Saturday, August 29, 2020

104 Years Ago

The USS Memphis, ACR-10 (ACR meant "armored cruiser") was driven ashore by giant waves on this day in 1916. The captain of the ship, Edward Beach, got a feeling that was something was wrong and he ordered additional boilers lit off in order to weigh anchor and go out to sea.

As it turned out, it was a matter of fifteen minutes between the ship sailing safely and being dashed onto the shore. Captain Beach was court-martialed and found guilty of failure to get underway in a timely manner. His punishment was to be dropped twenty names on the promotion list. That was later reduced to five names and, on further review, his punishment was stricken. Beach commanded the battleship USS New York towards the end of the Great War.

If you want to read a vivid description of what happened about the ship, both in the engineering plant and above decks, I heartily recommend the book The Wreck of the Memphis by Edward Beach (the captain's son and a decorated naval officer in his own right). When he researched and wrote the book, there were a number of survivors still around to interview.

Memphis, which spent most of her life as the USS Tennessee, was a fast, well-armored and well-armed cruiser in the day when all ships were driven by large reciprocating engines. The Navy considered modernizing her three sister ships in the 1920, but the result didn't seem to be worth the cost.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Life in the Yards

(Inspired by the fire aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard)

I've been through one major overhaul, a few SRAs (Shipyard Repair Availabilities) and numerous shorter maintenance periods, which were called "Tender Availabilities", even if there was no destroyer tender involved.

The most challenging is a major overhaul. The ship is in drydock, so in the summer, it is hotter than a baked motherfucker in the ship and, in the winter, it is colder than a carport outside of an igloo. The shipyard workers have little to no respect for the ship. Trash and debris accumulate everywhere if the ship's force isn't driven to be diligent. That's a tall order, as it's hard to motivate the sailors to keep cleaning up other people's shit. Usually the motivation has to devolve into unrelenting harshness, which means that's a job for the XO.

When there is welding or cutting going on, there have to be fire watches, which is usually a task for the ship;s crew. The sailor so detailed gets to stand around with a fire extinguisher and watch the yardbird work. If the work is being done to a bulkhead, deck or overhead, then there has to be a fire watch on the other side. If the work is at a corner, then there can be more than one space on the "other side" of the work and all of them have to have a fire watch.

This is in addition to any repair or maintenance work that the repair plan assigned to the ship's force to do. If money is tight, a lot of that work is assigned to ship's force. While this is going on, a lot of the crew may be away, attending training classes (individually or in teams) or sucked away on temporary duty to another ship. There's not much in the way of fun, there's no time at sea, no port visits, just day-to-day life in a dirty industrial environment.

Add to that the security issue: The yardbirds steal anything that is not locked up or welded down. A sailor who leaves his tools at his or her workside to go to the head or catch a smoke will often come back to find all of the tools, if not the entire tool box, has been stolen. The sailors can start treating the yard workers like a pack of unarrested criminals, which also does a number of morale.

One day in the yards, I was the Command Duty Officer. I was making my rounds and opened a door to step out onto the weatherdeck on the 01 level. It was full dark, the lighting wasn't great, and I almost tripped over some piping that some fucking sandcrab left lying on the deck. If I had tripped, it would have thrown me up against the lifelines, which were of a temporary nature, and would probably have resulted in my fall to the bottom of the cry dock, which would have been at least a sixty-foot drop onto the steel floor of the dock. In other words, it would have been fatal.

I was enraged. I threw the piping over the side and down into the drydock. Then I went around the weatherdecks and threw every other obstruction that was not properly marked or guarded (that I could lift) into the drydock.

The next morning, I told the XO what I had done. He wasn't amused, but he got the idea that I didn't much care. The yardbirds were not at all happy and complained to their bosses, who complained to the CO. The CO promised an investigation, which of course, went nowhere.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Confusion to the Enemy

Back around the mid-1980s, the USS Josephus Daniels (CG-27) was preparing to deploy to the Med. As some exercises were going to be held on the way, the Operations Officer thought it might be fun to repaint the hull number to CG-28, which was that of the USS Wainwright. There was zero chance of the two ships being seen together; the Daniels was homeported in Norfolk, VA, the Wainwright in Charleston, SC. A few months after the Daniels deployed, the Wainwright went to the Persian Gulf.

Initially, the confusion was limited to a couple of new sailors, who were wandering around the piers, looking for a big gray warship with the number 27 painted on her bows. Most looked at the white Herculite banner lashed to the gangplank that said "USS Josephus Daniels", but one went to the Shore Patrol and was directed unceremoniously to the ship.

A few weeks later, the Daniels was in an exercise. A submarine got within torpedo range, popped off a green flare to signal firing one, then sent out a target message giving its position and claiming a kill on the Wainwright. The Wainwright responded with a message of her own, giving her position, noting that it was a few thousand miles away, and expressed wonder at the fantastic torpedoes subs now had.

