I reported on board the Billfish in February 1974 just before the Billfish left Groton on a "Northern Run". My first job was to qualify as EOOW. I remember spending many hours wandering around "back aft" searching for some relative bearing grease or a bucket of steam. One day while in Manuevering studying the salinity alarm panel, I noticed that one of the nameplates had printed on it in neatly etched lettering "RIP ALEXANDER". The RO told me to remove the module cover below the nameplate. I used my "tweeker" (tweekers were even issued to officers in those days!) to remove the cover (lefty, loosey; righty, tighty) and saw a small box inside the salinity alarm panel. The box was actually a small coffin. I was told it contained the body of Alexander. I returned Alexander's coffin to it's resting place and replaced the module cover.
The story related to me was that prior to my arrival on board the Billfish had made a Med run and visited Alexandria, Egypt. Subsequent to that visit during an inspection, the CO found the dead body of a grasshoper/locust in the mezzanine above Maneuvering. The Nukes named him Alexander and interred him in the salinity alarm panel. (The "him" being the locust not the CO.) For most ORSE's, the nameplate was reversed (it was blank on the other side) but one time RIP ALEXANDER was visible for the whole Examining Board's visit; they never discovered it. When I left the Billfish in November 1977, Alexander was still resting in Maneuvering's salinity alarm panel.
Does anyone know the final resting place of Alexander? I hope the Billfish's decommissioning crew was decent enough to mail Alexander's remains to the Egyptian embassy.
Blow the Man (or sanitary) Down
During the 1975 Portsmouth overhall the engine room head's toilet was converted to a urinal and the head's hull penetration was moved to starboard topside just forward of the sail and connected to #2 sanitary tank. When Billfish got out of the overhall in December 1975, #2 sanitary had two discharges: topside and bottomside. Of course not everyone got the word.
Once not long after the overhall, Billfish was high and dry in the Groton floating dry dock for maintenance. One night I was the duty officer and in the wee hours of the morning the bellowdecks watch entered my stateroom, woke me and requested to blow #2 sanitary to the dry dock's sanitary tank. I told him to check with the dry dock's personnel and do it; then I went back to sleep. The next thing I knew was that my bunk's curtain was jerked open and an agitated belowdecks watch told me that a very pissed-off dry dock duty officer was looking for me. In parting, the belowdecks watch asked me if I knew where the dry dock's sanitary hose was connected to the Billfish. That really woke me up fast and I launched myself out of my bunk and into the wardroom passageway only to see one heal of the bellowdecks watch as he disappeared running toward to crew's mess.
I hurried topside and the dry dock duty officer was waiting for me. I believe the bellowdecks watch's description of him as very pissed-off was an understatement. The odors wafting up from the bottom of the dry dock confirmed my suspicion that the belowdecks watch had blown the contents of #2 sanitary through its bottom connection onto the dry dock floor. Unfortunately for the dry dock duty officer, I outranked him so he controlled himself and I only learned a few new profanities. We went down into the dry dock to see the carnage. Actually feces, after hitting the dry dock floor propelled by about 50 psi air pressure, is unrecognizable. I could only identify a few bits of toilet paper. The dry dock duty officer wanted me to turn out the Billfish's duty section to clean the dry dock. I declined the recommendation and suggested that he rig up some fire hoses and flush the waste into the dry dock drain system and pump into the Thames before daybreak. I then returned to the wardroom and woke the duty chief and told him what happened using some of my newly learned vocabulary. He said he'd deal with the belowdecks watch. I assume he did because I don't believe I ever saw that particular belowdecks watch for the rest of my tour of duty on the Billfish. What really ticked me off was that there was a danger tag on the #2 sanitary bottom hull penetration isolation valve.
I waited until the captain arrived on board later that morning to tell him what had transpired overnight. The captain laughed.
I heard a similar event happened after I left the Billfish in November 1977. The story, as related to me, goes that the Billfish was being towed between berths on the Thames and #2 sanitary filled up. That time the #2 sanitary topside path was used with the bridge & topside manned and tugs tied up along side. The captain didn't laugh for some reason.
