From Joe Flewwellin
NTPI...Spring 1980... early morning..MM3 Blum A-gang topside watch... I
was in radio hiding as usual..anyway I went up to give Eric a head
call..well one of the NTPI weenies came down with a briefcase..Blum
opened it to inspect it and saw the little paper saying bomb..well he
chucked it right into the river and made the guy get down on his hands
and knees..LCDR Francis had rough time with that one..
Charlie Brown was RM1..Chuck Clark was RM2..they both left before the
second med run in 81 and we got RM2 JJ Snell..and RM3 George Assard..so
it was RMCS(SS) Utley..RM1(SS) Flewwellin..(me) and the 2 non-quals..I
kept up with JJ and George both...JJ much longer because he went on to
become a Master Chief in almost record time..also the RM detailer..he
was also the COB on like 1 or 2 SSN's..George didn't stay in and the
last I talked with him was when I reported to the USS Philadelphia (SSN
690) in May 1988..I saw Capt Okesen many times..once when he was the
Commodore at CSS-10. he stopped and picked me up on lower base when it
was pouring down rain..another time I was walking with my CO from the
USS Dallas (SSN 700) and about 4 other officers headed for CSDV-12
building...when the car went by with the lights on..ole fearless Frank
Lacroix (CO) saluted..the car stopped and everyone was like wtf..Well
ole JC climbed out and offered me a ride..that was pretty funny..
I retired after 27 years in 2000..I spent my last 3 1/2 years on the USS
Nassau..you think submarines are fun..try 1000 Sailors and 2000
Marines..we were always reminding them that marine stands for
I currently live in Hodgenville Ky the birthplace of Abe Lincoln..my
wife and I have 6 kids..and 13 grandkids..
Note from Cedric Lampkin
A little message to all the guys I served with on the Billfish; the Yeomen that could not get the paperwork right, the Quartermasters that keep us lost, the Sonar Techs that could not hear, the Management Specialist that burned boiling water, ET & Radioman that constantly missed the messages, all Nucs that could not make a freeze seal or keep the propulsion system going, to the A-Gangers that did not hang the signs when they where blowing sanitary tanks, Torpedo man that did not know what a Mk 48 ADCAP was, all the goats in the goat locker that watched movies all day long (including the COB), and the ward room guys that did not know what was going on. Including all others whom I did not mention. By the way IC rules!!!!!!! Question, has anybody found the Doc yet, they always had an uncanny way of staying lost or just did not want to be found.
I enjoyed being on the Great Spirit of '76 with everyone. It was a pleasure and memorable portion of my life. From the time the officers were playing football on Saturday mornings with us, to the time the Great Spirit of '76 won SUBRONSQUN - 4 athletic award for being the smallest command to be in the top 5 of the Base Olympics. Our dives did equal our surfaces - we were blessed. I remember the time we came close. During seal ops, the weapons' hatch was opened too soon before starting the low pressure blow as a means to remove the water from the ballistic tanks. And the pressure was not even equalized, meaning the pressure help the hatch crack open. Water started rushing in and it took at least seven of us to get the hatch back on the dog and close it. That was moment to remember. Hey the battery well should not have sea water in it, that is not a good mixture.
Cedric F. Lampkin
The day we took the EPM and made it a generator
Bob Fauple had the ERUL while Jim Gregory, Mike "Andy" Anderson and myself were trying to figure out why we couldn''t get the EPM breaker to shut when we were doing sea-checks priot to getting underway. Well after having overridden a couple of interlocks one of us, and nobody''s telling who, cut in the first set of startup resistors while doing a Standard bell on the service. I remember only a few things. The first was the rumble and shaking of the ship. The second was Bob Fauple, who had been actively engaged in relieving the boredom of watch by watching us, making it from the EPM to manuavering without touching the deck plates as he let evryone know that they, being the three working on the EPM, were all dead. Something about being engulfed in a rather large blue flash. Good fortune was on us though since we were on our way to the Billfish''s first overhaul in Portsmouth, heck what was one more hole in the hull to remeove the EPM which now had large pits in its commutator and other pieces of molten metal floating around in it? They found the control power fuses flattened in the insulation at the back of the Engineroom.