Much hilarity ensued.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Uniform Disasters, 120 years ago.

These are some Navy uniforms from the 1890s:

The admiral, in the front, center, is wearing the "special full dress" uniform. it was heavyweight wool, with those fringed gold epaulets and a cocked hat. As described in the autobiography of Edward L. Beach, Sr., From Annapolis to Scapa Flow the uniform cost $240.

In 1890, a skilled worker could expect to make about two dollars a day. Various inflation calculators put the value of $240 in 1890 in the vicinity of $6,500-$6,900. I can't imagine having to pop damn near two grand (back in my day) for a single uniform. As it was, the service dress white was not terribly cheap and was rarely worn.

Friday, May 8, 2020

The Hoover and "Analogous Response"

For some reason that I've long since forgotten, there was some brouhaha between the US and the USSR in the late 1970s/early 1980s over the placement of nuclear missiles. The Soviets moved their ICBM patrols into the western Atlantic. That would have given them the ability to make a depressed-trajectory shot, which would have really cut the reaction time available to the Americans.

Needless to say, the Americans were not happy with that. Among other things, TACTASS-equipped ships were sent out to search for and track the Soviet submarines. This operation, in part, took place in the winter.

One does not have to be a naval expert to know that during the winter, the North Atlantic is a challenging place to be.

TACTASS, designated the AN.SQR-18A, attached to the back of the fish of an AN/SQS-35 variable depth sonar (VDS). This is a photo of an apparently Japanese setup:

The fish itself was well-weighted by a goodly amount of lead. The red arrow points to where the towed array was attached. What would happen is the array would be payed out from a reel in a room next to where the VDS fish was housed. The array would then be mated both mechanically and electrically to the VDS fish. Then the fish would be launched. In moderate to heavy seas, this was a wet operation. The side doors, at least, were operated by hydraulics. The crane and cable reel had an operator's station with a waterproof door. Once the array was mated, everyone would leave the room, except for the operator, and the fish would be launched.

As you can see here, the cable between the ship and the VDS fish was faired, with aluminum leading edges and rubber trailing edges:

So now picture that you have a heavy fish being towed by a long cable, which had no elasticity. In a heavy sea, the stern of the ship moved up and down a lot, which jerked on the fish. The cable wouldn't break, but the electrical connections were not as durable, especially the connections between the fish and the array, which itself was several hundred feet long and streamed behind the fish. A fair number of the tracking missions ended with the ship returning to port to replace the towed array, which was shipped on a large cable reel.

Because the weather was often bad enough to preclude the ships from launching their SH-2Fs to localize any contacts, S-3s were sent out to do that work. I don't recall whether or not they flew out from Norfolk and Mayport or if they staged out of NAS Bermuda.

So there was a ship out doing that, and there was a S-3 that was sent out to do its thing. The S-3 told the ship (over secure voice radio) that there was an unknown error in its internal nav system. The ship's ASW officer, who was on watch, asked how large the error was. He was told that it was about a dozen miles or so. The ASW officer advised the S-3 to "mark on top" (fly directly over the ship) and the ship could give them an accurate position so the S-3 could update its navigation picture and thereby greatly reduce the error.

The S-3 refused to do that. They then asked the ship where they should being dropping sonobouys and in what pattern. The ASW officer replied on the order of "I won't know within a hundred square miles of ocean where those buoys are, so it makes no difference to me where you drop them." (The ship was operating on an EMCON [emissions control] plan and it could not use its air-search radar to track the S-3.)

And that was pretty much it. For the rest of the time the S-3 was on station, it flew around, doing something that generated no useful information. When it either ran low on fuel or used up its sonobuoys, it returned to base.

On that ship, the ASW officer wrote the post-patrol report, which was sent off as a radio TTY message. The Weapons and Operations officers. The draft typically was written by hand on legal pads, either double or triple-spaced. The two department heads would make their edits and then give it to the Captain for his review. This time around, the Captain noticed that the draft was written in the hand of the Weapons officer. When the CO asked why that was so, the Weapons officer said that the ASWO wanted to re-enact the Crucifixion, with the S-3 playing the starring role.

Eventually, with the deployment of the SURTASS ships, the use of the SQR-18A ships for tracking Soviet SSBNs was discontinued.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Vampire Liberty

The Navy kind of, sort of, encouraged sailors to donate blood. The way that they did that was to give people time off for donating blood. At first, at least at my command, a donor got both the day of donation and the following day off. The unofficial term for the time off was "vampire liberty".

That created all sorts of problems, especially if the donor's duty day was the following day. At first, they ran a sign-up sheet where, supposedly, duty section leaders and the division officers and chiefs could check to keep slackers from abusing it.

