SSBN 598

http://www.navysite.de/ssbn/ssbn598.htm

Sitting off to the side of the museum entrance stands a piece of submarine history that is just as historic as the Nautilus. The Nautilus began the way of innovation within the submarine force. Nuclear power would forever change the way the Navy operated, creating faster and more powerful weapons. With the invention of the nuclear bomb, the world began to envision ways to harness this power and strengthen their military arsenal. The US Navy developed an idea that would come to fruition on July 20, 1960.

George Washington’s keel was laid on November 1, 1957 at Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut. SSBN-598 was the world’s first ballistic missile submarine. Launched on June 9, 1959, she was sponsored by Mrs. Robert B.

2 http://navylive.dodlive.mil/2012/10/17/sea-based-strategic-deterrence-past-present-and-future/

Anderson, the wife of the 56th United States Secretary of the Treasury. The 1950’s were a tumultuous time in American government and military operations. At the height of the Cold War, America found itself locked in a geopolitical struggle with the powers of the Eastern Bloc, mainly the Soviet Union and its satellite states. This tension most famously led to the Space Race. In August of 1957, the Soviets successfully launched the world’s first intercontinental ballistic missile. This led the United States to make a change in their military armament that most people are unaware of. The George Washington’s original keel was laid down as the attack submarine USS Scorpion (SSN-589). It was during construction that she was given a ballistic missile section by an insertion of 130 feet. With this change, she was renamed the George Washington and another submarine under construction received the original name and hull number. Inside of the George Washington’s forward escape hatch was a plaque that bore her original name. The missile compartment that was added during construction was designed with a deeper test depth rating than the rest of the submarine because of its intended use in later ship classes.

On July 20, 1960, SSBN 598 launched the first of two Polaris missiles. She had left Groton for Cape Canaveral, Florida on June 28, 1960 and headed to the Atlantic Missile Test Range, where Rear Admiral William Raborn, the head of the Polaris submarine development program, was waiting to board as an observer of this first launch. At 12:39, George Washington’s commanding officer sent President Dwight Eisenhower a message that read: “Polaris – From out of the deep to target. Perfect.” Less than two hours later the second missile was launched.  Forty days later, the Soviets would make their first successful underwater launch of a submarine ballistic missile. Despite this proximity in feats, by the time the Soviets had their first SSBN with 16 missiles in 1967, the United States had built 41 SSBN’s, nicknamed the “41 for Freedom.”

The George Washington performed a total of 55 deterrent patrols in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, with its final ballistic missile patrol in 1982. In 1983, under the SALT I treaty, her nuclear missiles were removed and she was converted back into an attack submarine. The SALT I treaty, between the US and Russia, was the first time the countries agreed to limit the number of nuclear missiles in their arsenals. The George Washington was decommissioned on January 24, 1985 with her sail being given to the Submarine Force Library and Museum. A fun fact for many visitors is that the sail on display actually holds pieces of the USS Abraham Lincoln. A collision in 1981 with a Japanese commercial vessel caused repairs to the sail that utilized pieces from the Lincoln which was awaiting disposal at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

Sail of SSBN-598 with a Polaris Missile in the background. Image courtesy of Erica Buell

The Polaris missile and George Washington sail that stand guard at the gate of the museum serve as reminders of the great advancements that were made in the early 1950’s and 60’s that paved the way for our current nuclear navy.

The Submarine and The Train

Submarines are the silent protectors of the oceans. They are shrouded in mystery with much of their technology listed as classified material. Powerful cities moving through the waves, submarines are trillions of tons of high tech power and stealth capabilities. While submarines carry massive power, that power is isolated to the waters. Submarines monitor shore and port activities. They monitor surface ships and other submariners. When it comes to a land attack, one does not think about a boat. This is the story about the time that a submarine took out a train.

