1955

14 Sea Stories
Puff the Spooky Dragon: A Vietnam Memoir About the AC-47 (PDF)
Memories of Fun and Games with BIll XIV 
My Path To The Naval Academy
Sea Stories from the Arctic Ocean 

14 Sea Stories

1996 About Oregon

By Jack Tallman

I lived in southern Oregon from 1989 to 1995.  Oregon was something of an enigma for me, a conservative.  A state with a Democratic governor and that votes Democratic in presidential elections, paradoxically had two Republican senators until Packwood stepped on his crank (or perhaps tried to put his crank where it didn't belong). A state heavily liberal in most societal issues, but which has a significant ultra-right wing constituency.  Oregon law now makes concealed weapon permits available to any non felon. Still, the state has a penchant for innovative ideas.  I had the privilege of knowing an MD in Portland who was on that splendid commission which produced the prioritized list of medical procedures covering Medicare payments in Oregon. And I liked the civics of a nonprofessional legislature which meets every two years. In the interim, the lawmakers go home and pursue their real occupations (but see below).

The mail-in election is another example of a damn good idea. Although the recent election to replace Packwood was, I believe, the first statewide mail-in election, some Oregon counties had been already using that method.  For about the four previous years, Josephine County where I lived, population 65,000, had been using mail-in ballots for minor elections.  Our county clerk, Georgette Brown, found that the mail-in saved a lot of money, so got permission to use it for more important county elections.  An election by mail has some interesting features.  With ballots being mailed in over several weeks before a not-later-than date, campaigns geared to the crescendo of a single day vote don't work well.  Drives the pollsters crazy.  And, unless the ongoing count is a well kept secret, the outcome can be obvious long before the final day.  Sort of like the time zone effect in our national elections when major network computers predict outcomes as the polls close across the country.  Can such a technique be manipulated?  Yeah probably, but less corruptible, I think, than the usual method.

The most effective state government in the country?  No, not really. I've already given myself away as a conservative (Republican).  So since Democratic Oregon mostly elects governors who seem to be emotionally handicapped and intellectually challenged, and because of the part-time legislature which I instinctively admire but regret empirically, I'm left with an unfulfilled need for achievement.  I guess I see the absence of a significant body of cosmopolites as the root of Oregon's lack of governmental effectiveness.

My little corner in southwestern Oregon with its lovely Rogue River was a crucible for contradictions.  Sign across main street in Grants Pass boasts "It's The Climate", but no one talks about the depressing fog that sets in for weeks at a time in winter.  Local politics was a continual dog and cat fight.  And the character of the area changed significantly in the six years I lived there.

A rural mountain region, logging and tourism drove the economy.  Back in the late 1800's a railroad company, Oregon and California RR, obtained vast right-of-way land grants from the U. S. government to build a railroad that matched its name.  The line was to have run through Josephine County, among others.  The railroad disbanded without laying any track and the federal gov. took back the land, allowed it to be logged, and gave prorated revenues every year to the county.  These funds provided most of the county operating money for as long as anyone could remember.  Enter the Spotted Owl.  Logging has all but ceased and for the last few years, the so-called "O&C Funds" dropped exponentially .  When I left, the southwestern counties were frantically thrashing about to come up with enough bucks to stay alive.

I moved there in 1989 and the California real estate market was at its zenith.  Many little old greyed hair couples, whose home equity was nearly in the megabuck range, sold out down south and came to pursue the bucolic life in Josephine County. There they plunked down the asking price in cash and immediately drove the housing market out of the reach of the locals.  The county was already a poverty area, and jobs were scarce with the logging industry drying up.  So those with marketable skills moved elsewhere to find jobs.  Pretty soon there were two kind of folks there:  retired people with independent income, and down-and-outers in a survival mode.  Competent professionals left, too, mostly for lack of robust clientele, but also because the schools became so bad that their children couldn't get properly educated.  Josephine County was the marijuana growing capital of the U. S. according to our sheriff.  When I left, the place looked just like Leisure World with all the old folk putsying around town in their big old cars.

By its very nature, the county attracted also-rans and wannabes from the southland.  Some of those emigrating Californians (having come to "californicate" Oregon ala Tom McCall) hadn't even been krill in the big pond to the south, suddenly found themselves in a smaller pond. So a few decided to "get involved" in local politics and, being pitifully incompetent to begin with, really kept things screwed up. Also, since the county commissioners devoutly believed that 'tis far better to beg forgiveness than to request permission, the wannabes found lots of rocks to turn over.  Reading the voter pamphlets was always enervating.  The background write-ups on the candidates was especially underwhelming; academic credentials were a joke. Attending college for any period at all characterized the candidate as a three sigma deviate.

Wish I had a gift for humorous writing and had kept a journal.  The book I'd write would be a classic Steinbeckesque novel about Josephine County.  Guess I'm just a wannabe.

Aren't you glad you asked?

2 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A SEA STORY
By Tom Kiefaber

I had the unholy distinction of giving the order that resulted in the destruction (blow-up!) of COMSEVENTHFLT’s barge.  Let me set the stage … there were contributing factors.

