As personally fulfilling as it is to stand here and say nice things about Kenneth Monroe Carr, I’d much rather be sitting in the audience listening to him speak to us. Jimmy Carter has been quoted as saying that with the exception of his father, no one had impacted his life as much as Admiral Rickover. Well, Admiral Rickover also impacted my life, usually favorably, but not always in a good way. Ken Carr always shaped mine in an extraordinarily positive manner.
To best frame the man’s character, for those that don’t know him, I have to go first to his retirement ceremony in 1985. It was at the Recruit Training Center at San Diego where all the recruits paraded in front of the podium. His opening lines went like this, “42 years ago I was standing out where you are and I was really annoyed about having to stand in the sun and listen to some darned officer give a lecture, his retirement speech. I swore that day that someday I would get even. Today, I’m getting even. What I want now is a few of you to get mad at me and come back in 30 or 40 years and get even.” What followed, now that he had everybody’s attention, was a wonderfully motivating speech for recruits and audience alike.
I first met Ken Carr in 1961 when he was an XO. As one of the first direct inputs to nuclear power training I and a couple of dozen classmates had just finished an abbreviated sub school the day before when I reported to SCORPION, just out of PSA and just about to leave for Norfolk to become the first nuke in Norfolk. After I came aboard I learned in quick succession from the XO, the ship was getting underway in 15 minutes, I had the bridge, there were no tugs available, that I’d be on the watch as the diving officer within a week, and within a month I’d be an OD. I was to stay out of the engineering spaces because I was to concentrate on becoming a submariner. Standing my first OD watch a month later I came to periscope depth at six in the morning. Watching a sunrise through a scope, I said to no one in particular, wow this is fun. Just off the periscope stand, Ken, who I hadn’t noticed was there providing a little adult supervision, said “When it stops being fun I’m going to get out.” And every job he had thereafter I was around to observe, he had fun and he acted like that was the best job in the world. Being trained by Ken was also fun. Along with the jobs of sonar and electronics material officer, I also had the collateral duty of public affairs officer. One of my jobs was to send 8 by 10 pictures to those who wrote to the ship to get them. I was running low and went to the XO and said, how do I get more? He said, you write a work request and send it to the tender. I said, okay and filled out the work requests and came back and gave it to him. He said, how many do you need? I said it’s right there, 50. He said, let me tell you what’s going to happen. You’ll put this in and in a couple of days the chief petty officer in charge of the photo shop will call up and say, we’re kind of busy. Can you make do with 25? He said if you really want 50, ask for 100. So I went back and I re-did it again. I came back and gave it to him and he said, very good. I’m going to teach you one other thing, think big, and he put another zero on there.
A couple of days later the chief of the photo shop called up and said, we’re kind of busy. Can you make do with 500? Ken had wanted to leave SCORPION to relieve as CO of THRESHER, as they came out of the New Hampshire shipyard. He didn’t get that job. He was ordered to be the blue crew XO on the new construction JAMES MONROE, because he was the only prospect available that was senior to the blue navigator who had commanded a diesel boat.
I’m also pretty sure that he was instrumental in getting myself and my classmate ordered in as the two sea experienced JOs in new construction, which an SSBN rated. We had come back from our third deployment, and three spec-ops as unqualified officers and ensigns is not too bad as an OD. That was pretty nice. But when we opened up the order, opened the mail, we had orders to report to Bettis in three days. And Yogi Kaufman very reluctantly, was ordered to give us Dolphins so we could get in the car and get on the road and make Bettis on time. In due course JAMES MONROE found itself the first new construction submarine to go to sea following the loss of THRESHER. There’s plenty of adult supervision on first sea trials, Naval Reactors, SUBLANT reps and all that. But on sea trials BRAVO we were all by ourselves, and the tension level was pretty high. I came down off watch, (second sitting) and there was a movie going on. All of a sudden Ken looked over his shoulder at the cluster of instruments that are right there by the ward room door, threw his chair back and ran out of the ward room. It was kind of a 1001, 1002, and both CO’s threw their chairs back and ran out of the ward room. The other XO threw his chair back and ran out. As did both navigators.
The lights came on. The movie stopped. The steward asked me, where did everybody go? I said, I don’t know, but wherever they went they don’t need me. I was just up there.