But that didn't work out so well. The thought was raised to run it by using special request chits, which would go up the chain of command to the Senior Watch Officer, if approved, and the XO, if denied. But even that seemed to be a pain in the ass.

So what was decided was that donors would only get the rest of the day of donation off. Since sailors who were in the duty section were forbidden from leaving the command without permission in the first place, sailors who had duty couldn't donate. Those who wouldn't donate without getting the free time were slackers and goof-offs, anyway. The chiefs knew who they were.

Monday, December 23, 2019

The Falklands War

(N.B.: I heard about the following story from two different people who were there.)

You may recall that in 1982, the British and the Argies had a little dispute with guns over the issue of who owned the Falkland Islands. The fighting was in the second quarter of the year.

Anyway, a certain admiral and his staff were being being briefed on the status of the conflict. All dialogue is, um, "reconstructed".

Briefer: The British really need to get cracking so that they aren't fighting a war at sea in the depths of a South Atlantic winter.

Admiral: What do you mean? Summer is coming.

At this point, the staffies looked at each other nervously.

Briefer: Admiral, the war is being fought in the southern hemisphere. It'll be winter there, not summer.

Admiral: I didn't know that! Why wasn't I briefed on that? [Turning to the Chief of Staff] Did you know this?

COS: Yes, sir, I did.

Admiral: When did you learn about this?

COS: Fourth grade geography class, sir.

Admiral [turning his attention back to the briefer] When did you learn about this?

Briefer: Fifth grade, sir.

At this point, a somewhat dim light bulb illuminated in the admiral's brain, for he instructed the briefer to resume his briefing.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving

It's been 39 years since the Thanksgiving described in this post.

Read the POD closely. Note that there is an officer designated as the CDO, or "Command Duty Officer". That might seem odd, given that the ship was at sea. But if there was a security alert, the CDO was the one who would go around to all of the guarded stations and personally tell them to secure upon his passing the word over the 1MC.

Secondly, note the name of the CDO. That was this guy. He was probably on the CNO track until he got embroiled in this mess.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Diesel Showers

Refueling at sea was an interesting maneuver. Two ships would steam about 125' or so apart, lines would be shot over, then bigger lines pulled until a steel spanwire was hooked up. Then the refueling hose, capped with a probe, would be pulled aboard to hook up so that fuel, a lot of fuel, could be pumped aboard.

How much fuel, you might ask? Tens of thousands of gallons, at a minimum. Large ships had double-receiving stations, so two probes would be hauled aboard at once. Smaller ships, if they needed a lot of fuel, could take them at two fore-and-aft stations.

Besides the deck folks, this took a lot of people. Each tank was monitored by a sailor with sounding tapes. Sailors manned valve manifolds to direct the fuel. It was best to take fuel into a number of tanks at a time, because if too much fuel was directed into a single tank at a time, it could fill too rapidly and then bad shit could happen.

One of the lesser things in the "bad shit could happen" would be if the probe of the oiler or the drogue basket on the receiving ship were worn a bit. See, the sailors pulling the probe and hoses aboard had to slam them with some force into the basket for the probe's latches to snap into place, but not so hard as to damage things. If the probe popped out, the valve in the nose of the probe would slam shut, but the probe coming out would still spray DFM (Distillate Fuel Marine, basically diesel) all over everyone on the refueling station. Do that a few times and the sailors on the downwind side wold be soaked with DFM.

In the greater of the "bad shit" would be if so much fuel was directed into one tank so that the tank overpressurized. Since the tanks were generally surrounded by other tanks that were also laden with fuel, the weakest point was to the side of the tank with air on the other side. Which was the top. in one instance, what was above was a berthing compartment of radiomen and operations specialists (radarmen). They usually worked and lived in air-conditioned comfort, they were not at all amused to have their compartment sprayed with DFM.

The third group of sailors who almost always smelled of diesel were the sailors on non-nuclear submarines, or diesel boats. Even ashore, they smelled as though they'd bathed in the stuff.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Two-Whistle Passage

A submarine stands out to sea while a ferry comes into port:

The small craft at the stern of the ferry is one of the armed security boats that escort subs in and out of port. Because terrorism.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Making Steam the RN Way

I had a few old posts on this subject.

A-type boilers were definitely a prewar design in the USN.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

How to Tell If That Script Was Written or Directed by an Amateur

If you're watching a naval-themed movie and somebody says "fire a (name of weapon", that's amateur.

On naval ships, the word "fire" refers to unplanned conflagrations: "Fire on the Flight Deck!" "Fire in the Galley."

The only exception to that is when the word "fire" is coupled with "room": The "Fireroom" (one word) is where the boilers are on an oil-fired ship.

"Fires" (plural) refers to the act of getting a boiler going: "Light fires in 1 Alpha Boiler." "Fires lighted in 1 Alpha Boiler."

