|USS Skipjack (SSN-585), the lead ship of her class of nuclear-powered
attack submarine, was the third ship of the United States Navy to be named
after the Skipjack tuna fish.
Her keel was laid down on 29 May 1956 by the Electric Boat Division
of the General Dynamics Corporation in Groton, Connecticut. She was launched
on 26 May 1958 sponsored by Helen Mahon, wife of Representative George
H. Mahon from the 19th District of Texas, and commissioned on 15 April
1959 with Commander W. W. Behrens, Jr., in command..
Advances in submarine design
On the Skipjack, there were many design changes that were products of
new scientific insight into submarine design. The submarine industry, now
with nuclear power, had wanted to make a "true" submarine. This required
a design in its element underwater, not solely one theoretically able to
remain submerged indefinitely. The greatest alteration was the new tear-drop
hull, pioneered by the conventionally-powered USS Albacore (AGSS-569),
and designed for optimum performance underwater. The new hull's only protrusions
were the sail and diving planes. The twenty-three-foot sail, resembling
a shark's dorsal fin, rose at a point midway in the hull to keep the ship
stable. The diving planes, similar in function to the wings of an airplane,
were moved from the hull to this new sail, with the periscopes and antenna
masts. Thus, they could only be useful when the submarine is in its natural
environment--like the control surfaces on an airplane. Also, a single propeller
behind the rudder now propelled Skipjack, making it more maneuverable.
Other experiments in design also benefited Skipjack by allowing the
vessel to be built with improved steel. Even the controls and the anchor
were changed in the development of the new submarine. In the core, a "second
generation" S5W reactor advance of the USS Nautilus (SSN-571) reactor was
installed, allowing the ship to travel at full power for 90,000 to 100,000
miles (161,000 km). Nuclear power had already been discovered, but the
reactor was such an advance on Nautilus's reactor that it entirely changed
its magnitude and capability. Furthermore, although the S5W reactor was
thirty percent bigger than Nautilus's reactor, the reactor compartment
on Skipjack only occupied twenty feet of the ship's 252 feet (77 m) total
length. (This reactor proved so efficient the Navy began to mass-order
them). Finally, the design of the core was such that it became the new
standard of accessibility.
Skipjack had such advanced underwater capabilities her path could be
compared to an airplane in flight. As earlier private inventors like John
P. Holland had envisioned, the submarine was designed as having its natural
environment underwater, and became capable of things never before seen.
The boat's motto was Radix Nova Tridentis, meaning "Root of the New
Sea Power"; and correctly so, as every US attack submarine until 1988 (when
the diving planes moved back to the bow on the improved Los Angeles class)
turned out to follow the Skipjack's design.
After being launched 26 May 1958, Skipjack was soon dubbed the "world's
fastest submarine", after setting the speed record on sea trials in March
of that same year. It was designed to have a speed in excess of 20 knots,
but its actual speed was a guarded secret. However, the rated reactor power
in shaft horsepower (15,000 shp) and reasonable assumptions about the hull's
coefficient of drag, cross sectional area, and appendage drag can be combined
via algebra to show that the vessel should have reached 31 knots submerged.
This speed was some 9 knots faster than the Nautilus made using the same
basic reactor, and only 2 knots shy of the Albacore's best theoretical
submerged speed (33 kn).
Skipjack's maneuver capabilities, furthermore, added a whole different
dimension to ASW problems as she could reverse direction in the distance
of her own length, and were referred to as "flying", as Skipjack and her
sister ships climbed, dove, and banked like an airplane. The antisubmarine
warfare (ASW) problems created by such maneuverability and high sustained
speeds took several decades to resolve to parity.
Shorter than following classes, Skipjack lacked the space to be upgraded
with newer systems, meaning that in her later years she had second-class
sonar equipment and fire-control systems. Despite these limitations, she
remained an effective attack submarine through to the end of her career.
She received a new seven-bladed propeller during a refit between 1973 and
1976---replacing the noisier five-bladed propeller with which she had set
a trans-Atlantic underwater crossing record in an early return from a forward
deployment in the Mediterranean -- quieted her considerably but also reduced
her speed noticeably.
