Sea Stories from the Boat

I was able to obtain, from Reader's Digest, one of the two remaining December 1973 issues that featured Submarines To The Rescue. The author, Ralph Seeley, was the electrical operator (EPCP) during the rescue, I was the throttleman (SPCP) during the rescue. Ralph passed away several years ago from cancer. The Commanding Officer was C.R. "Bobby" Bell (now deceased).  The Engineering Officer was LCDR Morgan.

Sergio M. Frost EMCM(SS) USN (ret) Dec 1971 - Dec 1976

Well I guess I will add the first one to this section. I can remember back to the WestPac in 1979 and we were transiting back from Australia getting ready for an ORSE. I was standing ERS and EM2(SS) Brad (Bubbles) Burbridge was the throttleman. We, of course were maintaining a formal watch and not talking across the chain into Maneuvering but Bubbles did decide to do a heart check on me across the chain to make sure I was alive. (A heart check is a smack to the chest) Anyway little did he know that I had busted some ribs at the rodeo while on leave before the Westpac so when he hit me I was in some pain. In fact he rebroke 3 of my ribs. I kept this to myself for awhile but after watch my ribs were hurting pretty bad so I went to see the "Doc" and of course he told me my ribs were broken and how did it happen. To make a long story short, the CO Hammerin Hank Chiles found out all and took Bubbles and I to mast. He busted and fined both of us. The Boat pulled into Johnston Island to pick up the ORSE team they were going to leave me there for medical attention but couldn't so I went with the Boat to Pearl where I went to the Hospital and got checked out. They just taped me up and sent me back to the Boat. We did very very well on the ORSE and I think this made Hammerin Hank go easy on us because just before we got back to San Diego he called Bubbles and I into his stateroom and tore up the mast papers. Of course he added a few words about if you ever do this again I will @#&&*!(@. I was lucky because I had orders to NPTU Idaho as a instructor that I would have lost if the mast had stuck. Later in my career I ran into Hammerin Hank several times and he always asked how me ribs were with a big grin on his face. MM1(SS) Greg Peterman at the time and now MMCM(SS) retired. Guess I learned my lesson.
A Gurnard Christmas Story

T'was the night before Christmas
and all through the boat,
Not a bilge was stirring,
not even a moat.

The shore power cables were hung
in the escape trunk with care,
In hopes the SEO
will always tour there

Now I with my logs
and a pen which was newer,
Stepped out of maneuvering
for a long SEO tour.

When out in the engineroom
I heard such a clatter,
I rushed to the still
to see what's the matter.

And what to my wonder
of what should appear,
But the EDPO
with a six pack of beer.

His eyes were all bloodshot,
this sight was too scary,
He was dressed in a tu-tu,
he looked like a fairy.

He belched really loud
and as quick as a wink,
He ran through the engineroom
to the primary sample sink.

Then up in the tunnel
where m-div had mustered,
He screamed and yelled,
he looked really flustered.

Now Shultz, now Sverns,
now Monzon, and Oens,
Up Snyder, and Braxton
you better get goin'

Now pick-up the workbench
and scrub down shaft alley
To the bilge, to the bilge
and don't dilly-dally.

And I heard him exclaim
As he walked out of sight,
Merry Christmas to all,
You'll be working all night.