If you're going to (or have) discharge a weapon, the word is "Shoot".

If a newbie uses the word "fire" in that context, everyone else who heard that will start making fun of it: "Ready to fire Mount 51." "Oh my God, there's a fire in Mount 51."

I can't think of the movie's name right now, but a few months back, I watched a naval movie in which the characters said "fire" so much, that I almost needed to visit an ophthalmologist to unroll my eyes.

(My hazy recollection is that Sink the Bismarck! got it right.)

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Fair Winds and Following Seas, Charlie Oscar

I don't keep in touch with my ex-service buddies. It's been a hell of a long time and we all change.

So it was with a little sadness that I learned of the passing, last year, of CAPT Guy R. Campbell, III, USN, ret.

Captain Campbell was one of the captains whose crews would have followed him into Hell, without hesitation. When I knew him, he had relieved a captain whose crew would have cheerfully sent him to Hell. He believed in mentoring and training his crews, not in chewing them out. An expression of mild disappointment from him would be devastating, as the person receiving it knew that they had let down the Old Man.

One weekend in home port, his ship was open to the public for topside tours. Unbeknownst to him, his kids (ranging from teenagers to pre-teens) took the public tour. When the sailor giving the tour pointed out the Captain's Gig and explained its function, one of the kids giggled and told a sibling: "That's Daddy's boat." The sailor giving the tour overheard that and told the OOD after the tour group left. The OOD told the CDO, who passed it along to the XO. Captain Campbell went to the sailor's workspace the next work day and apologized for what his kids did. He sure as hell didn't need to do that, but word of it spread through the waterfront like wildfire. That's just one example of why he was beloved by his crews.

Captain Campbell was not one of those captains who would step on his crews in order to please his bosses' in-port horseshit. To him, the welfare of his crew was all, for he knew that if his crew had his back, there was nothing that both they and his ship couldn't do.

Fair wins and following seas, Captain.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Unrep (Pt. I)

I have hesitated for a long time in writing about underway replenishment. For I was mostly an engineer. I'd sit either in Main Control or in the Oil & Water Lab and monitor the progress of refueling. If the ship wasn't taking on fuel, then I'd normally be in Main Control to keep an eye on the plant. There were a few times as an ensign that I was technically "officer in charge" of the forward refueling station, but make no mistake about it: The Second Class Bosun's Mate ran it. My job was to look for safety violations, like someone stepping into the bight of a line.

So I don't know a whole hell of a lot about Unrep. The blogger over at Chaotic Synaptic Activity served aboard an unrep ship. What to me was a weekly or so affair for fuel and monthly for supplies was what he did.

So first, let's talk about supplies.

In port, in the US, supply was more or less a constant thing. If you really needed something, you could walk a chit though at the local supply center.

If the ship was deployed, then all but the most critical parts came on a monthly basis. Sometimes, it came in port. There would be a series of trucks showing up at the pier. An "all hands" working party would be called away to unload them and then pass the supplies from the trucks, up the gangway, through the ship and down into the storerooms. The Supply Officer and his chiefs acted as traffic directors. Department Heads and the XO were safety observers. Everyone else who was not on watch, including chiefs and junior officers, were in the working party. it took several hours.

In-port resupplies of that magnitude were rare. All of the goods had to be brought by a supply ship to another pier or port and offloaded into trucks. There were, understandably, security concerns that ranged from basic theft to terrorism. In foreign ports, the trucks had to be guarded for customs reasons. Both the Navy and the country where the resupply was taking place pretended that the trucks were never in the country.

And it was a pain in the ass. In a foreign port, where the idea was to try and get time of to see the sights (or get drunk and/or laid), nobody wanted to spend a precious day in port humping truckloads of supplies.

The vast majority of monthly resupply evolutions were done at sea.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Sub Sunk- Plus 55 Years

55 years ago today, the USS Thresher (SSN-593) was lost. She was the lead ship of her class, which was renamed the Permit class.

The loss of the Thresher uncovered a number of problems with quality control and submarine construction methods. They weren't so much of an issue during the war, but the then-new nuclear submarines could dive about a thousand feet deeper than the American submarines built during the war.

The procedures for constructing and QCing submarines was radically changed with the development and implementation of the SUBSAFE program. No SUBSAFE-certified submarine has been lost, as of today. (USS Scorpion was built before the loss of the Thresher )

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Inspection From Hell

This is no shit:

A few months before this incident, the same ship was visiting another port. Each month, the captain of a ship was supposed to hold an inspection. It could be a zone inspection (working spaces), a messing and berthing inspection, or a personnel inspection.

This particular time, the captain chose to hold a messing and berthing inspection. He started aft at 0900. Farthest aft was Airdale Berthing (the ship had an embarked helo detachment). That was fine.

