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Photos with Stories
These are a collection of pictures, with the stories behind them. Many were used as pictures of the week on the web site. There are a lot of great pictures and stories out there that will help us document the history of the crew of the Key. Now all I have to do is get you to send them in. So, take a few minutes to relive those days on the boat and send those pictures and stories to the Key web site for everyone to enjoy.
Final Score: Key 1 - Standley 0
The USS Standley after being torpedoed twice by the Key during an exercise in 1976. Here is the story from Tim Brooks QM2 Blue Crew 74 - 77: Picture by Dan McRae
The picture from the Key's # 1 periscope is that of the USS Standley, a guided missile cruiser who reportedly had the reputation for being the best submarine killer in the Atlantic Fleet at the time. I can give you the full details but the synopsis is relatively simple: it took us 17 minutes from the time we manned battle stations torpedo to the time of kill to simulate putting two Soviet torpedoes through the hull during a flex-op code named " Shoot out at OK Corral ". We terminated, with extreme prejudice, the war game as we had more interesting items we were pursuing at the time. We fired a green flare over their bow to signal that the game was over. We intercepted their CO's radio report of the " training exercise " several days later and to put it mildly, he was pissed. His exact words were and I quote, " Instead of shootout at OK Corral, it was more like bushwhack at box canyon! " Score 1 for the Key.
update added 05/27/09 by Jim Cortell ETCS/SS Ret
A little more info on that "Shootout at the OK Corral" exercise.
The idea was that we would enter the area from certain direction's with orders
to enter no sooner than and no later than X times, hunt down each other and be
the first to simulate sinking the other. Capt Hastie being the wily fox that he
was figured the Stanley would put off leaving Naples to the last possible second
and would enter from the nearest point of approach. He also figured they would
be a little complacent as they had already won six of these exercises against
SSN's. We with our superior Nav gear, Charts entered the area at the earliest
possible moment sped towards the closest point of approach from Naples. As we
got close we slowed an started skimming the bottom up and over the hills. We
picked up the Standley with-in minutes of their entering the area, the first
flare almost landed on their Hilo deck. Thus the "shootout at the OK
corral" became The "Ambush at box canyon".
Some additional information on the "Shootout at the OK Corral". I was the Blue crew sonarman who detected the ship we "sank" during our war game in the Med in the 1975/76 time frame. The ship was more correctly the USS Standley (CG32), a guided missile cruiser (The USS Stanley was destroyer decommissioned in 1970). (Webmaster's note: I changed the name in the earlier stories to Standley from Stanley)
The CO of the Standley thought he would be clever by cutting power down to one propeller shaft (vice two) and reducing RPM to around 120 turns to simulate a merchant ship limping along. However, regardless of rpm, a warship and a merchant vessel sound different and we started tracking the target . Not long afterward, we confirmed our classification on the basis of the turbine tones I heard. We developed a good firing solution as we closed the target. We fired off a flare to simulate a torpedo launch. Within seconds after seeing the flare, the USS Standley (who was likely trying to pick us up on a passive sonar array), went full power on their active sonar. Too late, they were already toast! (Note: picture on the right was sent in by John)
John O. Burns
PS I am planning on attending the 2012 reunion - hope to see you.
Update added July 11, 2020 from Tim Brooks:
aloha Key shipmates,
Editors note (Russ): I added Dan's name below the picture to be sure he gets credit for the beautiful shot.
Pull those F***ING PINS!
OK, so you think I've gone crazy on my selection for Picture of the Week but this picture has a story behind it. Charlie Burrow, TM 2 65 - 67, sent in this picture of a locking pin that was used on the drain valve at the bottom of each missile tube to prevent that valve from accidentally opening allowing water to flood the tube with a missile in it. These locking pins were used in port but removed when we went on alert or for practice launches. A missile tube full of water weighed about twice as much as a Polaris missile so after launching, the topside hatch would close, this valve would open and the hovering system would blow some water out of each tube to compensate for the weight of the missile that was launched. Remember Hovering and Depth Control on your qual card? Here is Charlie's story...
"On one of the Key's first sea trials, a ripple launch of all 16 tubes was aborted after only about 7 tubes fired because the locking pins were left in the hydraulic control valves for the missile tube drain valves and the boat started sinking because the compensation system couldn't blow water out of the flooded tubes. (I have one of the locking pins (see picture) that Chief Dooley shit-canned in anger afterward.) That screw up necessitated an additional sea trial this time with the locking pins removed."
I can't believe that Charlie kept this small piece of Key's history (he actually has two of them). As a weapons guy myself, I can just imagine the puzzled looks on everyone's face when they would fire a tube and the boat would sink deeper and deeper. If they had fired many more tubes, the boat probably would not have been able to surface due to all the excess water. It would have been like one of those old WWII sub movies where they launch everything that isn't tied down out the torpedo tubes, including the fat guys, to lighten the boat. I imagine there were a lot of sore fingers from all the pointing going on trying to figure out who forgot to remove those pins.
