Saturday, November 16, 2013

UnStolen Valor?

What is the opposite of Stolen Valor? Is it earned humility?

I saw this license plate in my area the other day and it hit me like a two by four upside the head.  I respect this man's service and his honesty. I wish we had more like him.

As with many things in the military, the needs of the service often times is just the luck of the draw. Sometimes you're in the infantry and sometimes you're in the rear with the gear. Sometimes you can become one of Uncle Hyman's Superhuman Advanced Undersea Warriors or you can be stationed on the tender, welded to the pier.

I was surprised to find out that the REMFs even have their own home page. They would prefer the term Rear Echelon Military Forces.  (At least that's what they tell their wives.)

Unfortunately, too many old timers feel the need to embellish their otherwise honorable service by denying what they really did (supply, maintenance, laundry, Armed Forces Radio & TV, etc.) and spinning tales of daring do with the elite special operations units of our services. 

My personal favorite REMF is Pat Sajak.  I have never really heard him talk about his service in Vietnam but they say the Internet has everything and, apparently that is true.

So today we salute you, REMFs for all of that boring, vital stuff you did in the rear with the gear. We also thank you for not overstating your record.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Me & Tom Clancy

Tom Clancy has left us and his death brought back many memories.  When The Hunt for Red October hit
the theaters, yours truly was an inmate of Uncle Hyman's School For Wayward Boys of Orlando.  We were so green our class had yet to get our civies. My bunkmate from Boot Camp had managed to get a pair of passes to the premiere at the Colonial Squid Mall just a few yards out of the main gate.

Every swinging Richard that had ever eaten an oblong sandwich and considered themselves a Sub expert was there to see the Daring Men of the Deep on the Big Screen.  I'm not sure, but there may have even been a pair of actual Dolphins in the theater.  It was here that Clancy's naval masterpiece taught us some very important lessons about the Sub Force:
  1. All US Submariners MUST wear a white turtleneck under their poopie suits.
  2. The Soviet Sub Force had us beat in the chrome department.
  3. Unrated Seaman freely float in and out of Sonar according to their whims.
  4. Russian Senior Captains don't take a dump without a plan.
  5. Clancy in his pseudo uniform
  6. And, Some things don't react well with bullets. 
After shipping over into the fleet, the COB, 1st Lt. and Deck Div LPO completed the process of un-educating me about Hollywood's vision of Submarines.

Some years later, I was home from the fleet enjoying dinner with friends, several hundred miles from salt water.  The door to the restaurant opens and in walks a gentleman who apparently just walked off of the D&S piers.  He was clad in all khaki with an A-1 Flight Jacket and Aviator sunglasses.  My first thought was, "Look at this wannabe.  Who does he think HE is, Tom Clancy?"  Well, sportsfans.  That is exactly who it was.

I waited for him to get seated at the bar and light up his smoke before I made my approach. (This was back in the good old days when you could actually smoke in a bar/restaurant w/o having the SWAT team descend on the Applebees.) I walked over and introduced myself as a veteran of the Ustafish and his reaction was priceless.  "Aw Jeez, here we go again," he said.  He then introduced to his dining companion.   Commodore Douglas Littlejohns, RN Ret. formerly Commander of Her Majesty's Submarine Sceptre.  He was a close friend of Clancy's and had been brought across the pond to run Clancy's gaming software company, Red Storm Entertainment. 

Clancy & Littlejohns didn't have to spend their time making small talk with a former junior petty officer that night but the fact that they did reflected greatly on their character. We talked about the Cold War, the Falklands and politics.  Apparently, some of Senator Jesse Helms' political strategists had tried to talk Clancy into running for the Senate from Maryland.  Can you imagine appearing before Senator Clancy's Armed Services Committee?

Clancy never served in the military due to his poor eyesight.  Had he served, he would have never been able to write the novels that he did.  He possessed a knack for learning about the US's technical capabilities and the using that base of knowledge to forecast the next logical advance.  Rumor has it that military intelligence hauled him in early in his literary career and grilled him about who his sources were.