Next up was the After Head, used by the sailors in Engineering and Aviation Departments. The captain ran his finger under the rim of the toilet bowls to check for a buildup of scum. What he found was some enterprising sailor had packed fecal material under the rim of one of the toilets.

The captain's rage was towering. He went into Engineering Berthing and, basically, tore the place apart. He flipped the mattresses from every bunk on the pretext of looking for contraband. He yanked the sheets from every mattress to see if the mattress was stained. He did the same to every pillow. He was in there for hours. (It seemed longer.)

Next up was the Mess Deck and it got similar treatment. The turmoil was such that the cooks served sandwiches for lunch instead of a planned hot meal with a selection of two main courses. The captain was a little more restrained when he got to the Goat Locker, but not by much. Then it was the turn of Supply Berthing, which got almost the same treatment as the Engineers did.

The Forward Head was immaculate, as everyone knew what was going on. Weapons and Operations flooded the place with sailors to make sure that the head was clean enough for doing brain surgery. Try as he might, the captain could only find a little dust in a conduit bundle.

The scary thing was it had now been ten hours since the Shitter Incident and the captain was still in a full-blown rage. it was one thing to be angry, but he was acting as though somebody had shot his dog and then rubbed the carcass in his face. He truly was, at that moment, insane.

Liberty had been secured for the day. At 2000, the XO persuaded the captain to end the inspection for the day, to resume the next day. The XO called the department heads together and told them that the inspection would resume at 0900 the following day, with the uninspected areas up first, then a reinspection of the unsat areas (everything else).

And yes, there were areas that had not been inspected. The inspection of the berthing compartments for Weapons and Operations took five minutes each. Inspection of Officers' Country took ten minutes, including the Wardroom Galley (the captain basically glanced into each stateroom). The reinspection of every other area took about five minutes apiece. The captain made the XO run his finger under the rims of the toilet bowls in the After Head.

Nobody was stupid enough to try a repeat. And just to be sure, the engineering chiefs personally had checked each toilet.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Why the Chaplain was Scum

I mentioned this awhile back. This is no shit:

There was a sailor on one ship who was a pretty nice guy. He was pleasant to everyone, he worked hard and he he was just a joy to stand watch with.

He got out and went to school. He was going to a junior college to get an associate's degree before going on for his batchelor's degree. He was doing that while working full time in a convenience store, of the kind that Tam has referred to as a "Stop `n Rob".

Only this time, a couple of years after he had left the Navy, it was no joke. The robbers thought it best to kill the witness, being the former sailor who was working that late shift.[1]

Word got back to the ship, which was deployed aboard. The Horrible Chaplain was riding the ship. A memorial service was arranged for a Sunday afternoon on the mess deck, the largest open space available. It was very well attended. Sailors who were on watch were arranging swaps to attend.

So the chaplain gets up, goes to the little podium/altar and says: "Well, let's get this over with." He may have thought he said it quietly, but he was overheard by those closest to the altar.

Word spread through the ship faster than anything short of primer-cord. The reaction was not one of amusement.

The XO quietly advised the chaplain that, for his personal safety, he'd best not be found outside of Officers Country after the word was passed to "darken ship".

He followed that advice.

More's the pity.
[1] The robbers' score for the jobs they pulled as probably less than the bail for a shoplifting charge. They were caught. One ratted, the others went to Death Row. At least one lived long enough to be executed.

Thursday, October 5, 2017


This is no shit:

So there were a bunch of officers from one ship that were at a pool (as in "swimming") party. There was a lot of drinking going on. The captain was rather soused. He was running around the edge of the pool, pushing people in.

This captain was one I've written about before. He was a jerk.

It was a hot summer evening. The Sun had set and it was getting dark. People were swimming and trying to stay out of the way of the captain, who had some fixation about throwing people into the pool.

The deck of the pool went up to the house. There were a few young officers sitting on the few steps into the house, enjoying their drinks and trying like hell to stay out of the captain's way.

One of them was an ensign This guy was pretty quiet, but he was a bit, shall we say, unconventional. Intelligence and aptitude were the only things that kept him from being a problem child due to attitudinal issues. One of his problems was that he often did things without mulling them through. You might have heard of the old excuse "it seemed like a good idea at the time." His percentage of ideas that were good ones was very high.

So anyway, there's the captain, running around the pool. He went past the guys on the steps. When his back was somewhat to them, the ensign exploded out of a sitting position, crossed the pool deck and hit the captain in the back with a vicious block, flinging the captain into the pool.

By the time the captain came up and broke the surface of the water, the ensign was seated back on the steps, holding his drink. If you hadn't seen it, you'd not have known that he had moved a centimeter.

Pretty much everybody other than the captain, including the XO, had seen it.