A Royal Escort
Why was the Key special - or was it? Well I think I found the answer. This picture was taken by Clyde Lewis, MT3 at the time, in 1967 as the Key was leaving Charleston harbor on Patrol #1. Clyde had been assigned portside lookout duty and Charlie Burrow, TM2, had asked him to bring Charlie's camera topside and take some pictures of the Key leaving on its first patrol. Clyde took this picture of a school of dolphins riding the bow wave of the Key. You can see the harbor opening on the right and open sea ahead. There could not be a more appropriate escort and "blessing" for the Key and her crew to start Patrol #1. Kind of special I think.
Hey Buddy, gotta nickel?
All you guys from the 60's and early 70's will remember this piece of Key history. Between missile tubes 1 and 2 as you entered middle level missile there was a working slot machine. This picture shows TM 2 Charlie Burrow trying his luck. Charlie sent this picture along with many others. When I saw it, I e-mailed Charlie and told him that in 1972 during a nuke inspection, one of the inspectors had the slot machine removed from the boat and destroyed as unauthorized gear. Charlie then e-mailed me this history:Sad to hear of the slot machine's fate. It was donated to the boat by Joe Milazzo, MT1, who acquired it from someone who had a bunch of them stored in a warehouse somewhere near where Joe was living at Glasco Pond, CT. Here is an excerpt from a letter that I wrote my parents about the slot machine after our first patrol in 1967.
"The boat also has a slot machine, which has taken in over $600 since the beginning of patrol. The profits go into a ship's recreation fund. This provides money for parties, picnics, etc. during the off-patrol period. It also buys flowers for the wives of new fathers, gifts for newlywed crewmembers as well as prizes for the card tournaments held on patrol." Not bad for unauthorized gear.
A Two-Day Shipmate
Jeff Buss, yeoman who served on the Key in 1982 sent me about 50 slides that he had found. This is the e-mail that came with the slides: "The boat went into overhaul in late 1982, and by the time I arrived in April 1983, the ship's offices had been relocated to a building outside the shipyard gates. Later, they moved us again - this time to a barge inside the shipyard, closer to the boat. Then when the boat finally became habitable, we moved again back to the boat. During this time frame, they tossed a lot of stuff. Being in the ship's office, we went through things one-by-one and decided what was going and what wasn't. I found a box of 35mm slides in the pile of stuff going to the dumpster. I rescued them (I hate throwing away pictures) and eventually they made their way home with me."
I put all the pictures in the Who? area of the web site and most were identified as 1978/79 gold crew pictures. But, there were several pictures of midshipman that came aboard in 1978 for a 2 day cruise while the Key was killing time waiting for its first Trident missiles to be loaded. I was not going to put the pictures on the web site because I thought there was no chance of ever identifying any of the midshipmen. About 2 weeks ago I did a google search on "USS Francis Scott Key" just to see if any new material had been added. On about page 6 of the search listing I noticed a web page I had not seen before so I clicked on it. There was a personal web page giving the military history of the person. It said while he was a midshipman he took a short cruise on the Key. I sent him an e-mail and asked him to take a look at the Who? area of the Key site. In the above picture meet Mark Swarthout, midshipman in the khakis. Here is Mark's e-mail to me:
"Russ, Really amazing that we connected! I can fill in a bit more about that cruise.
It was the summer of 1978, last week of June. We were flown from Corpus Christi (Aviation) to Charleston, for submarine week. After that we went to Norfolk for two weeks (Surface and Marines). We attended a wide variety of training lectures and were put into the sub simulators at Charleston Naval Base. The midshipmen were directed to come aboard with our personal items in a clear plastic bag, wearing tennis shoes, along with all the warnings about aerosols and flammable items.
While on the Key I remember doing 'Angles and Dangles' and some of the mess cooks sliding up and down the passageways. I also remember the Beef Wellington for dinner one night. Each Middie got to eat one meal in the Wardroom, the rest on the mess decks. We spent one night aboard.
We did a training run where we released a couple of flares. Somehow I
got to be the one to pull the pins. I still have the pins, and I believe
I have a belt buckle. I think I even wore it at my graduation. If
I have it, I'll get a picture of it and send it along for your web site."
(Note: Marks belt buckle is in the Papers area on the web site)
Can you sing " It's a Small World..."
Santa Has Dolphins
These pictures were taken by Russ Christie on Christmas Day 1971 somewhere in the North Atlantic. I cannot remember everyone's name but that is LT Ron Kimmel, Weapons Officer sitting on Santa's lap, and the guy in the middle right picture in the long hair and robe is Dennis Redline an FTB. In the top left picture and in several others Santa's helpers are Charles "Pooter" Proseus (L) and Mike Mahon (R). That is CDR Bump showing off the six-shooter he got for Christmas, his gift from the crew, and that is the Key Christmas tree in the back of the chow hall. The bottom left picture is a bit dark but it is Launcher, in middle level missile, ringed with Christmas lights. Bottom right is a TM name Jack Tasony. I spent 4 Christmases on patrol on the Key and we always found a way to brighten the mood of being away from loved ones on Christmas. Gifts were "secretly" brought aboard before we left on patrol and handed out during the Christmas party or distributed by Santa to watch standers as he roamed throughout the boat. It would all start with a sonar report to control of hoof beats on the deck topside- then a "security violation topside" alarm would be sounded to wake the crew for the party. Santa would arrive through the snorkel mast and the fun would begin.
