War Stories

Harrowing Dive

We did have a harrowing dive in 1961 however. An order to trim the sub after being in port a week was to pump 10,000 pounds of ballast to our forward most bow buoyancy tank . The original calculation said it should have been 1,000 pounds.

So, as we made the initial dive, the bow went down 45 degrees ( normal is 15 degrees) . Many bad things happened at 45 degrees : all four engines dumped their engine oil , the batteries spilled their battery acid , a 150 pound mixer sheared its bolts and nearly killed the cook, all liquids and many of us started sliding towards the bow which further aggravated our trim.

But the worst problem was that our AC Motor Generator sets tripped off. Thus , the speed orders to go to "All Back Emergency" never was received in Manuevering room. At 45 degrees , the submarine is unstable. That is , there is no guarantee that the bow will rise if you blow the bow buoyancy tank with our compressed air supply. Our Diving officer had " mentally checked out " with all the reports coming in with no good news and only more problems. In the midst of this chaos , the Executive Officer ( # 2 in Command ) , worried about the 45 degree instability problem , ordered our air manifold operator , " Roach " Rossell from Patterson, NJ "not to blow the tanks".

Roach replied " Don't Blow eye , Sir " as he was opening all the air valves to every buoyancy tank on our sub. We rapidly went up at 45 degrees , popped out on the surface and were dead in the water. It took 4 hours to put oil back in the four diesel engines, battery water in the batteries , calm down the cook , etc.

In the meanwhile , the Captain called Roach into his cabin and asked him why he disobeyed the Executive Officer's commands not to blow the tanks. "Well Captain , I figured out that I could either be a dead good sailor on the Ocean bottom , or an alive court-martialed sailor on the surface!" The Captain then told Roach , "Good work , and by the way , they'll be no court martial ".

This story shows that on submarines , one man at the right spot doing the right thing can save all 100 of us.

The Captain instituted new procedures after this near miss. At 15 degrees down angle , all watch keepers were to don the Sound powered headset telephones to receive commands. At 30 degrees down , we Electrician Mates were to automatically go to "All Back Emergency" to pull the sub back to the surface backwards.

Once while doing these practice maneuvers , myself as Senior Controllerman , and "Ski" ( Sokulowski , from Sandusky , Ohio ) as Junior Controllerman , stood by like Olympians waiting for the "All Back Full " order. When it came we moved the "Sticks " and controlled the batteries rheostats in record time. We were able to bring the sub out of the water backwards. When the screws broke surface , they no longer had the water resistance to control their RPM's , and so all that horsepower ( 3,000 ) successfully dislodged dirt , shot cork lining around , and broke light bulbs. We immediately got the "All Stop " command , and no more drills for the day!

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