Names and Stories (Early to mid 1970's)
From Jack Cash
Bobby McGee, E-Div. For some reason, Bobby seems to be a central character in most of the funny things that happened on Billfish.
Lt Richard Conte, RC-Div officer I think. I went through MM-A school, Nuc School and some of prototype with Rich before he got his commission. Thought I had lost touch with him then one day a couple years after I reported to Billfish I found him wandering around the engine room with another officer. As of a few years ago Rich was working in King of Prussia PA for the NRC.
Richard Magnusson, 'Maggy' E-Div. Maggy was a big BIG guy. Hung around with Bart Nash all the time. Married a gal named Susan.
Barton Nash, 'Bart' M-Div. Bart got a kick (whenever he was drunk) over the fact that our last names rhymed (Nash & Cash) and that both our wives were called Shirl.
Robert Fapel, M-Div. Bob was a tough little guy from northern NJ. His wife however was smaller and tougher. One day Bob came to work with bruises all over him. When asked what happened he told us that he farted in mass (loudly) then looked at his wife and moved away, you figure out the rest.
Robert McVickers, M-Div, ELT, ships diver. Bobby and I took my son Ron (age 3 or 4) fishing at the river at Portsmouth one day. Ron asked where the water was going (tidal drop is very large as you probably know). Bobby went into a full blown explanation about how the moon?s gravity causes the tide to come in and go out. Ron listened intently and replied ?OK? when Bob finished. Five minutes later I asked Ron where the water was going and he replied "I don?t know, ask him", pointing to Bob.
John Warrel, M-Div. John was from Vermont. Loved skiing. Married a gal named Susan. They made the mistake of inviting several of us from the boat to the wedding. We abducted Susan during the reception.
Bob Shemp, M-Div, ELT? Bob was the only guy I ever met with so much nervous energy that yu could stand him at attention in starched dress whites and they?d be wrinkled in 5 minutes.
Bill Ruland, RC Div. Bill is one of the smartest people I've ever known. To occupy himself while on watch he'd dream up accident scenarios that weren't in the RPMs (Reactor Plant Manuals for those who have forgotten) and then develop immediate actions for them. I think Bill was on the panel when we stuck a rod in 1973. As of a few years ago ill worked for the NRC in King of Prussia PA as a Branch Chief.
Mr. Stanton Wardroom, Howdy Duddy look-a-like. Mr Stanton tried his best to sink us in Tongue of the Ocean. For some reason Capt. Butterworth decided that it was a good idea to go to test depth while M-Div repaired a steam leak on one of the Steam Generator Isolation Valves. If you remember, that meant we had to be in single loop (ie. one loop cold and de-pressurized and the other hot and pressurized). While at test depth someone in control rang up a FLANK bell. Immediate action for answering a flank bell is to shift coolant pumps to fast speed. Since only one loop was in operation when the RO tried to shift the first pump to fast speed, we had a scram (1-S/0 trip for you nucs who still remember). The RO recognized his error immediately and requested permission to start pulling rods. But Mr. Stanton didn't understand and won't grant permission. So there we were at test depth with no fire in the pot and temperature heading south. Meanwhile in control they try to blow depth control but instead they flooded it. Now we?re drifting deeper without enough heat in the reactor to drive us to the surface. Finally Mr. Stanton came to his senses, the RO explained things to his satisfaction, or the electrical chief sitting at the EPCP took control from Mr. Stanton and commenced a reactor startup (accounts of the tale differ).
