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55 years ago

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oldsubs View Drop Down
Neptune
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    Posted: 08 Apr 2018 at 7:48pm

At about 0530 on a cold drizzly morning a bunch of duty people and all the non-quals the duty chief could lay his hands on were rousted out from their warm blankets on the living barge at the end of drydock #1 at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, Maine. They were told to hustle over to where this nuc boat was getting underway to handle lines. As usual with things “Navy” the boat which was supposed to move out at 0700 got delayed the line handlers stood around in the damp wind while things got straightened out. At about 0800 the boat finally moved out with shipyard riggers lifting off the brow and the wire rope lines forward. The disgruntled wet crew from the living barge walked back over to get some breakfast and start a new week in the shipyard. It was Monday, 9 April 1963.


Their boat the USS Dogfish (SS-350) was undergoing an overhaul. It was torn apart in the basin of drydock #1. On Wednesday of that week things seemed different. There were clumps of shipyard workers standing around, not working. Some folks seemed to be moving about with some urgency. Then as the day wore on the word spread that the Thresher, that boat that got underway on Monday was missing while on sea trials. As the day turned to evening the shipyard turned from a general quiet to near silence as there was no work being done.


The next day at quarters, the crew of the Dogfish were officially notified to the missing boat but the news was hardly a surprise. At noon each division met on either the work barge or the living barge and were told by their division officers that if anyone wanted to 'non-vol' and obtain a transfer out of submarines that request would be honored with no question. With the official announcement that the Thresher was lost in water much deeper than her crush depth and there was no hope of survival, the shipyard and the Navy turned to the task of dealing with the relatives of the crew and the shipyard workers that perished. It was a daunting task that turned into a real job of problem solving. Many crew didn't have wills and many of the wills hadn't been updated. Insurance policies sometimes listed ex-wives as beneficiaries. Several members of the Dogfish crew along with other sub crews (Tinosa and John Adams) were tasked with clearing out the Thresher crew lockers in the barracks. The general rule in packing the personal effects for shipment was that if we would not want our parents or relatives to receive an item it didn't get packed. These were mostly cigarettes, books, magazines and the like.


As the week wore on into the following week memorial services were scheduled. Planned mostly by faith, Catholic, Protestant and so forth the little chapel at the shipyard was used. When it was realized that there were more people attending than the chapel could hold the services were moved outside to the bridge and conning tower shears of the Squalus memorial. Some crew members of the boats in the yard served as ushers and gofers for the arrangements and services. It was a very sad time.


As a new graduate of submarine school I reported to Dogfish in March of 1963. I can still remember clearly being well aft and helping handle #4 line as Thresher went on sea trials as well as the events of the following weeks. Some things kind of blur together but the memory of the feeling is still there.


Upon returning from a Western Pacific Deployment in June of 1968 I took my leave of another diesel boat (USS Sterlet SS-392)and made my way to Galesburg, Illinois where for the first time in my life I met my fiance's family. I got there on the first of June and we were married on the 8th. It was during that week that the story of the loss of the USS Scorpion broke. I asked my wife to be if she still wanted to go through with the wedding as I would be sticking with the Submarine Force as a 20 year career. I stayed with submarines until retiring in 1982; she is still with me. I got the better deal. But I never, ever handled lines for a submarine getting underway. Superstition I guess.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote SaltiDawg Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Apr 2018 at 7:53pm
Thank  you for sharing that with us!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote SaltiDawg Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Apr 2018 at 11:33am
Jim,
Were you on Dogfish in 1965?  Who was CO?


Edited by SaltiDawg - 09 Apr 2018 at 12:01pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote oldsubs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Apr 2018 at 1:34pm
I left Dogfish in January of 64.  The CO then was Weatherly.  Don't know if there was a change in 64 but there might have been since he took the boat through the yards. 

I transferred to the lovely environs of Bainbridge Maryland to enjoy the duties of a nuc school student.  Class 64-1. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Richard Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Apr 2018 at 4:49pm
None of us aboard Plunger that day will ever forget. Will pay my respect tomorrow at the Submarine Memorial West.
SS-337, SSN-595 Plankowner, Holland Club
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote SaltiDawg Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Apr 2018 at 7:43pm
Originally posted by oldsubs oldsubs wrote:

I left Dogfish in January of 64.  The CO then was Weatherly.  Don't know if there was a change in 64 but there might have been since he took the boat through the yards. 

I transferred to the lovely environs of Bainbridge Maryland to enjoy the duties of a nuc school student.  Class 64-1. 

I rode Dogfish in 1965 Subschool. Believe CO was a LCDR Mationi???
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rontini599 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 hours 20 minutes ago at 9:34am
I was off-crew from the 599 on the fateful day.  I remember the chapel bells on Submarine Base ringing all day. 
I also remember a Sonarman (Dave Spence) who reported aboard with our Blue Crew a month before the loss of the 593 and he was transferred from her.  He was a wreck for quite some time but it was a pleasure to serve with him until we bought the boat back in '65 for an overhaul.  We also were given the opportunity to opt out of submariners but none did. 
I still have the New Haven Register from April 11th and the Boston Globe from the 12th.  I also have a copy of a letter sent by President Kennedy to the family of a crewmember.  HIs sister brought the letter to a USSVI Convention in Reno in 1999.  I lost it when she showed it to me.  
I lost a good friend (Edgar Bobbitt) who I attended "A"-EM school with and SubSchool with cousin Dan and I.   
Jim's message at the start of this thread is very poignant and appreciated. BZ
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Palm Bay Ken Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 hours 29 minutes ago at 4:25pm
The CO, Wes Harvey, was the chief engineer of S1C when I qualified as a RO in '60. The XO, Patty May Garner, was the chief engineer in SKATE in '60 when I reported aboard. Patty May mentioned that he would be leaving for THRESHER and would like to have me along. If I hadn't been selected for NESEP in '61, I wouldn't be writing this post.
Ken Wiltshire
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