North Stonington’s Babcock Road in rural southeastern Connecticut runs east-west about a mile and a half to connect two slightly more significant thoroughfares. Telephone and cable TV lines are strung through the middle half-mile, but both ends have separate electric power leads. On the west end are sixteen houses and a retired submariner who has written a book. On the east end are eighteen houses and a retired submariner that has read, and is now reviewing that book.
Chief Machinist Mate (nee Engineman) Don Muff Kamuf, at the urging of his three adult children, sat down about three years ago to tell his story from growing up as the child of immigrants in the ’40s and ’50s Bronx, through submarine service on diesels, SSBNs and SSNs, associated tours ashore, and after retirement, work in the Engineering Department of General Dynamics Electric Boat Division.
He succeeded in crafting a credible story about him-Don Kamuf, but more significantly, and perhaps without even intending to do so, he captured the essence of us-submariners of his vintage who were around for the beginning and lived and worked through the heart of the Cold War. No one of us who were there can escape noting many aspects of Chief Kamurs experiences that resonate loudly with our own observations and personal histories.
It is well, but not elegantly written-a fact that actually enhances its authenticity. Told in the non-politically-correct vernacular of the mess decks and of the Goatlocker, it can be rough, sometimes raw and occasionally even crude-just as life and duty aboard submarines was during this period. His story highlights that the makings of a good submariner then (and perhaps even now in what externally appears to be a somewhat more genteel outfit) were sometimes a unique witches brew of native intelligence, perseverance, ego, pride, physical and mental endurance, and sheer stubbornness.
It was mentioned that Muffs contemporaries would recognize and identify with many of the characters and much of the action. At the other extreme, younger readers would benefit by noting universal truths contained between the covers such as good and bad examples of leadership-how Kinnaird McKee as CO of DACE commanded Don’s lifelong respect and admiration just through a brief and informal chat, and how other individuals did precisely the opposite through carelessness or indifference.
In the last analysis, it is a book about the kind of people that made the boats run and kept such as I, alive and promotable for several decades. I thank them for doing that, and I thank him for reminding me to do so.
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