A Tender Tale
While most agree that SSBN's were the major factor in keepingMoscow in check from the late 50's through the 90's - few areaware of the role played by thousands of Sailors scattered aroundthe world on several ships - keeping those SSBN's in peak conditionand on station. In the heat of the cold war - while the visiblewar raged in Viet Nam... "The 41" were out there - enforcingthe peace that most American's have taken for granted. They couldstay out there - year in and year out - in large part due to thededicated professionals aboard the tender.
This story is about the 4 years that one young sailor servedaboard one of those ships; - and the lifetime impact of that experience.
Time and Tides: it's the late 60's -
and for a "cold" war - things sure are hot...
There's something happening here; And what itis ain't exactly clear;There's a man with a gun over there Telling me that I've got tobeware...Chapter 2:
What a field day for the heat: A thousand people in the street;
Singin' songs, and carryin' signs, Mostly say "hooray forour side"!
I think it's time we stop, children what's that sound?
Everybody look what goin' down ...BuffaloSpringfield
It was the late 1960's... the United Stateswas still smarting from Stalin's aggression after WWII - NorthKorean and Chinese aggression against South Korea in the early50s-- and Khrushchev's attempted move into Cuba in 1961. PresidentJohnson had committed to stopping the communist's expansion whatever it took - so we were involved in that rather "distasteful"business in South-East Asia - to which he was sending what seemedlike an "unending supply" of men. To fill those "billets",the Selective Service was conducting a Lottery to determine whichof us would go to Viet Nam and joust with dying. Like many youngmen at the time - I didn't care much for the idea; so when I hadreason to believe that I had "won" that lottery - Idid the honorable thing - and joined a branch of service - andvolunteered for a type of duty - that would guarantee I'd notgo to "Nam". For a price - the Navy was willing to bargain.The Price: a 6 year enlistment. Well in my book - "6 yearsof Navy" beats the heck out of "6 feet under" sothe decision was a no-brainer. Perhaps my motives were a bit suspect- but I wasn't running off to Canada either...
We all live in a Yellow Submarine...
a Yellow Submarine...
a Yellow Submarine... ...theBeatles
The Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarine. At the time - there were 41 of these boats - each armed with enough destruction to wipe all life off the planetseveral times.
These boats have the ability to stay underwaterfor very long periods of time - and their movements are -- forall practical purposes -- undetectable. The Soviets couldn't findthem; so - they couldn't defend against them - and the delicatebalance of power during the "cold war" prevailed - resultingin peace. An FBM Submarine is a collection of subsystems -- groupsof components connected together to perform some specified taskor produce a specific bit of data. One very important subsystemon the FBM's was the navigation subsystem - called the "ShipsInertial Navigation System" - or SINS for short. This a collectionof precision gyroscopes, accelerometers and a computer set upto detect the motion(s) of the submarine. By "integrating"the accelerations of the submarine over time - speed, directionand distance can be determined. If you know where you startedfrom - and know very accurately what direction and distance you'vegone - you then know where you are.
|Guided Missle School|
Dam Neck (Virginia Beach) Jacket Patch
In the 60's and 70's, this is where the
Polaris and Posiden techs were trained
|The guidance gyros of an early missile. |
Feed that information to a missile - tell it whereit's target is - and it will fly from where it's at - to it'starget - very accurately (using it's own version of a SINS). Forthe first 15 months of my enlistment - the Navy trained me inthe operation, maintenance and repair of the boat's SINS. Thenext three months was Submarine school, New London, CT.
When we graduated from "C" (SINS) school - we were toldto take any leave we wanted - because after SubSchool - we wouldbe sent straight to our next command. So I went from VirginiaBeach to New London via Los Angeles - and most of my class matesmade similar trips. When we arrived at New London - about thethird thing the Petty Officer at the "Welcome Aboard"speech said was "Any leave you have on the books will beautomatically granted on graduation from this school". Itwas then that I learned that there were many times the militarywas less than "squared away." A friend of mine had drivenhis car from home to New London - and he - like myself - had ordersout of the West Coast. Sailors - known for their ability to improviseand make do - would figure out how to beat the Navy out of sometime ---
|The submarine piers at the Sub|
base / SubSchool New London
So we did some checking. If we flew to the West Coast- we would be allowed a couple days travel time -- but -- if wedrove - we would get 10 days "travel and proceed" time.So we told the Navy we had to drive - after all we had to gethis car back home. By the end of SubSchool - I had 4 days leaveon the books - and he had three. Well 3 + 10 = two weeks - that'smore like it!. We got our POV time - and the Friday we graduated- we headed south down I95. Twenty Five hours and 10 states later- we were in Mississippi. I'd never been in the Deep South - itwas - uhhh - different. A half hour later - we were in his hometown - another 10 minutes into the "country" - and wepulled into his front yard. I was in shock. Oh - not from hishome - or anything like that - nope. Something else. I knew hehad a brother and sister - but hadn't given it any thought beyondthat. After all - the picture of his sister in his wallet wasof a young girl of perhaps Junior High age.
|New London Jacket Patch|
She - er - ry, can you come out tonight? (Come, come,come out tonight)
You-oo-ooh better ask your mama (Sherry baby) Tell her everythingis all right
Why don't you come out (come out) with your red dress on (Comeout)
Girl, you make me lose my mind... ...The FourSeasons
This gorgeous hunk of college freshman - er - freshperson- bent over a dustpan on the front porch was no child! Whoa -but this is the South - things are a bit different here. Evenin the enlightenment of the new decade (1971) things progresseda little slower here than any place I'd ever been. After properintroductions - an evening supper - bowling in town - I thoughtthings were going pretty well. My mistake! Toapproach her uninvited was to put life and limb in danger - hervirtue was defended with great zeal - Geez -- all I did was holdher hand! Realizing I had unleashed a wild and angry beast - Ipromptly tethered it to the nearest sturdy object - making surethe tether was applied in a most secure manner. I then beat ahasty retreat to seek the council of her brother. Upon receiptof his council - I decided to let things be - and continue onwith my career (while I was still able to). I understand she eventuallygot loose from that tree...
Graduating at the top of the class usually has some advantages.In this case - the Navy allowed me to choose my ship. Having justflown on commercial planes for the first time - I decided I likedflying a lot. And it just so happened that the Aircraft CarrierRanger had the kind of equipment I was trained for. I put in forthe billet - and received the assignment. But before I finishedSubschool - the Ranger had received orders of her own - to majoroverhaul - and the replacement of the Autonetics SINS. That meantthere was no longer a billet for me.
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