As a mid-grade LTJG, I was First Lieutenant on the USS HELENA (CA-75) from Nov. ’57 to June ’59.  During the summer of 1958, we were deployed to the Western Pacific and became the flagship for SEVENTHFLT with VADM W.M. Beakley and his staff embarked.  One day we were steaming in the Taiwan Straits in Condition III (wartime cruising) due to the Quemoy-Matsu Crisis being in full swing.  We were in reduced visibility and couldn’t see the other ships in our formation, or for that matter, the numerous unidentified contacts in our vicinity.  My station was Sky One with control over all manned 5” and 3” gun batteries.  In the case of the 5” battery, that would be MT 51 and MT 56 (both centerline mounts) fore and aft.  Suddenly the CO came running up to me (the bridge was one deck below) with his marine orderly in tow, shouting, “Fire! Fire!”  My first reaction was, “Beg pardon, sir?”  Then, he said, “fire a 5” round off as fast as you can.”  At this point, it dawned on me this was the “Beakley Drill.”  I had heard about the Admiral’s practice of testing his flagship in this manner at least once during a deployment.  He had called the CO and said, “Let’s see how long it takes you to get a 5” round in the air, starting, NOW!”  I asked the CO, ”in this visibility, sir?”  His reply was, again, “Fire!” I called the director officer, via SP phones, and told him to have MT 56 train out on the starboard beam and fire a round as soon as possible, elevating sufficiently to observe the fall-of-shot (there was no standard gunnery jargon/procedure for this evolution).  Of course, the director officer’s first reaction was, “Say again!”  Anyway, pretty quickly thereafter a loud bang was heard and the CO and I observed the splash.  Immediately, the Admiral called the CO and congratulated him on breaking the drill record.  The CO turned and congratulated me.  I was in the process of inquiring about possible damage aft, for it appeared, from where I was standing, the barrel of MT 56 had not been elevated and there were boats and vehicles were stowed on the fantail.  Sure enough, the concussion from the firing destroyed the Admiral’s barge (stowed next to the mount) and heavily damaged the Chief of Staff’s gig.  When I informed the CO of this unpleasant development, without a word, he wheeled around and returned to the bridge.  Incidently, MT 56 was the only mount that could have been used.  Standing orders from the CO forbade the use of MT 51 unless we were under attack (for reasons I won’t go into).

Later the same day, I heard the admiral was furious and insisted that our CO convene a Board of Investigation.  The scuttlebutt was that he told the CO, “someone must ‘swing’ for this”.  The potential “swingees” were soon announced to be: me, the director officer (another LTJG), and the mount captain (enlisted).  I obtained the services of the marine detachment’s XO to represent me.  His first action was to request that the CO and his marine orderly be directed by the board to make written statements and be available for questioning.  The rationale for this request was that the CO had issued a direct order to me that caused the incident.  Of course, his involvement in the investigation would have compromised his position as Convening Authority.  The CO refused to participate!  After determining that the admiral didn’t want the investigation to go further up the chain-of-command, the CO solved the dilemma by having me declared an “uninterested” party.  Subsequently, the director officer was given a letter of reprimand for failing to have the mount elevate.  He declined my offer of support on an appeal on the basis of the mitigating low visibility conditions.  Since he was a reservist who was “getting out” within weeks, he didn’t care or think it was worth it.

EPILOGUE. When the CO was relieved routinely several months later, I feared the worst regarding my fitness report.  It was one of the best fitness reports I ever received

3 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SMALL BOAT,  BIG BLUE              
By Steve Kaiser, CDR, USN (Ret.)

Just eight days after 9/11, on Wednesday 19 September 2001, the crew of  “Venture” had two shots at Blue Marlin and both got hooked-up.  The first came at 1230 about seven miles east of the Nipple(28 nm SSE of Pensacola on the 100 fathom curve), when a big Blue ran off about 3/4 of a spool from a 50TW before we got it stopped....moments later it went into an even higher gear and during that run the line parted. Wally Coupé(longtime fishin’ buddy and Admiral’s Pilot) was the angler and needless to say was somewhat disappointed as were myself and son Lawrence. About fifteen minutes after putting the lines backout,  another big  Blue came up on the wayback (zucchini Knucklehead). Lawrence moved the lure just for an instant and fish climbed all over it. With about 150 yards in the water an unbelievable display of greyhounding took place....15 to 20 jumps in one direction followed by reversing course , then another 15 plus jumps.....white water everywhere. Fish then made a really long run.....had to turn the boat 135 degrees while  Lawrence  kept the rod under the outrigger,  before finally getting fish stopped. Over 700 yards of the total 800 yards was in the water....side plates of reel extremely hot....almost burned Lawrence's forearm when it touched sideplate. Fish never surfaced again. We slowly backed down for several miles during line recovery. Took about two hours to first get to the double line....got there four more  times. Got fish to the swivel three times.....each time I grabbed the 300# leader fish would not allow me to bill her....would get her to within a couple of feet below the surface and that was it....just kept swimming along keeping head down. I did not want to take a wrap in fear crimps or leader would break. Knew this was probably the biggest fish ever caught on "Venture" so was extra careful in hopes we could recover lure and get some photos. This was a really big fish...bigger than anything I had ever experienced before. Fish kept forcing me to let go of leader, and would slowly swim deeper....around the boat is where most  bad things happen….Lawrence had to work extra hard to keep her off the outdrives. After about 20 minutes near boatside she tired enough so I could reach down about a foot underwater and I finally got a hold of the bill. Big Blue rolled over on her side and fought no more. The size of this fish was mind boggling.....here I am holding on to a 700# class Blue Marlin in a 23 foot boat. We took a boat line and used it to measure fish, then measured the line with a tape measure....LJFL(lower jaw to fork of tail length) measured 131 inches....then we got the line around the fish to get the girth.....all the time I am swimming this magnificent animal. Girth measured an astounding 64 inches. We took lots of photos, and “Dataman” came in close to get some video.  Had been swimming fish on her side all this time and before release wanted to get her upright to ensure she was properly revived....it took all three of us to right her.....she was just so heavy. Anyway, swam her a few more minutes and she began clamping down hard on my hand, so knew fish was about ready to release....tail got swaying back and forth, so let her gently swim into the depths. What an experience! This was Blue Marlin #48 for "Venture”, but was by far the largest fish ever caught aboard my 23 foot Seacraft in her then 23 year history. I had estimated Big Blues weight at near 700 pounds.....the girth/length formula worked out to 670#. No more strikes that day, but who was complaining. Life is good.

4 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Walk on Water
By Bob Vollum

As a newly minted LTJG, I was serving on the Power, DD839, in the Med.  The DesDiv chaplain, a Southern Baptist LTJG (totally incidental to the story, but that is what the was) was also assigned to the Power.  He was one of those doughy, whiney people that stereotype those who can't make it in the world and therefore hide in the clergy.  (Don't bother blasting me for the comment, because I've already had it from from the experts, and after four years of grease reports at USNA nothing you could say would faze me.  Furthermore, if you don't recognize the type, you haven't spent much time in church.)  He just hung around.  Anything he was asked to do was an imposition, including conducting Sunday services.  He was first in to dinner, first to get paid, first in line for the liberty launch, etc.  You get the picture.

