June 05, 2004
My daddy was a Navy man. He enlisted when he was eighteen years old and found himself leaving the hills of Harlan County, Kentucky, to end up stationed on Guam, halfway around the world. He was a "scaly-back" sailor, because he crossed the International Date Line twice during his service.
He was proud of that fact until the day he died.
I must have been somewhere around Quinton's age when a submarine docked on River Street in Savannah and the Navy opened it for tours. My daddy took me to see it. Bejus! It wasn't what I expected.
I was accustomed to thinking all submarines were like "The Seaview" from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, which was one of my favorite television shows at the time. You know... wide-open, spacious, brightly-lit and very comfortable. The REAL submarine I saw was NOTHING like The Seaview.
It was dark. It was cramped. It smelled of farts, diesel fuel and body odor. The racks where the sailors slept were mere cots, spaced in stacks about 18" apart in the crew quarters. I learned that TWO MEN shared every rack--- they just staggered shifts so that one man had a bed to sleep in while the other one pulled duty. I was allowed to look through the periscope, but even there, a 10 year-old boy had to be careful not to bump into something.
Any ideas I ever had about being a submariner went away that day. I am NOT claustrophobic. I spent a lot of my working career crawling through narrow boiler steam drums filled with cyclones and chevrons that made turning around in there impossible, even for someone my size. Doing that never bothered me.
But thinking about living on that boat, under those conditions, for months at a time just gave me the willies. I remember my dad saying, "Now you've seen a real submarine. What did you think about it?"
"I didn't like it, Daddy," I replied. "It's just too... I don't know. It's just not what I thought it would be."
That wasn't the last time I had that reaction to something I had never seen before.
Voyage... rocked. What a great show. Seaman Kowalski got killed every other episode. Yeah, I though ALL submarines had WINDOWS in them. Ha ha!
On the USS Omaha ( an LA-class Fast Attack) our two favorite *bad* submarine movies were Voyage and Grey Lady Down.
You know about the space (and lack of) problem. There are lots more:
- CRTs blowing up every time the boat rolled 15 degrees.
- the CO going into the Reactor Compartment to
a. Pull Rods.
b. By hand.
c. to keep the reactor from going critical......
- Full height/full width watertight doors.
- A F**KING Picture window in the front of the control room.....
At least the boat on Grey Lady Down had internal doors the correct size and shape. The stupid CO running on the surface and NOT doging the freighter was too much (we have this thing called RADAR..... Ever heard of it?).
When Carradine intones "Thank God and General Dynamics" we always fell out of our seats laughing......
Spent six years on the boats... Both conventional and nuclear (Polaris, or Boomer as they are called now!)... It was an interesting experience! And yes RickT, the movies are often very funny... Not the way it was at all!
Regarding the dateline, remind me to tell you some time about taking off from Guam on Oct 1st (1st day of FY) and landing in Hawaii on the Sep 30th (last day of FY). No problem, right? Unless you are the aircraft commander of a USAF bird.
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