Ken came back in in a few minutes, sat down and got some popcorn and was eating it. I said, XO, where’d everybody go. He said, I don’t know about everybody else, but I went to the head. What I learned later from the OD who was up there making holes in the ocean at 10 knots, 400 feet, was that forward door flew open and in came both COs, one of the XOs, and both navigators. They looked around a few minutes, didn’t say anything, went back down, came in the ward room, sat down, the lights went out, the movie came on, and nothing said. But the tension was gone. From there on in, everything was kind of neat. When Ken got his orders to be PCO of FLASHER building at EB, no doubt that’s why I wanted to go. So we were there—for the first three or four months it was just he and I, which was kind of neat. We were the third crew ordered in. When they decided to cut the ship in half and roll in 14 extra feet, they disbanded the first crew.
When THRESHER went down it was decided it was going to be the first fully sub safe crew, they disbanded the second crew, and we were the third. We were kind of behind others. The FBMs were being pumped out and we’d go into a dry dock for one or two days in between FBMs. So we were there for a long time at EB. He always maintained, every time EB said we’ll get that particular problem in PSA, he’d say, there’s not going to be a PSA. . He’d say, you’ve got to fix it now. They’d say, that’s going to take 1,000 man-hours. He’d say, send 500 guys down and we’ll be done before lunch, with a big grin. He could get away with anything because he had this big grin. But we left for Pearl Harbor—when we first formed up most all of the wardroom were bachelors. But Molly and he married us all off before we left, except one guy who reported aboard the night before we headed for Pearl.
BATFISH and LAPON rightfully get an awful lot of praise for a very successful trail. But Ken Carr really was the first guy on FLASHER to do a very extended trail. And the story behind that, which you don’t hear about much so I’m going to tell you, is we were supposed to have a PSA in Pearl Harbor, even though he told EB we weren’t going to do that. We were operating on weekly ops.
We came in on Friday and the squadron commander is on the pier. He said, Commander Carr, can you be ready to deploy on Monday? Carr said, hell, I can be deployed tomorrow? The problem was, we had run all the ships into the ground. All the ships in Pearl were broke. We were trading power transfer valves around to the deploying ships. We hadn’t figured out that material readiness is a consumable. So we were the only ship, brand new ship. The problem was an Echo harassing aircraft carriers off San Diego. We were going to go try to find them and if we did we’d pass it off to Task Force Bravo or somebody, which we did. They came charging in and scared them off. So we had to go find them again.
After about the third time they said, if you find them again this time, just try to stay with them as long as you can. So we took them all the way back home to the upper left-hand corner of the Pacific. That was the first long cruise. It was a lot of fun. Anyway, when Ken was debriefing with CINCPAC, CINCPAC asked him, to what do you owe your great success? He said, with a big grin, prior planning, good training and the fact the OD cleared his baffles a half an hour before I told him to. So he would always accept luck, but he was always ready to exploit it
when it came up, and that’s the key to it. Ken called me one day and said, Admiral Rickover just called and he expressed a great deal of displeasure that I have not sent anyone back for an engineer’s exam. I said, okay, fine. He said, you’re going back Wednesday. Okay. Fast forwarding, Ken came down to Newport News from his job as head of OP-713 in the Pentagon, submarine R&D less nuclear power and missiles. He came down to attend my lieutenant commander wetting down party. I was the engineer on DANIEL WEBSTER for decontamination, refueling, overhaul. Don’t ever volunteer for those.
So he asked me, do I know anybody, lieutenant commander, commander level, that was good at sonar, because he had a slot opening up and Bill Pugliese was going to leave? I said, no, I don’t. The next morning cleaning up the kitchen I had a grand mal seizure, and I became that guy. So it was a small shop, Gordy McGary and myself, Ken, and a very efficient secretary. Ken talked to Gordy and I one morning and he said, there’s no way we all have to be here early in the morning to go through all the message traffic so we can brief our Admiral up for his 10 o’clock meetings. And we’ve got to be here about four when he comes back and he’s got a bunch of stuff he wants us to do before the next day. He said, between 10 o’clock and four o’clock we just need one guy to answer the phone and make excuses for the other two. So that one and three watch bill made Pentagon duty fairly reasonable.
