inkwell.vue.484 : Forces Adrift, Life on a Submarine, with Chuck Charlton
permalink #76 of 85: Waiting for Baudot (chuck) Sun 11 Oct 15 21:35
The interwebs tell me that there have been about 150 submarine
movies. I've seen eight of them. 

When I was a kid I saw   Run Silent, Run Deep  and  Operation
Petticoat.  I was just a kid. I don't know how accurate they were.

Once I had gone to sea in submarines, I saw a few good portrayals of
submarine life.  Das Boot  mesmerized me. I first saw it with a
co-worker who had been in the German army in 1945, when he was
sixteen. The movie was in German with English subtitles. He could
barely move out of his seat when the show ended, due to the accuracy
of the portrayal of the WWII German military experience. I was
impressed with the technical accuracy of how the mechanical stuff
worked, and how the sailors related to the equipment.

I saw  The Hunt for Red October  with a companion my age who had
served on USS Swordfish. We were both impressed with the accuracy
overall, and thought it was good movie-making, as well.

The rest I would rate, best to worst, for accuracy of portrayal of
submarines an submariners:

   The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! 
   Ice Station Zebra 
   On the Beach 
   The Bedford Incident 
Jim Brown gave a good performance in   Ice Station Zebra  but there
is no way at all that he could have shut the breech door of that
torpedo tube at depth, using just muscle power.

I need to stop for dinner. More later.
inkwell.vue.484 : Forces Adrift, Life on a Submarine, with Chuck Charlton
permalink #77 of 85: Waiting for Baudot (chuck) Sun 11 Oct 15 21:51
And now it's later. I apologize for the poor formatting. I have
hidden the bad one, cleaned it up and re-posted.

Comedies about submarines are okay.  Laughing at what is inherently
slapstick in the first place is fine with me.

Dramas about submarines suffer from the general inaccuracies in
understanding the physical and organizational limitations of the
placement of the people. And by "organizational" I mean the
administrative organization, the operational organization, and the
organization of simply standing the watch.

Das Boot makes it look like only one mechanic ever does any work.

Red October makes it look like the commanding officer stands watches
as Officer of the Deck, and that there is only one sonar man aboard
who works 24/7/52.

But point is to be comedic or dramatic, so I'm okay with whatever
makes the artistry better.
inkwell.vue.484 : Forces Adrift, Life on a Submarine, with Chuck Charlton
permalink #78 of 85: Don Mussell (dmsml) Sun 11 Oct 15 21:55
At some point in the mid-1980's, I saw the 300 minute version of Das
Boot on a satellite movie channel. I was unable to turn away, as it
was mesmerizing.
inkwell.vue.484 : Forces Adrift, Life on a Submarine, with Chuck Charlton
permalink #79 of 85: Alan Turner (arturner) Mon 12 Oct 15 06:06
You're a more lenient about movies than I am.  When something
happens in a movie that I know to be incorrect, it ruins the movie
for me.  If a submarine is under the North Pole and the ice cap
starts breaking up and icebergs start crashing down on the ship, (a
particularly egregious example from some movie whose title I have
thankfully forgotten) it's too much of a howler for me to enjoy the
rest of it.

Hard to believe it's already our last day. I saved the last chapters
in your series: "Nixon’s Used Submarine Lot" "Sea Stores Whiskey"
and "Veterinary Check-Up" (about the sale of the Odax to Brazil),
and "Separation" (about about your last six months in the Navy) for
today.  But before that, I want to invite you to comment on anything
you wish, without any leading question.
inkwell.vue.484 : Forces Adrift, Life on a Submarine, with Chuck Charlton
permalink #80 of 85: Waiting for Baudot (chuck) Mon 12 Oct 15 07:23
There were a few other topics that I expected to be questioned
about. I'll mention a couple. I have not prepared anything in
writing, and I'll be brief.

