Sea Stories, Poems and Other Such Stuff
“A Motto To Live By”
Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming “WOO HOO” what a ride.
“My Heart’s at Sea Forever”
Long ago I was a Sailor.
I sailed the Ocean blue.
I knew the bars in Olongopo…
The coastline of Peru.
I knew well the sting of salt spray,
the taste of Spanish wine,
the beauty of the Orient…
Yes, all these things were mine.
But I wear a different hat now,
no tie and jacket too.
My sailing days were long ago…
with that life I am through.
But somewhere deep inside of me…
the sailor lives there still.
He longs to go to sea again,
But knows he never will.
My love, my life, is here at home,
and I will leave here never.
Though mind and body stay ashore…
my heart’s at sea forever
Contributed by Luis Duran
For I Am a Submariner
by John Chaffey
Some times we need a reminder!
This one has been around for a while…..brings a little moisture to the eye
I served on the Holland over a century ago. I still serve to this day on the Trident, Los Angeles & Seawolf class boats and look forward to shipping on the Virginia, Texas, and Hawaii. Places like Fremantle, Rota, LaMadd, Chinhae, Pattaya, Sasebo, Chinhae, and Subic stir my soul. For I am a Submariner. I rest in peace beneath many seas across this earth. I was on the Barbel off Palawan, the Scorpion off the Azores and the Bonefish in the Sea of Japan. We gave them hell in the harbors at Wewak and Namkwan. I am a Shellback, a Bluenose, a Plank Owner, a MCPO of the Navy, a CNO, and a President. For I am a Submariner. I heard Howard Gilmore’s final order, “Take Her Down.” I heard the word passed, “Underway on Nuclear Power.” I have done every job asked of me, from Messcook to Torpedoman to Motormac to COB to Skipper. I know “Snorkel Patty” and Admiral Rickover. For I am a Submariner. I have twin Dolphins tattooed on my chest and twin screws tattooed on my ass. I know the difference between a Lady and a Hooker but treat both with equal respect. I know Georgia Street, Texas Street, and Magsaysay drive. And although the Horse & Cow keeps moving I will always find her. I know the meaning of “Hot, Straight, and Normal.” For I am a Submariner. I have stood tall and received the Medal of Honor and been thrown in the Brig for being Drunk & Disorderly. I know the reverent tone of “Diesel Boats Forever” and the Gudgeon’s “Find em, Chase em, Sink em.” I was on the Spearfish evacuating nurses from Corregidor and the Skate when she surfaced at the North Pole. I have spent time in the Royal Hawaiian. For I am a Submariner. I have gone by names like Spritz, Cromwell, O’Kane, Ramage, Breault, “Mush” and Lockwood. I have served on boats like the Nautilus, Providence, Thresher, Parche, Squalus, Wahoo, and Halibut. On December 7th I was onboard the Tautog at Pearl Harbor. I was also on the Tusk in 49 and sacrificed myself for my shipmates on the Cochino. For I am a Submariner. I have stood watches in the cold of Holy Loch and the heat of the South Pacific. I know what the “41 For Freedom” accomplished. I was on the Sealion at Cavite in 41 and the Archerfish in Tokyo Bay in 45. I have endured depth charges and POW camps. I was on the Seafox when we lost five sailors to a Japanese ambush on Guam. For I am a Submariner. I tip beers over sea-stories with my shipmates at yearly conventions. We toll the bell and shed a tear for our buddies who are on eternal patrol. Many pilots have been glad to see me, including a future president. I have completed numerous highly classified missions during the Cold War. Because “Freedom Is Not Free,” be assured that I am out there at this very moment. For I am a Submariner.
Me and Willy were lollygagging by the scuttlebutt after being aloft to boy-butter up the antennas and were just perched on a bollard eyeballing a couple of bilge rats and flangeheads using crescent hammers to pack monkey shit around a fitting on a handybilly. All of a sudden the dicksmith started hard-assing one of the deck apes for lifting his pogey bait. The pecker-checker was a sewer pipe sailor and the deckape was a gator. Maybe being blackshoes on a bird farm surrounded by a gaggle of cans didn’t set right with either of those gobs. The deck ape ran through the nearest hatch and dogged it tight because he knew the penis machinist was going to lay below, catch him between decks and punch him in the snot locker. He’d probably wind up on the binnacle list but Doc would find a way to gundeck the paper or give it the deep six to keep himself above board. We heard the skivvywaver announce over the bitch box that the breadburners had creamed foreskins on toast and SOS ready on the mess decks so we cut and run to avoid the clusterfuck when the twidgets and cannon cockers knew chow was on. We were balls to the wall for the barn and everyone was preparing to hit the beach as soon as we doubled-up and threw the brow over. I had a ditty bag full of fufu juice that I was gonna spread on thick for the bar hogs with those sweet bosnias. Sure beats the hell out of brown bagging. Might even hit the acey-duecy club and try to hook up with a Westpac widow. They were always on the dance floor on amateur night. If you understand this, you’ve been there.