On one particular day, we were anchored off the coast of Cannes on the French Riviera.  The liberty launch had just pulled away and the chaplain came running up all excited and upset.  He had missed the ride.  There was a substantial line-up waiting for the launch to return in a half hour, or so, and if he got at the end of the line rather than gouging in, it would be a few trips before he got on.  He fussed and fumed along the rail for a while, playing pity-poor-me.  No one invited him to jump the line.  He finally asked out loud, How am I going to get ashore?"  He got the answer from someone toward the back of the line.  "If you were worth your salt, you'd walk."

5 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Squadron Maneuvers...
By Ed Ogden

On our first duty stations after graduation, my First Class Year Roommate, Len Duffy, and I were in the same Destroyer Squadron, DesRon 8, out of Newport, RI--Len was on the William R. Rush (DDR-714) and I was on the Glennon (DD-840). Often when we deployed as a Squadron in 1957/58, Len and I would have the same Undersay OOD Watches, usually the 4-to-8’s--not sure how we managed to do that but when it happened we would spend most of our quiet “steaming as before” watches chatting with each other via flashing light while our JOOD’s had the “conn”. The Quartermasters, at first, were surprised that both of us not only could read flashing light signals but that we could send messages as well--but then they didn’t know that the 23rd Company had won all of the Brigade Signal Competitions our First Class Year thanks to Len’s nightly, or so it seemed, “all hands signal drills” for the company.

One night while we were steaming in an open column formation our chat was interrupted by a signal for the Squadron Watch Officer to change the formation interval--probably from 500 yards to a 1000 yards. As I remember, the standard manuever for increasing the interval was for the even numbered ships in the column to veer to port and the odd numbered ships to veer to starboard and then turn back towards their new station at the ordered interval. I think the Rush was the last, or next to last, ship in the column and when the signal was executed Len started on a circular route to his new station instead of following the standard manuever. After a few minutes the Squadron Watch Officer queried Rush as to what they were doing. Len briefly replied “Proceeding to station”. Before any of the other squadron ships had arrived on station, Len reported “Alfa Station” on the Tactical Net, and there was no reply from the Squadron Watch Officer other than a rather terse “Roger”. Not quite the standard manuever but it was an original bit of creative OOD thinking !!!!

6 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Slide Rule
By George F. Francis

I've enjoyed all the stories about slide rules and thought I would add mine. It's not really a story, just a comment that I still have the original Pickett slide rule I was issued when I signed in in 1951. It's a Picket Model # 500, Ortho-Phase Log Log, made by Pickett & Eckel Inc., 5 S. Wabash Ave, Chicago 3, Illinois with a USA copywrite of 1948. And, I still have the original Instruction book for Model 500 and 800 Log Log Slide Rules written by Maurice L. Hartung, Associate Professor of the Teaching of Mathematics at the University of Chicago. The book was published by Pickett & Eckel, Inc and cost 50 cents which I am sure was probably charged to our midshipman account. The slide rule still works, although I long ago have forgotten how to use all the scales, especially the log-log scales. Thanks to the technology of the digital camera, I've attached a picture of the slide rule and the instruction booklet. Although I do not contribute much to the list serve, I very much enjoy the memories of our days at the Academy.

7 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Plebe Questions AKA "You're in the REAL navy now!"
By Al MacDiarmid

When I reported aboard the USS Stoddard (DD-566) on a Sunday afternoon as a brand new ensign, the officers of the wardroom told me that we had a crazy man for a captain.  It seems he liked to ask plebe questions of the officers at the wardroom table.
I was then told that his favorite question was, "What's the fastest animal in the world?"  The answer he wanted was "Jaguar".  I said, "But that's not even right!"  Their answer, "But that's the answer he wants."  I was further told that he would get me to draw my sword in the wardroom and that if I did, I would have to buy the wardroom champagne.  I told them I didn't have a sword, but they responded that he would get around that.

The following morning I met the Captain.  He demanded to know where I had been.  It seems he had reported aboard his first ship right out of the academy.  The Navy had told us all to take 60 days basket leave.  He then ordered me to get my sword.  Of course, I didn't have one.  He wanted to know why not and I told him we had 2 years to get one and I expected to buy mine in Japan when we cruised over there.  That didn't please him at all, he was buy American.  He had the DCA go get his sword.  I was the smallest officer aboard and the DCA the largest.  I put the sword on and it fell around my feet.  By the time I got it adjusted, the buckle was in the small of my back.

He then ordered me to draw the sword.  I said, "Sir, is that a direct order?"  He said, "Yes!"  I drew the sword and he said, "You owe us all champagne."  I said, "No, sir, you owe us all champagne because you gave me a direct order.  If you had ordered me to walk off the fantail I would have done it, although I would have doubted your ability."

Neither of us ever bought the champagne.

A few weeks later I thought the other officers had been kidding about the plebe questions.  Then it started.  I had spent 4 years gaining the title of "Mister".  He skipped that and addressed me like an enlisted man.  He had a very powerful voice also.

"MACDIARMID!"

"Yes, sir"

"What's the fastest animal in the world?"

"A tse-tse fly sir, it goes 600 miles per hour."

He then said, "A fly is not an animal."

I said, "Well sir, it's not a plant."

Seeing as he was not getting through to me, he turned to the one reserve officer who really could care less what his fitness reports said.  He was probably the only sane one in the room.  "GOLD!  What's the fastest animal in the world?"

Now he knew that Bob Gold, who we called Rag because of his initials, slowly turned and looked him in the eye and said, "Uh, a three toed tree sloth?"

All the officers but the captain thought that was funny, but the captain excused himself from the table frothing at the mouth and almost out of control.  He had to go to his cabin to recover.