I wish all my former shipmates a Merry Christmas 2006 - and there are still guy out there celebrating Christmas on patrol this year so we remember and thank them as well.
The Grim Reaper
The last days of the USS Francis Scott Key. The top picture shows the Key on the right with another sub in dry dock waiting to be cut into pieces. The second picture shows the reactor compartment being removed from the Key. The reactor compartment was taken to a safe area and buried with the reactors from many of the other 41 for Freedom subs. The below picture shows the reactors all lined up awaiting burial.
The last wet days
These pictures, submitted by COB Ralph Harris 70 - 75 Blue and combined crews, are the last pictures we know of that show the Key in the water. They were taken at Puget Sound Shipyard. Chief Harris also sent along this great piece of Key history:
"Here is a story for you. I taught submarine safety classes in the Puget Sound Shipyard to civilians and navy types. We had a 2nd class QM on the Key by the name of Carl Thomas (72 - 74 Blue and combined crews). He worked for Chief QM Bracken. After leaving the navy, Carl became a "burner" in the shipyard. One day his shipyard boss told him that he would be involved in cutting up the Key. Carl told his boss that he would not and could not put a torch to the Key. His boss said, "You will if I order you to."
At that time, I had a senior commander in my safety class who had been on the Key. I told him of Carl's problem with his boss. The commander said to tell that foreman that if he orders Carl to cut up the Key, he might be looking for a new job. Carl did not have to cut up the Key."
To Carl, Ralph and that unnamed commander, we salute you.
Submitted by Russ Christie: This picture was taken about the first of February, 1972 as the Key passed the Thomas Edison in the lake section of the Panama Canal. Key is the closer sub. We were told it was the first time two SSBN submarines were in the canal at the same time and the Navy wanted to take a picture to use in a recruiting promotion. A lot of us were topside setting up for a cookout when the word came down to clear the decks because the Navy wanted a sleek looking picture with no one topside. If you look close you can see the grill sitting by the aft hatch. I was at the bottom of the ladder in AMR1 and could hear the helicopter as it made several passes taking pictures. I never saw any pictures from this event until I got out of the Navy in 1976 and went back to college. One day sitting in the college library trying to do anything but study, I looked up into the rack of books and saw Jane's Fighting Ships arranged by year. I picked up the 1974/75 issue and opened to the submarine section and this is the first picture I saw and the first thing I noticed was that the Edison crew got to stay on deck. I put the book back and returned to my studies. Flash ahead 30 years to August 2006. I am strolling through a small antique store in up state New Hampshire on vacation and stopped to browse through a pile of dusty books. In the pile is a 1974/75 issue of Jane's Fighting Ships. I open it to this picture again. Then I opened the front cover to see if there is any name in the book and stamped on the inside of the front cover is " New London Submarine Base Library". How this book got to upstate New Hampshire, I have no idea but I figured it was meant to be so I purchased the book for $8.00.
Kiss my what?
Head over Heels: This picture was probably taken in 1978 by the Key Gold Crew during a midshipman tour after the first Trident launch. It was among a collection of 50 slides that were almost destroyed during the second Key overhaul but saved by Yeoman Jeff Buss who saved them from the dumpster in 1984. The headless person on the right is probably a midshipman. We don't know yet who is the Key shipmate in the torpedo tube. Let's just hope it is only one person, else it's two very, very friendly shipmates. If you know who it is, then drop us an e-mail.
We really had those Soviets fooled. All along they thought we had 16 powerful weapons in the missile tubes on the Key when in reality there was something quite different going down the hatch (pardon the pun). We now have evidence to prove our claim. In the below picture is the Key during its initial sea trail period in St Croix loading out the real payload. It is cleverly packed in those nondescript looking cardboard boxes.
And where did those boxes go in that powerful submarine....
In the missile tubes. So all those years, all the Key could have done is launched a cocktail party not thermo-nuclear war.
Our thanks to Charlie Burrow, plank owner for these pictures of the Blue Crew of the Key loading 5ths of liquor, the spoils of their visit to St Croix. I always thought tube 15 smelled funny. It must have been a happy cruise.