Nobody said nothing.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Air-Dropped Torps

This is a very good article about the USN Mk13 torpedo, which was the Navy's primary torpedo for aerial attack. After giving a historical overview, it goes into the Argentinian attempts to use their stored Mk13s during the Falkland War.

Highly recommended.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Sky Pilots

"Sky pilots" is an old slang term for members of the military chaplain corps.

Chaplains were usually received direct commissions and were sent to Officer Indoctrination School. They berthed on the upper floor of King Hall in Newport, RI, over the floors assigned to OCS. OIS was pretty funny, as the students there marched in formation. They wore the ranks that they were commissioned into, ranging from ensigns to lieutenant commanders. When they marched, whoever was ordering the formation about (slang term was "driver") was under orders to salute all officers. It usually boggled the minds of the ensigns at Baby SWOS to receive salutes from lieutenants and lieutenant commanders, but that's the way it was.

Chaplains afloat were found on ships the size of cruisers and above, including tenders. They had one or two sailors to assist them, who were yeomen or personnelmen with the sub-designation of "chaplain's assistant". They got their own rate of "religious personnelman" (RP) in the late `70s, then became "religious programs specialist", or some shit like that. Navy chaplains also served the Marine Corps.

Chaplains weren't assigned to frigates and destroyers. Sometimes, a deploying task group would have a chaplain assigned to minister to all of the tin cans. That chaplain was supposed to spend a month or on each ship. On Sundays, if nothing overly intensive was going on, the chaplain would be ferried from ship to ship by the "Holy Helo", often a SH-2 or SH-3 that was on one of those ships. Those helo-ridering chaplains were typically sent out without RPs.

Chaplains were supposed to minister to all comers. Which meant that if there were a few Jews on a ship and Passover was coming up, it was the caplain's job to make it happen. On smaller ships without a chaplain, the senior person of each faith was given the collateral job of "lay religious leader" for that faith.

This is no shit: I was the Jewish lay leader for a ship. I was the only Jew aboard. So I had the word passed that "Services for the Jewish Sabbath will be held in Main Control." The XO went batshit. The CO thought it was funny.

This is also no shit: One of the helo-riding chaplains was such a worthless piece of shit that the first ship to host him got stuck with him, as none of the other ships would take him. Nobody on the first ship was very pleased about that. But they had to suck it up.

That ship was in port in Naples, Italy one fine summer afternoon. The chaplain was given a teletype radio message with his next set of orders. The orders were to the Marine Recruit Training Center in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

He was not pleased by the orders. He was less pleased at lunchtime when he walked into the wardroom; every officer stood up and began singing the Marine Corps Hymn.

The chaplain went to the navy base early the following morning to place a call to Washington to talk to his detailer. The detailer told him that the orders would not be changed, and that if he wanted to resign his commission, he was free to do so. The story was that he'd talk to his superiors in the church hierarchy, and was told that if he did resign his commission, he would be sent to a church that would make Camp Lejeune looks like New York City, in comparison.

He accepted his orders. Nobody that I knew of ever saw him again. We assumed that he was fragged and dumped in the swamp, somewhere.

Which was fine with everyone, for reasons that I'll tell another time.

Monday, May 15, 2017

"I'm So Proud Of My Spousal Unit."

So there is this person I know who is not in the naval service, but in one of those lesser services that aren't specifically named in the Constitution. That individual got an officer's commission and was recently promoted to first lieutenant. Said officer's spousal unit sent out online correspondence bragging about the promotion and "how proud I am of, etc, etc."

I don't know how it works over there, but in the Navy, being promoted to lieutenant, junior grade is damn near automatic. They did cut the time as an O-1 down to 18 months, at least for that service. It was 2 years back in the day and may still be for the Navy. One really had to fuck up to not make JG.

On my first tour, I was reviewing the records of a sailor who had just reported into my division. He had come straight from A school. The papers, from the recruitment station, we signed by an ensign who was in my OCS class.  The date of his signature was two months after he should've been promoted to JG. I guessed that he had to have done something especially henious in order not to be promoted (not to mention being kicked off his ship), but I didn't contact him to find out what it was.

Be proud of your spousal unit, but know that a promotion from O-1 to O-2 is basically the equivalent of a participation trophy. Spousal unit gets a little more money and is no longer a "butter bar," but that's about it.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Anchor Pool

An anchor pool was a form of a lottery. The organizer would take two sheets of paper that had grids of sixty boxes printed on them. On one sheet, he'd place a number in each box, from 00 to 59, as randomly as possible. He'd lay a sheet of carbon paper over that, and then fasten a sheet with blank boxes on top. One would often use a lot of staples or tape to ensure that nobody could wee the bottom sheet.

Then he'd sell the boxes, maybe a buck a box or, for high rollers, five or ten bucks a box.