1. War, diplomacy, and duty.

The U.S. had a huge military organization in the 1950s and 1960s.
The draft was in effect. Until 1968 or so, most of us did not
question the need for a large military and the need for mandatory
service. By then I was committed to the military contract, and I was
draftable if I somehow managed to get the agreement cancelled. In
another ciic environment, I don't know if I would have chosen the
military option. If indeed the military was just an option.

2. Obliviousness.

During the late 1980s, at a low point in my life and at a low point
in the history of television content, I randomly tuned in a late
night interview show on cable, and I saw an official with the GHWB
administration say that the knowledgeable people in the Pentagon
were well aware that gay men and lesbians self-selected for the
military, because of the same-sex environment.

A couple of years later, when I was recovering from a couple of
major life blows, I was attending a cooking class in San Francisco.
After a few months of classes, I discovered that one of the other
students in the class had served on a diesel submarine based in Key
West. We bailed on the cooking class at that point, took our
Margaritas, went to an empty room nearby, and just talked.

He told me that even within the Navy, gay sailors self-selected for
diesel-powered submarines, because of the casual environment aboard.
He described how he finagled his enlistment with a gay recruiting
officer in New York. After boot camp he finagled an assignment to
submarine school, then an assignment to a diesel-powered submarine
in Key West, the first choice of home port among gay submariners. He
reported aboard his boat and got his rack assignment.

That first night he changed into civvies, went ashore, and tracked
down a legendary bar he wanted to try. When he got there, he ran
into the chief who had made his rack assignment. The next day his
rack assignment was changed.

He also told me more than I needed to know about the administrative
tricks in use, and the layout of rack locations aboard.

I had been stunningly oblivious.

Later I mentioned this story to another Navy veteran here in San
Francisco, and he said that a diesel submarine in Key West in the
1960s must have been the gayest place on earth.
inkwell.vue.484 : Forces Adrift, Life on a Submarine, with Chuck Charlton
permalink #81 of 85: Waiting for Baudot (chuck) Tue 13 Oct 15 16:34
Alan, I don't know what your questions are, but I'll make some
comments about the essays that you mentioned. 


re "Nixon’s Used Submarine Lot" 

There was a lot of negotiation going on, at high levels, in the
mercantile, diplomatic, and political arenas. Turkey changed its
offers numerous times. In the course of a week Brazil was going to
buy Odax, then Odax was going to be scrapped, then Turkey was going
to buy Odax, then Odax was going to be scrapped, then Brazil wound
up buying Odax after all. 

This was a frenzy to sell off diesel boats. There were 19
Tench-class submarines in commission in 1969 when I started to
submarine school, and only one by the time I got out of the Navy
four years later.

Year, Number sold, and Number remaining: 
1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974
  0    3    2    0    0    0    2    3    3    3    6    6    0    1
 29   26   24   24   24   24   22   19   16   13    7    1    1    0

Brazil bought four of them in 1972 and 1973.


"Sea Stores Whiskey" is pretty much a self-contained story. It
seemed like every employee at the Navy supply office in Key West was
determined to be the first to find a loophole that would allow a
U.S. Navy truck to deliver booze to a ship. In the end, no one could
work it out.


"Veterinary Check-Up" is also self-contained. During the times that
we thought Odax was going to Turkey or to the scrap yard, we had to
figure out how to get approval to return our food to the supply
center. The only way to do this was to have the food surveyed by the
U. S. Army Veterinary Corps. You just have to read the story to
connect the dots.


"Separation" deserves its own posting, which I'll put up later
inkwell.vue.484 : Forces Adrift, Life on a Submarine, with Chuck Charlton
permalink #82 of 85: Julie Sherman (julieswn) Tue 13 Oct 15 18:00
This has been a wonderful conversation and I want to thank <chuck>
and <arturner> for their time and sharing their knowledge with us.
This marks the official end of this conversation, but this topic
will remain open for anyone who wants to continue the discussion.
Thanks again.
inkwell.vue.484 : Forces Adrift, Life on a Submarine, with Chuck Charlton
permalink #83 of 85: Waiting for Baudot (chuck) Tue 13 Oct 15 23:14
“Separation” Is not about the Odax. It covers the time after USS
Odax was sold to Brazil, and after I spent three more months aboard
the same boat in charge of a team of eighteen crew members who were
teaching thee Brazilians how to operate the submarine. For the last
eight months of my four-year obligation I was assigned to the
research bathyscaph Trieste II (DSV-1) based in San Diego. There
were some minor tidbits to report, and there a few not so minor. 