Can't Take A Joke
As you can see, this photo was taken on January 16, 1972 in middle level missile, just forward of the Launcher area. We had arrived in New London, CT on January 10, 1972 off of the last patrol before the Key went to Bremerton for her first overhaul. We had an open house and tour groups were allowed escorted access throughout most of the boat. In this picture, Dave Kearney MT2 at the time, has his hand on an air valve and has just inflated the steam suit. The suit had been hanging limp from the loop you can see at the top of the hood. None of the tour people knew that someone (me, Russ Christie) was inside the suit. On this tour, there was a group that included a woman and her 7 year old son. Once the suit was inflated, Dave said to the young boy, "Go ahead and give the suit a squeeze and see how it feels". When the boy approached, I reached out an moaned and tried to put my arms around him. (We thought this would be a funny thing to do - wrong) The boy screamed, the mother screamed, then the boy took off running down the port side of the missile compartment as fast as his little leg would move. Dave ran after him and caught him in upper level AMR1 trying to get up the ladder through the hatch. The only reason Dave caught him was that someone happened to be coming down the hatch at the time and that slowed him down a bit, otherwise he would have made it off the boat. Needless to say the mother was not happy. We brought the boy back and I took off the hood to show him a person was inside. When I did, the boy screamed again... no not really. He thought it was all pretty funny. We took them up to the chow hall and got him and his mother an ice cream and let her cool off a bit. Soon, she was laughing about the whole ordeal, but I doubt she or her son ever went aboard another navy ship.
If you drop it - Follow it!
High and Dry. The picture above was taken in 1971 by Mike Robertson, TM2 Gold Crew of the Key in floating dry dock in Holy Loch. If you have never worked in a floating dry dock, it can be a nerve racking experience. I remember when I was a new 3rd class MT and the Key was in dry dock in Holy Loch, probably the same as the picture above. We had to carry 21 new Polaris missile guidance packages aboard the Key. These were each in a large round canister that weighed about 40 pounds and were very awkward to carry. The dry dock is really a large set of pontoons that get flooded to allow the sub to pull in, then pumped out to raise the sub out of the water. The open ends of the dry dock have a metal catwalk that is then closed so you can pass from one side to the other. Below is a picture of the dry dock that better shows the skinny catwalk. On this particular day in Scotland, it is windy with a cold drizzle - very unusual. The metal stairs leading up the side of the dry dock were slippery. The Missile LPO, Ken McCracken took us seven missile techs down to the barge that had brought over the guidance packages from the tender. We began to carry the first canisters up the stairs, he led the way. After a struggle, we made it to the top of the dry dock, then started out onto the wind swept, slippery catwalk. You had to use both hands to hold onto the guidance packages so you had no hands to hold onto the railings to stabilize yourself. You could easily see through the skimpy railing to the hard deck six stories below. The point where the two halves of the catwalk meet was held together by a simple chain. In the gusty wind, the two halves were swaying in such a way that that you had to wait for the right moment when the halves lined up to be able to cross. The canisters were just wide enough to fit in the walking area of the catwalk. As we were about to cross the catwalk, McCracken says to us, "You know that these guidance packages cost 1 million dollars each - so I don't mind if you drop one over the side, but if you do, be sure to follow it." That really made me feel a lot better. What a relief it was when we got to the Keys brow but the feeling was momentary as we realized we had to make two more trips each. All of the guidance packages made it safely but it etched a firm memory of that day on my brain unlike most of the other 2920 days I spent in the navy. Every time I hear the words dry dock, I'm back on that catwalk - shivering.
A Little off the Top
How many missile techs does it take to cut a head of hair? Three - one to get his hair cut and a two-man rule - one to do the cutting and one to read the tech manual procedure. Here Jim Belew and Dave Kearney are cutting my hair on patrol in 1971. This was unusual because I was one of the ship's barbers. Submarines do not have a person assigned as ship's barber. It was voluntary and I got the job because I drew less blood. Notice I did not say no blood. One shipmate in particular named Edgar Pomarez, nicknamed Chico, had dark black hair that grew down onto the top of his ears. I would use the trimmer to try to cut this hair and every time I would cut the top of his ears. Blood would run down the sides of his face. The next guy waiting for a haircut would often find something else to do. One winter patrol in the artic there were very rough seas all the time and cutting hair was almost impossible. They started calling me "The Indian" because I was taking a lot of scalps. If you want to know what it was like, get some one to sit in a rocking chair while you try to cut their hair with an electric razor while standing on a board balanced on a basketball. Be sure to have a first aid kit standing by, I did.
Swim Call. This picture was taken in 1973 on the way from Bremerton to Charleston after overhaul #1. You can see everyone looking aft. One swimmer started drifting away in the current. The duty swimmer went in to assist and swam to the man but he got too tired to get them back to the sub so another swimmer went in, this time with a rope. He made it to the two other guys and we pulled them all back aboard. On top of the sail with the rifle is Oliver Eichner on shark watch. Near left is Jim Belew. Center is Marlin McDougall with Chico Pomarez looking over his shoulder. This photo scanned a bit darker than the original which clearly shows the naked guy on the sail plane with his hands on his hips. Several of the photos I took that day had naked guys on deck in the crowd. The store I took them to be developed put a blue dot over the crotch of each one. How would you like to have that job at the Photo-mat - Official Crotch Blotter Outer.
Update: Aug 15, 2007 - got this e-mail from Tony Pidgeon M-div 72 - 76 Blue crew regarding this swim call picture. He has a lot more details... Here is Tony's e-mail.