Commander Eugene B. Fluckey, USN – Photograph dated 20 August 1945. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives

 

June 1945 saw the USS Barb in her 12th and final war patrol.  The Barb was a Gato-class, diesel powered submarine that had helped her commanding officer Lt. Cmdr. Eugene B. Fluckey earn a medal of honor in their 11th war patrol. During the war, the Barb sunk Japanese supply transports off the northern coast of Japan. She was also the first submarine to launch ballistic missiles onto Japanese soil. The crew of the Barb had, over time, noticed trains bringing supplies to enemy ships on the Japanese island of Karafuto. They had already had successful missions stopping supplies from getting to the fleets by transport ships. Fluckey and his crew wanted to find a way to keep the supplies from getting to the transport ships. Attempting to take out a train by submarine had never been done before and proved to be not only difficult but also dangerous. If the shore crew would try to put explosives under the tracks, they would be at serious risk of getting caught. It was Engineman 3rd class Billy Hatfield that offered up a solution that proved to work. The crew would tie a micro-switch on the track that would trigger a set of explosions once the train went over the device. Once weather provided enough cloud cover, the Barb came within 950 years of the shoreline. Just after midnight on July 23, 1945, the shore crew slipped into their small boats and headed to shore. According to a passage in his book, Thunder Below, Fluckey is quoted as telling the crew, “if you get stuck, head for Siberia, 130 miles north, following the mountain ranges. Good luck.” This shore crew of Navy sailors led by Hatfield was the first American combatants to set foot on Japanese soil during the war.

While this mission was safer than the original alterative, it still had its dangers. The crew landed near the backyard of a Japanese home but thankfully were able to go by unnoticed. Once at the tracks, three men set up guard posts. However, they then realized that a water tower nearby was actually a Japanese lookout post. Yet again, thankfully the crew went by unnoticed.  They worked quickly and silently, just like a submarine, to dig holes for the 55-pound explosives and detonator switch. Just as they were about to finish, an express train came hurling by, forcing the men to run into the brush nearby and wait for it to pass. Once they had finalized the detonator switch, they headed back to the Barb, which was now within 600 yards of the shore. The entire mission was one of close calls and sheer luck. It was this way all the way to end. The men were halfway to safety when another train came down the track headed in their direction. At 1:47 AM, the train hit the micro-switch. Barely missing pieces of the explosion, all of the men were back on the Barb by 1:52 AM. Once they were clear of the shore, Fluckey ordered all non-essential hands on deck to share in the achievement. The Barb’s final patrol ended on Aug 2, 1945 at Midway. It was only a few short days later that the Japanese surrendered with the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ending World War II.

 

Members of the submarine’s demolition squad pose with her battle flag at the conclusion of her 12th war patrol at Pearl Harbor, August 1945. During the night of July 22-23, 1945 these men went ashore at Karafuto, Japan, and planted an explosive charge that subsequently wrecked a train. They are (from left to right): Chief Gunner’s Mate Paul G. Saunders; Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Billy R. Hatfield; Signalman 2nd Class Francis N. Sevei; Ship’s Cook 1st Class Lawrence W. Newland; Torpedoman’s Mate 3rd Class Edward W. Klingesmith; Motor Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class James E. Richard; Motor Machinist’s Mate 1st Class John Markuson; and Lt. William M. Walker. This raid is represented by the train symbol in the middle bottom of the battle flag. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

The USS Barb’s battle flag that hangs in the museum reflects its many accomplishments. It took part in twelve war patrols – five in Europe and seven in the Pacific. Members of the crew earned numerous accolades, including Six Navy crosses, 23 silver stars, 23 bronze stars and a Medal of Honor, a presidential Unit Citation, a Navy Unit Commendation, and eight battle stars; 34 merchant ships damaged or sunk, five Japanese’s warships damaged or sunk, rocket and gun symbols to denote shore bombardments, and lastly, a train to commemorate the Barb’s final war patrol. The merchant ships sunk or damaged are denoted by white flags with either solid or hollow red suns in the center. One case is represented by a German Nazi flag symbolizing a tanker sunk in the Atlantic. Rising sun flags represent the five Japanese warships sunk or damaged. The largest rising sun depiction in the top center represents Unyo, a 22,500-ton escort carrier. The smaller merchant flags with the numeral “7” represents seven smaller carriers that were less than 500 tons each. The gun and rocket symbols represents shore bombardments including the train at the middle bottom. Despite the remarkable feat of “sinking a train”, it is said that if you asked Fluckey which award he was most proud of, it was the Purple Heart award which is not on the flag. Despite sinking the third most tonnage during WWII, not a single sailor lost his life or was wounded on USS Barb.

