Monday, June 29, 2009

Uniform Sanity Breaks Out in Fleet

After significant pissing and moaning about the new Navy Working Uniform's regulations for wearing it off base, a submariner has fixed the problem. MCPON West has come through for the blueshirts! has the Navy News story. I know the subforce tends to have a lot more common sense than the rest of the fleet (Nukes excepted, of course) but this is really like Christmas in June.

Just be ready for the civilians to start screaming "THE INMATES ARE LOOSE!" when they see the aquaflage on Hampton Blvd. or 32nd Avenue.

Nonetheless, Good call MCPON West (SS)!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Mighty Forrestal to be Sunk

The scene of some the most deadly naval action of the VietNam war had nothing to do with the VietCong or North Vietnamese Navy. On July 29, 1967 the carrier USS Forrestal had an accidental luanch of a Zuni missile on the flight deck that ignited 2 planes fully loaded with ordianance and fuel. The resulting fire did more damage than some Japanese attacks during WWII. The Navy has decided to scrap or sink the Forrestal.

Forrestal, named for former Navy Secretary James Forrestal, was the site of the fire off the coast of VietNam that killed 134 men and destroyed 21 aircraft. One of thse planes belonged to a young shit hot aviator who followed in some of his father and grandfather's footsteps at Annapolis and the fleet; though he spurned the Submarine Service, opting for the daring do of Navel Aviatin (Why would you call it anything else?) This young airdale escaped the flames to go on to be a US Senator and candidate for President.

The "Forrest Fire" Incident also revealed heroes. The rocket's impact dislodged and ruptured the Skyhawk's 400-gallon external fuel tank and ignited the jet fuel which poured out. A 1000-pound bomb also fell to the deck, into the spreading pool of flaming jet fuel. Within 90 seconds the bomb "cooked off" and detonated. That explosion resulted in a chain reaction as the closely-packed aircraft were first engulfed in and then contributed to a massive fire with repeated high-order bomb detonations. The ship's "plat" cameras, mounted on the island and embedded in the deck itself, provided ample video coverage of the initial accident and the subsequent catastrophe.

Chief Aviation Boatswains Mate Gerald Farrier can be seen in the plat tapes running toward McCain's Skyhawk immediately after the rocket strike. The fuel tank had already ruptured and burning fuel was spreading around the aircraft. Chief Farrier had, as his weapon against this blaze, a hand-held fire extinguisher. He had not yet reached the Skyhawk when the first detonation occurred . . . he simply disappeared in the blast. A number of air- and deck crew were trapped in the inferno; many died there, while others were able to escape to the deck-edge catwalks.

Crewman Gary L. Shaver was there that day.

"Chief Farrier at the time of the first explosion without hesiation grabbed a PKP fire extinguisher and ran at a full gate to what was to become our HELL on earth. He began attempting to cool a bomb laying on the deck surrounded by burning fuel. The entire deck was turning into chaos. Not one time did Chief Farrier loose sense of his immediate duty. Moments later there was an explosion. With my own eyes I saw Chief Farrier destroyed by the blast. There was never a look of fear or doubt in his eyes as he fought the growing fire. Only the look of determination to do his job! I know because I was no more than 20-25 feet from my Chief. I had exhausted a PKP bottle to no avail only moments before. He looked at me waved his arm as if to say "get the hell out of here." Virtually before I could move there was an explosion and Chief Farrier was gone. Chief Farrier was my flight deck Chief, friend, teacher, and most of all a leader of men. I ask that his name and efforts be forever recorded in the history of the U.S.S. Forrestal, CVA59 Respectfully and with Honor."

Despite his sacrifice, I have only been able determine that Chief Farrier was awarded only the standard VietNam camapign decorations. Should his valor be recognized by a higher decoration? If you were a Sublant sailor, you probably went to fire school at the Gerald Farrier Fire Training Facility in Norfolk but we can do better than just naming a building after him.

When you hear the final fate of the Forrestal, take a moment and remember Chief Gerald Farrier and all of the other men that lost their lives onboard her. Chief Farrier was without doubt, No Slack, Fast Attack. Let's get him the recognition he is due; he earned it.