Swim Call picture and the accompanying story brought back some memories.
We were getting ready to go through the
Key surfaced in preparation for going through the Canal, and we had some time to
kill, so the Captain passed the word on swim call. It was a great idea and
a boost for morale.
The Key was moving along in a tide current and QM2 Greg Solberg got a little too
far behind the boat. Being a strong swimmer, I took off after him to help
him get back. I pulled up to Greg and looked back at the boat and it was
400 or 500 yards away. I realized that there was no way we could catch up
to her, so I told Greg to relax and tread water for a little while. I
figured the OOD would realize that he had to come around and get us, which gave
him a chance to practice his man overboard maneuvering thing. They got
everybody out of the water and the boat came around to pick us up. Greg
and I treaded water and waited, conserving our energy. It got kind of
lonely out there in that great big ocean. My shipmate was more than a little
nervous over this turn of events, so I told him that if I could see land (we
were about 5 miles from the beach), I could swim to it, and I could tow him
OOD brought the boat around and the ship’s diver, an A ganger whose name I
don’t remember, came out to us with a life ring. He was wearing a mask
and swim fins and was able to tow the two us up to the ladder on the side of the
boat. I suspect that Greg and I owe the OOD a beer for bringing the boat
around in short order. Shallow water and tide currents can make handling a
submarine kind of tricky.
Solberg was noted to observe after the trip from
Thanks for the great details Tony.
This very yellow brittle piece of paper was taken by me from the crew's mess in the early 70's. Each day the radiomen would put out a bunch of teletype news stories. They were often as unreadable as this one. My father had asked me how we kept in touch with what was going on in the world. I brought back this sample to show him. It makes the DaVinci Code look simple. Reading the news often turned into a cryptogram game. I hope this brings back some memories and xfgtyyyht rsomerrft to any,,ddqzc for all radiomen.@#$%
Panama Canal Transit - 1972
The Key's first trip through the Panama Canal was in February 1972. We surfaced off the coast of Panama before daybreak. The line handlers went topside to get things rigged out. When I came up through the AMR1 hatch, I saw all of these lights along the horizon. I thought we were off the coast of some city. As the sun came up, you could see that the lights were on ships. That's how many were lined up waiting to go through the canal. As an American war ship, we had head of the line privileges and we approached the first lock in the canal just after sunrise. The picture above shows us approaching the canal. We passed the USS Edison in the lake portion of the canal and a picture of that is on this site. It was the first, and perhaps the only time two FBM subs were in the canal at the same time. The Key went through the canal three times, first in 1972 going to Bremerton for Overhaul #1; second in 1973 upon completion of the overhaul; and third in 1993 going to Hawaii for decommissioning. I am putting together all of the pictures I have of the canal transits into one collection to be added shortly. If you have any pictures taken in the canal, please send them along.
Star Spangled All The Way
This is a great picture of the Key with the US flag superimposed on top of it. This 4th of July week is a good time to reflect, so we have added a publication by famous author Dr Isaac Asimov, submitted by Bill Collins Gold Crew 68 - 69, about the words that make up the the 4 verses of the Star Spangled Banner written by Francis Scott Key. You will learn more in the 5 minutes it will take you to read this history of the Star Spangled Banner and why Key wrote it than you've learned ever before. It is a great read. Click here for the true history.
What is that little BUMP there?
This is a great picture of CDR Stanley Bump, CO of the Key from 71 - 75. It was submitted by Chris Fowler, FTB Blue Crew. Stan Bump was as formal a guy as you would ever want to meet. This picture proves the point. His skivvies are even pressed. CDR Bump went on to make Rear Admiral and had an exemplary military career. This picture should put his feet back on the ground. I hope someone who knows him and sees this picture, points him to the web site.
If you remember, a persons name was stenciled on the front of their skivvies. I always thought it was kind of humorous to see the Captain in his skivvies with BUMP across the crotch. I said that if I were CO of an FBM submarine, I'd have HUMONGOUS stenciled on the front and surely not BUMP.
is Chris Fowler's e-mail to me: "I ran across this picture of Captain Bump
during a swim call. I think this must have been during the DASO period
after the first overhaul. I got to the boat in
Crossing the Artic Circle qualified you as a royal member of the Order of the Blue Nose. John Linville 66 - 71 Gold MM sent along his Blue Nose wallet card and certificate. John crossed in 1970 as did I but on the blue crew. Below John's posting is a picture of several of us in the missile compartment getting ready for the Blue Nose Ceremony.
my wallet card and bluenose certificate from 1970. We had gone over the
arctic circle with Capt. Logan but no certificate. Capt. Forsythe was more
inclined for such ceremonies. He dyed his shaved head green and presented
a pretty commanding performance as
Updated (11/20/07) Received this e-mail explaining how the Blue Nose Certificate came into being.
I am writing concerning the photograph of the Blue Nose Certificate "Photos with Stories".
The Certificate did not exist when Captain Logan was skipper.