Sent in by Luis Duran
Dick Murphy IC3-SS USS Tiru SS-416
Here’s to us, one and all Who heard the message and answered the call To break away from the old mainstream And live our lives on a submarine. Sub School gave us the chance to pass the test To declare that we were The Best of the Best. When we left New London with orders in hand We all headed out for distant, faraway lands. Some went East coast some went West But no matter where you ended up, your first boat’s the best. You reported on board not knowing what to think But now you’re known to all as a nub and a dink. You learn about Tradition and learn about Pride, You learn about Honor and the men who have died, You learn about the heritage that’s been passed on to you Because now you’re considered one of the crew. You study that boat from bow to stern From the conning tower to the bilges, it’s your duty to learn Where and what makes that boat go, How it operates and in what direction it flows How to charge those batteries and keep them alive Or how to rig the boat for dive Draw those systems fore and aft, Blow the shitters, Check the draft These are duties that you must glean When you live your life on a submarine When you’ve learned all there is to know about your boat You show ’em you know it, by your walk through vote You go before the Qual Board, card in hand Where they question and grill you to beat the band And when you think you can take no more They tell you to wait just outside the door. For what seems like eons, Time stands still And when they call you in, you feel quite ill! But they congratulate you for doing so good And welcome you into their Brotherhood. Right of passage declares that you must drink your “fish”. And the tacking on process is not something you wish But you wear those dolphins on your chest with pride Because down deep in your heart, you know you’re Qualified. It seems like yesterday, it seems like a dream That I truly lived on a submarine Most Boats are gone, a memory of time I wonder what happened to that crew of mine? The Old Boats that are left, are all museums And even if you rode ’em, you have to pay admission to see ’em. So here’s to us, those that remember Who rode the boats out in all kinds of weather To those past, present and even the future To those young, hardy lads who still love adventure So let’s lift our glasses and have a toast To the memory of those daring young sailors and their undersea boats.
Those of us that sailed on the Jallao in 1963 will remember a situation similar to the story that follows.
Because we are surrounded by it, I guess we take for granted how truly awful a submarine is. Not that I’d trade it for another specialty (except aviation, those clowns have it good) but when you think about it, we put up with a lot of shit. Who lives, literally, only feet from equipment that would kill you and everyone else on board?
Torpedoes…a few dozen of these packed in and some of the crew sleeps amongst them. Don’t mind the warhead that can split a ship in half, but the fuel, if ignited, makes hydrogen cyanide as a by-product.
Battery…essentially a giant car battery. Makes hydrogen as a by-product, and if mixed with salt-water generates chlorine gas. Stores enough energy that if released all at once could lift the ship (all 7000 tons of it) one mile into the air. Good stuff.
Oxygen generator…makes oxygen (and hydrogen) by passing high voltages through water. Ingenious. Lets put a few thousand volts next to pure oxygen and hydrogen. Lovingly referred to as “the bomb.”
Nuclear reactor…aka “the Magic Hot Rock.” Probably the safest nuclear power plant in the world, operated by any agency, civilian or military, foreign or domestic. But you still have several million curies of radioactive material stored in there. Also, the associated steam plant, if released to the confines of the engine room, could boil everyone in it alive.
The 688 class submarine was built first and foremost to fight Russians during the cold war. Crew comfort was a secondary thought. 150 men (average age 24, maybe only 3 onboard over the age of 40) live in a steel can 300′ by 30′. There isn’t enough bunk space, so a portion of the crew “hot racks,” i.e. three men are assigned to two racks. When he a hot-racker gets off watch, he should have a rack open, still warm and smelly from the last guy.
There are less than a half dozen showers onboard. Small, stainless steel closets. Water is conserved, so you get wet, so you only turn it on to get wet and rinse off. No standing under the shower head to wake up in the morning. Food is cooked in a galley smaller than most public bathrooms you’ve been in. The crew’s mess is the only place for the crew…it’s a mess hall, a lecture hall, and occasionally, a movie theater. Trash is compacted into steel cans, 50 lbs ea. Seven are loaded into a tube (the trash disposal unit, or TDU) and jettisoned when the water is deep enough (don’t worry, it’s deeper than YOU can swim). Human waste is stored in sanitary tanks (san tanks) and is pumped or blown over the side when far enough from land.