During her shakedown cruise in August 1959, she became the first nuclear
ship to pass through the Straits of Gibraltar and operate in the Mediterranean.
Following post-shakedown availability at Groton, Connecticut, the nuclear
submarine conducted type training and participated in an advanced Atlantic
submarine exercise from May through July 1960, which earned the submarine
a Navy Unit Commendation, and also a Battle Efficiency "E" award, an award
it would receive three more times.
In late 1960, Skipjack entered the mouth of a long ship channel leading
from the Arctic Ocean to Murmansk in the Soviet Union. On the journey,
she passed so close to the Soviet port that the officers could look through
a periscope and see the port only 30 or 40 yards (27 to 37 meters) away.
Upon entering the canal, crewmen saw one of Skipjack's officers turn off
a tracing mechanism so that there would be no written record of the action.
Upon returning from this mission, Skipjack spent the remainder of 1960
in a restricted yard availability and upkeep.
Skipjack commenced her 1961 operations by participating in two weeks
of type training followed by anti-submarine warfare exercises through August,
visiting Mayport, Florida, before returning to Groton.
In January 1962, Skipjack operated out of Key West, Florida, for two
weeks before entering the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine for extensive
overhaul, lasting four and one-half months. Following her return to New
London, Connecticut, the submarine operated locally prior to departing
in October for duty in the Mediterranean with the Sixth Fleet. During this
tour, Skipjack participated in various fleet and NATO exercises and visited
Toulon, France; and La Spezia and Naples, Italy, before returning to New
London. In this year, the Skipjack also conducted the fastest submerged
transit of the Atlantic Ocean on record, which is a record that still stands.
The year 1963 was occupied in submarine attack operations and ASW exercises,
all designed to test the capabilities of the nuclear-powered attack submarine.
The highlight of 1964 was two months of duty with NATO forces, participating
in exercises "Masterstroke" and "Teamwork" and visiting Le Havre, France,
and the Isle of Portland, England, before returning to New London in October.
After devoting most of 1965 to training exercises, the submarine ended
the year by entering the Charleston Naval Shipyard in South Carolina for
an overhaul that lasted until 18 October 1966. Skipjack then got underway
for sea trials off Charleston, before joining Shark for four days of type
training in the Jacksonville, Florida, area. She then sailed to her new
home port, Norfolk, Virginia, before participating in Atlantic Fleet exercises.
Early in February 1967, Skipjack got underway for sonar and weapon tests
and then participated in Atlantic submarine exercises from March through
June. July and August were spent in restricted availability at the Newport
News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company following which Skipjack took part
in FIXWEX G-67, an exercise designed to evaluate fixed wing ASW aircraft
against a submarine with Skipjack's characteristics. Following an extended
deployment in October and November, the submarine returned to Norfolk to
prepare for major operations of that year which she completed on 25 February
1968. The remainder of 1968 was spent in local operations in the Norfolk
On 9 April 1969, Skipjack commenced an overhaul in the Norfolk Naval
Shipyard which was completed in the fall of 1970. After sea trials in December
1970, Skipjack returned to her regular duties.
Highlights of 1971 were sound trials and weapons system tests at the
Atlantic Fleet Range, Puerto Rico, from 25 January through 5 March and
NATO exercise "Royal Night" from 15 September to 9 October. On 22 October,
Skipjack returned to Norfolk, where she remained through January 1972.
Skipjack spent most of 1972 in tests and type training out of Groton,
CT and Norfolk, VA as well as the Caribbean. The submarine returned to
Norfolk in late 1972.
Toward the end of spring in 1973, Skipjack returned to the Mediterranean
Sea and conducted several exercises with the Sixth Fleet. During that time
Skipjack was home ported at La Maddalena on the NE corner of Sardinia.
Returning to Norfolk in September Skipjack crossed paths with Hurricane
Ellen during the Atlantic transit. Down in the subsurface calm, the crew
were hardly even aware of the turbulence above them.