Al Rivera, RC Div. Little mousy guy with glasses, mustache and black hair from new Your I think. Al drove a bright yellow VW Bug. Rudy Cordova RC-Div. Rudy always had maneuvering watch at the RPCP because he would get sea-sick as soon as the word came down that lines had been cast off. They even had a green poly bag taped to the RPCP handrail for him to puke in. Rudy drove a corvette and always wanted to race me. I had a Vega with a V-8 under the hood. We never raced because he wanted me to pull a trailer to make it even.
Jim French, M-Div, ELT. Jim was a another BIG guy. While underway once we were doing PMs on the steam suit. The steam suit was basically a fireproof suit rigged with EAB air. Theory was that in the event of a major steam leak someone would don this suit and venture into the steam to isolate the leak and save us all ? RIGHT! In any case the steam suit was a size 5X and only 3 or 4 people on board came close to filling it up ... Jim was one of those people. So on this occasion Jim dons the steam suit and we plug him into the EAB manifold. I don?t know who came up with the idea of him going forward wearing it (forward was rigged for red at the time) but forward we went, Jim leading the way and 3 or 4 of us tending to him and the EAB lines. Now keep in mind that the suit inflated with the EAB air plugged in and the escaping air whistled a bit and did I mention that the suit was silver and most who worked forward of frame 57 knew nothing about the suit and even fewer had ever seen it. The people in control were quite ?impressed? with the audio and visual effect.
Chief Garlow M-Div? Promoted to Chief while aboard. Never understood how anyone could keep so many sets of dungarees so neatly pressed ALL DAY. I have a sea-story, actually it?s an in-port-story involving myself and Chief Garlow. Just not sure whether the statute of limitation on unauthorized discharges to the Thames River has run out yet.
Scott ?, E-Div. Came back to the boat one morning telling the story that he had gotten drunk the night before and be $100 on the Kentucky Derby. As I recall the horse was something of a long shot - it won. Someone should remember that and be able to fill in the last name.
Ray McCoy, E-Div. Here?s another name that recurs in most of the funny stories. One particular night in port I had the duty with Ray, Bobby McGee, and Scott (can?t remember his last name). As usual the duty section was doing PM?s long after the rest of the crew had gone home. Bobby had the SMAW watch and I was Rover in the engineering spaces. Tags had been hung earlier so that Ray could replace the brushes in one of the MG sets. While working in the tagged out MG set Ray had received a severe electrical shock. So now Ray and Bobby are pouring over the tag out sheet trying to figure out why Ray had been shocked. Just at that moment Scott walks past the Maneuvering Room door carrying a meger. Bobby asks; ?Scott, what have you been doing?? Scott reply?s ?I?ve been megarring the MG Sets?. ?How were they?? Bobby asks. ?Little low? answers Scott. Ray raced out of maneuvering to explain to Scott why the megar readings were low.
Chief Siefert MM M-Div Chief Can't remember his first name. He was on the
boat when I arrived (plank owner?) and left after Garlow made chief ...
about the time we went to Portsmouth I think.
James Wiser MM1, M-Div "Jimmy-D". Another plank owner I think. Can't
remember when Jim left.
Brinker MM2, M-Div. Came on after me but before we went on our second
northern (winter / spring '74). Can't remember his first name and I'm not
positive about the last. I am certain however of his nick-name ... "Hans
Brinker the Silver Skate".
Here's a sea story involving Hans, Chief Siefert, Jim French and myself.
There were others involved but I can't remember who they were.
As I recall an ELT was celebrating his birthday so Jim French (Lead ELT)
decided that the ELT's should celebrate at the "club". Of course we
knocked off early for lunch and made up for it by staying late (at the
club). It was nearly qutting time when the group of us staggered back to
the boat expecting Chief Siefert to send us home because of our condition.
Instead he put us all to work helping the duty section. He wasn't as upset
that we went drinking all afternoon as he was mad that we didn't invite him
My "punishment" was to help Hans pack super rags into the TG frame bays.
