On June 6, 2017, the museum hosted a special ceremony to honor the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway.  One of the guests who participated in the ceremony was Jeweldeen “Deen” Brown, who served aboard USS Trout (SS 202). While the Trout did not play a major role in the battle itself, she did pick up a few Japanese sailors who were taken to Pearl Harbor to be questioned. Despite its small role in the battle, Brown’s story, along with others, creates a fuller picture of the war.  Deen and a few others from the area make it out to events at the museum when they can. It is a great privilege to be able to sit down with these men and hear their stories and relive the past.

Jeweldeen “Deen” Brown knew he wanted to be a submariner from almost the beginning of his Navy career despite starting as a surface sailor. Selected for Radio school, his first introduction to the submarine force was through its food, which is probably no surprise to any submariner. While awaiting transport to Pearl Harbor in San Diego, he found that the best food could be found on the S-Class subs. Having some contacts with friends from radio school, he would go down and eat, and quickly his interests in submarines grew. In a book by Stephen Leal Jackson about the men of WWII, Deen was quoted as saying, “I was rather intrigued with the complexity, and I was somewhat awed that these guys could learn to operate that thing…. You know, instruments everywhere, all of that, of course was mysterious to me. And so, I was somewhat awed by that and thought… just to learn how to operate this thing would be an education

Gold being offloaded from USS Trout. Brown helped unload the Philippine gold before being able to join the crew. March 1942. Image courtesy of Submarine Force Museum and Library.

in itself.”[1] A week after the attack at Pearl Harbor, Deen was sent to Hawaii to his assignment on the surface ship USS Nevada. When he arrived, just like many others, he found confusion, sadness, and horror. The Nevada was the first ship Brown saw as he entered the harbor. It was aground and not going anywhere anytime soon. While in Pearl, Deen convinced the officer in charge to let him go work at the submarine base. From then, Deen worked hard and learned quickly until he found himself a spot on an active Submarine. While working for a support tender named the USS Pelias, Brown was able to strike a deal with the Executive Office of the Trout and make his way on the crew. He was given six months to qualify despite having never been to the submarine school in Groton. Brown qualified in four months. Brown’s first war patrol saw the Trout participate in the Doolittle Raid. While an aircraft mission, the Trout was stationed at the mouth of the Kobe harbor to keep watch on the Japanese’s fleet. If the fleet began to leave, that would signal that the mission had been compromised and the crew report it. Brown may very well have been the first to realize that the bombing had been a success. While monitoring the Tokyo radio broadcast, he realized that it went off air suddenly. Once he was informed of the bombing, he knew the raid had been successful. His second war patrol saw the decisive Battle of Midway which was credited as the turning point in the war. In all, Brown served nine war patrols. Retiring after twenty-two years, he had been promoted to the Master Chief rate, becoming one of the first navy Chiefs and the only radioman chief in the Atlantic submarine force. After his navy retirement, like many in the area, he continued to work twenty-four more years at Electric Boat. He is quoted as saying, “Submarine guys had something real to do. Meaningful. And that’s what meant a lot to me; I wanted to do something meaningful and real. Never mind the spit and the polish.” [2]

Deen Brown can be found walking the halls of the museum from time to time. With a smile on his face, he usually tells the girls in the museum store not to work too hard. They talk with him a bit and they learn some new tidbits about the war. On the day of the Battle of Midway ceremony, Brown was there with his usual smile and sweet demeanor, happy to participate and share his story. Just like most of the veterans who walk through these doors, he wants the submarine legacy to endure, both for those outside the service and for those who currently serve. Many sailors who came to the ceremony that day took the time to stop and shake his hand. They wanted to share their gratitude for his service and he thanked them for theirs. Last year during a book signing for “The

Naval Base New London Commanding Officer Captain Paul Whitescarver and Master Chief Deen Brown place a wreath in remembrance of those lost in The Battle of Midway on June 6, 2017 at the Submarine Force Museum. Image courtesy of The Day

Men”, Stephen Jackson had some of the men featured in the book come along for a presentation. Of course, Deen came. He had been involved in the planning process of the book signing. He said hello to lecture goers and alongside Jackson, signed copies of the book which featured his profile along with others. Deen Brown’s story is like many from the WWII era. Ready and eager to go and fight for what he believed in, Brown chose the road less traveled at a time when living on a submarine for two months was compared to living in a basement. We thank him for that choice and eagerly await the next story he chooses to share.