After returning to Norfolk, Skipjack conducted several exercises with
ASW aircraft flying from air bases in Virginia and North Carolina. In these
exercises Skipjack played the role of a Russian submarine; ASW forces were
to locate, track and conduct simulated attacks against the Skipjack. During
the exercise, Skipjack was placed under certain handicaps that would not
have been present in normal operations; for instance, she was restricted
to a designated operating area measuring 20 miles by 10 miles. Also, at
that time, Skipjack had a noise problem in her reduction gears. ASW crews
were provided the sound profile of the reduction gears; in addition, Skipjack
was required to generate a unique sound signal at all times. This was done
so the ASW crews could be certain they were targeting the right submarine
and not accidentally launch a simulated attack on a real Russian submarine.
As a result of all these safety measures and restrictions, the ASW forces
were able to locate Skipjack nearly 50 percent of the time.
At the end 1973 Skipjack was transferred to the submarine base at Groton
in preparation for a refueling overhaul at General Dynamics' Electric Boat
Division. After conducting a few more exercises, Skipjack entered the shipyard
for overhaul in the summer of 1974 and remained inactive until the fall
History from 1976 to 1979 needed.
History from 1980 to 1986 needed.
In 1986, Skipjack deployed on a "Northern Run" to the North Atlantic
In 1987 Skipjack deployed to the Mediterranean Sea, returning in early
September and entering dry-dock for the September--November time frame.
In early 1988, Skipjack visited St. Croix, Port Canaveral, Florida, Bermuda,
and Halifax Harbour, Nova Scotia; the last two port calls conducted during
an exercise. In late April, Skipjack departed Groton, traveling to the
south. During this underway, sister diesel submarine USS Bonefish (SS-582)
experienced a disastrous fire. TV news broadcast reports of the fire with
film; however, news studio editors failed to identify the submarine televised.
Wives of the Skipjack's crew noticed the sub bore strong resemblance to
the Skipjack, leading many to believe it was the Skipjack suffering the
Skipjack had a change of command during the summer of 1988 and the crew
prepared for a UNITAS cruise to South America. Skipjack left in September
and visited the Naval Base in Puerto Rico; Caracas, Venezuela (anchored
out); Cartagena, Columbia and then transited the Panama Canal. While at
a Naval Base on the Pacific side, one motor-generator suffered a unrepairable
casualty. Skipjack left UNITAS, re-transited the canal and headed to Groton,
where she entered dry-dock for repairs.
Skipjacks authorization to dive expired in March, 1989 since it was
not cost efficient to inspect the hull in 1987 for a ship scheduled to
be decommissioned. She had just been to St. Croix and some of the return
trip was conducted on the surface. From March thru June, Skipjack provided
bridge training to students at the Submarine Officer Basic School in Groton,
mostly running up and down the river. During one trip out of the sound
the anchor got stuck. Divers were called out from Groton to cut the anchor
chain and retrieve the anchor. Skipjack entered dry-dock for the third
time in three years to have the anchor fixed, at a cost of about $75K.
Skipjack left Groton in early July to transit to Norfolk. After arrival
Skipjack provided support vessel services for another submarine’s sea trials.
Following this mission, Skipjack entered NNSDDCO in October for decommissioning.
Decommissioning in 1990
Skipjack was decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register
on 19 April 1990. ex-Skipjack entered the Nuclear Powered Ship and Submarine
Recycling Program in Bremerton, Washington, on 17 March 1996 and on 1 September
1998 ceased to exist.
Murmansk is our Playground by Steve Gentry
Skipjack (SSN 585), was commissioned in '59. New
hull design, 5-blade screw, she was maneuverable as hell, real fast (40+
knots submerged), but awfully noisy... like a Chevelle 396 with glasspacks
and the AM/FM radio cranked up. We were cool!!! But when we were turning
an 'All Ahead Flank' bell, you could hear us coming 1/2 an ocean away...
At least by today's standards.