The following is a special letter from Seymour Phillips, who served on the original USS Billfish (SS286)
Dear Stephen: This is a rewrite of my memories of the USS Billfish`s 7th War Patrol. After rereading the report of Lt. Frank Kelly`s Seventh War Patrol, and his perception from that as an officer, and certainly more privy to the actual reports than a crew person like myself. The fact remains I still have very vivid memories of a twenty year old, and this will be related from my position as a member of the crew. Our Seventh War Patrol began at the Submarine Base in Pearl Harbor on April 24th, 1945. Our Patrol lasted a total of fifty four days. When we left Midway, everyone becomes very aware that we are now in enemy waters, as it was widely know that about twelve hours out of Midway, we could encounter enemy submarines trying their best to take us out. We where on our toes when on the surface, with dedicated lookouts, and vigilant radar men. We transited the Pacific Ocean to Saipan, arriving on the 6th May, for fuel, and some supplies from the USS Orion. On the 7th, we started North towards Japan, to join in the Life Guard "line up" of Submarines, doing Life Guard duty for the B - 29`s on their bombing missions to Japan, and returning back to their bases in Saipan/Tinian. All was going OK, as all planes seemed to be getting back from their bombing missions OK, when passing over our patrol area. On about May 3th, we received orders,exchanged recognition signals with USS Pipefish, and later with the USS Jack, to patrol off Hachijo Shima,and we left our Life Guard patrol area. On the 18th of May, but before getting started towards the Yellow Sea, we rendezvous with the USS Dragonet, at 03:54 AM to transfer our coding machine to them, before actually moving West into the Yellow Sea. Reflecting back, reading the War Patrol reports of the 7th Patrol, we had been so lucky "three times", on one patrol, twice recorded here in the official records, and my recollections after leaving the patrol area and returning to Midway. This seventh patrol would become a Nightmare,once we approached and entered the Southern approach to the Yellow sea. The official record states we ran aground period, on 6/1 at Cho To. The fact was it was early in the morning, and the area was covered with a thick fog, no body could have seen us because of this heavy fog, and with skillful use of our screws, and the tide coming up, we had been able to back off this sand bar. We did pay a large cost, because we lost everything below the hull including the Pit Log, Sound Heads, DRAI shafts. We actually lost much of our defense, and ability to be to offensive submerged. From the records we had this battle surface gun action, against this large Schooner in which our Boats-man Mate 1/C Robert Oliver was shot by return fire from the Schooner, on 6/4/45, and he died the next day, and buried at sea on 6/5/45, this was a very difficult loss for our crew members to deal with. The evening we buried our shipmate, the fog was so thick, it was hard to see two feet in front of your face. Besides sinking a ship, "confirmed", and the peril of floating mines in the area, running aground, a death of a crew member we finally did leave the patrol area on 6/6/45. Our saga has not stopped yet!, on 6/7/45 after leaving the Yellow Sea, on the surface on a very rainy day, with low squally clouds all around, and we trying to get out of this area South and West of Kyushu Is. I had just come off lookout duty and went to the crews mess to warmup, A movie was being shown in the crews mess, "The Major and the Minor", the crews mess was full of men watching the movie, when the diving alarm went off. As we started down, ( a submarines worst nightmare), the man on the stern-planes, "lost the bubble" and we broached back to the surface just as the plane was making its run against us. " you have to realize that a-lot is going on at the same time", the two bombs, we think where 50 lb. on on each side of the wings. The bombs exploded on each side of the hull, no direct hit. In the crews mess at that instant, the movie projector was knocked over, all the lights in the overhead exploded and went out, the Cork tiles on theoverhead, broke apart, showering the area with dust and debris, then the over head "RED" mergency lights went on. I will tell you it was a instantaneous horror in five seconds. We again, beat the odds, because this aircraft only carried the two bombs, and by the time he was able to come around we had submerged into the safety of the ocean. On June 16th, at about 5:30 PM, I again was standing lookout duty. I was on Port side, 180 to 270. The sun was setting behind us, and the area 270 degrees to 360, was already dark, and getting darker. Our problem that anyone to our sides or in front of us, we are exposed to, being silhouetted by the setting sun. We had been making about fifteen knots in a four to five foot swells, so the "looks outs", had to be holding on firmly, what happened next, and I have to explain, it was if Paul Bunyon, the Woodsman, was stand holding a four foot in diameter, twenty foot long log, and as we passed him. he swung the log as hard as he could against our hull. What happened next, all happened at the same time, the Port side stern of our Boat skidded to the Starboard side by ten feet or more, the lookouts, both port and starboard side, had to hold on as the hull was actually push over from the a normal upright position, to the Starboard side, with a rolling over motion. Next the Capt. called up, and asked the OD, what did we hit? Of course at that moment in time, those of us topside knew something had hit us, but we did not have a clue as to what actually happened. As a crew member it was always drilled into us that Japanese submarines are in the approach to Midway, and to be on your toes at all times. The next morning when we arrived back to Midway,we went into Dry Dock. That afternoon I went down into the Dry Dock, and when I observed the "INDENTATION" of a 3/4 inch steel hull, to the shape of a Torpedo Head, I thought that someone was looking out for us. Needless to say, this Seventh Run, of the USS Billfish, was more than luck. I think looking back that we dodged the bullet three times on the Seventh War Patrol. Seymour Phillips (Click for a photo of the crew)
* I have found out tat the standard torpedos, fired from WW ll Japanese Subs are 40 inches in Diameter, weigh 4000 lbs, and travel at 40 mph
** Ray Rickson our Radar Operator, on duty during the time frame of the late afternoon of June the 16th, told me that a few seconds before the hit on our Hull aft, that he did see a radar blip for about 2 seconds, before the hit, and he said he was sure it was " Radar check on Target", from a Japanese Submarine. Sincerely, Seymour Phillips EM 2/C
Letter from Al Morin
My name is Al Morin and served aboard USS Billfish SSN676 as a PN2(SS) Personnelman 15 JAN 1979 to 21 JAN 1981. I'm presently residing in Chicopee, MA. I was first assigned to the carrier USS Saratoga (which is now a tourist attraction in Providence, RI.) The ship was in sad shape, it's command was disturbing and in terms of personnel, run so poorly; that when LINK magazine asked for PNs to volunteer for subs to solve their own personnel issues, I applied. This was midway through my Saratoga tour and I saw it as a chance for a better command. My own admin officer denied the request and returned the paperwork to me. As a PN I knew the request, even if denied, had to be forwarded up the chain of command; and respectfully told him so. He dismissed me with anger. Shortly after, I learned that the CO endorsed my request as denied. Yet the paperwork was sent up, with multiple denials returned (including BUPERS) until it reach the author of the LINK request, the Chief of Naval Operations. After one year and thirteen days aboard Sorry Sara, I had orders to report to Sub School at Sub Base Groton. Not to be unkind, but a year or so later I learned the CO of Saratoga was removed from command for cause. I am certain there were many who welcomed it.