Tom, Fair Winds & Following Seas on your voyage to Valhalla.  No greater friend have the US Navy, her Submarines & Sailors ever had than Tom Clancy.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Israeli Submarines

For a country about the size New Jersey, Israel packs quite a punch.  Surrounded by hostile neighbors that have invaded the country more than once, Israel has defied the odds.  It took the Israeli Navy a couple of years after independence to reach the decision that the Jewish state needed the finest naval weapon known to man: the Submarine.

The Father of Israeli Submarines was actually born in Mexico.  Yosale Dror came to Palestine as a child and became an underground fighter in the Jewish pioneer naval militia, the Palyam. He specialized in diving and help sink several British ships that were being used to deport Jews.  Dror became convinced the the submarine platform was vital to Israel's military interests and began to urge for the creation of the IDF Submarine Force. After several years of persuasive lobbying, his efforts paid off.  (Incidentally, he also help found the Shayetet 13, the Naval Commandos.)

Israeli Naval Commando Badge
Israel sent 28 volunteers to Toulon, France to be trained as Submariners.  Israel was then able to acquire British S & T Class Boats.  One the T Boats, the Dakar, never made it to Israel.  It was lost somewhere off the coast of Cyprus. The next step was the creation of the Gal Class Boat based on the the German 206A Class Submarine.  The current hulls being used by the IDF are the German built Dolphin Class.

The Israeli Submarine Force has had extensive use during Israel's wars with its Arab neighbors with numerous covert insertions of troops.  During the Six Day War in 1967, the INS Tannin launched an attack on targets in Egypt's Alexandria harbor using torpedoes and embarked naval commandos. As a result of that action, crewmen of the Tannin we authorized to use a red background with their submarine qualification badge while the rest of the fleet use a blue background.

Today's Israeli Submarines may also pack a bit more heat than their neighbors.  There are rumors to the effect that Israel possesses nuclear strike capabilities.  (The Israelis will neither confirm nor deny their nuclear capabilities but, let's just say, a betting man would take the odds.)  It is also rumored that these nuclear capable subs are on patrol off of the Iranian coast thus, giving Israel both first strike and second strike capabilities.

Today's Sub fleet includes:
INS Dolphin
INS Leviathan ("Whale")
INS Tekumah ( "Revival")
INS Tannin ("Crocodile")
INS Rahav ("Dragon")
with another possible boat to be delivered in the the near future.

 Israeli Submarine Qualification Badges are unique in that each badge is numbered so that each Submariner is known by his number.  With 10 years service, the badge is upgraded to the Senior Submariner Badge which has a Star of David and wreath added to the top.

Without a doubt, the Submarines of Israel are No Slack, Fast Attack.

Should you want to get your own Israeli Submarine Badge just click the banner below:


Sunday, July 1, 2012

You Saw a Poopie Suit Where?

As a Submariner Emeritus, my sonar tends to be highly attuned to all things Sub related or at least Navy related.  I'll usually say hello to the local recruiters (who, for some reason, tend not to be Submariners) or speak to any Ruptured Duck wearers or strike up a conversation with anyone wearing a boat hat.

Since I live in an area with a Naval deficiency, I just don't run into many Sub related uniform items roaming the streets.  So, imagine my surprise when someone walked into my son's scout meeting wearing, of all things, A POOPIE SUIT?  Now, I'll admit, it is not beyond reason to expect someone to wear blue coveralls for reasons other than hunting the Red Banner Northern Fleet.  Maybe you're painting your house or working on your car.  Who knows?

What set off the klaxon in my head was the guy happened to be wearing a khaki belt.  Now where in the world was this guy coming from or going to wearing a clearly underway uniform while we are standing 300 miles from a Naval Base.  (BTW, skimmer/targets have started wearing the Poopie too though in a much more limited way.)

Now, I have seen the Coast Guard working uniform up close but those look more like something the local fire department would wear. (No offense intended Coasties, er I mean Guardians.)

So I determined angle on the bow and and range rate and moved in for a closer look.  Turns out, he works for the US Public Health Service.  If you have never heard of them, you're not alone.  They are considered one of the 7? uniformed services of the US Government.  (OK, let's count A, N, AF, M, CG are the usual suspects, then the USPHS and then Nat. Oceanic & Atmospheric Admin.)  Think about the USPHS's boss, the Surgeon General.  Ever since C. Everette Coop brought the uniform back, federal health professionals have been bringing what is essentially a Naval uniform to locations near you.