1. (Minor) 

The President's Commission on Oceans and Atmosphere came to see
Trieste on a fact-finding tour. At the end of the day, one member of
the commission, a former Commander in the U.S. Navy during WWII,
wanted to go a half-block away to the Officers Club. A few of us
went, and we sat at the bar and had a drink with Arthur Godfrey. 

2. (Minor) 

Whenever Trieste went deep, which was whenever it submerged, the
crew tied a cage to the deck of the 'scaph with whatever wire was
handy. The cage contained styrofoam cups. The first time it happened
when I was aboard, they just handed me a styrofoam cup and said,
"Write something on it." So, not knowing what was going on, I wrote
a sestet from Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It turns out that an
eight-ounce styrofoam cup, once subjected to sea pressure at a depth
of 6,000 feet or so, shrunk. After that it could hold perhaps an
ounce, perhaps half that much. It was not quite exactly the same
shape as before, but similar. And smaller. It was a nice souvenir.

3. (Scary) 
One time the floating drydock that was our mother ship was itself
taken away for repairs, and we were suddenly asked to go photograph
a fresh artifact on the ocean bottom. Since we lacked all the
support systems from the mother ship, we had to make it up as we
were going along. Everything worked out okay. But then we got back
to port, and it was time to pump 80,000 gallons of aviation gasoline
out of the 'scaph and back into the fuel farm. But we needed a
blanket of nitrogen to inert the 'scaph as we pumped out the avgas,
and our nitrogen was aboard the absent floating drydock. So we
called a commercial industrial gas firm to provide us with the
nitrogen. When the truck arrived, I was the only officer present, so
I was busy making all the arrangements, when I noticed that the
truck was labeled, in giant letters, LIQUID OXYGEN. This did not
seem like a good idea to me. So I challenged the delivery driver. He
pulled out the packing slip and pointed out that the truck had been
filled with liquid nitrogen, despite what it said in giant letters
on the side. I was skeptical. So he walked over to our coffee mess,
picked up a styrofoam cup (see, it was all about styrofoam cups),
opened a spigot on the side of the truck, and drew off a cupful of
liquid something. He struck a match and held the lighted match over
the cup. The match was quickly extinguished. That was pretty
impressive, so I let him use the "nitrogen" to inert the scaph. The
rest of the operation was uneventful. 
A few years later I was working at a lab where they had liquid gases
in quantity. I told them my story. They looked at me funny, and then
one of them took a styrofoam cup, went over to the liquid oxygen
tap, and drew off a cupful of liquid oxygen. He then struck a match
and held it over the top of the liquid oxygen. The match went out.
He explained that it was due to the condensation of the humidity
from the air over the extremely cold surface of the oxygen. So I
still don't know if I used oxygen or nitrogen to "inert" the
gasoline tanks on the bathyscaph. 
4. (Minor) 
Jacques Piccard was the son of Auguste Piccard, who built the
Trieste, later known as the Trieste I, for academic research
purposes. The U.S. Navy bought the Trieste I, then ordered a newer
version built to their own specifications. The Italian-Swiss
heritage of the Trieste was carefully camouflaged, but they forgot
to change the part where one piece of equipment was lubricated by
"pushing an olive through the tube". 
5. (Doubly Scary) 
The stuff that you do, you just don't think about it at the time,
and you don't even remember most of it. I'm thinking of the time we
almost sent a Submiss/Subsunk message. 
These messages were created in the 1960s, perhaps after the Thresher
was lost, or more likely after Scorpion went down. But there was a
special format and process and mechanism for this kind of message,
because of the problems that had happened in letting the President
know about the situation. 
In the case of a combat submarine, there was a standard in the
number of hours after a communication was due, before the President
was notified. Since I was selected to be the officer who remained on
the surface, I used the underwater telephone to communicate with my
counterparts aboard the scaph during the dive. 