In the Billfish website, I'm in the photo of the two guitarists in La Spezia, Italy. Mike Kurowski and I played for drinks and whatever came our way. On the day the photo was taken we were singing CSNYs "Ohio" ("Tin soldiers and Nixon's coming..." yeah, that Ohio; which we also sang aboard Billfish during an underway entertainment night in the galley--our XO was surprised but let it slip by: afterall in that time we were all longhairs before enlistment--and the crew was enthusiastic.) But back to La Spezia: Mike and I were wailing away when from back of the crowd (it's amazing the audience American music attracts) a young woman starts yelling, "I'm from OHIO!" She pushed her way through the crowd right up to our faces and with a big smile said, "It's so good to hear American English!" Mike and I stopped playing and learned that she fell in love with a man from La Spezia and was living with him quite happily, but missed speaking English. As she were a bit of divine loveliness, we were more than happy to oblige.
I've attached a pdf. of a song and lyrics I wrote in September 1979 called the "Billfish Rag." And wouldn't you know, I just realized it were written nine months after reporting aboard SSN676; there must have been some kind of submerged gestation going on. Anyway you can pick just about any upbeat blues riff and carry a tune with it. Yet somehow "City of New Orleans" (by Steve Goodman and covered by Arlo Guthrie) works well with some adjustments. (Just properly credit the lyric if you would.) I'll have to investigate old boxes if I've any photos; if appropriate, I'll send them along.
Besides duties in ship's office, my secondary duty was helmsman/planesman and lookout. I chose this over sonar and armed guard because I'd be topside as a lookout while underway and in Control during maneuvers. Little did I know how fortunate this would be. I had such a blast on helm and fairwaters during high speed maneuvers that I'd ask Capt. Okeson (when on deck) if he planned any high speed runs. (At speed the ship were as an aircraft soaring the ocean and banking into turns the most fun I ever had with fairwaters.) It were somehow thrillingly simple the first time I'd the chance under Dive Officer/Chief Dvorak--as the few precious words he said in guidance made all the difference in performance. But while the Capt. disappointed more than than he sped, I soon found myself added to the special maneuvering watch as helmsman/planesman. Curiously enough, I had little understanding of the importance of the appointment as I was focused on sub quals; which had become a huge, insurmountable task. I spewed volcanic ash at my PN1 in ship's office one evening when he demanded more from me. I didn't know I had so many foul words and phrases in my vocabulary. To his credit he said nothing till I was spent. "Are you done?" he asked. "Yeah: sorry." "Good," he said, "now sit down while I tell you how I lost it in front of the XO, as there was no one above me in ship's office but him." I'm sure this story of becoming a submariner is familiar, as everyone has some version of it; if they were meant to qualify. Special maneuvering became the best duty I had not only on Billfish but in the Navy; as those assigned to the watch conducted missions of risk to crew, ship and nation. There's no special award for the effort other than a unit citation for the entire crew. And that is as it should be: for if we failed in ship control, the crew supporting the effort, failed too. We were merely the best available at our assigned tasks while aboard, and that's a humbling knowledge. And one to be quietly proud of as a team and crew member.
To those sworn to secrecy with the phrase, "Gentlemen, this mission never happend." I salute you; as the Billfish was one ballsy sub during the time I spent on her and Commander Okeson, a damn fine and equally ballsy captain. The two were made for each other.
Your site has brought back many memories, Stephen, and I thank you for creating it.
My best to you,
"You hate the boat while your there but miss it like hell when its over!"
Casey "Sal" Salkauskas
I recall one night in Naples (Med Run '81), 6 or 8 of us had been out on the town, we returned around 2 am to find the pier gate locked, and no one in sight. We had been warned about the lockup time, but you know how that goes. Bolstered by our artificial courage, (or diluted common sense), we scaled the fence and proceeded down the pier toward the boat. Not content to just walk the quarter of a mile or so to the boat, a nuc MM, (the cowboy, Steve Frazier), jumped onto a bull dozer that had just been off loaded from a ship, and attempted to hot wire it. The rest of us crammed on anticipating a free ride. The silence was shattered by the sound of a round being chambered in an Uzi. Five Italian Navy MPs had quietly surrounded our position, and the hot wire job instantly lost it's importance. We somehow convinced them that we were not a threat, and they insisted on providing for our safe return back to Billfish.
From a "Tender Guy"
(IC2 Steve Corneliussen - USS FULTON)
Now that you mention it... I remember that " Sweepers, Sweepers.... " thing.
It always woke me up from my naps on my duty days. The one I remember
MOST... "There are men working in the sail, do not raise lower, rotate, or
radiate from any mast or anttenna, there are men working in the sail. "
I remember that because it was, quite often, ME working in the sail, and I
did not want to get raised, lowered, rotated or radiated !
I attached an mp3 file of Tommy Cox's song "Bring the Nautilus
This song REALLY reminds me of my time on the Fulton, as it talks about
things I spent four years staring at on the Thames.
This got some Air time on one of the local Stations out there, as it was a
song about a local interest....He performed this LIVE for VP candidate George Bush in 1980.
Tommy made a deal with the Nautlius organizers... They sold the record to
raise money to bring the nautilus home.... and they argreed to let him
record whatever he wanted on the flip side of the 45. ( remember records? )
Tommy's anti terrorist song Paybacks Are Hell was always popular with his
audience, so he threw that on there. Anyway... that's the only reason
"Paybacks Are Hell" ever got recorded.
When the Sept 11 attacks happened, they wiped off the dust and played
"Paybacks" pretty heavy out there, Tommy being a sort of local legend, and
all. Paybacks also got some radio play around the country, last count it
had been played in 15 states.
There's a DJ up here, in Michigan, who plays it EVERY morning... when he
first comes on at 5 AM. I think it gets his blood circulating !
By the way... one of the few times I went to sea on the Fulton, we went to
watch the first space shuttle Launch... which was the Columbia. We were
sent as an emergency rescue salvage ship... because of our cranes.