So, Fast Attack warfare tactics were rapidly changing...
The original Hunter / Killer mission of the hull design and 5-blade screw
(rapid hit-and-run tactics and speed) were giving way to the need to remain
undetected and to implement a more stealthy strategy. Skipjack was kinda
caught somewhere in that vast middle-ground between evolving sonar capabilities
by the Rooskis and the inherent advantages of remaining undetected. As
all of us who rode the boats know, once detected and triangulated, you
had a very good probability of kissing your ass goodby. Thus, our normal
outbound patrol strategy was to pull the plug when we hit the 100-fathom
curve and not surface again until reaching a similar point when inbound.
(I.E. Remain Undetected)
Two thirds of the Skipjack crew were 'nuclear
power trained'. An elite group, schooled without regard to cost, honed
to a fine edge, then cast upon the waters to make the rest of us 'forward
of Frame 44' pukes envious of their lofty position on the food chain. Most
crew interaction was based on 'Frame 44'... Those who worked forward or
aft. I worked forward. I was a certified line handler, mess cook and planesman...
And I also got to drive that sonuvabitch!
Our normal program consisted of occasional 3-5
day ops, lots of 7-20 day ops, all intended to be shakedown preparation
for 60-80 day patrols off Murmansk... These patrols were what SSNs were
all about. Because we were a nuke, there weren't many good liberty ports
that allowed us to come in and visit anyway, and it seemed that constant
pressure was placed on us to get out there in the Rooski's front yard and
wait for something interesting to happen... Pursuit of targets of opportunity!
Fast Attack boats have one crew... None of that
Blue/Gold stuff. Unbeknownst to us at this time ('67-'69), there was a
lot of pressure being put on the navy by Congress concerning the cost of
upkeep of SSNs and their frequent need for overhaul. Consequently, SUBRON
6 had put us on an OPS schedule that seemed to have us at sea all the damn
time. The navy needed to get more bang for the buck out of the SSNs and
logging max hours at sea was the solution. (Remain Undetected!)
You can see I'm going somewhere with this 'Remain
Undetected' bullshit, huh? Well...
'This is a no shitter...'
THE THRILL OF THE CHASE
It's May '67 and the memories of Dunoon, Scotland
are still fresh in my mind. I'll never forget my first sight of the USS
Hunley (AS-31) as we rounded some spit of land that jutted out to meet
the sea in the Firth of Clyde... This is the Holy Loch!
We're running on the surface, got the safety lines
set up on the fairwater planes and 10-12 of us are standing on the planes
getting our first look at Scotland. We'll have line handlers on deck in
30 minutes or so, but for this brief period of time I was able to just
soak in the jagged coastline that juts from the sea, the sounds of the
captain on the 21MC as he calls rudder angle changes to the Diving Officer
or speed changes to the engine room on the 21MC... The snappy responses...
"Con, Bridge... Left 20 degrees rudder."
"Bridge, Con... Left 20 degrees rudder, aye."
"Bridge, Con... Rudder's left 20 degrees, sir."
A few minutes later, we spot the tugs who will
bring us the harbor pilot and steer us the rest of the way to the tender,
where we will berth for a couple days and venture out into this small town
of Dunoon. For this young kid, these were some pretty heady times... Driving
a submarine, seeing Scotland, drinking dark beer and scotch that nearly
made me puke. Damn!
It was late May and the weather was brisk... Summer-like,
for the folks in Scotland. I learn later that winters are long and cold,
and the wind that sweeps down the fjords will chill you to the bone during
the long winter months. But, its nice weather now and all the new stimuli
are making me feel excited and full of anticipation. I've heard all the
sea stories about going on patrol and now I'm finally on my first.
F*ckin A, this is big time!!!
"Kildin Island... MARK!!", the officer on the
scope calls out. The QM reads back the bearing, marks it on the plot map,
and records it in the Ships Log. Kilden Island is a navigation light on
a small island just to the northwest of Murmansk.