He had a knack for cutting through all the nonsense. On a Friday afternoon the chief of staff would come running in to OP-713 and say, we’ve got to take a big budget cut. You’ve got to cut everything back 10 percent. He’d said, I’m not going to cut back everything 10 percent. If you want money I’m going to kill HY130, I’m going to kill the Dolphin. He said, you can’t kill anything. He said, I’m going to fully fund the Mark-48 torpedo and all this, that and the other thing. He said, never mind, I’ll get the extra money from the aviators.
And I watched Jerry Holland do that same thing at sub school. We brown-bagged at the Pentagon, even though in that time you could go eat lobster on Main Avenue every day with two martinis if you wanted to, with the ex-admirals walking up and down the hall saying come and talk to me. Over a ham sandwich one day he was looking at the POM, the Program Office Memorandum, the money thing, and said, you know there was a good program in here that never makes the cut. It’s called the permit plunger sonar.
He said, who in the world would ever give money to something called the permit plunger sonar? What has it got? It’s got DIMUS, improved narrow band, accelerated active search, DNA. Well the big thing in the news in 1969 and 1970 was dioxynucleoside acid. He said, let’s rename this program the DNA sonar, which he did. It got approved. So he called up the program manager and said, how much money do you need for this five year period to get it into production? The guy said, $20 million. He said, thank you. So over another ham sandwich Carr said, you know, there hasn’t been a major program in this building gone through that hasn’t at least tripled during this pre-production phase. He says he needs $20 million, we’ll give him $100 million. Now how do you spend $100 million in five years?
Well the easy answer is 10, 20, 40, 20, 10. He said, nobody will believe those numbers so let’s make it 9.43, 19.78, 40.65, 21.03 and 9.11. You see the process there. It got approved. So the commander calls him in and says, Carr, what the hell am I going to do with $100 million? Carr said, “We have every expectation you will find a way to deal with that problem.” Years later I picked up a copy of Navy Times and read that program is having only a 10 percent overrun on a major program.
At the end of the OPNAV tour, Carr wanted to go be CO of one of the new tenders. That’s what he had told BUPERS. So he got a call from BUPERS and they said, sorry, what you’re going to do is relieve Paul Early, the head of the Nuclear Power Examining Board. It was the only time I saw him physically angry, for about two minutes. And then all the other captains started showing up to try and make fun of him a little bit. He had this big grin on and said, you mean you didn’t have that on your preference card? They said, what do you mean?
He said, where else can a captain get a four-star to sign a fitness report, and you don’t have to fix a damn thing? All you’ve got to do is say, that’s broke, that’s broke, that’s broke, you’d better fix it, and you leave? They said, you’re right, and they left saying geez we should have had that on our card. One other thing, during this period of time, because of this seizure business, I had to go to a medical board over at Bethesda. The medical people wanted to throw me out. Carr came over as a witness in this adversary proceeding and at one point they turned to him and said, Carr, if you were at SUBLANT would you want a guy like this driving one of your submarines? He said, him and 12 like him. I thought, wow.
Well, that came to pass. About half way through a two year tour Carr called me up, now at SUBLANT, and said, can you be ready to deploy right out of the shipyard? And I always wanted to tell him, hell, I can be ready to deploy tomorrow, like you told the squadron commander, but I just said, yes sir.
So we went right into POM and we had a lot of fun. We were ready to go. He sent me two CO eyes only messages. This was Pargo, preparing to deploy. The first one was when we were coming back from a shooting exercise torpedo at AUTEC. He told me my father had died. He had met my father and he really caused an epiphany for me when he called my father, sir. He appreciated people. He knew people. He would call the cleaning lady at EB by her first name when he made his tour at night. He’s just that kind of people person.
The other time he sent me an eyes only was after we had sailed on deployment and we were just south of Greenland and I’ve got to make the decision, do I duck under ice under the Danish Straits or do I go into the Norwegian Sea? He sent me a message saying the mission has been cancelled, come on home. It turned out that Admiral Rickover had never been told about the medical thing.
When he found out kind of back channel, he was a little annoyed the operational guys hadn’t told him. So what it was is there was Rickover, Carr and RLJ Long, they’re in a room in the Pentagon arguing this thing out. The decision was to bring me on home, which was too bad. I didn’t like that, but that was the only time he didn’t succeed in supporting me. I’m so grateful for the many times that he did.
But I’m just one of many, many, many people who have a deep and abiding appreciation for his consideration and heartfelt concern, in a word, love. A lot of people think Ken and Molly didn’t have any kids. They’re wrong. They had dozens.