Of course Hans saw my being there as an opportunity to lecture me on the
evils of drinking. Anyway, Hans was in the frame bay moving one bundle of
super rags after another back into the dark hot corners of the frame bay
while I was taking them out of the cardboard boxes and handing them to
Hans. It didn't take long for Han's lecture to get boring and eventially
I'd heard enough. So while he was crawing through the frame bay with yet
another bundle of super rags like a squirl with a nut I packed the opening
to the frame bay with the contents of the remaining boxes of super rags. I
then carried the empty boxes topside and reported to Chief Seifert.
Hearing that I was done and that Han's was stowing the last of the super
rags Chief Seifert sent me home.
The next morning, a less than happy Chief Seifert confronted me.
Apparently Hans had been "missing" for several hours. He had missed the
evening meal and part of his watch as he dug his through the super rag plug
in the frame bay.
Jack Cash MM1 ELT
Christmas is near and the kids are asleep
I'll creep down the stairs on old bones that now creek.
I lash together complex toys with my old tools
Thinking I'm just a cranky old fool
But, somehow all the toys are assembled and adjusted
Some will run for hours and others will be arrested
By poor quality and cheap labor they were created
And cost me a fortune because my shopping was belated
But I smile and observe that 365 days will pass by
Then we start over and hope to hear that same lie
"Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and to all a good night."
Bestowed upon us as Madison Avenues annual blight.
In my younger days, Christmas in a sub I would spend
Thinking back then the bad attitudes I would mend
If I had my way now and my skills would have lasted
The Middle East I would visit and nuclear missiles would have blasted
Saddam, your butt I would bare,
And nuke you to hell with Uranium and E = MC SQUARE
I think I'll guzzle a fifth of O'le Jack and eat myself silly
Get totally blasted and chase it with Guilly.
In the morning I'll stagger to the white porcelain thrown
Have a long talk with Ralph and try to atone
For my bad attitude and my wicked ways
Good Grief! Only 364 more days.
George P. Sereno
Under Ice and More
Here are a couple for the sea story column. While we were working up
for Ice-Ex 1-87 they installed the under-ice sonar and video camera in
the sail. We went out for a quick weekend op to test them, and they had
the USS Sculpin assisting us. The Sculpin was at something like 150
feet and we were at 400 or so and we would slowly maneuver around and
head towards her until she showed up on the under-ice trace and then
we'd turn away. At one point we didn't turn away in time and went
directly under the Sculpin, we could see her as a black bullet against
the ocean surface, we thought it was super cool. However, it was in the
orders not to approach to with-in 500 yards of her to maintain
horizontal separation so we didn't accidentally collide. The Captain
came in right after that and the fur flew, he was not happy! Oops.
During the Ice-Ex the FTOW had the under-ice sonar indicator over the
last console. We were supposed to watch it like a hawk and call out
whenever we went under thin spots in the ice, something like "mark
polyna". The ice painted as a dark line at the top and the top of the
sail showed as a line at the bottom at 150 on the scale. One watch, I
think Mr. Carter had the deck, we were cruising along and the ice trace
started bobbing around, getting deeper chunks. It went from 10 feet to
40 and back up then to 50 and back up and so on. The OOD looked at it
and ordered the Dive to submerge a bit more just in case. Well, right
after the black line at 150 (the sail) disappeared the ice keel dropped
hard, right off the bottom of the page. If we had not have done
anything we would have rammed that sucker.
Some thoughts and stories from Bill Twitchell, STSCS (SS), USN (RET.)
I retired 20 years ago this month as a STSCS (SS). I reported aboard Billfish as a young 18 year old seaman apprentice. I had a lot of growing up to do and the guys on the boat taught me a lot. The Navy was really good to me and good for me. I think back and remember the Billfish often. She holds a special place in my heart. After Billfish my career went in this order; Sonar “A” and “C” school in Key West, transferred to Puffer (SSN 652), Sonar Groom and Cal Team (groomed the first AN/BQQ-5 Sonar System), taught Sonar “A” school, Unmanned Vehicles, Special Projects (magnificent duty), AN/BQQ-5 sonar school, Guitarro (SSN 665), and finally the AN/BQQ-5 Sonar Training Division at the ASW base in San Diego. Except for Guitarro, it was truly a wonderful twenty years.