[1] Jackson, Stephan Leal. The Men. (Indianapolis, IN: Dog Ear Publishing, 2010) 94.

[2] Jackson, pg 105

 

Flag Day and the Beginning of The Nuclear Navy

We all know June 14th as Flag day. On this day in 1777, the Second Continental Congress adopted what would become the flag of the United States. On this same day, many years later, we would adopt a new form of submarine. The birth of the Nuclear Navy saw its beginning on June 14, 1952 in Groton, Connecticut with the keel of SSN 571- USS Nautilus, being laid by Harry S. Truman. In his opening remarks, Truman said, “As we celebrate this Flag Day, it marks one of the most significant developments of our time.”[1]

Figure 1 Truman signing the keel of USS Nautilus http://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/six-new-england-presidential-visits-stories-behind/

Truman was right. The development of the first atomic submarine led the way for a faster, more efficient submarine force. It also marked a turning point in scientific and industrial development. The keel laying ceremony was only the beginning, but served as a marker to celebrate the advancement of this technology. The Nautilus would surpass all of her predecessors with new capabilities and advancements. Once finished, she stretched 319 feet and displaced 3,180 tons. Truman, in his speech on that June day, made multiple references to the profound impact that nuclear power was having not only on military developments but the world at large. Truman passionately went on to say, “I know that all Americans will join me in this. For we are a peaceful people, not a warlike people. We want peace and we work hard for peace. This is a great day for us, a day to celebrate—not because we are starting a new ship for war, but because we are making a great advance in use of atomic energy for peace. We want atomic power to be a boon to all men everywhere, not an instrument for their destruction. Today, we stand on the threshold of a new age of power.”[2]

A keel laying ceremony is a long-standing tradition and the formal recognition of a ship’s construction. The keel laying is the first of four celebrated events in a ship’s life, followed by their commissioning, launching, and decommissioning.  The atomic energy being harnessed for use in the Nautilus gave special meaning to this ceremony. It was only a few short years prior that the world saw the devastating effects of the atomic bomb. With the development of SSN 571, that power was being harnessed and used for development instead of destruction. On that June 14th, no one could have known the long-lasting effects that the Nautilus and this new technology would have on the submarine force and technology. On that Saturday, especially to those in Groton, this was another ceremony. Groton was and is proud of its submarine history and this was just another

Figure 2 Crowd at keel laying of USS Nautilus. Image courtesy of Harry S. Truman Library & Museum

part of it. Down the river from Electric Boat were five submarines anchored and “manning the rails” in honor of Truman’s visit. One Submariner recalled that most of the crews were upset about giving up a Saturday’s liberty without much thought to the historical ramifications of the moment. It wasn’t until later – after Nautilus had reached the North Pole – that those in attendance would realize what they had witnessed. So tomorrow as we celebrate Flag Day, we also celebrate the start of our nuclear navy and the history it created.

 

[1] Harry S. Truman: “Address in Groton, Conn., at the Keel Laying of the first Atomic Energy Submarine.,” June 14, 1952. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=14162.

[2] Harry S. Truman: “Address in Groton, Conn., at the Keel Laying of the first Atomic Energy Submarine.,” June 14, 1952. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=14162.

 

Tomcat Down!

Just off the coast of Scotland, a large naval exercise was underway. “Teamwork 76” included hundreds of ships, from a dozen NATO countries, in which staged (joint) maneuvers were underway. Among those watching the maneuvers were dozens of news reporters, all of whom were invited to photograph and report on the exercise. (And thanks to a previous collision that had occurred between an American navy frigate and a disguised Soviet sub, all knew that Soviets were also in the area.)