I was pretty good friends with the IC2 / IC1 on Billfish ... guy with a
mustache ... I think he was the lead P.O. for IC gang.
I just can't remember his name. Can picture his face. Just not his name.
Good guy. Always said nice things to my Chief about my work. One of the
few bubble heads who went out of his way to be sure that people from the
Fulton who helped him out, got credit for what we did.
Man... Those 637 boats did one hell of a lot for our country !
I had worked doing book keeping when I first reported aboard Fulton ....
Dude... they were spending one big pile of money... and that is how I was
onto the concept that they were doing some VERY important things out there
in the ocean, someplace.
But, with all the support in the world.... ya gotta have "riders."
Thanks to you and all the other crazy ass sons of bitches that rode those
boats into the unwritten pages of History !
Without the collective accomplishments of the Sub fleet, things would
probably be really different.
When Ronald Reagan was first finding out what we were REALLY doing with
submarines.... during one of his early National Security briefings.... he
listened to the entire presentation.... and then asked only one question...
"Where in the hell do you find guys like this?"
You should be very proud to be one of them.
p.s. MY song while aboard Fulton was "Sitting at the dock of the bay" ....
next time you hear it... you'll catch how good it was for my situation.
"Two thousand miles I roamed, just to make this dock my home.... "
IC2 Steve Corneliussen - USS FULTON
Where do you keep the SPM?
The SPM is the secondary propulsion motor which is primarily used to navigate the
boat in tight quarters during docking or other similar activities. The SPM resides
in a cavity under the lower level auxiliary machinery room two (LLAMR2) and is
extended and retracted via a hydraulic ram controlled by the LLAMR2 watch. The
SPM can be rotated, via hydraulics, to provide vectored thrust in the direction
necessary to maneuver the boat at very low speed. An electrical indicator is
provided in the Con to reference the rotational position of the motor. In normal
operation the SPM is controlled from the Conning tower including starting, stopping
The Billfish had experienced an extraordinarily successful and ahead of schedule
build, test, and deployment. Many awards were presented and much to do was
made of this accomplishment, as rightfully it should have been. Unfortunately, a
small set of events, some of which I can not speak of, occurred within a very short
period of time. This caused a temporary reversal of attitude, mostly by the crew,
about the ?Star of Dev Group 2?. We nick named the poor Billfish the Banana Boat
but in all fairness we overcame this short streak of bad breaks.
One of the contributing events became know as the SMP disappearing act. While
at sea, under standard Op orders, a series of activities involving the SPM were
being conducted. At one point, after many successful operations, the order was
given to raise the SPM. The SPM could only be raised or lowered by the LLAMR2
watch stander, which is where petty officer second class Davidson (know by all as
Harley for obvious reasons) came into the picture.
Harley, a long qualified, and very competent machinist mate was the watch stander
this fine evening. I was on the reactor control panel with the sound powered
phones on and was privy to the conversations between Harley and the conning
officer. The exchange became a classic of the dangers of the power distance
relationship within the navy. In the skimmer fleet the power distance relationship
is very large. You do what you are told and few questions are asked. In the
submarine navy the power distance relationship is not quite so extensive due to the
dependence of one crew member upon another. However, on this evening the PD
relationship was extended by the OOD to the breaking point.
Upon being commanded by the OOD to raise the SPM Harley indicated that the
SPM was not properly vectored for storage within the hull. A second order was
given to raise the SPM and again Harley, more vigorously this time, objected. As
the third order came down from the Con indicating that Harley should raise the
SMP or some unpleasant events would affect his career in the Navy, he gave the
OOD his way. Under protest Harley raised the SPM.
The incident was forgotten until the following watch when the next OOD had his
opportunity to demonstrate his prowess with the SPM. Everything went well
including the lowering and vectoring of the SPM. Unfortunately, when the motor
was started no evidence of the Energizer bunny?s capabilities presented itself.
Several attempts were made with no success.
Captain Hughes was informed of the situation and an investigation was initiated.
The motor was raised and the windings were meggered (resistance tested). The
test indicated a direct short to sea water. Captain Hughes ordered the ballast
logs be checked from the previous watch and it indicated that the sub had
experienced a light aft, light overall condition which was corrected by flooding
6000 pounds of sea water into the trim tanks. Upon inspection of the technical
manuals, by petty officer Davidson, he announced in no uncertain tones that the
light overall condition and the weight of the SPM were almost identical. The lights
were beginning to come on but not the SPM.
The boat was surfaced and a diver put over the side to investigate. His report
upon his return to the surface was grim. There was a big hole in the bottom of
USS Billfish and no sign of the SPM.
When Captain Hughes queried Harley, in the LLAMR2 and in the presence of the
implicated OOD, he asked why Harley objected to the raising of the SPM. Harley
pointed to little scribe line on the deck near the SPM. He then pointed to a similar
scribe line on the SPM ram and announced as if teaching the uneducated, ?These
are bench marks. They were put here by the ship yard. When they match up the
SPM is properly vectored for storage and I don?t give a damm what your indicator
in the Con says, when they don?t line up the SPM is not ready to be stowed.?
Needless to say there was one very chagrinned diving officer standing next to the
Like all good Captains, Captain Hughes did not ream the OOD on the spot. I?m sure
there was a very private conversation in the Captain?s stateroom where the subject
of benchmarks, power distance relationships to qualified enlisted personnel, and
the disputed ancestry of the OOD were the primary topics. I don?t know if the
OOD ever apologized to Harley but it became instant public knowledge that the big
dog in the LLAMR2 had teeth and there were firmly implanted in the OOD?s
We returned to port dragging our metaphoric tail between our legs. Another drydocking
and embarrassment for all were experienced but eventually we overcame
the loss and moved on to much bigger and better accomplishments.