The "underwater telephone" is a sonar system, very low-fidelity, for
talking with submerged folks, or rather, for talking with folks in
submerged vehicles. There was a noticeable delay in carrying on a
conversation with someone who was 6,000 feet away, even with the
rapid speed of sound in water. 
For the DSVs and DSRVs such as the Trieste, the Submiss/Subsunk time
frame was minutes, not hours. Our researchers on the ocean bottom on
this day were acting like researchers, and not like submariners, and
they got interested in something they were working on, and the
underwater telephone became a nuisance, so they turned off the UWT.
After ten minutes, we were required to call the White House. 
So I got on a voice radio circuit with NavCommSta San Diego, and I
told them to open an unencrypted, unclassified, FLASH priority voice
channel to the White House. The Commanding Officer of the fleet tug
began reading from the laminated card on which I had written the
exact time, latitude, longitude, and water depth. He was almost
finished with the message when the UWT sprang to life with the
researchers exclaiming about something amazing that they had seen.
He simply concluded his dictation with, "Cancel this message. Cancel
this message." 
In the hot washup of the incident, we were told that a Marine
Colonel had left the EOB and had walked over to the basement of the
White House to position himself to deliver our message. Then I guess
he just walked back. 
6. (Dumb) 
Trieste used iron BBs for negative buoyancy, and avgas (aviation
gasoline) for positive buoyancy. During a dive the Trieste dribbled
off iron shot or avgas as necessary, to maintain neutral buoyancy. 
I was the hull officer, and I ordered the iron BBs by the barrel
from the original source in Italy. One time I got a delivery of
American iron BBs instead of the Italian iron BBs that I had
ordered. The Bureau of Supplies and Accounts was apparently on a
"Buy American" kick. I opened the 55-gallon drum and inspected the
American iron BBs, and I was worried about their quality and
consistency, and about the amount of slag in the barrel. 
The BBs were carried in a hopper in the middle of the bathyscaph.
The hopper funneled down to a drain pipe that had a coil of wire in
it. The iron BBs were held in place by a magnetic field generated by
that coil of wire. In order to ascend, the bathyscaphe pilot turned
off the current to the coil of wire, and the iron BBs dribbled out
the bottom. When the current was restored, the BBs stopped flowing.
Big chunks of slag would have been a big problem. 
I wrote a letter of concern, and sent it up through the chain of
command. I asked whether these American iron BBs complied with the
requisite specifications, since I couldn't find a specification for
the BBs. The letter went up the chain to the Officer in Charge of
the Trieste (we didn't have a Commanding Officer) to the "Commodore"
of Submarine Development Group Two, to Commander Submarine Flotilla
Two, to Commander, Submarine Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet, to the
Commandant of the Naval Ships Systems Command, to the Commandant of
Mare Island Naval Shipyard, then back to the Officer in Charge of
Trieste. The last forwarding letter said that the expertise with
making this decision was with the Hull Officer of Trieste, and that
was me. 
I rejected the American BBs, four months after I had asked for an
expert opinion. 
And on that dumb note, we will stop for the night. Many thanks to
Julie for inviting me and for setting everything up. And thanks to
Alan for digging into the bilges to find the details that I had not
thought to include in Forces Adrift.
inkwell.vue.484 : Forces Adrift, Life on a Submarine, with Chuck Charlton
permalink #84 of 85: John Spears (banjojohn) Sun 18 Oct 15 14:48
What a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon! Thank you  Chuck, Alan
and Julie. 

I still have many essays yet to read.
inkwell.vue.484 : Forces Adrift, Life on a Submarine, with Chuck Charlton
permalink #85 of 85: Waiting for Baudot (chuck) Sat 12 Dec 15 11:53
By the way, I have made a minor addition at a reader's suggestion.
In the chapter titled "Trieste" near the very end, I have added a
recently declassified photograph.


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