8 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"That's why we are the E ship, sir!"
By Al MacDiarmid

        Aboard the USS Stoddard (DD-566).  I was the First Lieutenant and Assistant Gunnery Officer.  The gun boss was sick and off in the hospital.  We were coming up for a graded shore bombardment exercise.  It was important to me that we do well, because the gun boss had been lying to the CO about me, blaming me for stuff that he had screwed up.
        I went to a briefing at the Amphib Base in Coronado.  They had 3 targets on the island of San Clemente at which we could shoot our main battery, 5"/38 single mounts.  The exercise would have an officer in a reinforced concrete observation post ashore.
        Our designated target was a half track on the side of the hill.  There was another low down on the beach at about the same bearing.  A third target was 3 white rocks painted on the cliff.  During the exercise we were expected to go to "counter battery", where a target was supposed to be shooting at us.  We were to leave our target and kill the counter battery, then come back and finish off the designated target.
        My director crew never got much practice at tracking anything, so I took the spotting binoculars off the slew sight and told the pointer and trainer to track the 3 white rocks continuously.
        The exercise started badly.  We got one free round to make sure the guns worked.  We were supposed to shoot at a target and use that to spot the fall of shot, thus getting a free round.  Unfortunately when the round went off, it missed the island of San Clemente entirely, going over the top.
        The Captain was yelling at me to spot the fall of shot.  Hard to do when the shell landed on the other side and into the sea.  I nudged my pointer, who had contact with plot and asked if the Synch-E knob was in the right position.  This knob is up for air to air and takes its inputs off the radar, centered for surface combat taking the inputs off the director and down for shore bombardment, taking its inputs from CIC.  The answer came back, "Yes sir", as the gun barrel dropped dramatically when they shoved the knob down.
        I had just gotten on the primary target when I heard "Counter battery, 3 white rocks" coming over the sound powered phones.  I could hear this because the CIC officer, having to deal with too many things at once had his sound powered phones taped down so he didn't have to let go of a radio handset to push the button.
        I told the people in the mounts to hang on.  I called to have the Synch-E knob pulled up to the surface position.  The mounts swung around rapidly to the rocks that were being tracked by the director.  I called out, "Fire!" just as the Captain was getting the word from his sound powered talker that we had a counter battery.  He jumped when the guns went off.  Since I was on target and had a good solution, I killed the target in minimum time.
        We swung back onto the primary target.  I fired for effect on that and demolished that target as well.  I was pleased.
        Friday afternoon when we got back to port, I had to go to the debriefing at the Amphib Base.  Nobody wanted to ask any questions as it would push the debriefing into happy hour time.  At question time the officer in the pillbox ashore asked for the officer aboard DD-566.  I answered.
        He said, "What did you do?"
        I innocently said, "What do you mean?"
        He said, "You got on the target faster than anyone has ever done before, you killed the counter battery in so little time that we are going to have to change the scoring and you set a new high score for the exercise!"
        I just smiled and said, "That's why we are the E ship, sir!"

9 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Because you are El Jefe"
By Al MacDiarmid

        As the boot ensign, I always drew the first watch upon return to port.  It was a Friday afternoon, with people coming and going, checking out on leave, going on liberty or shore leave, people reporting aboard, etc., a typical first day in port on a mooring in San Diego Bay.  An E2 handed me his orders.  I signed him in, grabbed my messenger and told him to get him a bunk up forward, get him a locker, show him where the mess hall and the head were and come back.  After a while the new man showed up with the messenger belt on.  I asked the chief of the watch what was going on, this new kid didn't even know the pointy from the blunt end yet.  The chief said we were short handed, that it was his call and that it would be OK.  I told the chief I sure hoped so, because if not he was going to be the messenger.
        A bit later I asked my new messenger to go to the wardroom and request the presence on the quarterdeck of Mr. X.  The kid just stared at me.  I asked him if he knew where the wardroom was?  He just stared at me.  He then got a panicked look in his eyes and pulled what looked like a comic book out of his rear pocket and started looking through it.  I took it away from him and it was an English-Spanish dictionary.  I switched to Spanish.  I asked him where he was born.  New Mexico.  I asked how he got through boot camp without any English.  He said, "They go to chow, I go to chow, they do laundry, I do laundry, they go to the bathroom, I go to the bathroom."
        My primary responsibility on the USS Stoddard was as the First Lieutenant.  I had most of the Chicanos and had not let on that I knew a little Spanish.  One of my men had called me a "Pinche Cabrón" several times.  I had lost his liberty card over the side several times.  He had not gotten the correlation yet.
        I told the Chief he was now the messenger and that his first duty was to go and get my wayward man, who I knew to be aboard as his present liberty card was soaking at the bottom of the bay as he had called me a pinche cabrón only that morning.  He arrived.  I told him the new messenger (now relieved by the Chief of the Watch, who was wearing both belts) didn't speak any English.  Some very rapid Spanish flew back and forth of which I missed most.  I did get my name and an answer from the new guy, translated, "Oh, yes, he speaks Spanish very well!".  Revelation.  I assigned the new guy to the Chicano (also an E2).
        I said, "You chip paint, he chips paint, you eat, he eats, you go on liberty, he goes on liberty until he knows English."
        He said, "Why me?" and I said, "Because you are El Jefe".  He was the natural leader of the Chicanos.  He turned out to be one of my better men, once he understood the relationship between calling his division officer names and the "accidental" loss of his liberty card, which took a couple of days to replace.

Naval Dress Hat and Epaulets
By Jack Tallman

10 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

        After my father's death I found a small box, constructed like a minature trunk, with his pre-WW II dress naval cocked (fore & aft) hat, epaulets, and dress sword belt.  My father, by the way, was class of 1927.

        The small trunk has a shipping tag addressed to my father, H. L. Tallman, USS Lexington.  That was his last pre-war ship.  He had always suffered from serious myopia, and had made his way through the academy and subsequent duty by giving the corpsman a carton of cigarettes on the occasion of his annual physical exams.  They caught up with him in 1938 or 39 and physically retired him as a lieutenant just before WW II.  He was called back in late 1940, and served out the war on the staff of Admiral Hill's 5th Amphibious Forces from Tarawa to Okinawa.  Later, Admiral Hill was key in my entering the academy, but that's another story for another time.

        Inside the box (also in the photo) is his academy slide rule, a K&E model, which is what we sure should have been issued instead of that stupid Picket magnesium mess.