The winner was determined by the time the ship dropped its anchor or passed over the first line or got underway. The winning number was the minute of the time that whatever event took place was entered in the Deck Log. The winner got half of the take. Those who had the numbers on either side got a quarter of the take.

They were called "anchor pools", but it could be any event that merited logging. Including the relief of a particularly hated commanding officer.

Anchor pools, of course, were gambling and were supposedly forbidden. But wise XOs turned a blind eye, so long as nobody was making a profit from them and the promotion of the individual anchor pool wasn't too blatant. Sometimes, official anchor pools were run to raise money for a charity such as Navy Relief. In that event, the charity got a piece of the action.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Nine Years In

Some of the posts (see the links in the menu to the left) seem to have been very popular at ISPs which are associated with training commands and such.

Not much else to say.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Pollution, Pollution

First, read this.

The Navy was quite serious about all that: If a ship pumped oil into the inland waters of the U.S., the chief engineer could expect to pay a honking steep fine. They also were sensitive about doing it near other countries.

So anyway, there was a DDG in port in Miami or Port Everglades. There was water in the bilges that had an oily sheen. The ship arranged for a tanker truck and began to pump out the bilges. It was a slow process.

One of the boiler chief petty officers got impatient. So around 0300 or so, he lit off the bilge eductor pump and pumped the bilges over the side. Then he had the other pump secured and the hoses stowed.

The Chief Engineer came down into the spaces just after Quarters. He saw that the bilges were dry. Now, this particular CHENG wasn't a dummy. He knew about what the level of the bilges was and how fast the pump to the truck was working. He knew that there was no way in hell that the bilges should be dry, for the pump had quite a bit of head and it wasn't at all efficient.

So he went looking for answers. He got them. He next went looking for the chief with blood in his eye. He pulled the chief into the Oil Lab, ordered everyone else to leave the space, shut the door and asked the "what the fuck" question. The chief shrugged it off and pointed out that the bilges had to be pumped before lighting fires and that the pump to the truck wasn't going to get it done. The Engineer asked if the chief had noticed that there was a motherfucking Coast Guard station on the other side of the harbor, if the chief was aware that the fines for intentionally discharging oily waste into an inland waterway were between $25,000 and $50,000 and that as the ship's engineer, that the Engineer would be dinged for that whether or not he had given orders for it or even had known about it. (Supposedly nearly every third word was either "fuck" or a variant thereof, so the question took a little longer to ask.)

The boiler technician chief said that he hadn't thought about that.

The Engineer then looked straight at him and said something along the lines of that he (Engineer) wouldn't have to pay it, because if it came to that, he was going to shoot the chief and "they can't make you pay no fines while you're in prison."

The destroyer left port the next morning. The Coast Guard never found out. And the boiler chief petty officer was real careful not to piss off the Engineer.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Cloud-Based 1052

It does sort of resemble a Knox-class frigate:

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Russian Navy Needs to Have a Propulsion Examining Board

As an old steam engineer, let me say this: There is no excuse for an oil-fired warship in good condition to send up black smoke, especially in this quantity.

Shit, coal-fired ships often didn't smoke that badly.

The smoke suggests to me that either the plant design or the snipes of the Admiral Kuznetsov suck. Proper naval boilers have economizers; the hot flue gasses from the boiler fires pass over the economizer tubes to pre-heat the feedwater prior to it being fed into the boiler. The fuel savings of economizers are significant, something like 10%, but that level of efficiency can't be achieved if the economizer tubes and their vanes are covered with soot.

Even if the ship was "blowing tubes" (using steam to blow the soot from boiler tubes), for that much soot to be blown off indicates that the plant is running too rich a mixture. There should be no smoke visible from a properly-fired naval boiler.

This article may overstate things, but I am prepared to believe that the Kuznetsov is a piece of shit.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Morning Watch at OCS

This is from something I've been noodling at:

Officer Candidate School maintained a quarterdeck watch at King Hall, its barracks building. There was a Officer of the Day, who was usually one of the company officers.[1] The OOD had a little bedroom just off the quarterdeck. It was the job of the Messenger of the Watch on the forenoon watch to find the OOD around 1115 or so, salute, hold the salute, hand the OOD the muster and sick reports and say: “Good morning, Sir. The Officer of the Deck sends his respects and reports the approach of the hour of twelve. All personnel are present or accounted for. Request permission to strike eight bells on time, Sir.” Then one dropped the salute.

When it was my turn, I was deathly afraid of screwing up my lines, so I rehearsed them, a lot. My turn was on a Saturday morning. The OOD, as it turned out, was badly hung-over. I barely said “Good morning”, when he moaned and said “permission granted.” I was having none of that, for I had worked hard to get the lines down and I was determined to say them.

