Mr. Trammel served in the Navy from 1960 until 1980. He served aboard the USS ROBERT E. LEE, USS WOODROW WILSON, USS VON STEUBEN, and USS THOMAS A. EDJSON. He completed his department head tour as the Weps QA Officer on SIMON LAKE AS-33, totaling 13 patrols. Mr. Trammel is retired from Lockheed Martin.
You look around the Navy today and you see many young sailors with a chest full of ribbons and can only imagine how that young sailor could have earned so many awards. Many are even the Navy Achievement Medal, which requires some truly significant effort to earn. At least that was the case in the 1960s through the 1980s.
At the beginning of the fleet ballistic missile program in the late 1950s and early 1960s the Navy went out to the fleet and selected the best-of-the-best to meet the manning requirements of the most complicated war machine ever built. These hand picked sailors and officers came into the fleet ballistic missile program, also known as the Polaris program, named after our steady dependable North star. They had already earned many awards and citations for prior service before entering the Polaris program. These sailors were already heroes with medals, not to short-change them as not being heroes. They were already heroes in every since of the word. Although these men were the best-of-the-best from the fleet, their numbers were not sufficient to fulfill the Navy’s tremendous need for highly skilled technical billets. However, the young sailors that had to be recruited to meet the rapidly expanding requirements of the Polaris program had very little opportunity to earn many medals and citations. They were recruited, sent to basic training, and then entered into the training cycle to prepare them for the demanding duty required on the forty-one fleet ballistic missile submarines that would become the backbone of the nuclear deterrent force of the United States during the cold war.
Recruiting offices throughout the country began the massive job of selecting the young men that would be the future of the Polaris program. They would become nuclear power plant operators. electronic technicians, missile technicians, internal communications technicians and the many other skills that would be required to operate and maintain the FBM submarine and its sixteen intercontinental ballistic missiles, and nuclear power plant. One of the requirements for these highly technical fields in the submarine service was a commitment of six-years service. Little did these recruits understand that they would spend many days, even months. beneath the world’s oceans. Each submarine would bear the name of a President or other famous person that contributed to the United States during a time of need. Each had a hull number preceded by the designation SSBN, which is the abbreviation for submersible ship, ballistic, nuclear. However, this brotherhood of submarine sailors came to think it meant Saturdays, Sundays and a Bunch of Nights.
Each FBM Submarine. as we know. was assigned two crews of approximately 120 to 130 enlisted men and officers. Many of these sailors would serve their six-year obligation and reenter civilian life. Were they heroes? You bet! Even if some, after six years, only earned the Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and maybe a Meritorious Unit Commendation, and/or Navy Unit Commendation. Sure. there were many letters of appreciation and/or commendation issued, but these pieces of paper were just that, pieces of paper with no accompanying medal or ribbon. When these heroes reentered civilian life there were no home coming parades or big news articles declaring their heroism. The same is true with those young recruits that continued beyond their six-year obligation and made the Navy a career. There were many 20-year plus enlisted men and officers from the FBM Submarine Force who, when they retired could only display a few medals and/or ribbons. Were they heroes too? Again. you bet! Many of these sailors made 10 or more patrols on one or more submarines, each lasting 60 to 75 days. or longer. They were separated from family many times. Gone when their children were born. Gone when their kids graduated from high school. Gone when the rest of us here in the United States were sitting down to a great Thanksgiving dinner. Gone at Christmas time, and someone else had to play Santa for their children. The other heroes, their wives. were without husbands for roughly half of their careers, which is another story well covered by Mr. David R. Hinkle
in the October 2006 issue of The Submarine Review. These sailors’ perseverance and dedication to country and duty was the key ingredient that helped win the Cold War. Yes! They were all heroes, and there are still many out there beneath the world’s oceans protecting America today in the great Trident Submarines that stand guard to insure America’s freedoms. They also may not earn many medals or ribbons, but like our forty-one for freedom sailors, they too are HEROES!
The Nimitz Museum
has been designated as
The National Museum
Of the Pacific War
The Nimitz Foundation is the not-for-profit entity that supports the Museum and is raising funds to support the creation of a WWII Submarine Memorial, featuring the sail of USS PINT ADO (SS-387). The Foundation is raising $250,000 to develop this memorial and respectfully solicits donations to support this need. Tax deductible donations can be mailed to:
Admiral Nimitz Foundation
WWII Submarine Memorial
328 E Main ST
Fredericksburg TX 78624-4612