Monday, June 22, 2009

More Chaplain Trouble

I would personally prefer to go more than a month without the Navy's Chaplain Corps getting a black eye. Last month it was the Lothario from the USS Carl Vinson who was unclear as to his role with female sailors.

Now, we have the incoming Chief of Chaplains that has been foisted upon his on petard for allegedly torpedoing a subordinate in a O-6 selection board after the Commander had filed an equal opportunity complaint against Rear Admiral (LH) Alan Baker. Instead of being advanced to the top Chaplain's position, he'll retire.

I am not privy to the details of what Admiral Baker is alleged to have done but what a shame it is to lose such an officer. I wish him and his family well and thank him for his service to his country and my fellow sailors and marines.

It is sometimes hard to remember that these folks are supposed to be "set apart" and leaders of their faith. A carelessly uttered phrase or misconstrued point may have sealed his fate.

As I researched this topic I learned more about the career of Admiral Baker and my heart sank even lower. He is the first graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy or former Surface Warfare Officer to serve as a Chaplain Corps Flag Officer. He is truly a sailor's chaplain with the best background I can hope for a candidate to lead the Navy's Chaplain Corps. I am greatly disappointed that his talents will not be used for our fleet marines and sailors.

The Chaplain Corps has plenty of other problems like the disproportionately small number of evangelical chaplains when compared to the "high" church. The last thing the Corps needs is more trouble from the brass.

Admiral Baker’s personal decorations include the Legion of Merit, three Meritorious Service Medals, four Navy & Marine Corps Commendation Medals (one with Combat “V” device), two Coast Guard Commendation Medals, and two Navy & Marine Corps Achievement Medals. He also wears the Officers Surface Warfare device.

Admiral Alan Baker, CHC through his service certainly exemplifies the "No Slack, Fast Attack" spirit. A church somewhere is about to be very lucky.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Red Dragon Subs Breathing Down US's Neck

So we have had yet another "incident" with the Chinese. An unidentified sub from the Peoples' Liberation Army (Navy) either crept up on the USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) or were unaware of their location and ran into the destroyer's towed sonar array.

It appears that the Chinese want to replace the Russians as our sparring partners. We can do that. Let's hope that the brass will keep up the right attitude and not go soft on this new threat.

And besides, why did they have to attack a ship named (in part) for a submarine officer? On guard Westpac fast attack boats, your optempo and thrills are about to both increase.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

In the Service of the Imperial and Royal Austrian Navy

Think fast. Where is the Austrian coast? The nearest seacoast is the Adriatic Sea, nearly 100 miles from the border. The Sub Report has an small article about divers off the coast of Montenegro finding the remains of the German Uboat U-72. (I'm not sure how much of a discovery this was since had the lat & longs listed for who knows how long.)

The Austrians used to have a seacoast when they also controlled Hungary, Yugoslavia, Czecho-slovakia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Austria had a sub force of 27 Uboats and also had 70 German Uboats under the Austrian flag.

Undoubtedly, the most famous Austrian Submariner was Linienschiffsleutnant (Lieutenant Commander) Georg Ritter von Trapp, who later was the founder and literally the father of the Trapp Family Singers, achieved earlier fame as Austria-Hungary's leading U-boat ace. At the end of World War I, von Trapp's wartime record stood at 19 war patrols, 11 cargo vessels totalling 45,669 tons sunk, 1 cargo vessel captured, the French armored cruiser Léon Gambetta (12,600 tons) and the Italian submarine Nereide (225 tons). Among other honors, he received the Knight's Cross of the Military Order of Maria Theresa.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Chinese Submarine Aircraft Carrier

Those tricky Chinese are at it again. The long range thinkers of the People's Liberation Army (Navy) have a plan to deal with the American menace.

They want to build a super sub that can house aircraft and sneak up on the rest of the world.

Check out the rest of the story at Navy Times' new blog.