I'll hear 'Kildin Island... Mark!' at least a
couple thousand times during the next couple years... Yet, right now I'm
driving the boat and absorbing every new detail of patrol off the USSR's
major North Sea Naval Port. We're finally here and this is what its all
It takes a couple weeks to really get into the
routine of being on station... Mostly just cruising around at 3-4 knots
looking and waiting... Looking and waiting for something, we just haven't
found it yet. Oh, we observe a number of coastal merchantman and Rooski
naval ships... In fact, over the course of a week or so we have detected
several man-o-war ships (subs and skimmers) that have fallen in behind
a couple of them and shadowed them briefly, but whatever we were looking
for, they weren't it. We'd just reverse course and return to that same
'ol location off Murmansk.
One morning, sonar reports a contact... Determines
that its a man-o-war surface ship and we fall in behind this contact. We
don't raise the scope any more than necessary, especially when other ships
are in our close proximity, so sonar provides the bulk of our info. On
this morning, there is a lot of chatter between the sonar shack and the
con... The OD, XO, and captain are exchanging a lot of glances and from
their discussion, its apparent that this contact MAY be the one that we
have been waiting for. Its apparent that our 'sit and wait' game plan has
now changed to 'follow the Rooskis'.
For about a day and a half, we follow this ship
northeast of Murmansk. At some point in time, the captain decides that
we have been shadowing the wrong ship and that we will return to our position
north of Murmansk. We've trailed the wrong ship for a about a day and a
half and must hurry back to station. Whatever we are looking for, must
be important and there is concern that our objective may have left Murmansk
while we were tailing the wrong ship.
We reversed course, went to about 400 feet and
hummed along at about 25 knots to get back on station. Making some good
time without letting everyone know we were here. At 25 knots, sonar was
pretty marginal... Our own noise and the rush of water across the hull
made it difficult to listen very far ahead, when the routine business of
the control room is interrupted by,
"Con, Sonar... Contact bearing 075!"
The OD orders "All stop!" and asks sonar if they
can identify the contact. Sonar says that they can't yet, BUT there are
additional contacts bearing 015, 270, and 330...
"There are a bunch of them, sir."
The OD calls the captain to the con and things
swing into action. Pretty soon we got us a full blown plotting party going
and the control room is full of folks. The contacts are all identified
as man-o-war and they are all around us.
We work our way up to periscope depth... 250 feet,
wait a bit... 100 feet, check the baffles... And we come to periscope depth
to take a peak. Holy shit!! The captain is raising and lowering the scope
every couple seconds, observing a Rooski ship, lowering the scope again,
and describing each ship that he observes! We have accidentally stumbled
right into the midst of some Russian Fleet Exercise!
For 24 hours or so, we maneuver amidst the Russian
fleet. Some real interesting activity and the descriptions that are being
relayed from sonar to the con and the Captain/OD to the QMs, is the stuff
movies are made of... And there we were, right in their midst and them
Rooskies didn't know it! We were totally full of ourselves. The chatter
amongst the crew was high energy... Stories were handed down from watch-to-watch
as such interesting episodes continued to unfold.
We are the Silent Service, we are the hunter,
and damn, we are good!!
THE WORM TURNS
Well, one must always guard against over confidence
and complacency. If you are a crew with relatively little experience, this
warning magnifies about 50 times! Such is the lesson to be learned for
Have you ever heard good 'ol US Navy types tell
stories about some poor unfortunate Rooski boat that is detected by our
surface ships and is literally hounded unrelentlessly? Dogged to the point
of exhaustion, utter shame and embarrassment? Well, we must've come pretty
damn close to being the Russian Navy's version of that scenario.
Into the 2nd day of moving more or less at will
through the Rooski ships, everyone was getting tired. The excitement kinda
faded due to fatigue (sleep loss) and the adrenaline flow had subsided.
The more senior officers were catching a few winks with instructions to
call if or when anything unusual came up.