I have some stories, to long for the web site I think, and a few pictures from that time frame. If I can find them I’ll send them to you. One picture is my “new” wife Debbie, cutting the commissioning cake with the COB, Jim White.
After reporting aboard Billfish as a seaman apprentice, I made Seaman. I looked around at jobs I wanted to do and fell in love with Sonar. The guys in Sonar were my idols, Jim Turriff, Bob Lawler, Holt, and Chief Fuller. As a seaman I had to strike for Sonar and I took the test for third class. As I was leaving the testing building in New London it just so happened I passed Chief Fuller. He ask me “Well, did you pass? I answered “Are you kidding me, there were so many frequency questions on that test, there’s no way I could have passed”. He smiled and kept walking. I’m sure he was thinking “I don’t think so either”, since I was in the seaman gang, married, and didn’t spend that much time in Sonar. I was one of 15 people from the fleet that made it from the test. I transferred off Billfish as a qualified, third class sonarman, going to Sonar “A” School in Key West.
Here are a few stories:
When I reported aboard the boat in EB, she still had 2x10’s for decks. Since I was in the Seaman gang I hung around with them and the torpedo men. TMC Teshlog, (I didn’t spell his name right) TM1 Brown, a big guy, TM2 Jones, we called him Step, a skinny guy, SN Hurt and one FT, Paul Hannify, and I, rented a house just up the street from EB. We all had fun there, drinking beer, getting drunk and eating bologna sandwiches on Christmas Eve. My roommate was Paul Hannify. We shared the same bedroom, and at night I had to turn the radio on to drown out Paul’s snoring. Paul and I got along well and had some good times together, like driving up to Boston in his little black Volkswagen to see the sights. When the boat started sea trials I moved aboard the barge. The torpedo men, Hurt, and Paul moved to another house some place up north. They called it the “Snake Ranch”. One morning we were on the boat and a couple of the torpedo men, including Hurt, as well as Paul, were late for work. That wasn’t like them at all and we were all really worried. Later that morning we learned the reason for them not showing up on time. There was a fire at the Snake Ranch. The only one that didn’t make it out was Paul. I’ll always remember him.
TM1 Brown and TM2 Jones hung out together. Jones always acted the tough, cool guy. He’d have biker wallet chains hanging out of his pants pocket, the top button of his shirt unbuttoned, tattoos, and those kinds of things. Seaman Hurt really idolized Step and wanted to be just like him, following him around like a shadow. One day Step showed up with a toothbrush hanging out of his mouth. Everywhere he went, for the longest time, he had that toothbrush in his mouth. It became a common thing to see Step with that toothbrush. If you looked you’d see Hurt right behind him, chewing on a toothbrush hanging out of his mouth. Crazy isn’t it, the silly little things you remember?
While we were doing workups prior to deploying for our first Med run, I mess cooked (I did a couple of tours mess cooking). During that time though I mess cooked at sea not in port, since I was the only married seaman, and my wife was pregnant and due any time. We left for sea for two weeks on Monday morning, August 2nd, 1971. The next morning, 3:00 AM Tuesday, the messenger woke me up and told me the Captain wanted to see me. “See me, the captain, for what, what did I do now?” I stumbled up to his stateroom knocked on the door and he invited me in. He told me I had a new baby girl and that mother and daughter were doing fine. I was really tired, and what he told me didn’t really sink in and I went back to bed. We pulled back in port and everyone that didn’t have duty left the boat. Still finishing up work in the galley from the evening meal, they wouldn’t let me go topside to see my wife and now two week old daughter. I don’t remember why but I wasn’t allowed to leave the boat just to say “Hi”, until we finished in the galley. The only way I could get topside was to take the garbage to the pier, so I took it up and saw my wife, my new daughter Danielle, my mother-in-law, and my sister-in-law. I went back below decks, finished working, and then finally went home with “my family”. My wife Debbie and I have been married for 39 years now, Danielle has two daughters, and our other daughter Andrea has two boys. We all live in the Seattle area, Everett, Mukilteo, and Orting.
