1954

A Naval Academy graduate (class of 1938), another Naval Academy graduate (class of 1954) and a submarine

Adversity and Its Adverse Effects
Admiral Forrest Sherman: A Very Considerate CNO

 

 

A Naval Academy graduate (class of 1938), another Naval Academy graduate (class of 1954) and a submarine 

Shortly after World War II, CMDR John F. Bauer, took command of a submarine called the USS Clamagore (SS 343). In 1947, a sailor named Don Ulmer joined the Navy after high school and soon reported to duty aboard that submarine. A couple years later, Cmdr. Bauer, a very bright individual, saw great potential in that sailor. One day, he pulled Don Ulmer aside and told him that he thought the young sailor was "too bright" to spend his career in the Navy as an enlisted man and suggested that he become an officer. "Furthermore," Cmdr. Bauer said, "we need your bunk!" Cmdr. Bauer then wrote a referral for Don Ulmer to attend the Naval Academy. In 1950, Don Ulmer entered the Naval Academy and graduated in 1954. What is incredible is that in 1967, Lt. Cmdr. Don Ulmer returned to take COMMAND of the USS Clamagore! This time he had traded that bunk under that torpedo loading for the captain's bunk!
Don Ulmer obtained the rank of captain and served thirty-two years in the Navy.
Captain Don Ulmer lectures one to two times a month in the Flight Museum in Redmond, Washington about his amazing Clamagore tale. In addition, he tells his standing-room-only audience about another amazing tale. During WWII Cmdr. Bauer rescued the 8 surviving crew members of a downed B-29 bomber off the coast of japan. The crew had drifted 4 hours in their tiny lift rafts waiting for a submarine to emerge. Being so close to the coast of Japan, the airmen did not know if that sub would be Japanese or American. The submarine that did finally emerge was the USS Springer, an American sub! After the 7 airmen had come aboard, Cmdr. Bauer was informed that there was still one more airman (the top gunner, Bob Thomas) who was in the water about a mile away and who may be still alive. His location was only 10 miles off the coast of Japan and the ocean there was too shallow for a submarine to dive. Cmdr. Bauer risked the lives of 80+ men to look for Bob Thomas. A sailor, Goober Blankenship, finally spotted Bob. The biggest sailor on the submarine (Bill Katt) jumped from the deck and swam out to pull the almost dead (but very grateful) Bob Thomas to the safety of the USS Springer. The entire rescue was filmed too, in color!
Capt. Ulmer has written eleven novels about submarines. His latest novel, “Shared Glory”, was dedicated to Cmdr. Bauer and tells the story about the B-29 rescue, plus the reunion that occurred 50 years later between the crew of the Dina Might and two crew members of the USS Springer, Cmdr Bauer and Bill Katt ( the sailor who “fished Bob Thomas from the drink”. 
The website containing a brief bio of Capt. Don Ulmer and listings of his eleven novels is:
http://www.amazon.com/Shared-Glory-D-M-Ulmer/dp/0990572404

 

Adversity and Its Adverse Effects

By John Wells, '54

In the great book that chronicles Navy sea stories, it seems that many contributions to the Service are made in the face of obstinate objections, and often many contributors experience retribution, even condemnation for their acts regardless of outcome. This is perhaps one such tale, perhaps not; but it’s a sea story nonetheless.

It’s July, 1961, and I’m reporting as damage control officer aboard USS Providence (CLG-6), a Baltimore class light cruiser that’s been converted into a Terrier surface-to-air missile launcher. We’re moored in a quiet quay in Long Beach on a sunny day, while a motor launch is making a chain of bow waves on the glassy surface of the water. The ship rides high, having recently offloaded all ammunition, missiles, and fuel in preparation for shipyard availability, and so the ship feels the effect of the smallish waves, rolling ever so gently in the breezeless day.

“Damn! We’re way too tender,” my mind reacts to what I’m feeling, but I say nothing as I gaze aloft at the foremast and make a mental note that the ship even looks top heavy. Later, when I meet my new boss, the engineering officer, amid the hurried proceedings of relieving my predecessor DC Officer, I mention my observation and concern.  All I receive is a blank stare. Even later, when I am introduced to the CO, I mention my concern again. The CO passes my question to the engineer, who responds with assurances that the conversion was designed and approved by BuShips, who routinely checks such calculations in detail and that nothing….blah, blah, blah.

I am told in no uncertain terms to drop the matter. I salute and depart the meeting, which has ended on such a sour note that I had never intended. I feel embarrassed.

We proceed with the shipyard availability that is to prepare us to voyage to Yokosuka, Japan, where we will become the flagship for Commander Seventh Fleet. Towards the final weeks of the availability, I am approached by a captain, who identifies himself as the Material Officer, Cruiser Forces Pacific Fleet. He asks about my assessment of the work being done in my area of responsibility. During our discussion, I sheepishly raise my stability concerns with him.