A junior officer (LT or JG, not sure) had the
deck/con by himself and we had the boat positioned a couple miles from
the main Rooski activities. We were just tooling along at 4-5 knots (no
wake from the scope) and from this distance the officer (Lets call him
Mr. 'L') was making random observations through the #2 scope and the QM's
were making log entries. At odd intervals he'd raise the scope...
"Up scope... Bearing MARK! Light cruiser 10 points
to starboard... Down scope!"
"Up scope, (quick turnaround to scan the horizon)...
Bearing MARK! High speed patrol craft... Down scope!"
"Up scope... Bearing MARK! I see several ships
in the distance... Superstructure only... Just over the horizon... Down
"Up scope... Bearing MARK! Destroyer... Looks
like a helicopter lifting off the stern... Down scope!"
"Up scope... Oh, F*CK!!!"
" DOWN SCOPE!! FLOOD NEGATIVE!! MAKE YOUR DEPTH
400 FEET!! ALL AHEAD FULL!! SOUND BATTLE STATIONS!!"
'CLANG, CLANG, CLANG...'
"CAPTAIN TO THE CON!!"
Things have just turned to MAJOR SHIT! The helicopter
lifting off the Rooski destroyer moments earlier had taken up position
right on our periscope!! Thus began 6 hours of the most gut-wrenching,
escape effort ever undertaken in peace time!
We attempted every evasive maneuver known to man...
Go deep, go fast, go slow, go quiet, go quieter!! Reverse course, noise
makers, F*CK!! They were on us like stink on shit! Pounding us with practice
depth charges, pinging on us with such volume that I'll never forget that
sound... Just as we thought we'd gotten away, they were right back on us
again! I very vividly remember the increasing gap of silence as we finally
managed to escape their grip.
I sure would have liked to be a fly on the wall
in the wardroom when the captain's debriefing took place. Mr. 'L' sure
was rather sheepish the remainder of that patrol... Must have been a pretty
major ass chewing. I have a feeling that Mr. 'L' got a remedial lesson
in the benefits of REMAINING UNDETECTED!
Well, that sure humbled us a bit. From being 'king
shit' one moment, to 'eating shit' the next. You can guess that the remainder
of the patrol was rather uneventful. We were so shell-shocked that we kept
our distance and you gotta know that them Rooski's knew we were in the
area and just ran about PINGING the shit out of things. Well, lacking alot
of confidence and bearing the scars of near-battles lost, we finally rounded
the coast of Norway and started the long transit back to Norfolk with these
words echoing in our muttled little brains...
|Skipjack Moments by Steve Gentry
ANGLES AND DANGLES
Since completing shakedown following our period in Charleston Shipyard
(SubSafe Upgrade) we have moved to Norfolk D&S Pier 22, and have put
in some hours at sea (20-30 days total). Having worked the boat through
the paces (lots of drills, deep, quiet, slow, fast, and angle/dangles)
the crew is becoming proficient and us new folks are getting certified
at their watch stations. I'm just a boot FN who has been certified on the
helm and planes and I am logging enough hours at the diving stations that
I pretty well know the operational characteristics of the boat... Holding
depth (especially at periscope depth so as not to broach the sail), certified
as battle station planesman, making depth and course changes smoothly,
and of course the ultimate... Angle/Dangles. For Skipjack, high speed and
large up/down angles in conjunction with large rudder angle changes, is
what the boat was designed for. We were designed to maneuver at speed,
pursue the target, launch our fish, and get the hell outa Dodge!!! Here's
a special story that I recall...
I was working the outboard position on the diving station. I had control
of the rudder and the stern planes and my buddy had the fairwater planes
on the inboard station. We sit side-by-side facing forward, the Diving
Officer sits in a tall chair between us, the Ballast Control Operator (BCP)
is just behind and to our left, and the Captain, Cmdr Tomb, has the Con
from a slightly elevated position at the periscope stand just slightly
aft and to the right. We're all close together... Takes up about an 8-foot
Captain Tomb has been aboard Skipjack for several years and has worked
his way from LCDR, to CDR (Captain of the boat). He is one sharp officer...
Rhodes Scholar, fits a uniform well, and knows the boat from top to bottom.
