MEMORIES OF U.S.S.SEA POACHER (SS406)
[1951 – 1953]
Each of us has unique recollections of our past. The following are some of my memories of the period from late July 1951 to August 1953, during which time I had the privilege and honor to be the Commanding Officer of Sea Poacher. My apologies, if it seems too much self oriented but, for good or bad, that is how most of us view our personal history. You who are the creators and caretakers of the excellent Sea Poacher web site can edit or delete any of this material without complaints from me. Please use what ever adds or amplifies any material already contained in the history of the boat.
There are five events that highlight my time as boss: The conversion period at Charleston where she became a Guppy 1A; the famous blimp event; the Med cruise; the times at Key West when we provided services to ASW training and research and development; and the last – back to Charleston for more repair work.
It’s not difficult to see who is arriving and who is leaving.
I have pictures of the conversion but there are quite enough already on the web site.
So, going on to the signature event, the Blimp escapade, here are some details that may add to the existing information.
In LIFE, the article was two page spread with top photo on the left. It is interesting to note that the article mentioned only the officers in the blimp with no information about Sea Poacher. The reason, of course, is that the gas bag staff had a good PR group while the "silent service" made little of the event.
An interesting side note was that the blimp pilot was my next-door neighbor. Boca Chica was keeping his wife informed of what was going on and she, in turn, relayed the latest to my wife.
The following article appeared in the Key West Times and had more detail than the LIFE article.
At the risk of excessive exuberance, here are some photos taken by Sea Poacher shipmates:
This is an Official Navy photo of the event:
I must confess that it was not a smooth operation. We picked up the blimp bow line while the blimp was still airborne. The crew on the fantail secured the line on an after cleat. The line was then passed forward to the bow capstan where they tried to heave it in, not knowing it was secured aft. The line broke and the blimp was loose again. About that time a rainsquall came through and the weight of the water put the blimp in the water. This time we got a good line bent on the blimp’s line and were able to commence the tow. We succeeded in spite of ourselves!
The Med Deployment:
Our first stop was Malta for a NATO pre-op conference. We moored alongside HMS Forth, a UK sub tender and got introduced on the how the Brits entertain their NATO pals. They’re very skillful in plying a bit more of the liquid stuff than one should imbibe. Here’s a photo of us, with Lionfish, entering Malta harbor.
The Med tour began with the NATO operation that was impacted with some lousy weather. After the operation we proceeded to Izmir, Turkey for a port visit.
The main tour site was Ephesus, an ancient Greco-Roman city ca. 1 BC – 1 AD, noted in St. Paul’s letters to the Ephesians. Lots of ruins.
Next came a visit to Athens and tours to the Acropolis, Parthenon, and Corinth.
From L to R: Bob King, Joel Feldstein, Cliff Morn and guide
After the port visits we had a chance to be a submarine again with some Sixth Fleet exercises where we practiced screen penetrations and simulated torpedo firing on destroyers and cruisers as well as providing services to the aviation and surface ASW forces.
The next port visit was Naples. All who have made Med cruises experience the valuable opportunity of the tours to important and historic places. Tours to Rome and Pompeii were the favorites this visit. Leaving Naples we got a good view of Stromboli.
The at-sea period following Naples was spent with a mini fleet exercise and providing target services. We did get a few opportunities to practice our professional skills in what submariners do best – penetrate a screen and attack the main targets.
Christmas in Cannes!
Prior to deployment Key West, Navy families had collected clothing for us to take to needy children in France. We delivered the clothing and gave a Joyeux Noel party to a group of orphans, much of which is shown in the following pictures:
Here is our Christmas card:
Photos of the orphans party
As all who serve know, Christmas is a tough time to be away from home, family and friends, but having a party for the less fortunate fills a lot of gaps.
Sea Poacher made the local English language paper. This article may be difficult to read but it can be expanded in a photo-editing program.
NICE-MATIN - Dimanche 28 Decembre
Tours, again were very popular. While the Cote D’Azure is exciting, it wasn’t as alluring as Gay Paree. Two different tour groups made it to the "‘City of Lights". A little memorabilia is shown below.
Church of Notre Dame
We split the holiday period with a visit to Marseille. We didn’t even bother with a trim drive as can be seen (the Christmas graffiti can almost be seen) in this photo of Sea Poacher entering the harbor at Marseille.
More fleet exercises after the holiday but we fought the weather more than the simulated enemy. We did get in a couple simulate successful screen penetrations and attacks on the amphibious group, according to my Med report.
Everyone seemed to agree that Barcelona got top score as a liberty port. In early 1953 there had been only one or two prior U. S. Navy visits since Franco had opened Spain to the Americans. We had a Spanish Naval Officer as our own private liaison officer. Everyone was friendly and sincerely welcomed us. I got invited by a prominent banker to join his family at the opera then later to lunch (it actually was a full dinner) at his house. We got tours to all the local sights and invited to dinner several times. (Things had changed five years later when I made another port call there – the welcome mat had been somewhat worn out and we had to find our own amusements.)
Santa Maria Replica Sagrada Familia Cathedral
The rest of the deployment was an anti climax – another exercise, a visit to Gibralter to turn over to the incoming deployment and, then, happily to head home.
We were delayed a day or so to provide target services to the ASW air squadron at Port Lyautey. They dropped a number of sono-buoys during the drill. As we were released, we picked up one of buoys as a souvenir.
We made the Key West Times again
After R&R it was back to the daily routine of providing services, conducting ISE, making weekend port visits to Havana, Galveston and Tampa. An inspection discovered more hull corrosion under the superstructure so we were scheduled for a limited availability at the shipyard – back to Charleston where I first got acquainted.
One of the meaningful moments for the submarine family is when one of the members is awarded that treasured emblem, the Dolphins. This photo is one such occasion where Luther Jenkins was congratulated for his achievement.
Finally, the sad moment of departing arrived and it was time to bid adieu to all the magnificent men of the Sea Poacher. As I was leaving, I was presented this superb painting – painted by a TM1, who was leaving to go on to art school. The painting was not signed and I regret that I don’t remember if it is was J.B. Carson, Raymond Krivascy or Richard Moore. I hope he, whoever it was, continued on and had a very successful career his field.
The change of Command ceremony:
"And so off into the sunset he rode, with tears in his eyes and a lump in his throat."