MM1(SS) Jerry W Reynolds onboard 12/72 to 12/76

I do not remember the year the flooding occured, but here is the story to the best I can recall. It happen sometime between returning from westpac (Jan 75 and going back to the yards in Nov 76).
We were stationed in San Diego, normally tied to the Dixon. We went into the floating dry dock located at Balist (sp) Point. I know they worked on several things, the trash ejector (TDU), the torpedoe tube ejector valves, and probably more.
After all the work was done, we left San Diego late one morning (late enough we could not dive as early as normal - we were crossing transit lanes and could not dive as I remember). Instead of being on a one hour manuvering watch, we were there for several hours.
A lot of things were being tested. I remember the Weapons Officer had ask to test the torpedoe tubes (fire water slugs) shortly after leaving port, but was told to wait until we dove. Since we were on the surface so long, the Weapons Officer asked again to get some of the testing done that did not require a particular depth. The Captain gave in just about the same time we secured the mauvering watch. I was just about to enter the bow compartment with the EMC(SS) (don't remeber the name - ) when they fire the second water slug - a huge gust of wind and dust blew by us, we knew something was wrong. You could hear a lot of noise, at the time we thought flooding (later it turned out to be both the water and the discharge of the air flask which was outboard the starboard torpedoe tubes). The chief looked at me and said close that hatch - I was in the bow compartment by then, closed the hatch, turned on the lights, and yelled flooding, about the same time the flooding alarm was sounded. Everything happen so fast - most of what I am telling you is based on what the analysis of the event told us. The AMR (Aux Machinery Room) operator heard the noise just as we did, he was on his way to the flood control valve (aft torpedoe room - just forward of his watch station) when the flooding alarm sounded. He hit all three the flood control levers at once. The torpedoe doors where still in there cycle where a pin was extended to keep the door from closing on an exiting fish. When the flood control valves were hit, the hydraulic tried to close the outer door to the tube but the pin was still exended. The pin was bent and could not retract at the end of it's cycle. The flooding had been caused by the ejector valve turning 90 degrees ripping open the 8 inch pipe it was connected to, which also connected to the torpedoe tube (thus we had an 8" pipe break open to a torpedoe tube with an outer door which could not be closed now).
It seamed like it took forever to rig for flooding and before the word was passed to pressurize the ops compartment with high pressure air. It took a long time to pressurize the compartment to about 8 pounds. Part of the problem was a valve was leaking by through the drain system (partialy pressurizing the bow compartment at the same time). We finally isolated the leak, and stopped the flooding.
The coning tower was still manned - They were a bit worried when the hatch below them was sudenly closed. We turned the boat and returned to San Diego. Since the ops compartment was pressurized (where most people was still located) they passed the word for us to open the bow comparment hatch and the eng room hatch to send line handlers topside. When we opened the drain valve to drain the upper hatch it did not take long to drain the water (it was not right - it should have taken longer). The guy in the hatch started to open the hatch when I and two other guys ralized the air pressure was escaping the bow compartment out the drain valve - the bow was pressurized - we tried to get the guy to stop but he was determine to open the hatch, so we grabed him and pulled him back into the boat. When the air pressure equallized, more water drained into the boat, then we opened the hatch. It took several hours for divers to place a soft patch over the torpedoe tube. Then they were able to depressurize the ops compartment and get the rest of the crew relieved.

This is Curtis Barrett ET on board Gurnard April 1970 through March 1974. I also have a story about the B52 pilot rescue. My watch station was in the control room as NAVET the night we approached the area of the downed aircraft. The op orders said to surface 50 miles out from the site and proceed on the surface. When we reached the 50 mile limit we surfaced and were running at flank speed. The seas were heavy and we were taking rolls that caused the inertial nav system to crash into the stops which happened at 36 degrees. As the OOD prepared to send lookouts topside, he ordered the lower conning tower hatch opened. Two people were in the conning tower ready to open the upper hatch when the bow of the boat caught a wave and tipped the bow down. The boat was under water in a mater of seconds. Back emergency was ordered and by the time the speed came off to slow the decent the boat was at 180 FT. I was shaking in my shoes realizing that if the upper hatch had been opened just a few seconds before we took the unexpected dive, none of us would be here to tell the story. I really don't know how many on board really knew how close we had come to taking our last dive on board Gurnard. That's the story and I am sticking to it!

Best Wishes,

Now CWO3 Curtis Barrett USNR-RET.