USS Barb Battle Flag on Display in the Museum above the Medal Of Honor Room. Photo Courtesy of Erica Buell

Medal of Honor wall featuring Fluckey and his accomplishments.

The Submarine That Toured America

The Submarine Force Museum is known for being able to tour the first ever nuclear-powered submarine. While the Nautilus is the only submarine at the museum that can be toured from the inside, it doesn’t mean that it is the only submarine on display. Standing outside of the museum doors, a row of smaller submarines greets visitors. People may be surprised to see a submarine on display, on concrete, on a walkway in front of the museum. The “Type A”

Photo of the HA-8 outside the museum. Photo Courtesy of Erica Buell

submarine on display is not your typical submarine and recalls a time in our nation’s history when a Japanese submarine was generating ticket sales across the country.

 

On December 7, 1941, America was thrust into WWII with the attack on Pearl Harbor. The aerial strike in Hawaii was devastating and began a series of events that would lead our government to declare war on Japan. While the facts of that day can be found everywhere, many people aren’t aware of the Japanese naval attack that was also occurring at the same time. The Imperial Japanese Navy sent a group of submarines to surround Oahu to sink any American ships that attempted to flee. Some of these submarines were equipped with top secret “mini-submarines” that were each armed with two torpedoes and carried two crew members. The plan was for these “mini submarines” to surface and fire their torpedoes during the aerial attack. While we all know the very devastating effect of the air attack, the submarines failed in their mission. Only one was able to escape but was sunk once out of the harbor. Another washed ashore the next day and its surviving crew member was captured. A third submarine was sunk before the attack on Pearl Harbor. It had been seen following a U.S. ship that

https://chs.org/2010/05/buy-war-bonds/

was heading into the harbor. The failed mission of the “mini submarines” is not the end of their short history. The submarine captured by the U.S on December 8th was studied by our government and then was used to garner support for the war effort and sell war bonds. This was an effective way to show the American people exactly what they were fighting against.

War bonds are debt securities that help to finance military efforts in times of war. Sold by the government, they are usually retail bonds marketed to the public or wholesales ones sold on the stock market. During WWII, posters encouraged citizens to show their patriotism and buy war bonds and many different events were held throughout the country to encourage sales.  However, promotional art and film reels of the frontline could only elicit so much support. But a Japanese submarine provided a physical reminder of what Japan had done to them and promote the rally cry “Remember Pearl Harbor”. The “mini submarine”, or HA-19, that was captured on December 8th was sent around the United States on war bond rallies between 1942 and 1945. Admission to view the submarine was made possible through the purchase of war bonds and stamps. One stop on its tour was Washington D.C. on April 3, 1943.

postcard printed to publicize the submarine’s tour showed the trailer on which it was transported and exhorted American’s to avenge Pearl Harbor by buying war bonds. Photo courtesy of Arnold Putnam.

Upon arriving in Alexandria, Virginia, $40,000 was raised in a little over 20 minutes with a total of $1,061,650 by the end of the day.  When she made her way to Hartford, Connecticut, $250,000 worth of bonds were sold with over 20,000 people descending to the city center to view the submarine. War bonds were crucial to the war effort and kept troops supplied with what they needed. While the HA-19 was the more popular

A sailor posed next to the conning tower of the HA-19 on the Capitol grounds. The war bond rallies focused on the supposed small stature of the Japanese and their “midget” submarines and likened this smallness of size to smallness of character and to the perceived perfidy of the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. Library of Congress

“mini submarine” due to its involvement at Pearl Harbor, she was not the only one to participate in war bond rally tours.

 

On May 7, 1943, a Japanese midget submarine was salvaged off the coast of Guadalcanal. The HA-8, as she is known, was launched on November 11, 1942 from her carrier submarine I-16. During the launch, her rudder was damaged and lost steering. The mission was aborted and the submarine was scuttled. HA-8 has a length of 79 feet and a displacement of 46 tons. She arrived in Groton as part of one of the War bond efforts between 1943 and 1944. She is just one of four Type A midget submarines on display in the world, including HA-19.  While a novelty now, submarines such as HA-8 and HA-19 served as a stark reminder in the 1940’s that the world was not as large as everyone thought. The fight had been brought to our shores, and our military was doing what they had signed up to do – to defend and protect.

