Damn, I loved reading your sea stories, but it sounds like you guys had more fun aboard the Terrible T than I did.
Maybe it was because of The Cuban Missle Crisis or the Bay Of Pigs or Vietnam or the Kennedy Assasination or
that the Thresher went down or the first wave of anti-war protesters -- our civilian peers and friends -- who
questioned the values of young men thrilled to be assigned to one of America's first nuclear subs....but from your
stories it sounds like perhaps we took it more seriously. Who knows? We did have some fun, however, and
enough memories to last a lifetime.
I was an 18 year old Seaman's Apprentice (two white stripes?) when I reported aboard the Tullibee fresh out of
Sub School. I think only like 3-6 of the guys in my class were assigned to nukes. Not many. Most were assigned
to conventional subs like the Cavalla, which we studied in Sub School. There were newer diesel boats too, like the
Hardhead even the Albacore, which looked like a nuke but ran on diesel power if i remember correctly.
When we were at sea it always seemed (at least to me) that we could end up in the middle of a war. As I read your
sea stories, I was wondering if it was that way for you guys too....
Perhaps because of my perspective, and my age (or should I say youth) back then, my most vivid memories were
kind of serious situations...
This one I will never forget.
I was onboard the Tullibee for what I believe was known back then as 'the second run to San Juan'. The
Commissioning Crew had taken the first one a few months earlier, and apparently it was a real blast and
expectations were high that this trip would be more of the same.
I think we were originally scheduled to cruise to San Juan in a week or so. We left New London on a Monday and
were supposed to get down there for the weekend for a week in port. On Thursday, however, sonar picked up
what was identified as a Russian Submarine. We were very close to American soil and this was viewed as a
serious situation. To make a long story short, we
played tag with that guy for a full week. I stood watches during the week in Sonar (I heard the sob), at the
analogue Mk. 112 FC Computer (I was a Fire Control Technician), and on the planes (I was also the Battle
Planesman at that time).
About a week into this very quiet (and seemingly deadly) game of cat & mouse, right after I was relieved from my
watch on the planes, I walked toward the bow compartment to work on my quals. On my way out of the Control
Room I glanced over at the Fire Control computer and noticed that the two ships were only 1800 yards apart and
closing...kinda close, but we had been playing tag with these guys for a week already. This was a very modern
computer for it's time, but very, very, very old by digital standards. It was a servo mechanism that worked on a
combination of gears and electricity. It had pictures and counters, not digital readouts.
What you saw, literally, was two drawings that were the shape of ships, with their bows pointing directly toward one
another and the range counter clicking down, showing that the range from the Russian sub was only 1800 yards. I
noted the closeness to the new watch on the computer and walked forward to work on quals. Hey, I did eventually
earn my Dolphins on the Tullibee.....
Anyway, I went all the way up to the closet right below the forward hatch, right before the officers mess. I was
looking for some valves. I thought they would be right inside that closet to the right of the hatch if you were facing
forward. I turned the doorknob...and as I opened that door the sound of the flodding and collision alarm started
howling. I immediately slammed the door closed. Oh shit. Somehow by opening this dumb door I had started a
flood -- that was my immediate thought. I think the damn horn for that alarm was right inside the door and it made
me jump about a foot off the ground.
It took about a second or two for me to realize that was not the case....that this was a real flodding and collision
alarm and odds were that we were about to be in a collision with the Russian sub. I took off like a bolt toward the
Control Room, which was both my station for Flooding & Collision and my Battle Station. Immediately after I jumped
through the hatch, it was slammed shut and the compartments were sealed. The ship started to vibrate heavily as
the Captain ordered the engines turned up and the planes to full rise. All tanks were blown and all hell broke lose.
As I passed the computer I glanced over and saw that the two ships which had been facing toward each other were
now spinning wildly around and facing away from each other. What I was witnessing were two ships that appeared
to pass each over each other -- which meant a near miss or a collision with "the enemy" was imminent.
Now you have to understand, we had been running silent for a full week. No noises, no movies, no 1mc, no
nothing. Quiet running, full alert, very quiet stuff. Now from nowhere the ship was shaking up a storm, cavitating
like crazy with a burst of accelleration from maybe 1/3 speed to full or flank.
My first job in this situation was to crawl behind the computer and toss out the damage conrol equipment, and
because I was so well trained by the Navy that's exactly what I did. The shaking got even worse and the ship took
a tremendous up angle...at least 45 degrees is what I remember but it could have been more or less. It was way
up and shaking like nothing I ever expected to encounter in my life.
I kept tossing the bags out and suddenly it occured to me that nobody was taking them. I looked from behind that
big old computer and what I saw was the entire Damage Control Crew hanging on for dear life to anything solid that
was nearby. I looked back toward the dining hall and saw a few guys, including one particularly salty and tough
sailor, holding themselves up by
spreading their arms between the bulkheads of Sonar and Radio. There I was tossing out bags and these very
brave guys who I looked up to were just holding on, frozen. Did they know something I didn't know??? Hey, maybe
I should hold on if these guys are. The up angle kept increasing..... right up until we broke the surface with a loud
And that was it. We never did see that Russian sub. Nope. But lemme tell you, we made enough noise to wake
the dead coming up. Rumor had it that we either had a near miss or that the Old Man got tired of the game and
pulled the plug by surfacing. Never did hear the real story about what happened. Not sure who did but it certainly
wasn't the crew. And I will never ever forget the look of horror on my shipmate's faces as the Tullibee shuddered
and broached the surface that day.
Anyway, by the time things settled down we were on the surface and there were no sonar contacts to be heard
anywhere. The Russians, if they really were Russians, were probably halfway back to the Baltic Sea or wherever it
was that they docked.
So we cruised on to San Juan...about a week behind schedule. What was supposed to be a week in an exotic
location turned out to be a weekend in port with one day of Liberty and one day of work, so we could get back out
to sea and back to New London on time.
And I will never forget that day of Liberty in San Juan. But that's another story for another time. Hope you guys
enjoyed this one.
Maybe more to follow....
P.S. Does anyone else remember this? Is there anyone else as old as I am who reads this?