The captain listens to my story, then says he has funding for an inclining experiment that ought to decide the issue (if there is one). We are subsequently inclined, while I receive silent glares from my chain of superiors.  The data are assimilated and mailed off to BuShips in Washington, D.C. The matter seems in limbo.

Weeks later, we are underway, steaming enroute to Japan when we receive an OPIMMEDIATE message from the Force Commander to the effect that because of stability concerns we are to make hourly position reports until our arrival, when we are to go into a graving dock and receive sixty tons of pig-iron ballast in a lower void.

My concerns are vindicated, but not so my performance. It seems as though I can no longer spell my own name correctly.

Earlier than usual rotation, I am transferred to the staff of DesRonNine, a destroyer squadron also homeported in Yokosuka. I am squadron engineer, advising our commodore about boilers and turbines and fuel, etc. etc. I am serving in this capacity when the promotion list for lieutenant-commander is promulgated; my name is not included. My father is incensed and immediately tells the congressman who appointed me to the Naval Academy and for whom we worked hard to elect that I have been passed over. The congressman, who has risen to become chairman of a subcommittee on the Appropriations Committee, offers to intervene with the Navy on my behalf, but I tell him, “Please don’t, sir. All I am or ever hope to be, I owe to the U.S. Navy, and I won’t lift a finger against it.” He reluctantly agrees.

My subdued Navy life goes on. The squadron flagship is U.S.S. Duncan, a 2250 tons long-hull Sumner. One night on a lazy mid-watch, when most of our carrier task force is in slumber, we are screening a CVB in a bent-line screen for which we are screen commander. I am screen duty officer in CIC. The ship’s OOD is a recently arrived lieutenant who has had no previous destroyer duty, so the ship’s CO and the XO are wary of his qualifications. He has the conn and is station-keeping.

The radar picture is going to hell, so I charge to the bridge and behold board on our starboard bow a huge black shape showing a red running light looming closer and closer as it bears down on us.

“I have the conn!” I shout to the pilot house crew, who fortunately respond with “Aye, aye, sir. Mr. Wells has the conn.”

“Call your captain,” I instruct the OOD, even as I shout, “Hard left rudder. All engines ahead emergency flank!” as I race to the 2MC intercom and tell the OOW in main control to give all the steam he can without dragging the boilers. The ship shudders and begins to respond, and the looming shape of the carrier slowly begins to retreat down our starboard side.

We are settling on a course that will return us to our proper station in the screen when the ship’s captain arrives and watches but scant seconds before he calmly tells me, “I have the conn, Mr. Wells.”

“You have the conn, aye, sir,” I acknowledge with a smile. Before returning to my post in CIC, I say to him, “Sir, I realize that I had absolutely no right to relieve your OOD as I did—but it seemed like a good thing to do at the time. General Prudential Rule and all that jazz.”

“We’ll talk later,” he says.

And we did. I was forgiven, even asked to be assigned to the ship TAD to train the lieutenant I had relieved. My fitness report was a straight 4.0.

This was to be my final voyage as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy. Was I a good naval officer? I thought so at the time, but as the years retreat, I find myself being unable to answer the question with certainty. Yet I believe with all my heart that I would have made a fine ship captain and an even finer admiral. But c’est la vie. Many are called, but few can answer.

 

Admiral Forrest Sherman: A Very Considerate CNO

By Richard T. Boverie, USAF (Ret.) '54

In January 2006, the USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98), an Aegis guided-missile destroyer, was commissioned in Pensacola. The ship's namesake, Admiral Forrest Sherman, was a remarkable Navy officer who, incidentally, received his wings at Pensacola. In November 1949, he became the youngest officer ever to serve as Chief of Naval Operations. Admiral Sherman died in July 1951.

In addition to admiring this exceptional officer's enormous military contributions, I have a warm personal recollection about Admiral Sherman, despite the fact that I had never met him. When I was told as a plebe in 1950 that I had to have a coffee chit to drink coffee, in my naivete I decided to write directly to the CNO, Admiral Sherman, figuring that no upperclassman would deny a chit from him. Incredibly, Admiral Sherman sent me a coffee chit on official CNO stationery and signed personally by him. In his gracious forwarding letter, Admiral Sherman said that "it is hoped that the enclosure (the coffee chit) will serve your purpose and will facilitate your relationships with the young gentlemen who are your messmates."

As I recall, when they saw the chit, some upperclassmen and officers were beside themselves either with awe or with consternation about a lowly plebe's gross ignorance of proper channels. In any event, I was edified by Admiral Sherman's kind consideration to an unknown "little guy."

 

© 2018 United States Naval Academy Alumni Association & Foundation 410-295-4000