are privileged to do so. In that time he influenced a great number who went on to serve in uncounted ships, and many of us who got to be CAP’Ns ourselves.
As the Commanding Officer of a commissioned ship there are special responsibilities and special authorities which go with that job. It is imperative that each one of us bring special talents, capabilities, and most importantly, meaningful at-sea experiences, with us when we walk aboard as CAP ‘N. I feel very fortunate to have earned a good share of my formative at-sea experience while sailing with Ned Beach.
Ned Beach was the quintessential U.S. Navy Commanding Officer; the kind of person who most rates being called CAP ‘N by all who serve the ship. But Ned was also a very special sort of Commanding Officer, he was, first and foremost, a Submarine Skipper, and one of the best, and most experienced, whoever took his ship out to Run Silent and Run Deep. He knew what that phrase meant in all its complexity.
All of us who served with Ned and went on to be Submarine Skippers can tell stories from which we learned our lessons. Maybe not right then, but certainly later. They were about unusual and vexing circumstances which arose and how Ned usually could come up with innovative and effective solutions which were, in tum, unusual. The point is, he knew the sea, he knew his ship, he knew his people, and most importantly, he knew what his mission was and the need to accomplish it. Ifl can sum up in one word that essential characteristic which underscored Ned’s performance as a Submarine Skipper, I would say it is tenacity. And I can unreservedly recommend a clear focus on tenacity like Ned’s as a prime requisite for all who would command US submarines on independent operations in dangerous waters.
All remembrances of sailors should contain at least one sea story and TRITON’s Submerged Circumnavigation (on Shake-down) provided a lot of them. The one which probably best demonstrates Ned Beach’s determination is about the day, while headed south near the Falkland Islands, when he had to face simultaneously three of those unusual and vexing circumstances which together seemed to be a mission stopper. Our fathometer suffered a fatal mishap during maintenance and we knew that soundings over most of the route we still had to travel were relatively sparse. We had some unexplained happenings in the engineering plant that had all of us searching for an answer, and on top of that the Doctor reported he had a patient with kidney stones which he could not treat on board. All of that during one day.
Ned did what a CAP ‘N is supposed to do. He considered all the problems and their implications and all the options and then he took action. We slowed from transit speed and came to periscope depth to send a message. Jn his message he addressed the problem of the patient, having decided that both materiel situations could be handled. He suggested a rendezvous for a personnel transfer with a U.S. cruiser then in Montevideo. We then went deep, turned north and made flank speed to the point he had designated. We made that rendezvous, and conducted that transfer, just by planing up to decks-awash and Jocking out the CAP ‘N to the bridge and the Gunnery Officer, Chief of the Boat and four of the Deck Gang, with the patient, to the very wet main deck. All this was done in the dead of night and without public disclosure of our mission. All of that is in his book about the trip.
What has to be read between his published lines is that he could have done any one of several things, but he did take decisive, knowledgeable action that was unusual. In sending that message and in turning north he took a path which was bold, even presumptuous, and he knew it. It was not taken lightly, but it did indicate awareness of the greater world around him and it did protect his mission. That was tenacity in the face of adversity and personal risk.
Of course, there were other facets of Ned’s practice of command in TRITON which showed all of us about the way it should be done. No one has figured out how to put those experience things in the instruction manual for prospective COs. One thing that impressed me was less dramatic than the tenacity example but just as important to being a good Submarine Skipper. That was Ned’s skill as a ship handler. One can classify that as a physical, rather than an intellectual skill in that it is based on movement and timing. It’s in the same category as torpedo shooting and as you might imagine Ned was very good at that also.
TRITON was much bigger than the submarines we were all used to driving at the time. To be known then as a competent submarine ship handler one had to be able moor at the Submarine Base in New London against a full current in the narrowest part of the Thames. One evening on returning from sea we found that our usual berth at State Pier was not available and we were sent up river to a brand new pier which was supposed to be ready for nuclear ships. There was a good current running but Ned showed us how to work the problem that night, using tugs and making a two or three bell landing. It was the mark of a real professional. And that was always Captain Ned Beach as a Submarine Skipper. Thanks for all the lessons, Ned.