It takes a special bunch of guys to volunteer for this kind of duty, and even then any psychologist would be entertained by the antics of these young men while underway…their strange ability to remain sane despite conditions we don’t subject hardened criminals to.
Lets get to the meat of the story…
The names have been changed to protect my ass from reprisal.
So there we were off the coast of Oahu. I was sleeping the sleep of the man happy to be in his bunk. Senior enough that I didn’t have to hot rack…but also a “rider.” I didn’t belong to this crew, I was riding as a favor to my Captain so I could work on qualifications (my ship wasn’t going anywhere for a while, and I had deadlines to meet).
I was awakened to the cries of “It’s flooding the whole galley!” Flooding is one of those key words on a submarine that gets EVERYONE’S attention. For a ship that makes it’s living going under the water, we like to make sure we can get up again. But the smell affronting me was wrong, not sea water, but worse. Human waste. It seems the Auxilliaryman of the Watch, when ordered to line up to blow sanitaries overboard, line up wrong. When the #1 san tank was pressurized, it flowed not to sea, but into san 2. San 2 wasn’t lined up for this, so the shit went the only place it could. A tornado of offal was reported to have blown out the garbage grinder (think trash disposal, but bigger) in the galley. It filled up the galley, ran over the door jambs and flowed into the crew’s mess. It came up the deck drains in the wardroom pantry and athwartship passage way and flowed into the dry storeroom (where bread, pasta and the like are stored). It blasted up the deck drain in the lower level shower. The doc was in there at the time and was coated from his waist down in the processed meals of his shipmates.
After flowing about the galley and crew’s mess it ran down the outboards (the frames of the ship) into the Auxiliary Machinery Room. The AMR is where we keep the atmosphere handling gear, refrigeration, and the diesel generator. It managed to leak from the pantry into 21 man berthing and filled up some poor guy’s rack (he wasn’t in there at the time). He lost everything in his rack…his clothes, his laptop, books and magazines. It flowed into the aux tank, where we keep canned goods, fruits and vegetables.
The ship came to periscope depth, and lined up to ventilate, the air was thick, the smell inhuman. Or more accurately, all too human. An estimated 500 gallons of human waste was blown into the ship.
Think of where you work. What would your company do if the sewer backed up 500 gallons of waste into your workplace? Shut down, call in the professionals? Well, we are the professionals, and where are we going to go? This is our workplace and our home. We started cleaning up immediately.
Now, we stand 6 hour watches. Offgoing guys had to cleanup. On hands and knees scooping up the mess, bagging it and shuttling it off to the heads to put it back in the san tanks and anything that can’t be cleaned loaded into the TDU. For the next 18 hours, offgoing watches had to grab rubber gloves, paper towels, Simple Green and Orange Muscle and “get down with the brown.” Now you need to realize, the galley and crew’s mess is contaminated. We can’t use it to make meals. The only messing space not contaminated is the officer’s wardroom. The whole crew had to cycle through the wardroom (only 10 seats) for the next three meals. And what meals they were.
Breakfast…Graham crackers and cereal (with milk). Lunch…Graham crackers, cereal (with milk) and PB&J sandwiches. Dinner…Graham crackers, cereal (with milk), PB&J sandwiches, and soup.
For 18 hours the crew cleaned up shit, ventilated and shot trash from the TDU. The contaminated mattress was too large to shoot, so it was bagged up and put in the freezer for disposal later. The doc ran out of wiscodyne (disinfectant), but only after giving the galley and crew’s mess a clean bill of health. We ran out of paper towels and “cleaning juice.” Over $10,000 worth of food was contaminated and had to be jettisoned. Spaghetti, bread, canned food, vegetables, fruit…all shot from the TDU. Weeks later, the crew was still finding little pockets of poop in the AMR on weekly field days (all hands deep cleanup of the ship). The smell lasted longer. Ah, the call of the sea!