        It's hard to believe that the Navy was still using the cocked hat in "modern" times.  All these items were made in France. The label inside the hat says, "Midshipmen's Store, United States Naval Academy". Somewhere, I have a photo of my dad and another officer in their full dress.

11 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Air Force pilots .... lie a lot
By Pat Taylor

A favorite story from former CNO Admiral Jim Holloway, USN Retired.......

One thing about Air Force pilots is that they lie a lot. You simply can't trust them at all. We had an argument one night at the Belvedere Inn, across from the main gate at NAS Pax River, a bunch of our F-14 Tomcat Pilots at Strike were arguing with some F-15 Eagle drivers from Langley about who was better at what and which airplane was better. Well, we decided to settle it the next morning in the restricted area over the Chesapeake Bay. This is where we found out about how much Air Force pilots lie!!! We all agreed to meet nose on at 35 thousand and settle it once and for all. Don't you know those lying, sneaky bastards showed up at 40 thousand. God, what a bunch of lying, low lifes those Air Force types were, showing up with a 5 thousand foot altitude advantage. Hell....if we hadn't been at 45 thousand, those lying Air Force dirtbags would have had us for breakfast!!!!!!!
 
12 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Cross Country Flight
By Pat Taylor

As to memories... my last N3N flight ... the one they referred to the "cross country hop", where you strapped the chart of the Chesapeake onto your thigh and flew by the railroad tracks out of the Severn River and south...that was a nightmare, as it turned out. By the time I had almost 10 to 12 hours in that bird, successfully pulled out of power-on and power-off stalls from 1500 -2000 ft, I was seriously considering Navy Air... Then, for the first time, I really took notice of all the cockpit gauges on that cc hop.

When I realized my oil pressure gage read zero... the needle hard over, I tried frantically to get my jg pilot's attention... signaling him by spelling "OIL" backwards since he was viewing me in his rear-view mirror... drawing "zeros" and using both hands to form a round gage and a finger in the middle showing a 0-peg. All for naught...this nonchalant jockey who must have had all of 200 hours in Naval Aviation yelled into my gosport to keep my head out of the cockpit, my hands on the stick, and quit the charades! Needless to say, I was uptight for the full hour, knowing this airplane was due to fall out of the sky before my 21st birthday!

Heading back - making the sweeping circle around the antennas farm at the Navy radio station - my instructor coached me to confidence, informing me that I was going to make the landing on this, my last N3N flight.

Everything he said those last two minutes was prefaced with, "Now...." "Ok... now you can level out ..." "...now look at those whitecaps out on the River...they'll help you with some depth perception"..."now -the throttle, cutback a little on your air speed..." As I made my final approach on what I thought to be the thrill of a lifetime...his last "now..." I was sure was going to be something like ..."set her down"... I cut the throttle completely, and the sky fell out from under me...we dropped the last 25 feet like a rock, I momentarily lost the "bubble" and as we pancaked onto the water, the struts on the starboard pontoon snapped!

My pilot was livid... we were like a ruptured duck - a 18 degree list to starboard, and the little amphib ..I think they were called "Ducks" weren't they?... came down the ramp and hooked up a cable and snatch block to tow us back up onto the apron of the Aux NAS. There were at least 3 or 4 young pilots standing around, their flights completed, laughing at their buddy, my instructor, over what a silly sight we must have been. Meanwhile, I am getting an earful chewing out...

"I will see to it you never fly a Navy airplane!..You would have wiped out everything aft of the island had that been on a carrier! You've got no depth perception at all, Taylor! ..."

On and on... I couldn't get back on the bus fast enough! So... yes, I have recollections of that beautiful little airplane...and I thought to myself on several occasions over the years since..."how did I ever acquire such a good periscope eye... (monocular vision) when I couldn't even set that damn airplane down on the water?!!
 
13 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tales of the N-3N's
By Harold Pabst

I have to add my story to the tales of the N-3N's. In 1938 my Dad earned his pilot's license. Flying ended in 1942 due to the gas shortage. He volunteered for the CAP program but didn't have enough hours to be accepted. What hours he did manage to fly was done at the Solberg Airport in Somerville, NJ. In 1946, Dad was told that Solberg bought "a bunch" of Navy trainers as surplus. Dad bought one for $560.00 and it came in 5 crates. It was the N-3N. The crates were 1) wings,  2) fuselage, 3)empennage, 4) engine, and 5) pack parts (landing gear, nuts and bolts, prop, controls, etc.) No assembly instructions were included but we were assured that all the parts were there. Dad, with me as his helper and go-fer settled in to put this airplane together. It took almost a year of weekends but the day finally arrived for the test flight. The only change that was mandated by the FAA was that a stainless steel firewall had to be installed. I remember Dad making this up in the garage out of a sheet of stainless. We flew this aircraft ( I as the passenger) until 1951...just about the time I left for the Academy. It was a ball. My Dad was fairly strict but also a little bit of a dare devil. The first time we really took the N-3N for a flight we flew up the Hudson River, right under the George Washington Bridge. It was a blast. I guess no one took our number because we never heard any thing about it. It was a great lot of fun. When we entered 2nd class summer to fly the N-3N, like everyone else, my instructor asked me to take over and fly it a bit. I remember lowering the nose to gain speed, pulling back and going into a roll. It really pissed the instructor off ....... I didn't think about the inertia of the pontoon versus the simple landing gear and damn near stalled us out. Needless to say, I just about flunked the course.

Just thought you'd like to know....
 
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Spud Locker Approach
By Harvey Burden

When I was in Flight Training, I remember seeing a particularly funny old movie of a near carrier deck crash - perhaps it was in Aviation Safety Officer Course. A pre-WWII bi-plane scout, I believe an SOC, was making a landing on a carrier, which I believe was the old Lexington. It was a beautiful clear day with what appeared to be calm seas. The A/C made a Roger pass until just aft of the carrier and then suddenly dropped from view, below the deck level. A few seconds later, it just as suddenly appeared right up at the round-down and touched down, pulling out Number 1 wire just a few feet. It then taxied out of the gear.
 