He projects confidence and authority and is just the kind of Captain you
want to have... Well regarded by the entire crew. He'll be the HMFWIC during
this memorable day!
"Now rig ship for Angle/Dangles", the Captain broadcast on the 1MC.
After giving the crew several minutes to stow what you don't want broken,
we begin to maneuver. From the Con, the Captain orders several course/depth
changes as we work our way from Ahead Two-Thirds, Ahead Full, and then
Ahead Flank. As we increase speed the fairwater planes have a tendency
to cavitate, so I'm controlling depth and headings from my outboard station.
Man, this is fun and I'm getting pretty damn good at rolling out precisely
on the new course and holding bubble/depth assignments as instructed. I've
got my seatbelt pulled snug and sitting low in the chair to keep myself
braced in nice and tight. When we do the big angles everyone has to hold
on for dear life... It's like an 'E' Ticket ride at Disneyland!
I've learned that the boat has a rather unique characteristic when doing
big rudder angle changes... Because of the torque of the screw and
the slightly off-set rudder/stern planes, the boat behaves differently
when turning left, or right. At a Full/Flank bell, when applying right
full rudder, the boat will tend to raise its nose up and you must keep
applying a little bit of 'down' on the stern planes to keep the nose
down... Just a little! BUT, with left full rudder, the nose will raise
very slightly and will then fall off into a nose down position... A delay
of a couple seconds before you need to put some rise on the stern planes
to keep the nose up. Got it? Right turn... Use a little 'down', and left
turn... Wait a couple seconds, then use a little 'up'.
Enter the new Diving Officer trainee...
We've done a series of depth/course changes and all has gone well...
The Captain has called the orders, the Diving Officer sitting between the
planesmen) has relayed instructions to us and insured they are complied
with. The Captain now instructs the new officer, LCDR W., to take the Diving
Officer position for training purposes. This is Mr. W's first opportunity
to train as Diving Officer, but he is projecting confidence as he assumes
The Captain calls several instructions, which are promptly responded
to by Mr. W. and we begin to increase speed and depth/rudder angles. The
boat begins to bank into the turns and she begins to perform like the sport
model that she is! We ultimately are cranking along at a flank bell and
make several depth changes... Then, a little rudder angle is added. We
are starting to rock and roll as the Captain calls for Right Full Rudder!
"Right Full Rudder, aye.", responds Mr. W.
I crank in the rudder, report the rudder right full, Mr. W. relays this
back to the Captain...
"Very Well", the Captain responds.
The boat begins to bank to the right and the nose begins to rise a bit...
I bump the nose back down with some dive input on the controls. We hold
assigned depth pretty well (within 20-30 feet) and roll out on the new
assigned course. Everyone is happy! The Captain then orders Left Full Rudder...
"Left full rudder, aye.", responds Mr. W.
I crank in the left full order and report to Mr. W. that the rudder
is left full... He relays that to the Captain.
Within a second or two, the nose begins to rise, as it always does,
with left full rudder and Mr. W. tells me to watch my bubble... It's getting
nose high. I start to tell Mr. W. that it'll drop off into a nose down
posture in just a second, BUT Mr. W. wasn't listening! He said,
"I told you to take that bubble off!"
And he reaches past me and pushes the controls forward. He pushes the
controls forward at the same instant that the boat started its own nose-down
attitude. The flank speed, hard left rudder, and Mr. W's pushing the nose
over placed us into the most radical dive and turn that we'd ever been
The boat cranks in a huge bank to the left and a steep down angle...
I'm holding the controls pulled back against my chest (maximum 'up' input),
got the rudder cranked in left full, and I'm falling out of the seat because
my seatbelt has come loose. A 'hush' has fallen over the control room as
the boat does a 40+ degree port roll and 40+ degree down angle and we are
out of control... Doing max speed in a big giant spiral!
The depth gauge is chattering off depths so fast (click-click-click-click)
that I only make out every 50-100 feet. I am scared to death and I'm holding
the rudder left full and full rise on the planes and we are diving FAST.