This is a WWI poem found by a submariner at the Submarine Base Groton, CT in 1966 Author unknown
Born in the shops of the devil Designed in the brains of a fiend Filled with acid and oil And christened “a submarine” The poets send in their ditties Of battleships spick and clean But never a word in their columns Do you see a submarine? I’ll try and depict our story In a very laconic way Please have patience to listen Until I have finished my say We eat where’re we can find it And sleep hanging up on hooks Conditions under which we’re existing Are never published in books Life on these boats is obnoxious And that is using mild terms We are never bothered by sickness There isn’t any room for germs We are never troubled with varmints There are things even a cockroach can’t stand And any self respecting rodent Quick as possible beats it for land And that little dollar per dive We receive to dive out of sight Is often earned more than double By charging the batteries at night And that extra compensation We receive on boats like these We never really get at all It’s spent on soap and dungarees Machinists get soaked in fuel oil Electricians in H2SO4 Gunners mates with 600W And torpedo slush galore When we come into the Navy Yard We are looked upon with disgrace And they make out some new regulations To fit our particular case Now all you battleship sailors When you are feeling disgruntled and mean Just pack your bag and hammock And go to “A Submarine” Avast, Matey!
~Meltdown Those of us on board in 1963 may remember the sea valves to the Jallao’s After Torpedo Room sanitary tank were inadvertently cracked open and the tank filled upand overflowed into the After Torpedo Room. This situation was not nearly as severe as the one above, but the collision alarm going off when you are sailing along at test depth always gives one pause for thought. I remember sitting in the crews mess and hearing the main ballast vent valves being cycled and then the MBT’s being blown. The Jallao’s attitude remained level and it seemed like we were not rising as we should. I had confidence in our crew and knew that all would be well, and it was. Just another day in the life of a submariner!
Written by Bob ‘Dex’ Armstrong
Contributed by Don Tetschlag
If you never rode the boats, this is going to sound silly and make absolutely no damn sense to you. If you did, you will remember the damn things and probably smile. The contraptions were simply called bunk bags. Not ‘U.S. Navy Bags, Bunk, Type II Mod 6, Unit of Issue, One Each’. Not ‘Shipboard Personal Gear Storage Pouch (Submarine) with Zipper’… Just gahdam ‘bunk bags’. They were elongated bags, designed specifically for horizontal passageway storage, hung from the tubular bunk frames on diesel boats. They were ugly, a sickening shade of lime-green (which indecently, closely resembled the color of barf after a three-day drunk) and had four snap straps that connected them to the bunk rail. It is my understanding that they were intended to eliminate the noise level created by Gillette safety razors, Zippo lighters, busted Timex watches, dice, flashlights, coins, and shrunken heads, purchased as gifts for wives, from rattling around in an aluminum sidelocker and giving away your position. They were either that lime-green or some kind of gray tweed and they were uglier than a blindman’s bride. But they had many desirable qualities if you were a nomadic resident of a submersible septic tank. First, they increased the allowable storage space and damn near doubled it. In layman’s terms, an E-3 could accumulate worldly goods amounting to those on par with migrating Mongolians and folks doing life on Devil’s Island. Next, and this can only be appreciated by an idiot bastard who never had the wonderful experience of a surface battery charge in a state five sea, the damn things hanging down on the passageway side of a berthing compartment, kept you from being beat to death, bouncing off inanimate objects bolted to the pressure hull. They serve to pad the piping surrounding the bunks known as bunk rails. Your ribs were very grateful. But the best thing about bunk bags was their ability to be converted into instant short-range luggage… Sort of a ‘submariners Samsonite overnight’ bag. By snapping the two center straps ogether, you could create what passed for a luggage handle… A poor excuse for a carrying device, but usable. A bunk bag full of the supplies needed for a 72-hour excursion into the heartland of the civilian population, was the worst of all possible choices. Mentally picture the left leg of a fat woman’s panty hose filled with jello and stitched up at the open end and at midway from thigh to toe, attach a sea bag handle and you have the most unwieldy AWOL bag ever created and the ugliest gahdam contraption ever invented by man… A floppy sausage full of the meager possessions of a long-range boat bum. The damn things had one distinct advantage that no other personal gear conveyance had. If you saw some fleet untouchable standing beside the highway with one of the fool things at his feet, you knew immediately that the hitchhiking sonuvabitch was a boatsailor. A fellow submarine sailor would burn flat spots in a new set of tires, stopping to pick you up. To every old white-haired smokeboat vet, the words ‘bunk bag’ bring a smile to his weather-beaten face. You would find it damn hard to come across an old petroleum-powered submersible resident who didn’t have fond memories of the worthless sonuvabitches.