One Poly Bottle and One Good Reaming
During new construction the RC gang took to sitting on the bench at the after end of upper level AMR2 while on breaks. To ease our burden we would flip over a five gallon paint bucket, which served as a trash can, and placed our feet on it. Unfortunately, the little Greek yard bird responsible for trash removal took this as a personal insult to his standing in the company, to his home country, and to his ability to carry out his job. He spoke no English but knew lots of Greek swear words, which I'm sure questioned the parentage of every RO on the boat. He was in the habit of jerking the can out from under our feet, turning it over and swearing at us in fluent Greek as demanded by the EB Trash Taker Outer standards manual.
One delightful (read boring) evening a couple of us rigged a 100 pound air hose under the deck and brought it up through the finger hole in one strategically placed deck plate. We applied a generous portion of EB green to attach the end of the air hose to one of the heavy duty poly bottles used by the Nukes to capture non-radioactive water. We knew better than to use a yellow bottle. The air hose was now poised to breathe rapidly into the poly bottle. We then placed the trash can up side down over the poly bottle and put our feet up as usual and waited for the mark.
True to the lot of good union yard birds the little Greek showed up with the usual chip on both shoulders. When he grabbed for the trash can the 100 pound air valve at the rear of the work bench magically opened. Not only did the trash can jump several feet into the air it sounded like we
had been depth charged. We were expecting the bang but it caused even us to jump. The OOD in the conning area passed the word over the 1MC demanding to know the source of the very loud bang.
Some how we managed to explain the noise away but Chief Seifert knew exactly who did what to whom and with whom to have a discussion. We took our reaming like good sailors do but I saw a smile on the Chief's face as he turned to leave the AMR. As for the little Greek, he became
very wary of inverted trash cans after that night.
The Night the Lights Went Out on Billfish or How Dark is Dark?
We were on one of the very first runs with the newly commissioned Billfish and were doing initial sound surveys on the boat. The main coolant pumps were in an odd configuration (never to be placed in this configuration again) as was the electric plant with all power being provided by a single MG. Upon completion of our sound run the starboard TG was warmed up and was being readied to be brought on line. I was standing in the upper level AMR2. We were all on sound powered phones for
a test and it was announced that we were about to parallel in the TG. I heard a very odd bang emanate from the aft starboard corner of the AMR (the main TG breaker closing and opening) immediately followed by the darkest dark I've ever witnessed. To the front of the AMR I heard the
familiar sound of a scram. At first I thought I'd experienced a stroke that caused my vision to evaporate. Then I realized there were no lights on any panel, in the over head or any where
else nor were there any alarms, no sirens, no nothing, just the absolute quiet and darkness of a Dean Koontz novel just before the faceless unnamed creature swoops down and sucks your brains and blood out through your face. The boat got as quiet and as dark as the proverbial grave yard at midnight.
I had enough time to put my hand in front of my face and couldn't see even the faintest trace of shade or shadow. A couple of seconds later the battle lanterns came on and we were faced with the reality that we were without vital or main bus power.
After a little investigation it was discovered that the vital hydraulic pump cycled just as the electrician paralleled the TG and MG. This caused the two generators to be connected out of phase, which the
breakers didn't like, and we paid the price.
To all of you EPCP watch standers and upper level engine room watches you now know how watching the hydraulic accumulators became part of the op orders when paralleling MGs and TGs.
Screen door on a submarine
The Billfish was in Dry-dock when Hurricane Hugo hit Charleston and being in the middle of a reactor core replacement she was unable to get to sea, and out of harms way. After a makeshift patch was applied, they flooded the dry dock and she survived the storm fine. To keep the boat from sinking in the dry dock afterwards, they had a huge compressor truck on the pier pumping air down hoses and into the main ballast tank vents. One of the most interesting watches I stood was to stand topside and open and close the ballast tank vents to keep the boat level and at the correct depth! Not something done very often I am sure. Anyway a truck came to refill the compressor with fuel and it backed over the air-hose, which caused the hose to blow out. So there I was... alone topside with all the air blasting out of the main ballast tanks and only moments to go before she would submerge. I shut the valves and ran down to the officers mess (no power on board to call down) ran into the room and yelled "we're fu**ing sinking!" Later it was pointed out to me that that probably wasn't the proper call to make, but then the situation was not in the ships operating procedure. Luckily the truck that caused the damage in the first place had a spare hose, which was rigged before we became the first boat in history ever to sink in dry dock.
During the field day mayhem for an ORSE, coming back from the Med, I was on watch (as if that was a rare occurrence) in the AMR2LL and Big Jim (the CO) was down there too, getting in the bilge to partake in the festivities. He handed me up a bucket of dirty bilge cleaning water to dispose of and I dumped it down the secondary sample sink drain. Big Jim got real mad, and his eyes just about popped out on stalks, as he didn't know that the drain went into a little tank there and then over to the ERLL drain tank. He thought it just dumped back into the bilge down there where he was (like it does on the missile boats) and thus was very upset. He was big, and scary, right at seven feet tall. I explained to him where it went, showed him where the lines were, but I still didn't feel very safe. It was as if I had just shown up the Umpire.
Dont mess with E div
One Saturday afternoon, the crew was having a cookout at Dave Lemke's house. Eddie Sierra made the mistake of commenting that there wasn't enough tough guys in E division to mess with him, or something to that effect. Next thing he knew, he was cocooned in EB Green and secured to the mailbox out by the road. We left him there for a good thirty minutes as cars honked hello to him. Wait a minute, he was in
E division. (Click to meet Eddie)
A Tale of Wine, Dogmeat Shish-kabob, and liberty launches.