The Certificate was designed by QM1(SS) EUBANKS "euby" - sorry do not remember his first name. He was very talented. I was a member of the BLUE Crew on 8/26/70 when Euby designed the Certificate. He drew the Certificate on "ditto paper" and I ran it off and placed it in each man's Service Record.
Instead of throwing the master away after I made all the copies I needed, I kept the original as a keepsake. I have it proudly framed and hanging on my wall in my home computer room.
Just thought you might be interested in the history of the Blue Nose Certificate of the FRANCIS SCOTT KEY (SSBN657).
Gus Knight YN1(SS), USN
L to R: Gary Storm, Russ Christie, Greg Snell as Neptune and Jim Belew in ML Missile starboard aft in 1970/71.
Got any Key Blue Nose pictures? Send them in!
Jeff Burke, RMCS(SS) RET Gold 85 - 88
My wife and I were in Southwest Colorado last week (August 2007) on the way to Mesa Verde. We were on the Park Road leading to the visitor's center when my wife yelled...Look a submarine!!. Tell me God was not a submariner!!!. I stopped and took these pictures.
I think it's a boomer or the Key in heaven.
First successful Trident I missile launched from the USS Francis Scott Key.
This is a movie of the launch of two Trident I missiles from the Key. The Key Blue and Gold Crews were awarded a Navy Unit Commendation for the launch and subsequent refitting of the Key to Trident I missiles The Key also became the first submarine to go on deterrent patrol with a full compliment of Trident I missiles.
Click to watch movie. Give it a minute to load. You must have a movie viewer software such as Windows Media Player to view the movie.
USS Francis Scott Key SSBN 657 and the USS John Adams SSBN 620
The first picture below shows the Key tied up next to the USS John Adams probably in St Mary's. The Key has her numbers on the sail so the picture was probably taken just after her second overhaul in 1985. The second picture below shows the Key and Adams again side by side in 1995 shortly before they were scrapped. What a difference 10 years can make, going from feared and respected fighting machines to future beer cans. These subs are not unlike many of us who were once lean, mean, fighting machines ... now just a bunch of empty beer cans.
This is the last picture we have of the Key in the water.
Saved The Bell
The Ship's Bell of the Key currently rests in the Submarine Museum in New London, CT. Now we know who is responsible for it being there. Read the story below the picture.
On November 2nd, 2007 I received this e:mail from ET2 Cory Curtis:
"ET2/ss Cory Curtis '92-'93 Blue Kings Bay Georgia / Pearl Harbor HI
I was the Key's ships photographer. I have a few pics I will get together and send you.
As I was looking through the pictures on the web site, I saw the ship's bell hanging in the museum. That's great news to me as I had a vested interest in it's final resting place.
On the final days of decommission of the Key, I had the opportunity to save the ship's bell from an unknown demise. During decommissioning I was given the duties of barge supervisor. All on-duty personnel slept on the barge. We had offloaded a lot of "stuff" from the ship to the barge's forward store room. While performing the final inspection of the barge on the last days after decommissioning, everyone had signed off on all the leftover junk that was in the room. As I made a final sweep to make sure there wasn't anything useful left behind, I pulled the box containing the Key's ship's bell out from under the mess pile and turned it in.
I had always wondered what became of that bell. I am sure glad to see it in a museum instead of in someone's home office. In those days it would have been so easy for someone to just take it home and I had been afraid that was what had happened to it. So many sea stories so little time."
I know the entire Key family joins me in a salute to Cory for saving the Key's ship's bell. It now rests in a place of honor for all to see and not in some yardbird's dusty basement.
Below is the last known photo of the Key underway. She was coming into Puget Sound for recycling in September 1993. The photo taken by the wife of her last CO, CDR Carl Olson. How appropriate that the photo was taken at sunset. The end of an era. From here, the Key sat and waited almost 2 year to be cut up for submarine recycling. Her reactor was cut out and buried in a site in Washington State. The rest of her was used in other construction or sold for scrap.
Who Made That?
Below are two versions of the Key Ship's plaque. Many of us have one. Mine is mounted on the wall above this computer I am typing on right now. Did you ever wonder where they came from. Well many of them were made by the seaman gang from plaster of paris using a brass master like the one you see on the left. This picture was sent to us by Rick Stiger along with this story:
"My name is Rick Stiger and I served on the 657 Blue Crew from 1972 until 1976. I picked up the boat in Bremerton Washington while she was in dry dock for missile conversion to Poseidon. I was a mess cook for sea trials and the trip around to Charleston. I remember making some copies of these plaques out of plaster of paris with some other grunts from the seaman gang. I do not remember why, but we made quiet a few of them. I ended up with one of the brass plaques not by any underhanded means but as a reward from the COB."
The picture of the plaque on the right was recently sent in by Boyd Nightenhelser. His plaque was given to him by CAPT Ross when he received his dolphins in 1981. There is a good chance it was made by Rick or one of the other seaman gang members. Our thanks to Rick and Boyd for sending us this piece of Key history.
A Machinery 1 Shower?