Suddenly, the Captain's cool voice says,
Mr. W. relays the instructions, and I comply. The boat immediately rolls
out level, I've still got full 'up' in the stern planes and we start UP!
I release the full up on the stern planes and the Captain says make your
depth 100'. Mr. W. relays the assigned depth and I acknowledge.
I'm watching the depth gauge and I keep bumping some of the 'up angle'
off the boat as we continue our climb back to 100'... We are going
so fast!!! At some point, I realize that I need to apply lots of dive to
level off at 100' and I apply 20-30 degrees 'down', then full 'down' on
the stern planes to try to level off. Hell, we are going so fast that we
fly right on past 100' and pop clear out of the water... We then plunge
back into the water and dive uncontrolled back down to 300' while I am
applying full 'rise' on the stern planes!! Finally the boat is back under
control and we slow to Ahead 1/3.
Everyone is totally in shock... We have just been through the most hellish
ride you've ever seen. I swear that while we were doing that death spiral,
I would have sat right there, frozen in position, had it not been for the
Captain's calm instructions to bring the 'rudder amidships'. It took us
all 10-15 minutes to get our heart rates returned to normal, relax a bit,
and think of the mess in our skivvies.
I recall overhearing the Captain exclaim,
"Mr. W., let that be a lesson to you... The planesmen know how this
boat handles... Just relay my instructions!"
"Aye, sir", responds Mr. W.
Skipjack was a real motor scooter!
|Stories from USS Snook SSN 592
Contact Starboard Side! Submitted by Gervase Rybak MM3 (SS) (70-73)
A night on the surface, coming out of Alameda after taking on weapons.
I got lucky that day and pulled lookout watch when the first watch was
set. It was getting to be dusk and there were many contacts around the
boat. The biggest problem was seeing the other boats due to the shoreline
lights. We were passed the "Gate" still in the Bay. Not much longer and
we would be turning to a course one-eight-zero heading back to San Diego.
A beautiful night to be on the surface. We had a calm sea and the shoreline
of California as a view. The moonrise was a site I had never seen since
that night. The moon must have covered half the horizon. Things had calmed
down and everyone was getting into their "routine". The OD and I were enjoying
being on the surface on the bridge. There were no close contacts and life
was good. The serializness of the boat cutting through the sea and the
eerie green glow off the bow was very relaxing after a long day. I started
my sweep, looking for contacts, working from port to starboard. As I came
around to 090 relative, I saw something coming at us in the water at a
fast closing rate! The contact was below the surface and about 1,000 yards
off. What I was looking at seemed to be a torpedo in the water heading
straight for the boat! The contact had a green luminous glow coming toward
us. Wait! What do I say to the OD? This can't be a torpedo heading for
the ship, could it be true! CONTACT! STARBOARD SIDE! POSSIBLE TORPEDO!
The OD looked over to starboard, I yelled to him that I now had two contacts,
heading for the ship, and they are possible TORPEDOES! This is one of those
momuments in life where time goes into "slow motion". The OD and I both
looked at each other with a confused expression. The contacts were still
on a bearing straight for us, now about 500 yards out. I could see in the
OD eyes, and I know he saw the same look in my eyes, that this was not
possible, this could not be, but! There they were heading closer and closer
as the seconds ticked away. The OD said he was going to press the "collision"
alarm and pass the word over the 1MC. Contacts still at 090, hot and straight
for us. The same thought going through my head, Damn this couldn't be happening!
Then, as the OD's finger was on the collision button, just an "RCH" from
pushing and sounding the alarm, the strangest thing happened to those two
torpedoes! They started to JUMP out of the water! It seems that my two
torpedoes were dolphins coming to play at the bow. They were jumping around
the bow chasing the wave from the boat. Then in an instant, another five
more dolphins join up with the first two and it was a site to see. All
of them "glowing" green as they played with the boat. Needless to say,
the OD and I were glad that they were not torpedoes and he never did push
the collision alarm. I don't think we would have lived it down.