The Billfish had anchored out off Piraeus (Athens) during a Med run in 1972. Also anchored with us were the Roosevelt's battle group. To get to the beach we had to share the liberty launches from the Roosevelt and other skimmers. Anyway, new to Greek culture, several of us nukes decided to visit the Platka and sample the wine and food. We soon discovered that the Greeks didn't start dinner until 11:00 p.m. but you could sit in most tavernas and drink that extremely strong retsina style wine. Anyway three of our group including me had the duty the next day so we decided to get back to the pier and get the last liberty boat. We're standing on the pier when a guy pushing a cart comes up and keeps shoving these skewers with what looks like meat and onions at everybody saying "Sheeesh-kabob" No one else was buying but I was starved and pretty loaded so I grabbed a bunch of Greek money and put two fingers up. He hands me two skewers and takes some money. The launch appears and we load on with thirty others and head towards the Billfish. One of the airdales turns around and asks me if I know what I'm eating and I say sure it's shish-kabob. He informs me that it's probably dog or cat meat. That's why no one else was buying any. I told him to go polish a plane and finished my dinner. I do have to say that I had the urge to bark at the moon a lot after that night. Anyway we get to the boat and the tide is coming in and the launch is rolling pretty good. They had put over a cargo net on boat so you'd have something to grab as you stepped from the launch onto the boat. Well, being well fed and completely fearless because of the wine I had on board, I step onto the gunwale of the launch and step towards the boat. Needless to say the launch rolls away from the boat as I step off. I landed in the water but the topside watch said I came out of the water like a rocket before the launch rolled back over on me. The rest of our shore party jumped correctly but laughed themselves silly thinking about what I had just done and m!
issed being crushed like a bug. I remember a lot about Athens but that is my favorite memory.
One story I remember well was when we were in the Med in 81. Shorty (one of the sonar techs) was giving training to the officers in the wardroom. Lt. Mackowicz was standing this first watch as OOD, Bill Elrod (COB) was the DOOW, IC1(SS) B.J. Bevins was the COOW, MMFN Fitzpatrick & TMSN Kraus were driving the boat when sonar passed TORPEDO IN THE WATER. Lt. Mac order full dive, ahead standard, and before we could do that JC (Capt,. Okeson) ran to control, took over and had us run faster and deeper. During that time all I could think was that a torpedo was going to come right through the BCP and explode in my face. We ran fast and deep for about an hour maintaining depth and course. Finally when JC secured from torpedo in the water the COB looked at Fitzpatrick said that he was lighting fast with his controls Then he looked at Kraus and said that he was frightening scared to maintain depth. Thus Fitzpatrick and Kraus were called Lightning & Frightening on the Planes.
Webmaster's note: I was on the throttles for this little exercise. When Captain O took over the conn, he ordered a jump bell to ahead FLANK and followed that up with this order: "Maneuvering-Conn, CAVITATE!" Talk about a pucker factor with an adrenaline rush! I couldn't answer that bell fast enough. Mark Trombley was a short timer standing the EPCP watch, and was due to be discharged from the Navy when we returned to New London. He was very upset and kept yelling that he couldn't die yet, it just wasn't fair, he was almost out.
I Remember when we were out on ORSE workup and Senior Chief Hostettler notified control that we
didn't have any astern throttles because they were in his hand. That was the 1st of three times during my tour that Captain Okeson cussed. It wasn't funny at the time but looking back at it now the humor of one of the
mightiest fighting ships in the world can't stop or back up and a captain who never says a bad word moving swiftly down the passageway saying BULL SH** in his midwestern draw was a sight to see.
How about the day during MED 81 when sonar passed the word torpedo in the water. Very serious at the time, however after we found out it was just a 6hp outboard motor we all had a good laugh. Even the Bull Nuke had to laugh at that one.
Or about the liberty in Cartagena Spain using the Barney as a Fleet Fender and those poor young sailors who couldn't get liberty because we were always coming and going and we were rated, therefore had priority on the boat runs.
The last one today is when we arrived at La Mad and had the 57 cases of beer lined up for day one of liberty at the slop shoot or was it the Greenhouse. What a drunken 1st day of liberty. I arrived with Captain Okeson who was going to by me a drink because I had to do the Rickover Letter and missed liberty call. He did by me a drink of my choice, Coke or 7up.
Hope these finer moments can be shared by the crew and laugh at them today as I did then and again as I recall the fond memories for the "SPIRIT OF 76".
You've Got A Friend
It was a dark and stormy night. We had just pulled into LaSpezia Italy and had Med Moored to the pier. Our boat was about 60 feet from the pier tied to floats. Liberty could not commence until shore power cables were run. As we all gathered on the floats and started to pick up the shore power cables, some of the senior enlisted (Spelled COB) and some of the JO's stood back and said they were too important to do this type of work. Out of the hatch comes Charlie Oscar. He walked to the middle of the floats and picked up the shore power cables and put them on his shoulder. Being 7 feet tall, those of us on either side had to put our arms over our heads to maintain our hold on the cables. Needless to say, the entire crew worked together that night getting shore power connected to the trailer so we could all hit the beach. Photo
An almost crew member
I once had orders to the Billfish (reporting aboard Jan '82 as Billfish was heading to Portsmouth) as a TM2. I made TM1 and my orders were canceled, so I stayed on the RUSSELL (687) and went to Mare Island. I tried to turn down TM1, but this wasn't allowed. I made a key chain that listed the boats I was on; the SSN-606 and SSN-687. I had prematurely put SSN-676 on the key ring. I found this homemade key ring the other day in the top pocket of my old Navy coat while showing it to my daughter. How funny that it was hidden there for almost 20 years. (Click here to see the key chain)
A quick sea story of my very first day on Billfish.