The pictures above were taken by Bob Sminkey, gold crew, in 1974 as the Key was leaving Charleston for Port Canaveral, FL - COB Ralph Harris is topside along with some line handlers. Here is Bob's story. "I took the pictures from the Machinery 1 hatch. The lower picture shows the decks awash. I remember Captain Beard yelling down to the COB from the bridge to get below NOW! They were having a problem with one of the line locker bolts and stayed a bit longer than usual trying to get it to screw into place. I was stationed at the Mach 1 hatch ready to shut it if a big roller came across the deck. It was actually funny. When the line handlers finally made it back to the hatch, the COB came down last. However, the COB forgot to undo his harness from the deck traveler track and was halfway down the hatch when he realized what he had done. By the time he got back up on deck, unhooked, and back down the hatch, we took on a lot of water down the hatch. We all (except the COB) had a lot of water to clean up in Mach 1. What great fun we had!"
He probably drives at 3 knots!
The Key is still sailing along, although it's over the highway and not the sea. This is the plate on Gary Walter's, plank owner on the gold crew, vehicle. If your vehicle has a plate related to the Key, take a picture and send it in.
The next two plate were sent in by ET1(SS) Boyd Nightenhelser 1980-1986
The Arizona license plate of Bil Hole. Sent in in October 2010
Door? What door Sir? Are you sure there was ever a door there Sir?
At the 2008 reunion Bil Hole finally told the XO who took his door back in 1970. The following is Bil's description of the events of that day 38 years ago.
photo was taken of the XOs (LCDR Chuck Harner - Blue Crew 67 - 70) missing door
to his stateroom. 4 or 5 of us waited until the XO was showing the movie in the
Wardroom and then proceeded to drill out the rivets on the hinge of his
stateroom door. We took the door and kept it hidden in a number of
different places. It was hidden under the mattresses of a couple of
shipmates at different times in crew's berthing, between the inner hull and the
deck of the middle level ops storeroom, under a TM's mattress in the Torpedo
Room and in the back of the freezer under some cases of steaks. Each time
the officers thought they knew where the door was, we got wind of it in time to
move it before it was found.
A great picture of the Key arriving in Pearl Harbor Hawaii for decommissioning. It was submitted by Ples Reynolds of the decom crew along with the newspaper article announcing the Keys arrival. Improved newspaper image added 6/18/08.
Angles & Dangles
These pictures were submitted by Bil Hole, Blue Crew Cook on the Key during the early 70's. The mess decks were not a favorite place to be during angles & dangles. The first pictures show the Chief on the mess decks. The second picture Bil says is the stern of Greg Snell holding stuff on the stove.
Chief Nordahl is standing straight as we take a 10degree up angle. Notice the level of the bug juice on the counter.
10 degree down angle in the galley. Notice the angle of the hanging cooking utensils on the bulkhead and (I think) Gregg Snell (left) hanging on to whatever's on the stove.
Underway on nuclear power - but not for long.
This picture of the Key was taken by LT Tom Wagner in early 1993 in Pearl Harbor, HI. The Key was going out to sea for a few days to be the bad guy for a 688's NTPI. This was to be the next to last trip for the Key under nuclear power. Tom was the contact coordinator for the very last underway on our own nuclear power, but did not get any pictures of that cruise which went from SUBASE PH to their little weapons station to unload all the torpedoes, then back again that afternoon to the SUBASE where the nuclear reactor shut down for the last time. So this might be the last picture of the Key underway on nuclear power.
We were ready, We were chosen!
Kirk Parnell QM Gold Crew 83 - 87 sent in the below "Patrol 50" logo. I asked him what were the circumstances behind the logo and below is his reply:
"Well..., Patrol 50 was in the summer of 1984, after overhaul. I had to look back at my journal to get the date. It appears there was some tension with the Soviets, it may have been around that time when Reagan was supposed to meet with Gorbechev and walked out of the meeting. I'd have to check the dates. But it really made the "powers that be" nervous.
It was May and we had taken the boat from the Blue Crew and started the refit for patrol when rumors started flying that we'd be going out early. Squadron needed every available Boomer out in the Atlantic. Nobody really seemed to know what was going on or when we'd leave, but we knew we would not get a full refit.
My wife was planning to make a trip from Charleston to Kings Bay, GA to see me one more time before patrol. That never happened. We had about two hours notice and we set out. I called her every night and when I said goodbye I didn't know if that was the last time. When we left I never got to say goodbye.
I remember the confusion. I had not been able to get all the charts updated, we had not finished taking on stores, we were missing supplies, etc... It was tough. As we set out the Captain got on the 1MC and told us that the reason we were sent out early was because we were ready, so, we were chosen.
My journal has the Patrol 50 logo with the words penciled in "We were ready, we were chosen!"
I don't remember who designed the logo. I think there was a contest for a patrol logo. There was no party or anything special. It was a 72 day patrol and I think we ended up doing a tug transfer for extra stores. Eventually we got into the patrol routine, but we ran out of eggs and milk quicker that normal. Maybe someone else can remember that patrol.