I did. The OOD sat on the edge of the bed, with his head in his hands. When I finished, he moaned again and said something that sounded like “strike the fucking bells, damn you.”
[1] Each company had a post-sea tour lieutenant as its company officer.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Shlepping the Marines Ashore

In the late 1960s, the Navy and the Marine Corps were facing up to the reality that the techniques for moving troops and heavy cargo ashore for amphibious assaults had not radically changed since World War II. The LCM-8s, designed during the Vietnam War, were faster and heavier than the Higgins Boats, but in concept, they were the same as the WW2 LCMs and LCUs.

The Naval Sea Systems Command began three design projects. The NAVSEA project manager was Jim Schuler. The designs were named after his sons, Jim, Joe and Jeff. The Joe boat would carry about 120 tons of cargo ashore, the Jeff boat would carry sixty tons and the Jim boat would carry thirty tons. The numbers for the two larger boats were derived from the weight of a M-60 tank-- the Joe boat could ferry two ashore, the Jeff boat, one. Only the Jeff boat got to the part of cutting metal. Two prototypes were ordered and tested, the Jeff-A was built by Aerojet General and the Jeff-B, built by Bell Aerospace. Soon into the project, the names were written in all-caps, possibly so everyone would forget that the boats were named after children. The JEFF-A had four steerable jet nozzles. The JEFF-B had two steerable nozzles forward and two ducted fans with rudders (sort of like an airboat on steroids) aft. This is a crappy photo of the two flying in formation. I didn't want to chance taking it out of its frame:

To say that both contractors had problems with their boats would be an understatement. But for the most part, it was understood at the time that the JEFF boats were a significant step and, by the late `70s, they were both running. A hangar and a beaching ramp were built at the Panama City, FL naval station. The JEFF boats were based there and did extensive testing.

The project engineers largely thought that the JEFF-A was the better of the two boats. The Navy disagreed. The JEFF-B's progeny were designated the LCAC (Landing Craft Air Cushion). The award was given to Textron (corporate parent of Bell) in 1984. Over 90 LCACs were built.

I don't know what happened to the JEFF-A. Supposedly, it went to Alaska for tests in Prudhoe Bay after the Navy chose the winning boat. But after that, I heard nothing about it.

The LCAC is beginning to reach the end of its service life. Last I heard, the Navy will just buy more of them.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Bye-Bye to Aquaflage!

It is now officially going away.

It was a stupid uniform when it was proposed and remains so.

The Navy calls aquaflage "NWU Type I", a failed uniform that only served to enrich the companies that made it. Aquaflage was a uniform that should have only been worn by mall cops.

The CONUS shore pukes will wear "NWU Type III", a camouflage uniform for people who don't need it. The Navy, it seems, has some form of uniform envy.

NWU Type II is a desert tan-ish camo, for those who are where they need to wear it.

The Navy's Uniform Board seems to be in a quandry as to what should replace aquaflage for those aboard ships. Might I humbly suggest this concept: Wash khakis for chiefs and officers, dungaree trousers and blue chambray shirts for E-1-E-6. To make them different from the old ones, the dungarees should have regular front pockets.

There is no earthly reason for camo uniforms in the naval service at CONUS bases and on ships. Ships are industrial environments. Maybe there's a desire among some of the drain-bamaged denizens of Fort Fumble that "our sailors should dress like warriors". My suggestion would be to wear the same sort of uniforms that naval warriors wore the last time that we, well, actually fought a war at sea:

Or quietly fought a cold struggle for control of the seas:

The Navy should reclaim its heritage as a fucking sea service (like it did when it went back to crackerjacks), ditch their fetish with looking like soldiers and leave that sort of emotional immaturity to the Air Force.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Lube Oil

Most of the rotating equipment in engineering, from the reduction gears to small pumps, was lubricated with a light oil known as 2190TEP. It was a fairly light-looking oil.

Oil samples were supposed to be taken daily. Sample jars were kept in three-tiered racks that sort of looked like this two-tiered one:

If my memory serves me, the top rack was for a sample of the oil that was put into the machinery on the last oil change. The next bottle down was the oil sample for that day, which was marked with a china marker (date, time and initials of the sample-puller). The third bottle was for the previous day's sample. The rack was kept in public view within the machinery space, where everyone could see it. One could then see that the samples were being pulled properly and whether or not there was any contamination of the samples.

Keeping the sample racks current was a sign of how squared-away the engineers were. It was amazing how many ships weren't. I know of one case where the engineer of a really new Spruance sent his senior engineers for tours of an Adams-class DDG in order to see how to do things properly.

If you were one of the squadron's lackeys, noticing that the sampling wasn't being done properly was an indicator that maybe the engineering department deserved closer scrutiny. Which was a version of the "500 yard rule" (if the ship didn't look good from 500 yards away, there were problems).