Usually, you see them in Summer Whites or Khakis.  So, how does the Submariners' venerable poopie suit fit in with the USPHS?  Turns out, this fellow works at a federal prison.  Certainly, a prison is no place for Summer Whites but why not wear khakis?  There's a good reason for that.  It seems that khaki is also the uniform of the inmates.  So you have a choice to make in working uniforms at the big house: BDUs or the Poopie Suit!

And that, gentle reader, is how Submariners Emeriti get a strange look on their face at the scout meeting.  Long Live the Poopie Suit!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Mystery Dolphins Sighted

While perusing the display cases of a Airborne Jumpwings from around the world at a military show, I casually asked if the dealer had any Dolphins?  Usually, you may find a pair of Silver Dolphins tucked in between the parachute wings.  On this occasion, he did have a pair of newer dolphins that were priced higher than the NEX so I figured I'd move on to the next table when he asked me a question that left me scratching my head.

"Have you ever seen any Marine Corps Dolphins?"

I laughed and said sure, right next to the bush pilot wings & DBF mermaids.  No, he insisted, USMC Submarine Badges.  He said he had run across a set of Dolphins and when he looked closer at them he noticed the had the Eagle, Globe & Anchor (EGA) displayed in the middle.  He promised to send me some photos for the blog.  Where did these mystery dolphins come from?

During the BIG ONE (WWII), a number of downed Naval Aviators were fished out of the pacific by Fleet Boats while on Lifeguard duty or in transit of War Patrols.  (You may recall one fellow went on to become President.)
Reverse of badge shows manufacturer's marks.  EGA really shows up as an "add on" from this view.  Can any Dolphin Experts shed some insight on these?

Some of these Aviators were of the embarked Marine variety.  Once aboard the subs, Aviators were not allowed to become Wardroom Cushion Testers or rack hounds, they were put to work as Assistant Officers of the Deck, Look Outs or any other needed task.

Could these Dolphins have been "created" outside of the chain of command by some of the Submerged Marines and given as gifts and passed around the fleet.  I have never heard of this happening before and would love to hear the story first hand from some of the Sub Fleet's Marines.

I have also heard tales of Marine Raiders being embarked on Submarines for special missions so I suppose it is possible for there to be some silver Marine Dolphins in existence too.

Any number of special order patches were made in the P.I. and I even have one of the belt buckles so I guess some Marines went rogue and made there own damn Dolphins.  Can't be any worse than giving the regulation ones away to Midshipman for a two week cruise.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Duty Van Breakdowns Cont'd.

Intrepid fellow Submarine Blogger Bubblehead from the truthfully named blog The Stupid Shall Be Punished has asked for your best duty van stories.

The duty van was always a chance for a huge screw up.

I actually got to be the duty driver in Charlietown during middie ops one year without a whole lot of problems (except for the Korean gas station owner who insisted that he could take a GSA gas card BEFORE I pumped a full tank and them matter-of-factly told me that his station didn't take them. Ironically, the only reason we were in the vicinity of the Weapons Station was to get a part for the CHOP so that the most official trip of van was paid for by yours truly while the GSA card carried the crew around the town on liberty for a week.)

Then we pulled into Rosie Roads and had the duty van ride from hell across the island to San Juan. And guess where the COB decided to make the one pick up stop in SJ? You got it. The Black Angus. (I kept wondering why we were going to a steak house!)

But, by far the best tale of the duty van was in Britain on Her Majesty's Secret Service (OK, so it wasn't so secret but were were in the UK.) FT1 Sureshot had been deigned as worthy of the international driving license and was very meticulous about the rest of us riding around in his rental van. We get to the last day of liberty and everyone is in a hurry to get a few last things done before we pull out and then IT happened.