HA_8 at the Submarine Museum. Photo Courtesy of Erica Buell

 

 

 

 

 

Steel Beach Picnic

This week, the smells of summer can be found in backyards, driveways, and parks around the country. The fourth of July is celebrated with BBQ’s and fireworks and usually time in the pool or on the beach. As we celebrate with family and friends, we can’t forget those who are always on watch in our Navy. But just because a submariner is currently deployed, it doesn’t mean that a little fun and celebration can’t be had.

Life on a submarine can be boring. And for the most part, you want it to be. Submarine movies like to have us believe that it’s all action and secret missions. But most of the time it is routine patrols with the crew taking turns sleeping, eating, and standing watch. So, what do submariners do in their down time? While there isn’t always a lot of downtime between routine maintenance and studying for qualifications, down time does occur.  Most of a sailor’s down time will be spent in the mess hall. They watch movies, play video games, play cards, or just sit around and hang out. Sometimes they will get in a gym workout or run. Yes, submarines have gyms. Some modern-day subs are the length of two football fields and seven feet tall. So, while most of the space is taken up with state of the art navigation and warfare equipment, there is still a little room for a treadmill or two. What equipment comes aboard can vary depending on the type of submarine. For instance, an SSBN has a little more space than an SSN. Sometimes there will be a stationary bike or row machine and other times a weight machine with adjustable dumbbells. As far as a run is concerned, if a sailor does 17 laps in an SSBN missile compartment upper level, they have gotten in a nice one mile run! Even this can all get mundane after months at sea and sailors need to let off some steam. So, when weather and schedule permits, a captain may call for a Steel Beach Picnic.

A steel beach picnic is just as it sounds. A picnic topside of the submarine. The cook will bring out a grill and cook up some burgers and hot dogs and the crew will eat on top of the submarine and relax in the sun. For the most part, while out to sea, the Navy maintains a no alcohol policy. However, when a ship or submarine has been out for over 45 days, the captain can request a ‘beer day’, which allows the crew to really get a chance to unwind and feel a little taste of home. Depending on mission status and location, this can be held on the same day as a steel beach picnic. The captain may also allow a swim call. During a swim call, sailors will use the top of the submarine as their diving board and get to swim in the world’s best swimming pool – the open ocean. These activities allow a submariner some fresh air, sun and a little fun during long deployments. Therefore, this week, we would like to share some of our favorite images from Steel Beach Picnic’s and swim calls in the US Navy.  We hope everyone had a happy and safe 4th!

Steel Beach Picnics are not new to the Navy http://www.scout.com/military/warrior/story/1731342-photo-essay-life-on-a-navy-submarine

 

                          Need a raft? A submarine will do!
                             Photo from Business Insider

              Just catching some sun – Navy style!

 

                                  Who’s Hungry? https://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/steel-beach-when-us-navy-ships-throw-giant-beach-picni-1658725234

 

 

                                One, Two, Three, JUMP!ttps://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/steel-beach-when-us-navy-ships-throw-giant-beach-picni-1658725234

 

                                               Cannon Ball!
http://www.scout.com/military/warrior/story/1731342-photo-essay-life-on-a-navy-submarine

 

                                         Swim Anyone?
http://www.businessinsider.com/swim-call-2016-6/#a-sailor-from-the-uss-mobile-bay-jumps-into-the-pacific-ocean-1

5 Facts From Our New Exhibit

On June 26th 1917, 14,000 U.S infantry troops landed in France and entered world War I. While the war began in 1914, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the United States entrance into the war. In honor of this milestone, the museum opened a new exhibit called “The Great War- Through the Periscope.” This week we would like to share five submarine World War I facts from this new exhibit. While submarines have been used in earlier wars, this was the first time they had a more powerful presence and set the stage for their future involvement in military conflicts.

  1. Did you know German U-boats came as far up the coast as Connecticut?

Prior to 1917, the United States maintained neutrality and maintained a friendly distance with the German U-boats. Deutschland, a German merchant submarine arrived in Maryland in July of 1916. In

 

From the New Exhibit at the Submarine Force Museum on The Great War

November, she returned to the United States, but this time to New London. Both times Deutschland was able to load up on raw materials that would help the German war effort. All friendly intentions vanished once America joined the war on the allied side in 1917. From April to July of 1918, German U-boats were able to sink several ships off the Atlantic coast from Virginia to New Jersey. In July of 1918, U-156 attacked a town in Cape Cod with a deck gun. This was the first time since the Mexican American War that the United States was attacked by a foreign power at home and the only time in WWI. A total of 91 vessels were sunk off the American coast by German U-boats.