I reported to the Billfish in May of 1980 while she was in SRA in Portsmouth, NH. I had only been in the Navy for 4 months; boot camp, sub school, Billfish. I was as green as they come. I arrived via taxi to the front gate of the shipyard. The guards called the boat, which sent out the duty driver (Pinky Floyd, I think). It was late in the day, already dark, when we arrive at the living barge. I grabbed my seabag, crossed the brow and entered the Quarterdeck of the barge. Jeff Knight was on watch, sitting behind the desk to answer the phone, etc. As soon as I stepped into the barge he looks up, smiles, grabs the microphone and announces on the barge
1MC "FRESH MEAT - ARRIVING". Not knowing how to take that, I was given some bedding and led to the berthing compartment. I quickly made my rack, undressed, and went to bed. I was woken by reveille at 0600. The watch came in and turned on the lights to get the duty section up. I stayed in my bunk to wait for the passageway to clear. I wasn't awake but a few minutes when I hear "Mother f****r. What the f*** is that?" I peek out of my curtains, I was in a bottom bunk, look up and see this HUGE person (Erik Blom, 6ft tall X 6ft wide)) standing in his underwear swearing like I haven't heard before. He's barking mad because he's stepped on something in his bare feet. Still peeking out from the curtains, I see him pull something out of the bottom of his foot (a name tag, ouch) and say "WHO THE F*** IS LUCIER". Well, I pulled my curtain shut and squeezed all the way into the bunk so noone could see me. I laid low when I saw him, and didn't introduce myself for a few weeks. He had cooled off by then.
Kenneth R. Lucier
The Big Picture
I remember when were tied up next to the Fulton in New London. '87. At 6 am or so lost shore power -- the cable feed in the transformer exploded. Fulton and Billfish lost power. No problem -- fired up the desiel.
All of the Fulton's desiel's were torn down for repair. Ooops!
My duty chief, EDO, EDC and I (DO) all got called up to the Fulton's CO's stateroom -- along with the Fulton's E-div officer and chief -- and got yelled at -- wanted to know what the hell we had been doing to make his ship loose power.
Here's some background to the above story
I was perfoming maintenance on the electric plant and caused a loss of shore power. We did not know how or why we had lost shore power, and the onboard shore power breaker was shut. My cheif asked me what I needed him to do. I asked him to trip the peir shore power breakers for the ship, so that shore power wouldn't be restored prior to our being ready. He left and came back about 5 minutes later. He was laughing and asked me to guess what he had just done. I couldn't guess, so he told me that in the shore power station, there was a red plaque that said "In case of emergency, open this breaker." He did, and all the lights on the peir, and the Fulton went out. Then there was an announcment on the Fulton that they had lost shore power. That happened about a day before Robert Carter had the loss of shore power. There was nothing he could say to convince the Commodore that we were not at fault.
Chuck (Orlo) Jones
More good background to the above story
With respect to ORLO Jones and his addendum to the loss of shore power -- I was the MLPO and EDPO that night, we were doing OI-62 when good old E-Div had a problem and decided to back out of the evolution. Problem was they forgot to replace the control power fuses for the STBD SSTG breaker. When we paralleled shore power to the STBD side the STBD SSTG tried to be a motor, not a generator, and drew a significant amount of current which obviously tripped off shore power and actually "smoked" the shore power breaker. Yeah it was the ELPO who went topside to open the shorepower breaker and yes he did come down with a smile on his face but he not only took out the USS Fulton, he took out the Squadron 10 building and 3 other boats that were tied up that night. Not only that but the diesel wouldn''t load initially bacause a pressure switch was isolated preventing the output breaker from closing. It was not a good duty day. We even made the NRTB''s over this one and Captain Jones was not a happy camper.
Through the Eyes of a Civilian
(Dependents Cruise '83)
In late ’83 we were astonished to get a request from our (little) brother Chuck to consider a trip to Groton, Connecticut for what he called a “Dependents Cruise”. What the heck is that we all asked? Chuck is the 11th of 12 children of Robert & Rita Frybarger of Jackson, Michigan, and we knew that he had been assigned to the USS Billfish, something called a “Fast Attack” submarine. It was explained that at the discretion of a ship’s Captain, a cruise could be arranged to give a sailor’s family a chance to see what he does in This Man’s Navy.
There was a strict limit of 4 relatives that could be invited, and so we at home began considering who would go. Dad, being an old Navy man, wanted to go and as the eldest son, I claimed a spot. That left two spots, and they were quickly assigned to the other available brothers, Ted and Jim. Chuck informed us that there would be an FBI look into our backgrounds before we would be allowed to board the boat, and we agreed that it was a small price to pay for such an honor. (We never did find out if the checkout took place…???). The four of us made plans with the wives to be away for the weekend, and on a cold Friday morning we took off for Groton.
Early on Saturday morning, December 3rd, 1983 we were at the base awaiting permission to board. Naturally, all of us expected a pat down frisk, and a metal detector search of our person, but none of that happened. We were allowed to just walk aboard and watch the proceedings. As I recall, there were 88 people (civilians) here, and all but 7 or 8 went below at once. We felt that it would be interesting to watch as the boat left port, and begin it’s trip downriver, so we stayed on the deck. Captain Okeson proceeded to have the lines cast off and one of them became wrapped around itself. Okeson barked at the hapless sailor to get things straightened out immediately. There was a very short delay as this was accomplished, and we were under way. Now, I don’t know Navy Protocol, but what happened next, is unusual as I learned later. Captain Okeson backed that submarine out into the river – stern upstream, and just like backing a car out of a garage, he put her in forward”!! I overheard one of the sailors say to another “Captain is trying to impress the civilians”, to which the other sailor replied “He’s sure impressing me!” It was a ways downriver before another surface boat approached, but then it left the area.