While I was mess cooking, one of the Chiefs told me to put some salt in the coffee grounds when I made a pot of coffee, to take the bitterness out. Since I didn’t drink coffee and it was time to make a new pot I sprinkled salt on top of the grounds until they were covered, it looked kind of like snow. I want to tell you, I was extremely popular, especially with the Chiefs, for a long time after that pot of coffee.
During my time in the seaman gang on Billfish, Chief Teshlog, and the Leading Seaman (I can’t remember his name) and I never got along. I still don’t know why. However, 18 years later at my last duty station, FLEASWTRACENPAC at Point Loma in San Diego, I was the Student Coordinator and Coordinator for the AN/BQQ-5 Submarine Sonar Training Division. I would stop in at the Sub Base Chiefs Club every now and then. During one stop, what a surprise, there sat Chief Teshlog, now Senior Chief Teshlog. I was really excited to see him. I bought him a beer and talked with him, but he still didn’t like me, a very one sided conversation, I had to initiate the talking. I tried visiting with him each time I saw him there, but the relationship never improved. Maybe it was because I was a Senior Chief and he initially raised me from a pup. On another note, Joe Krause reported into the Q-5 Training Division for instructor duty while I was there. It was nice to meet him and swap stories about the Billfish.
As a seaman, when at sea I drove the boat. One of the Diving Officers was a Radioman Chief named Vignaux. He always had a really good looking beard. I really remember him. I had an extremely difficult time holding the boat on depth at +/- 12 inches. During an at sea training exercise the boat was practicing for a particular maneuver where it was crucial to be precisely on depth. When I was on the planes, I couldn’t stay on depth to save my life. The Diving Officer, Chief Vignaux, kept yelling at me, telling me to stay on depth. He’d yelled “Twitchell, get on depth!” over and over again, “Do you drive a car that way, over compensating all the time?” He got so fed up with me, he hauled off and whacked me upside the back of my head so hard it hurt, embarrassed me, and really got my attention. It all worked out well though. I got so good at staying on depth, Chief Vignaux always asked for me. We became really good friends. It just so happened he was transferred off Billfish the same day I did and both of us were going to Key West. Since I was a Third Class the Navy wouldn’t ship my household goods to my next duty station. Vignaux told me bring my stuff to his house. He had them shipped to Key West for us as part of his household goods. I left Key West before he did, and that was the last time I saw him.
Remember the picture of the Billfish with all the thick ice on the front of her sail and the yard bird steaming it off? When we pulled in that day they wouldn’t let any seamen go topside. It was really slick and COLD!
I know these particular stories revolve around me, and I apologize. There are more that don’t, but I think these are enough for now. I just thought you’d like to hear a few of my thoughts. I really think allot about Billfish and other instances aboard the boat; like getting into fights while living on the barge when the boat was at EB and John Updike breaking my nose, getting so drunk at the pizza place down the road from the base the guys had to literally carry me back, to a hurricane in New London, to pulling into Puerto Rico, stories about the sonarmen in Jacksonville, Florida, stories about some officers in St. Croix, a story about coming back into New London and taking forty seven degree rolls on the surface in rough seas, (no body was up, no body, except those of us on watch and we all were eating crackers!) to standing Torpedo room watches in port with the nukes coming in and playing guitars, and a few others.
Bill Twitchell, STSCS (SS), USN (RET.)