FT1's preparation for international driving had left out one small bit about making a left hand turn and we had a wreck. Damage wasn't too bad but I immediately figured all of the passengers would have to stay with the van as witnesses thereby eating up the last few hours of freedom. But, as soon as the door opened, one of our JO's jumps out, looks at the driver and says, "Good luck, I'm outa here." So's I figure, if the LT don't have to stay for the bobbies, why should I? And just like that, liberty was saved. I guess the MWR fund took care of the damage.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Celebrate Chaplains' Day

Faith, combat and the sea come together sometimes in life and reveal the true nature of men.

On Feb. 3, 1943, the USAT Dorchester, a converted luxury cruise ship, was transporting Army troops to Greenland in World War II, escorted by three Coast Guard Cutters and accompanied by two slow moving freighters. On board were some 900 troops, and four chaplains, of diverse religions and backgrounds, but of a common faith and commitment to serve God, country and all the troops, regardless of their religious beliefs, or non-belief. The Four Chaplains are: Rev. George Fox (Methodist); Father John Washington (Roman Catholic); Jewish Rabbi Alexander Goode; and Rev. Clark Poling (Dutch Reformed).

At approximately 12:55 a.m., in the dead of a freezing night, the Dorchester was hit by a torpedo fired by Nazi U-boat 233 in an area so infested with German submarines it was known as "Torpedo Junction." The blast ripped a hole in the ship from below the waterline to the top deck. The engine room was instantly flooded. Crewmen who were not scalded to death by steam escaping from broken pipes and the ship's boiler, were drowned. Hundreds of troops in the flooded lower compartments were drowned, or washed out to the frigid waters, where most would die.

In less than a minute, the Dorchester lost way, and listed on a 30-degree angle. Troops on deck searched for life jackets in panic, clung to rails and other handholds, saw overloaded lifeboats overturn in the turgid water, leaped overboard as a last desperate hope for life. Many with lifejackets drowned when the life-preservers became water-logged. Of the 900 troops and crew on board, two-thirds would ultimately die – most of those who survived, had lifelong infirmities and pain from their time in the icy waters.

Dorchester survivors told of the wild pandemonium on board when it was hit and began sinking. Many men had not slept in their clothes and life vests as ordered because of the heat in the crowded quarters below. There was panic, fear, terror – death was no abstraction but real, immediate, seemingly inescapable.
The Four Chaplains acted together to try bring some order to the chaos, to calm the panic of the troops, to alleviate their fear and terror, to pray with and for them, to help save their lives and souls. The chaplains passed out lifejackets, helping those too panicked to put them on correctly, until the awful moment arrived when there were no more life jackets to be given out. It was then that a most remarkable act of heroism, courage, faith and love took place:

Each of the Four Chaplains took off his life jacket, and, knowing that act made death certain, put his life jacket on a soldier who didn't have one, refusing to listen to any protest that they should not make such a sacrifice. They continued to help the troops until the last moment.

Then, as the ship sank into the raging sea, the Four Chaplains linked hands and arms, and could be seen and heard by the survivors praying together, even singing hymns, joined together in faith, love and unity as they sacrificed their lives so "that others might live."

The few survivors testified to the selfless act of the Four Chaplains:
"The ship started sinking ... and as I left the ship, I looked back and saw the chaplains ... with their hands clasped, praying for the boys. They never made any attempt to save themselves, but they did try to save the others. I think their names should be on the list of 'The Greatest Heroes' of this war," testified Grady L. Clark.

"I saw all four chaplains take off their life belts and give them to soldiers who had none ... The last I saw of them they were still praying, talking and preaching to the soldiers," attested survivor Thomas W.Myers Jr.

The Chaplain's Medal for Heroism is a decoration of the United States military which was authorized by an act of the United States Congress on July 14, 1960. Also known as the Chaplain's Medal of Honor and the Four Chaplains' Medal, the decoration commemorates the actions of the Four Chaplains who gave their lives in the line of duty on February 3, 1943.

Because the medal has only been authorized posthumously, and only for one action, it is generally considered a commemorative decoration not intended for wear on a military uniform. The medal also does not appear on any military award precedence charts, although it is considered to be ranking just below the Medal of Honor. The Chaplain's Medal for Heroism could technically be awarded again, if Congress ever bestowed the decoration for future acts of heroism involving military chaplains. Can you think of any Chaplain's action that would have qualified for this medal?