We were told to go below for the cruise, and made our way down the ladders to the operations deck. It was explained to us that the forward 1/3 of the boat was open to look at, but the nuclear and machinery sections were off limits. Turned loose to explore this amazing craft, we had the time of our lives snooping about. There wasn’t a square inch of the allowed area that didn’t get a good look. Here I will digress a bit: I said earlier that there were 88 or so civilians aboard for the cruise, but here is an amazing thing that we observed. Most of those folks (it seemed to us) went straight to the mess, sat down and watched video movies and snacked. Now in 1983, videos were quite new, and a lot of people saw the (then) current “Superman III” movie and “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. Why did you guys come aboard??? Throughout the boat, there were monitors set up to watch fore and aft through periscope cameras. You could see that the boat was awash and moving briskly from wherever you could see a monitor. Captain Okeson came on the horn and said that “If anyone is afraid of being underwater, that they are underwater already” and a glance at a monitor showed the deck awash… yup, we were below the ocean surface.
The boat was taken down, and proceeded in this manner for most of the rest of the trip. We asked several of the sailors who were stationed at their posts “How fast will this thing go?” “Fast enough!” was the reply. “How deep can you go?” “Deep enough!” again… All of the instrumentation on the control deck was covered with canvas, and once in a while, a sailor would go over and get a reading from one of them. There were kids aboard carrying open cups of Coca-Cola around, and I was astounded that they were allowed near the operational keyboards. I was just positive that a sticky cola would get spilled onto one of them… We were treated to several simulated torpedo tube operations, by ejecting water slugs… quite impressive. A look through the periscope, a lunch, more looking around and asking questions, and then something totally unexpected for all of us. A “Simulated Emergency Ascent” was announced. Over the speaker we heard Captain Okeson advise everyone to stand fast, and hold tightly to something, as we were going to surface in a hurry! All of a sudden the floor angle shifted even though you had no way to tell but by feel. Then everything just settled back to level (I cannot remember if there was any “bounce”). What a sight it must have been from the outside as this huge machine roared out of the water nose first to fall back again level. A look at the sleeping quarters was most interesting. There were several bunks from floor to ceiling, and it seemed as if there wasn’t room for a man to turn over in his sleep. Would you need to get out of the bunk and climb back in to turn over on your belly? Chuck had a bunk in the torpedo room, and it seemed like he had a lot more room for himself. I suppose space on a vessel of this type is at a premium, but there were places where a man needed to gain access which seemed impossible to reach. There must be some wiry guys in the submarine service!
Captain Okeson asked if anyone wished to observe from the conning tower as we approached land. Several people gathered at it’s base and looked up. I’d guess that it was 30 or 35 feet up the steel ladder to the top. More than a few declined this offer, but we did not. One at a time, we were allowed to proceed to the top. On top it was crowded with the Captain and two lookouts, so a quick look is all the time allowed. It was a never to be forgotten sight to see this great boat cutting through the water as we headed home. Wonderful!!
This experience will always remain as one of the most memorable of my life. For me, it was an unexpected honor to be able to take part in this adventure. My thanks (again!) to Captain J.C. Okeson, and the crew who donated their Saturday for us. We also thank brother Chuck for his help and assistance. It will forever be appreciated!
Bob Frybarger (with Ted and Jim)
(A Footnote from QM2 Chuck Frybarger)
During the short service I rendered to my country onboard the U.S.S. Billfish, I was lucky enough to have a chance to show members of my family from Michigan a glimpse of what and where I lived and worked. As the years have gone by, specific events have faded from memory, but the experience as a whole has not. I recall the night before the cruise, drinking my first alcoholic drink with my father and feeling slightly uncomfortable. Him with his Scotch, and me with my adolescent Tom Collins. I didn’t know until I was told after his death, of how proud he was of me.
During the cruise, I didn’t have time to socialize at all with dad or my siblings, as I was at my underway watch station, and they were drifting here and there, seeing what the Sub had to offer. I’m sure they had many questions that couldn’t have been answered in the time provided, or for that fact, probably for days to come. I was glad to share a glimpse of my experience with my kin, though they will never know how truly lonely a life I led during those years. I was proud to have served my country, and to have allowed my father and brothers a peek through the porthole of my life in the Navy.
QM2 Charles Frybarger
Where is the war?
The memories are kind of vague, but I was in charge of Sonar when Billfish went on a Med run in 1984-1985. When the boat pulled into Tolon, France, we had a big, all hands briefing, dealing with where to go and what to see in Tolon. I had the duty that day, so I wasn't paying a lot of attention, but I did hear, at the end of the briefing, that we should all stay out of 'Petite Chicago'. I told Sonar that I would be leading the liberty party into 'Petite Chigago', so that we could see for ourselves how bad it was... The first day was still an adventure. LT. Shauffert was meeting his girlfriend in Tolon. (she was a student in Paris). She was arriving at the train station. On that first day, all hands ashore were to wear their uniforms. So LT Schauffert, in his dress blues, stopped every french person he saw and, putting on his best Clouseau accent, asked "Oue la Guerre?" (Where is the train) unfortunately, 'Gar' should have been pronounced as written. There was a gang of sailors following him laughing as he was asking all of the locals 'Where is the war?" The French, obviously, were in on the joke, until a little old lady felt sorry for him and informed him how to pronounce 'Gar'. She then directed him to the train station. As to the trip into 'Petite Chicago' like I said, the details were a little fuzzy, but I seem to remember a lot of champagne..