The Thinning Ranks of Lockwood’s Iron Men
by Bob ‘Dex’ Armstrong
Do you remember them? The old rascals with the red hash marks and rate chevrons? Five or six rows of damn meaningful ribbons… Dolphins and a Combat Patrol pin? Back in the days when those forged in combat, case-hardened bastards roamed the piers of submarine bases and butt-buffed barstools in establishments throughout the world no self-respecting devil would be caught dead in… We called them simply… the World War II guys. They had not only ‘seen the elephant’, they saddle broke him and rode him all the way to Tokyo. If you melted down all the gold hash marks and rates in their submarine service, you wouldn’t have had enough material to have hammered out a Birmingham bus token. Gold geedunk and good conduct medals were not a big defining area of consideration in the world of these red blooded American giants… Men, who had gone to sea in iron sharks and chewed the heart out of the Japanese naval war machine, didn’t require any additional credentials to reinforce their personal reputations.
The rollicking bastards had written their saga in a trail of rusting hulks and busted bar furniture from Hell to Hokkaido… And had sent an endless stream of oriental miscreants off to Buddha amid fire and the smell of burning Torpex. In 1945, they were the unquestioned hairy- chested jungle kings of the Pacific…’Uncle Charlie’s, get the hell out of my way’ card-carrying rascals… Admiral Charles Lockwood’s iron men. In my day, they were the men who held the senior leadership positions… The proven and seasoned leadership of the submarine service. They were the ‘old men of the sea’ to us. And all we wanted… All we aspired to be, was to be like them and worthy of their acceptance. As we grew old… They grew even older. I am not sure they mellowed, just grew long in the tooth and spent more and more time burying each other and cussing hearing loss and the pros and cons of Polygrip, Viagra and Metamucil. Every year, some idiot jaybird would show up on their TV tube and tell about this wonderful World War II Memorial, that was to be built in their nations capital. Then, mister TV man would disappear until next Groundhog Day. There was the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and the World War II Memorial. The ‘eternal patrol’ sailing list grew longer and longer and no national recognition for the “Greatest Generation”. We built monuments to honor the participants of lesser ‘wars’, conflicts… Conflicts that never really ended… Ones we lost… But we just never got around to honoring the ‘quiet generation’ that fought and won a world-wide hell raiser and handed this nation its last two fully Unconditional Surrenders against two of the most insidious regimes Satin ever gave birth to. Old Gringo, Capt. Ned Beach & Capt. George Street are numbered among those who got their final orders and couldn’t wait. They are numbered among those who will never see the Memorial built to honor them… Every day the list of eligible and deserving wearers of the combat pin, shrinks. Of the sins of man, indifference and ingratitude are the most difficult to survive. Bureaucratic indifference compounds the shameful nature of our national failure to extend to these very non-demanding warrior giants a long overdue national handshake. Shame on us… Shame on us all. What we do or not do, will not change the record they wrote in valorous deeds and sublime self-sacrifice so many years ago. They will always be the men who went to sea and stuck their blows for freedom, liberty and our American way of life from beneath the sea. Men who shared bad air, depleted rations, and the deafening sounds of enemy depth charges, together. Men who wore sweat-soaked dungaree shirts and repeatedly pinned the tail on Hirohito’s donkey. No, they created their own memorial… The one signed by the little grinning buck-toothed monkeys on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Harbor… A harbor totally absent of Nip war vessels that missed the terminal festivities because of U.S. Submarine prearranged dates with Pacific Ocean floor oxidation. Many of the still remaining World War II boat sailors will miss the ceremonies and hoopla attending what effetist artists and fawning politicians have created as a national thank you. Again…
Shame on us. Your true ‘thank you’ will rest with history’s accounting of what you did, why you did it and the magnificent legacy you passed to the down line members of the United States Submarine Service, and the appreciation of the yet unborn, who will mature in free air without the weight of the despot’s heel on their necks. You were iron men who took iron ships to sea and left an unparalleled record of courage and duty, faithfully performed. A record that should serve to inspire every lad who enters his country’s Navy in search of adventure in a service with an extremely proud heritage. What you did makes what came before and since pale to bullshit by comparison. Somebody needed to say that… Somebody who wore Dolphins and simply wanted to drink beer in your company, listen to your history, ride your boats and feel your handshake of acceptance… You were, are and ever will be, heroes in every sense of the term, to that lad. Your self-sacrifice was unparalleled in the annals of naval history. So thanks from an old gray haired sonuvabitch who danced with the Goddess of The Main Induction, long after you left her to us. She had holes in her stockings, strands of white hair and sagging tits, but she could still do that North Atlantic saltwater fandango and bounce around like a twenty-year-old fan dancer. God bless anyone who slammed hatches on the iron monsters that went to periscope depth and sent the saltwater valentines that kept me from ending up eating fish heads and rice, listening to Tokyo Rose bring me the news and saying the pledge of allegiance to that goofy-looking meatball flag.