At the center of the exercise was the USS John F. Kennedy, an aircraft carrier that was carrying planes that were performing “realistic strike operations.” NATO was counting on the press to show the world, and especially the Soviets, that it was prepared. A standout of the exercise was a twin-tailed Grumman F-14 Tomcat, the newest and “hottest thing in the sky”. The Tomcat was aggressive to the eye in the sky and a picture of it would send a hell of a message. (more…)

Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire: NR1’s Next Adventure

NR-1’s next trip would take it to the Mediterranean, which hardly gave her a welcoming embrace. On one of its first evenings, the NR-1 quietly rode along the Mediterranean floor; a small vessel in the ominous darkness. The sonar showed nothing – exactly what CO Warson wanted. Nestled in behind the pilot chairs, he was taking a much needed rest. Suddenly, the 2nd pilot reached around and shook Warson roughly. Warson woke up irritated, but surrounded by views that chilled his bones. The external video cameras showed that the NR-1 was smack dab in the middle of a mine field. Somehow the sonar had failed to pick up the WWII mines. Warson, now fully awake, shouted “Don’t Move! Don’t Do Anything!” for he knew that the mines became much more sensitive when submerged in salt water. If the NR-1 would even slightly brush one of those mines, she and her crew would be history.
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Welcome Aboard, Sir! The continuing saga of NR-1

After doing its part for the NATO project AFAR – helping to place Acoustic towers beneath the waters surrounding the Azores – NR-1 and her crew headed back to her home port in Groton, Connecticut. In its short time afloat, NR-1 had gone from being “Rickover’s Rubber Duck” to a full-fledged part of the Navy’s submarine service.

NR-1’s first crew had dealt with her trials and tribulations with eagerness, ingenuity, and professionalism. They had shared something few could ever claim, but as the old adage says: all good things must come to an end. In the words of one her crew, “they had been present at the creation, but the NR-1 was not their property…and their role, like it or not, was done.” They departed, one-by-one, heading out down their individual paths.

Dwaine Griffith, the CO of NR-1, was replaced by a young Naval Academy graduate, Toby Warson. Warson was considered to be, by many, an up-and-coming sailor that possessed a golden ticket. He was bound for an outstanding, highlighted career, of that they were sure. He accepted the billet of NR-1’s second command, never having heard of the ship or its missions. Warson underwent training for his command on NR-1 at the Prospective Commanding Officers School, but nothing could truly prepare him for the adventures and trials he was about to undergo aboard the Navy’s smallest and secret submarine. (more…)

Rickover’s ‘Little Ship That Could’: NR-1 story continues

After many years of dancing and darting through red tape, fiscal uncertainties, and seemingly never-ending engineering hurdles, Admiral Rickover’s ‘Little Sub that Could’ was successfully built.
Throughout the lengthy build process, the crew of the NR-1 spent their time viewing training movies, working on simulators, and training for something the Navy had never seen before; all while waiting and wondering if the $100 million nuclear submersible/undersea research vehicle/submarine would actually be built. If the crew had doubts, ADM Rickover did not. He ensured that everything moved forward, including the readiness of the people charged with its use and care. And in Rickover’s mind not just any crew would do. Many times he made it clear that only the best-of-the-best would be allowed to sail on her and with only a dozen men onboard (including 3 officers and 9 enlisted men), they all had to know the boat – fore and aft – and be able to run it.
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NR-1: The beginning

In honor of the museum’s newest upcoming exhibit, we will be sharing stories of the Research and Recovery vehicle, NR-1 and the crew that sailed on her.