I thought it was a trick shot or perhaps a stunt. That was not the case.
 
Many years after that, my Dad, Harvey Paul Burden, USNA 1930, told me of an incident he had had that matched that one exactly. It seems he was the intrepid pilot flying that A/C. Dad said that they were operating off San Diego back in about 1937 or so, conducting searches for Amelia Ehrhart. He said he was Roger all the way around until just short of the ramp when the ship suddenly heaved up, or he lost altitude. He had no room to turn so he said he added full power and pulled back full on the stick. He literally climbed up to the deck, landing at the ramp and pulling out Number 1 wire about six feet. A classmate of his was Landing Signal Officer (LSO) and they just looked at each other, shrugged, and smiled as he taxied forward.
 
Dad said he pondered for years what caused that hairy landing. He told me not too long before his death that he had it figured. There was a very long period ground swell that day and Lexington was perpendicular to it. All during his approach, the stern was slowly descending. Since he was flying the deck and Paddles, his descent matched the deck. Just astern, the Lex started its bow down, stern up pitch. Dad's higher than standard descent rate and the upward motion of the ship's stern caused his spud locker approach and nearly cost me my father. Thank God for slow bi-planes with low wing loading and Dad's quick reactions. I have a picture on the wall in our home of him flying in one of those aircraft, taken by his wingman.

 

Memories of Fun and Games with Bill XIV

By John Raster and Jack Higgs, ’55

When the announcement was made at evening meal over the PA system in King Hall identifying the goat keepers for the 1954 season, we, John Raster and Jack Higgs, had little idea what such a role might entail. We were familiar with the routines of goat keeping at the academy, leading the football teams on the fields, helping to organize pep rallies, and in general mobilizing the sporting spirit in the brigade, but we couldn’t quite imagine the experience of being strapped to a pesky goat sometimes leading us and sometimes following as we all made our way along the sidelines before tens of thousands of fans for an entire season.
 
With news of his appointment Jack called his parents in Anes Station, Tennessee, a railroad farming village of seven houses, store, church, school, and depot on the main line of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, announcing to them that he was one of two midshipmen chosen to keep the goat at football games. When Jack’s father answered, Jack eagerly announced his new honor which was followed by a prolonged silence on he other end. “Daddy? Are you there?” Jack asked and finally came these words, “Jack, I always thought you might have done a little better than that.”

Eventually, says Jack, his father came around to some acceptance of this aspect of Navy life. When neighbors would ask, “Mr. Bob, how’s Jack doing up at the Navy Place?” His father would reply, “I think he is doing all right. They got him keeping a goat and calling the hogs.”

 It was common knowledge or a common myth anyway that a goat would eat just about anything, including, according to the funny papers, tin cans, but John Raster had heard that goats also liked to drink, specifically gin. Armed with that intelligence before the Navy –Notre Dame game of 1954 in Baltimore, John requisitioned a half pint that was smuggled into the stadium by a high school classmate from Toledo who with others had come to visit John and to watch the play of former teammate, Tom McHugh, fullback for Notre Dame. At half time, Bill with a couple of belts of said beverage under his harness provided a memorable scene, chasing down the Irish Leprechaun, forcing him into the stands to evade Bill’s horns. We lost the game 6-0 as the Navy halfback fumbled the ball on the goal line, but we definitely won the half time show!
 
After a wonderful season in 1954, Navy was selected to play Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl, 1955. On the eve of the game we were strolling down Bourbon St. in search of Sarsaparilla. During that quest we encountered a former plebe classmate who had transferred to Ole Miss. He wanted, we learned, to steal the Navy Goat and was willing to pay us $100.00 if we revealed Bill’s whereabouts. We thanked him for his generous offer (bribe!) but were not about to sell our souls. Actually we had no idea where Bill was hiding! Eventually we were told that Bill was kept in a New Orleans Zoo in a cage whose only entrance was gained through a Lion’s Den! In the bowels of Tulane Stadium Bill was waiting for us with a look on his face that seemed to say, “Where in the hell have you guys been and what have you got on you that’s any good?”

After a pre-game visit to the Navy locker room, Jack’s high school coach fashioned the following narrative which he shared often over the years. “I can’t believe how small that Navy team is. This could be the biggest mismatch ever. Ole Miss is champion of the Southeastern Conference. . . . Somehow, though, Jack and that other boy  energized that goat. I mean he rolled his eyes and shook his head and started out that tunnel as fast and hard as he could go and dragging his keepers behind him and the Navy Team right after them and the Navy Band playing “Anchors Aweigh” as loud as it could and sailors all over the place cheering and yelling—New Orleans is a Navy Town you know—and I’m here to tell you Ole Miss never was really in the game. Probably Navy shouldn’t been on the same field with ‘em, but Navy didn’t know it and that goat sho nuff didn’t know it.”
 Navy won 21-0.  For Bill it may have been his finest hour. At every 10 yard line marker on the Navy side there was a large poinsettia plant and, as if in celebration, Bill chomped on as many as he could.
 
The Academy did not take Bill to every away game. Old Goats, though, did what they could to make do, displaying considerable ingenuity in the process as we see in John’s efforts for the Navy-Cal game at Berekely in 1957. “At the time I was stationed at Travis AFB north of San Francisco. After asking around, I found a farmer with an Angora goat that had won first place at the California state fair.” Renting the goat in exchange for 2-50 yard line tickets, John commandeered Larry Webster, a star tackle for “A Team Named Desire” and then stationed in Long Beach, as the other goat tender. With two Navy goat-keeper jackets on hand John bought two pairs of white pants so he and Webbie (Later admiral Webster) could look authentic. They had also contacted George Rasmussen asking him to provide a real blanket for the fill-in Bill. For transportation for “Rental Bill,” John pulled a 5 by 7 U-Haul trailer behind his Mercury convertible.
 
The morning of the game, while crossing the Oakland Bay Bridge, John and Webbie suddenly heard a honking that proved to be the horn of the Navy team bus with several of the coaches and players hanging out the windows cheering and laughing.