  1. Did you know that the Naval Submarine Base was built in part because of seeing the power of German U-boats?

Naval Submarine Base New London was the United States’ first permanent submarine base and opened in 1916. At Fort Trumbull, just down the river, experiments on how to detect submarines were conducted. Having seen the potential for submarines as a weapon of war prior to joining the war, the United States opened the base and school. Jules Verne, who wrote Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, is quoted as saying, “The next great war may be largely a contest between submarine boats.” Verne’s prediction would turn out to be true as submarine capabilities were expanded after the war.

During WWI, Germany was the only country to use submarines as more of a fleet service than as simple coastal protection. By WWII, submarines would play an integral role in US victories. By studying German U-boats captured during the war, the Navy was able to improve on its developments of standardizing its submarine fleet in terms of size, speed, endurance, and armament. The turn of the century brought with it much needed inventions that would allow submarine development to flourish. Such devices include the gyroscopic compass for navigation, hydrophones for listening underwater, pressed steel for hulls and diesel engines.

  1. The United States almost joined the war in 1915, rather than 1917.

U-20 sunk the RMS Lusitania killing 1,198 passengers including 128 Americans. The Lusitania was an ocean liner that briefly held the title of largest passenger ship until her sister ship was constructed. Germany had abandoned the established rules for sinking a merchant ship, primarily to announce their intentions of sinking a vessel, allowing the crew to abandon ship. Germany claimed that since the ship was carrying war munitions she could be considered a military vessel. Two of the Americans who died in the sinking were Alfred Vanderbilt and Newport News shipbuilding President Albert L. Hopkins. With America approaching a decision to break its neutrality and enter the war, Germany rescinded the policy of unrestricted submarine warfare. With Germany once again following the established rules, America backed off from declaring war on Germany. In 1917, Germany once again became desperate for a

 

From the New Exhibit at the Submarine Force Museum on The Great War

conclusion to the war and returned to the tactic of unrestricted submarine warfare. While the U-boats returning to terrorize the high seas was not the only reason America decided to finally enter the war, it did play a major contributing factor.

  1. The above poster was just one of many propaganda posters that played a major role in enlisting new recruits and boosting moral on the home front.

World War I was the first war to have a global influence, and not just because of the amount of countries involved. Mass printing allowed propaganda posters to be used on all sides and to serve many purposes. WWI was also the first war to be caught on motion picture. The museum exhibit showcases a small video of submarines. This footage is only a small snapshot of what was captured for the first time by filmmakers who were on the frontlines. These films took those posters and brought them to life in a way never before possible. Reordered sound allowed Americans to hear the sounds of the front line and motion picture and posters allowed them to see it. With the sinking of the Lusitania, the war hit home

Poster by artist Frank Brangwyn in response to the sinking of the Lusitania.
https://library.leeds.ac.uk/special-collections-exhibitions-war-propaganda#activate-image9

for many Americans. These elements of communication captured the sentiment of the day and evolved with the changing emotions of the country.

  1. Even in WWI, despite poor conditions, submarines were known to have the best food in the Navy.

Early submarines were only equipped for short trips. There were no sleeping bunks, toilets, or galleys for cooking. S-boats were not much better. The galleys were small with an electric stove. Meat would last for three days, unless it was winter. If frost built up on the hull, meat could keep for longer. Once toilets were put aboard, sailors no longer had to wait to surface. However, even this could be difficult since at lower depths increased water pressure made it hard to flush. It was common for submariners to use a bucket filled with fuel oil and dump it once they surfaced. Construction of submarines was still being perfected and during storms in the Atlantic, men would report rolls in the vessel- to the point where the periscope was almost hitting the water. If sailors were out for long patrols they would remain submerged for seventeen hours and not come up until 9:00 at night and only to recharge the batteries. Despite these rough conditions, an anonymous sailor still was quoted raving about the food on a submarine.

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…)