You can also read everything you ever wanted to know about underwater aircraft carriers here.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Submarine Songs

Sometimes you run across things that you would never find without the internet. Nazi Submarine songs is one of those things.

I first heard the great stories of the mighty Uboots Manner when I was a boy. There was a gentleman at our church from Koenigsberg whose three brothers had served in the Luftwaffe,
Fallschirmjäger and Uboots. Remarkably, the only brother to survive the war was the Ubootmann. As with all German military, even the submariners had their own songs. Here is the video version, in color and with translation: The Uboot Lied (Lied is German for song)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Submarines on D Day

Its that time of year again when our thoughts should drift back 65 years to the days just prior to Operation Overlord; the assault on Hitler's Fortress Europa. As members of the submarine service, we should remember the role our British cousins played on this day of days.

The Royal Navy Submarine Museum has the following information on their website:

Operation Gambit

HMS X23 on D-Day

HMS X23 on D-DayThe first craft off the shore of Normandy on D-Day were midget submarines. Two X-craft, HMS X20 (Lt K Hudspeth DSC*) and X23 (Lt G Honour DSC RNVR) were chosen to play a hazardous part in Operation Neptune, the naval assault phase of D-Day.

Codenamed Operation Gambit, the aim was to set up landing markers to guide the invasion force towards the beaches.

Lt George Honour DSC RNVR

Lt George Honour DSC RNVR

HMS X23 Badge

HMS X23 Badge

On 4 June 1944 the X-craft fixed their positions in front of the Normandy coast. At nightfall they surfaced only to be told that the operation had been postponed due to bad weather.

On 6 June at 0445 the submarines surfaced in rough seas. They set up the 18 feet high navigation beacons that each were carrying and switched them on. These shone a green light indicating their position away from the coast, visible up to 5 miles away although undetectable to anyone on land.

They used the radio beacon and echo sounder to tap out a message for the minelayers approaching Sword and Juno beaches. The incoming fleet appeared on time and roared past them.

The D-Day Invasion Fleet

The D-Day Invasion Fleet

Lt George Honour DSC RNVR (HMS X23) recalled seeing the incoming invasion fleet years later:

"It was unbelievable. Although I knew they were on our side it was still a frightening sight. One can only imagine what the enemy must have felt, waking up to this awesome spectacle and knowing that they were the targets".

D-Day painting by Guy Todd depicting George Honour on X23 watching the invasion fleet having completed Operation Gambit

D-Day painting by Guy Todd depicting George Honour on X23 watching the invasion fleet having completed Operation Gambit"To mark the approaches to the beaches for Forces "S" and "J", two X-craft were employed, as it was very important that Force "S" should not be too far eastward and the coast in Force "J"s section was not too distinctive in outline.

These craft had sailed on the night of the 2nd/3rd June - being towed for part of the passage. Each submarine received at 0100 hours, 5th June, a message that the assault had been postponed for twenty-four hours and in spite of the difficulties of navigation for a craft of very slow diving speed in a cross-tidal stream, had maintained their positions off the enemy coast until daylight on the 6th June, when they flashed their lights to seaward from the surface in their correct positions as a guide to the oncoming assault craft.

It is considered that great skill and endurance was shown by the crews of X20 and X23. Their report of the proceedings, which were a masterpiece of understatement, read like a deck log of a surface ship in peacetime, and not of a very small and vulnerable submarine carrying out a hazardous operation in time of war".

Admiral Ramsey

At sunrise their job was done, the lamps were taken down and replaced with the signal flags representing ‘D’ for D-Day.

The ‘D’ for Dog flag and white ensign flown by X23 on D-Day. Both are in the Museum’s Collection.

HMS X23 on D-Day. Lt George Honour and S/Lt H J Hodges RNVR on the casing

HMS X23 on D-Day. Lt George Honour and S/Lt H J Hodges RNVR on the casing

X20 and X23 had led the way in the largest ever combined assault.

Incidentally, the word ‘Gambit’, the codename for this operation, is defined in the dictionary as "the pawn you thrown away before a big move in chess".