Since the bus had a motorcycle escort, John and Webbie fell in behind with their U Haul for a straight path to the stadium. Navy won 21-6 which provided a justification for celebration at the St. Francis hotel and elsewhere in town. During party time, the “goatmobile” had been parked in an underground garage at a hotel, but the keepers forgot  which one! After a number of calls around town asking desk clerks to see if they possibly had a U-Haul parked in their underground garage, they found the trailer and returned victorious “Bill” in good shape to his owner.

Part of our goat keeping training manual insisted that we always keep Bill pointing in the direction of Navy’s offensive goal. In fact everyone on the Navy side was always facing the same direction and concentrating on activities on the field. Once in a while this had a deleterious effect on Bill Fallon, one of Navy’s trainers. Fallon was short and stocky and Bill XIV had shoulders three feet off the ground and horns with a three foot wingspan. Somehow there was a competitive spirit between the two Bills. Several times a game, Bill Fallon would yell “Ouch!” as Bill would sneak up to him and quickly flick his horns into Bill’s crotch. Coaches and players roared. Herein was our secret to keeping the Navy team and staff loose and relaxed on the sidelines –all except Bill Fallon!

 Possibly any fame we have achieved as goat keepers we owe directly to Bill excepting in the case of John and his record interception and runback of 101 yards against Army in 1951.  One evening in the late sixties a wife of Jack’s neighbor, a dairy farmer about a mile away, called Jack’s mother in Anes Station in an excited voice, proclaimed, “Miss Mary Lee, Jack is in the encyclopedia!” “What’s he doing in there?", his mother asked. “He’s with the Navy goat--he and another boy. They’re under the section called “Mascots!”  Jokingly--we hope--she went on for a bit about how hard it was for her to distinguish between Jack and Bill. Finally the lady asked Jack’s mother if she would like to buy a set of Childcraft. “Oh, I guess not,” his mother said. “We know pretty well what Jack looks like.”

 The goat may well be the most versatile of all metaphors, a symbol of tragedy and of comedy. It has long been claimed that from the front the goat with magnificent horns presents a royal visage, the other end less glorious. If the goat is not what we might call “good,” he is nevertheless “whole,” in some ways much like a mobius strip. When we look at a goat, we think of unity as opposed to separation. The goat reminds us of the human need for “turning well” from the prescribed, the mechanical, and the serious to the spontaneous, the natural, and the humorous. Whatever his number, Bill is old and gnarly and never been to school, brimming full not only of fight but of fun as well.

Baaa--Bam!

 

My Path To The Naval Academy

By Gary L. Snyder ’55

I grew up in Josephine, a small town in western Pennsylvania with State Route 119 as the only street in town.  While a senior in nearby Indiana High School, I applied to my congressman for an appointment to the Naval Academy.  I cannot say that I had a long time longing to go to the Naval Academy, but the colorful brochures describing the exciting life of a midshipman in rich detail had the desired effect; they had produced in me a strong desire to attend the Academy.  Shortly thereafter there was an interview with the Honorable John P. Saylor, U.S. Representative from my Congressional District in Pennsylvania.  I do not recall many details from the interview but I thought I passed this hurdle because I received a letter telling me to report for a physical examination. 

About one-hundred twenty applicants showed up.  I was pretty skinny and scrawny as a high school senior and I recall being impressed with robust appearance of my fellow applicants.

The next hurdle was a very long written exam.  About sixty people showed up for that.  I assume that meant that about fifty percent of the original applicants failed the physical exam.  The examination was the longest examination I had ever encountered.  I remember the need to go to the bathroom and wondering if I should take my exam with me to keep it safe rather than leave it unattended.  I decided not to do so because it might be thought that I was planning to meet someone who would help me with the test.

After a few months I was informed by telephone that I came out in first place.  This was followed by a Certificate of Appointment to The Academy, Class of 1955, and several letters, all of which looked very important to a not very worldly teenager.  Getting a nomination, or the need for one, was never discussed.

I would very soon graduate from high school with the Class of 1950.  I had an appointment to USNA with the Class of 1955, so the immediate question was what to do with the intervening year.  This was a very important decision for me.  Money was tight and going to college for a year would be a hardship, although that was strongly considered.  Working for a year certainly was an option but it did not appeal to me very much.  After some searching discussions with my mother and other people whom I admired, and with all the wisdom a sixteen year old could muster, I decided to enlist in the Navy, not tell anyone that I had an appointment to the Academy, and serve as an enlisted man for a year.  It seemed to me that doing so would provide very useful experience.  When it became appropriate, I would then let it be known that I had the appointment.

Shortly thereafter I enlisted and was shipped off to Recruit Training in Newport, Rhode Island.  That train ride was my one and only trip in a Pullman car.  Pretty impressive, I thought.

Boot camp started out all right but there were unappealing aspects.  I have a vivid memory of a Third Class Petty Officer with a dingy bucket, a can of metal polish, and a rag.  He worked very diligently making a very shiny spot on the bucket, about the size of a quarter.  He held it up for inspection and then told me he wanted me to make the sport go all over the bucket.  Things like that plus the growing concern everyone had over the upcoming week of mess duty, convinced me I really did not like Boot Camp.

One night I sought out my Company Commander and told him I had an appointment to the Naval Academy.  I fully expected this to result in my transfer to the Naval Academy Prep School, and it did.  I was transferred the next day.
 
NAPS was just two blocks up the hill from my recruit barracks, so I packed my sea bag and trudged up the hill.  I recall that there was no great enthusiasm for a Seaman Recruit of three weeks becoming a student.  There was a system in place whereby you could validate individual courses by scoring high on an exam about the course.  I had just graduated from a good high school where I stood very high in my class, and was able to validate all my courses.  So now not only did the school administrators have a Seaman Recruit, which I sensed was not highly thought of, they had a Seaman Recruit who did not have to attend any classes.  Clearly this was not good.  I knew I should stay below the radar and started attending some classes.  Then I was told to devote time to tutoring others.  This really appealed to me and I put my heart into it.  Never in my life had I encountered that type of responsibility.   I was pretty sure that doing this and attending some classes would keep me invisible.  I have often wondered if I am the only person to go to NAPS as a Seaman Recruit.