After the tragic loss of the USS THRESHER (SS 593) and all that served on her, the Navy designed rescue vehicles that were built with one mission in mind – to “find and save the lives of sailors trapped on crippled subs.” This led to the creation of the Deep Submergence Systems Project and its centerpiece, the Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle (DSRV), a piloted mini submarine
In the early 1960’s, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover began kicking around the idea of a making a nuclear powered DSRV that could drive (yep, drive) along the ocean floor. Rickover believed that the inclusion of nuclear power would blow the doors open on the future possibilities of the submarine force. He knew that the usage of compact nuclear reactors would lead to vehicles that “would not depend on batteries and could be entirely self-contained.” There was only one question – would it be logistically possible? To find out, Rickover “ordered parameters drawn up for a small submarine that could go deeper than any current manned sub, and with a nuclear reactor powering it, could stay underwater indefinitely.”
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CDR Richard H. O’Kane, Medal of Honor Recipient

CDR Richard H. O’Kane

Richard Hetherington O’Kane was born in Dover, NH, on February 2, 1911, the son of Dr. and Mrs. Walter O’Kane. After attending Phillips Academy and the University of New Hampshire, O’Kane entered the U.S. Naval Academy, graduating in 1934. Following his graduation, O’Kane served aboard the USS Chester and USS Pruit, before reporting to sub school at Sub base NLON.

Upon completion of his training in 1938, he served aboard the USS Argonaut until reporting for duty in fitting out USS Wahoo at Mare Island, California. He served as Executive Officer of Wahoo from her commissioning in May 1942, after which he saw her through five war patrols, until July 1943 when he was detached, (just before she was announced overdue and presumed lost in November 1943.) O’Kane was awarded the Silver Star Medal with 2 gold stars, a Letter of Commendation with accompanying medal, and Presidential Unit Citation ribbon for his outstanding service on Wahoo.
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The Sinking of the Imperial Japanese Supercarrier Shinano by USS Archerfish (SS 311)

On 11 November 1944 B-29 air strikes against Tokyo were cancelled and Archerfish, originally assigned to lifesaving duties, was free to patrol the waters near Tokyo Bay. On the night of 28 November she spots what is believed to be a tanker leaving the bay. Lookouts later determine that it’s a large aircraft carrier with three destroyer escorts.

Archerfish CO, CDR Joseph F. Enright, begins a six-hour surface track on the carrier in anticipation of a submerged attack. When the carrier turned into the sub’s path six torpedos were fired. They were set for shallow running in order to increase the chances of a hit in case they ran deeper than set. Two torpedo hits were seen and four more were heard. The carrier sank in 5 hours.

Enright believed the target to be, and was credited for, a Hayataka-class carrier weighing 28,000 tons. Post war accounting identified the target as the Shinano, a 72,000 ton supercarrier, originally laid down as a Yamato-class battleship, the first of its kind. It was so secret it was being transferred from Yokusuka to Kure for final fitting out. One of the items on the list for installation were her watertight doors. Once the torpedos hit, the inexperienced crew could do nothing to save her. As of 2014, Shinano remains the the largest warship ever sunk buy a submarine. Archerfish earned the Presidential Unit Citation for this patrol.

Dec 1, 1943: Loss of the USS Capelin (SS 289)

Capelin put out on her second war patrol on 17 November 1943, in the Molucca and Celebes Seas, and was to pay particular attention to the trade routes in the vicinity of Siaoe, Sangi, Talaud, and Sarangani Islands. She was to end her patrol on 6 December.

USS Bonefish (SS 223) communicated with Capelin on 1 December 1943 in the area assigned to Capelin at that time. Bonefish warned Capelin about a convoy they had just attacked. Capelin acknowledged the message was never heard from again.

Japanese records studied after the war listed an attack by minelayer Wakataka on a supposed United States submarine on 23 November, off Kaoe Bay, Halmahera. The Japanese ship noted the attack produced oily black water columns that contained wood and cork splinters and later a raft was found. This is the only reported attack in the appropriate area at that time. Also, Japanese minefields are now known to have been placed in various positions along the north coast of Sulawesi (Celebes) in Capelin’s area, and she may have been lost because of a mine explosion. Gone without a trace with 76 crew members, Capelin remains in the list of ships lost without a known cause.