Shots Fired!

We will be passing Cuba in international waters, which was no concem of the crew or mine. We all knew about Castro and his goings on with the Communist Party, who cares. I had the 2000/2400 watch running cold iron, the engines shut down when all of a sudden the engine order telegraph came to life with a command "EMERGENCY START". We are almost home and now this. Nothing in the plan of the day mentioned this condition. My self and the oilier started the engines and now waiting for the engine temperatures and pressures to be at the required readings. The engine order telegraph rang constantly indicating that the maneuvering room wanted the engines "NOW" so they could put them in the propulsion line up. I gave them the ready bell, the engines slowed from the sudden load put on by the generators then returned to the 720 RPM and now we were answering a full bell. Just like that. What the hell is going on?

I picked up the sound powered phone to see if there was any information to explain the actions that just happened. There was some yelling like lets get the f- .... out of here. Hearing the watertight door open I looked up and saw John, he started to yell in my ear, the F ..... Cubans are firing at was with machine guns. Then over the 1 MC the word was passed to rig ship for "Battle Stations Torpedo".

At mid night I was relieved and went forward to find out the scoop of what happened. Now everyone was awake, Battle Stations were finally secured. The lookouts that were topside were now telling the crew that last night what looked like a gun boat in the dark was shooting at us using tracer ammunition and firing flare signals at us. They were also sending semaphore to us. "Light Signals" for us to identify our selves. The crew was awake the rest of the night and at dawn the CO went topside to see if there was any damage to us. There were a few holes in the sail I was told.

Waiting on the pier at Key West were a bunch of civilians pacing up and down the pier, waving at use to moor quickly. They tried to help the line handlers on the pier but it turned in to a Charlie Foxtrot (Cluster F ..... ). After setting the in port watch the Captain over the One MC made it clear "that no one would talk about the happenings during last night". That was normal for a sub sailor. As soon as the gangway was put over these civilians came rushing aboard with clip boards, poking there fingers in, what I would take for, bullet holes. What is that going to tell them? Oh well, with my liberty card in my pocket, my destination was the barracks for a quick shower, a change to civilian clothes and on into town for a few toddies.

Pulling up to the best bar in town "The Top Hat" I parked my vehicle in the street. A big hand painted sign on the front window stated "Welcome Back Sea Poacher" "THE CHICKEN OF THE SEA". Three hours in port and the word is out on what happened. Saying nothing, the afternoon was mine. Sloppy Joe's Bar where I could meet Ernest Hemingway who visited this place if my timing was right was my next stop. A few days later a letter from my sister Helen arrived, Saying "Donnie you never tell me anything".

New York Times dated May 15, 1960


The United States Government protested to Cuba today over a Cuban Patrol Boat's firing on a United States submarine. Lester D. Mallory, acting Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, summoned the Cuban Charge d'Affaires, Dr. Enrique Patterson, and asked for an explanation "why an armed vessel of the Cuban Navy fired without provocation on the U.S.S. Sea Poacher while the latter was pursuing a peaceful passage on high seas. Navy officials said the Sea Poacher was traveling 'its usual route" on a generally northwest course in Nicholas Channel from the US base at Guantanamo Bay Cuba to Key West.

Suddenly, the Navy said the Cuban patrol craft Oriente, a former United States submarine chaser, began firing what were taken to be flares. Commander Stahl slowed the submarine to see if the other ship might be in trouble. There-upon, the Navy said, the Oriente swung in astern of the submarine and fired three more bursts of red flares, according to the original messages. At this point, according to the submarine log, the Oriente extinguished her running lights, but the Poacher kept hers on. Commander Stahl decided that the other ship was not and resumed his course. Later, officials said Commander Stahl concluded that what he had thought to be flares, were small-caliber tracer bullets.

Reading the article from an original sent to me by Helen. Nothing was ever said to the crew after this world breaking news. The Cubans thought we were a Russian Sub headed for Havana, and when we did not respond to there communication signals they fired there guns at us as a warning to keep away.

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