ET3 SS Mike Rock here, along for the ride as a Nav ET for westpac '93. Started out bad, raining on the day we left. Just before we submerge, the stern light fell off. Little did we know that this was an omen of things to come. About two days out, the trim pump breaks down so Trim and Drain are crossconnected to allow the movement of water with the drain pump. Next, the still goes down (no showers folks.) Then the Drain pump broke. Now we are in Deep XXXX Arkansas. Limited to 150ft max depth with HEAVY seas on the Pacific making our way to Japan, the seas were heavy enough that we were rolling up to 10 degrees both sides at 150ft. We had to rig tubing to hand pump the forward waste tanks to the #3 (I think, it was the one hard tank that we could actually blow overboard...) in order to get rid of the waste water in the soft tanks. Eventually, the A gangers took parts from each of the Trim and Drain pumps to get one of them working...
While all of this is going on, my ET LPO ET1 Vannoy all but destroyed the radar repeater. This necessitated rigging the portable Raytheon radar every time we surfaced, hauling that ungodly POS up the bridge trunk was, to say the least, quite a pain in the @#$.
Japan, Finally...50 foot seas, surfaced 50 miles off the coast, everyone is puking. Seas were so bad we did not man the bridge until we actually entered Tokyo Wan. Needless to say, what was supposed to be a short stop in Yokuska became a little longer than expected. Shortly after arrival, we ran a fire drill, fire in SSTG lube oil. Unfortunately, the TGs were up and running at the time and the Drill monitor failed to stop the in training watch stander from shutting off lube oil. This wiped the bearings in both TGs. After repairs, we make our way to Guam for some Seal operations, supposed to be in for a day, out for 5, in for a day, out for 5 etc etc etc...everyone gets off the boat the first day and finds their way out into town and gets completely obliterated. I wound up staggering across the brow in civies just as the COB was dismissing the 7 AM muster (boy did I get the evil eye!) I made my way to my bunk and changed into uniform and manned my manuvering watch station to find that my Chief (ETC Booth) has the #2 scope on the bars and he is checking the bolts that connect the scope to the electronics package. Out of 12 bolts, 8 are broken. This is a show stopper in and of itself, but the Captain continues going through the motions of the manuvering watch. Next we feel the boat lurch as the Aft types attempt to engage the main engines. The wound up breaking the clutch, a feat that no one else had ever managed to perform in the history of the 637 class boats. We wound up welded to the pier in Guam (figuratively speaking) for the next 45 days.
After Guam, we made our way to Sasebo Japan for a short stop, then on down to Pattaya Beach, Thailand. While on the surface transiting through the Gulf of Thailand, I was asleep in my rack and heard the General alarm sound. I rolled out of my rack and looked at my watch to find that it was just a little past midnight local time. I thought " What a crappy time to be running a drill," as I made my way to my battle station. About a minute after I arrived in the Crews mess, the CO announced over the 1MC that we had been attacked by a small boat. Apparently, there are quite a few pirates in these waters and they mistook our sub for a private yacht in the darkness. Once they were close enough to realize their mistake, the took a few pot shots at us with small arms and hauled ass out of there. While they were leaving, they actually crossed over the boat between the rudder and the exposed deck aft of the sail. After that, the lookouts were armed for the remainder of the cruise.
Pattaya was interesting, to say the least. We anchored out in the harbor and had to be ferried in groups by first a local Taxi boat, then by an even smaller launch. This still could not bring you all the way into the beach, so you wound up having to wade in the nasty for about 10 feet to the shore. It was hot and muggy from the start, and the rest, well, you had to be there for as they say, what happens on westpac stays on westpac.
This anchorage also let the Navigation division know that the ESGN does not being anchored out in un-damped mode. We crashed both IMUs when our illustrious LPO failed to set the Damping mode (he was on watch and would not listen to those of us who had actually been to ESGN school...)
At some point on this pac, we were tied up to the LONG pier in Okinawa. For those of you who have been to Okinawa, you know what I am talking about. When we are getting ready to leave, the captain had stated at the departure briefing that we would run no ahead bells until the tug had pulled us at least 100 feet back, we were facing in and Okinawa only has puller tugs, no pushing boats. The next thing I hear in the control room is "all ahead 1/3rd." About 5 seconds after that, the Fathometer watch calls out "Yellow sounding." 1 second after that he calls out "Red Sounding." We wound up having the tug pull us by the tail about 10 feet away from the pier and for some unknown reason, the captain ordered an ahead bell and grounded the boat. The tug then took a hard strain with full reverse for about 5 minutes to get us free, at which time we proceeded to continue out to sea and submerge. While at periscope depth, the captain sends off a message to COMSUBPAC explaining the situation and they promptly tell him to get his ass back to Okinawa to inspect the boat for damage, and to chap his ass for submerging after having grounded the boat. This, along with the rest of the fiascoes on this pac got the Captain fired. BTW, the Japanese do not like Nuclear vessels returning to port in their country unannounced, as we did after this grounding.
Finally, we hit Pearl for a week before returning to San Diego. This wound up being the only Westpac that I went on, so I have nothing to compare it to, but man, it was seriously Fxxxed up. We did have a lot of fun when we were not in the shitter for something, and the crew, as a whole, became very close as I am sure only a westpac can do.