There were at least three things which were very out of the ordinary before I finally got to USNA.  One event related to the Navy’s practice (then) of importing bus loads of young women to mix with the recruits each Saturday night at a dance in a large gymnasium. The recruits had to march in company formation to the gym and some companies would march by our barracks.  It quickly dawned on me that I had jumpers with a Seaman Recruit stripe, which, with a bit of imagination, should get me into these dances too.  So I, and as many guys as I had jumpers for, would put them on and hide in the bushes outside our barracks.  Then when a company of recruits marched by headed for the dance, we would fall in with them and join the fun.

We had to be a bit careful when leaving to assure we formed up with a company of recruits which would march past our barracks, but we managed.  When we got there, we would fade away into the bushes and then into our barracks.  This all ended when I was administratively promoted to Seaman Apprentice.  I recall thinking at the time that this was a big deal.

The second event occurred at a very dressy dance toward the end of the academic year.  At the end of the dance I accidentally tore my date’s ball gown off at the waist.  We were going up stairs to the cloak room on the second deck.  I clumsily tramped on the hem of her gown.  She continued up the ladder.  Her gown, from the waist down, stayed behind.  Aside from the visual display available to those in the immediate area, I thought it remarkable how a bunch of girls descended on Anne and made off with her to the ladies room, and then in just a few minutes had her all pinned together, looking as if nothing had happened.

The third event occurred after we moved NAPS to the old Tome School in Maryland at the end of the academic year.  The place needed a good field day, for sure.  The building had many large, double hung windows, most of which had counter balances which were no longer functional.  One day while washing a window, the upper sash came crashing down, pinning the little finger on my right hand between the two sashes.  After freeing up my finger, one of the petty officers took me to the infirmary where it was decreed that the finger was broken.

The infirmary was located in a former hospital building which was just being reopened as a hospital after years of neglect.  There I was, an injured sailor.  I quickly became a patient and was admitted to the hospital.  I thought it was overkill, but it was good duty.  I did not have to do anything and had at least one long weekend. 

One day I was told to put on my pajamas and get into bed, ready for inspection.  I was the only patient in the ward.  The inspecting officer and his entourage filed in and came to my bed.  After just a few moments of small talk he asked me why I was a patient.  I held up my right hand with the heavily bandaged finger and said, “Sir, I broke my little finger.”  The inspecting officer was good, I thought.  He did not laugh, chuckle, or show any emotion.  He asked how it happened and left the ward.  Within two hours I was discharged.

As they say, everything else is history.

 

Sea Stories from the Actic Ocean

"World's First Baseball Game at The North Pole"

By CAPT Alfred S. McLaren, USN (Ret.), USNA '55 - 13th Company

On the 25th of August 1960, the nuclear attack submarine, USS Seadragon (SSN-584) surfaced in an open lake of water or "polynya" very near the North Pole. We were the fourth submarine in history to have reached the top of the world! I (Fred McLaren) was a young lieutenant then, with my principal duties being officer of the deck, diving officer of the watch, photographic officer, and anything else anyone more senior might wish to saddle me with.

Seadragon maneuvered to a position along the edge of the heavy sea ice field that surrounded the polynya. This was so members of our navigation team to go onto to the ice to establish the exact location of the Pole. Once this was accomplished - to a remarkable degree of accuracy, one tenth of a nautical mile - we, as a crew, prepared to play the very first game of baseball at the North Pole!

We first chose two "teams of nine players each." We then "laid out" the "baseball diamond" on the generally flat yet still quite rugged ice surface with a "base” placed at each point of the "diamond." The baseball "pitcher's mound, which is located in the center of the "diamond," was positioned at our best estimate of the North Pole. The baseball "diamond" was then aligned such that the following interesting/amusing things would occur during the course of the game. First, if the batter hit a "homerun," he would circumnavigate the world as he ran around the bases to home plate. Second, if the batter hit the ball to right field, the ball would go across the International Dateline into "tomorrow." And, if the ball player from the opposing team in "Right Field" caught the ball and threw it back towards the "pitcher's mound," he would be throwing the ball back into "yesterday!" During the game, "sliding" into the bases (on the sea ice!) took on new meaning, and we were never sure just what day we actually completed the game. The baseball we used is supposedly in the "Baseball Hall of Fame."


The second story or experience occurred during the nuclear attack submarine USS Queenfish's historic first survey of the entire Siberian Continental Shelf during the summer of 1970. I (Fred McLaren) was the Commanding Officer of Queenfish at the time.

A Polar Bear Attacks the Periscope, or A Case of Mistaken Identity!

The nuclear attack submarine USS Queenfish was surveying the sea floor north of the New Siberian Islands in 1970. We had been operating under very thick sea ice for almost four days without having encountered a single area of open water. We needed this for safely conducting a vertical ascent in order to obtain a satellite navigation position. About mid-morning we finally reached a sufficiently large open lake of water or "polynya" that would permit us to ascend to a hovering position beneath the water surface. The ascent was conducted expeditiously, and I carefully raised the periscope and began an overhead search followed by a horizontal or surface search as soon as its optics or "head window" broke the surface. Halfway through my first surface sweep, I was startled to see a huge polar bear crouched on the icy edge of the polynya just 15 to 20 meters away! The bear saw us at the same time and immediately reared up, plunging into the water and swimming rapidly in our direction! Could it be the polar bear thought the top of our periscope was the head of a seal that had just come to the surface?

As I kept the periscope's optical "cross hairs" centered on the polar bear's nose, its head grew larger and larger as it quickly approached. I was so excited that I dropped a brand new Haselblad camera down the 15 meter steel periscope well, shattering it into a thousand pieces! Just as the polar bear's head filled my field of view, the thought entered my head, "How on earth am I going to explain teeth marks on the periscope when we return to home port? Fortunately, as the bear closed in, it saw its mistake and turned away in disgust! As I gave a sigh of relief, I saw that it was a female with two small and very curious cubs riding on her haunches. A wonderful sight that I managed to photograph with a Minolta. Hastily, they retreated, climbed back on the ice, and fled the area. Needless to say, my crew and I could talk of nothing else the rest of the day. 

 
 

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