Update March 11, 2010 - From Mike Jarvis - I just so
happen to know who drew the patrol 50 logo. Isigani Rabino, SK1(SS),
my LPO. He was truly a great artist.
When I was an MT, diving the missile tube meant you went into the empty tube with sponges and washed it before a new missile was loaded. These pictures sent in by ET2 Cory Curtis 89 - 92, give a whole new meaning to the term. Here is Cory's description of the event.
"The weapons officer that came over from the
gold crew when we merged crews (I can't remember his name) was watching the
crew take turns swimming in the missile tubes and wasn’t quite sure what to
think about it. I think he was the OOD at the time. Officers may have the
training and education to earn a commission but he didn’t quite have his
common sense with him that day.
We were at the weapons station in Charleston and had
just off-loaded all of our missiles before heading to Hawaii for decommissioning.
He was on duty until the next day. Several of us were taking turns swimming in
the now empty missile tube. The tubes were filled with water to compensate for
the loss of weight of the missiles. The water was cold but the sun
was warm. Some of the crew were even able to swim as far down as missile
compartment middle level.
After seeing how much fun it was and getting goaded
into trying it, he handed me his security badge and his glasses and he jumped
in. He forgot he didn’t have another uniform on board. He also forgot his
wallet was still in his back pocket. Notice he is still wearing his belt and
dosimeter. I don’t remember if he kept his shoes on or not. I have to give him
credit though, when he finally decided to do it there was no holding him back.
It was a great joke even if he did play it on himself. Fun was had by all. I’d
like to thank him for allowing us to do that. It was a once in a lifetime
Gold crew Weapons Officer watching Lt Nunan in the water
Weapons Officer (OOD) getting out of the tube full of water after jumping in with his duty uniform on - and dosimeter.
How did he ever get it out of the cellar?
Hear This! Now Hear This!
A Banner Day for the Key
I received this e-mail from Brian Bigon:
"My name is Brian Bigon. I was on the Key from 1971 to 1974. I was assigned to the Key prior to the trip from Charlelston to Bremerton and went through the overhaul with you in Bremerton Washington. I was in the IC gang with Clements, Prosseus, and Carrol Coon (coondog). I remember spending many nights at the White pig in Bremerton or as we called it the albino swino. I made one patrol and was then transferred to the USS John C Calhoun. I have attached pictures of a welcome banner done by the Bremerton Chamber of commerce for our arrival. When I found this I also found many documents and slides taken throughout my time on the Key, especially slides of the panama canal and swim call. Also of the Christmas day food fight from I believe 1973. I have to have the slides transferred to digital files and then I will sent them to you."
This banner welcomed us to Bremerton for the Key's first overhaul. The Bremerton area was a beautiful location and I for one had a great time during the overhaul I am preparing copy for the section on Overhauls as we have nothing on the first Key overhaul. If you have any comments, stories or pictures of the first Key overhaul in 1972/73 please sent them in.
This room has a special place in the hearts of many of the crew that had to perform the enjoyable task of shooting the TDU (Trash Disposal Unit or GDU - Garbage Disposal Unit for you guys onboard before 1972). The only thing more fun than loading and shooting the TDU was loading TDU weights into the sub. These round iron weights were packed 10 to a box and a box weighed about 40 pounds. I never though I'd get an interesting story about TDU weights but go ahead and read below the attractive pictures. Aren't you glad we don't have smell-a-vision on the web site - yet.
Got this e-mail from Ken McCracken MT1 Blue 68 - 71::
Back in the late seventies, as the 'Special Products Manager' for a small company in Hillsboro Oregon, I had to find a packaging company for a military product we were manufacturing. I found an excellent place in Portland. When the owner was giving me a tour of the facility, I stumbled across several pallets of some VERY familiar boxes. "Ga-doo weights!" I yelled. The company had gotten the contract to box GDU weights for the Navy back in the fifties. No one in the company had any idea what they were supposed to be or why the Government wanted them packaged up at all. Everyone thought it was just some 'make-work' program by the Government to waste more taxpayer dollars.
When I explained what they were, and how and why they were used, he was shocked. He said, "You mean these things are IMPORTANT?"
Got this e-mail 4/17/09 from Chris Fowler - FTB Blue 73 - 77: regarding the TDU loading party.
You nailed it with the loading of TDU weights. I
seem to remember each weight was 7#, which would make the box weigh 70.
In any event, the boxes were small and heavy.
I remember one refit in Rota we were doing the stores
load, and the line started passing boxes of TDU weights. I’m not sure
why, but I think they were coming down the brow. We knew the TDU racks
were filled before we even got started and someone asked Supply why were
getting so many boxes of the stupid things. He said the tender was
giving them to us – they weren’t costing us a dime. And if we got
them now, the ship wouldn’t have to pay for them on the next refit. (WTF?)
As soon as he was out of sight, every other box seemed
to find its way over the side. It wasn’t long before someone –
forget who – caught on and told us he better not hear another splash the
rest of the day
And then there was the time a box of milk was dropped down into Control and it spilled everywhere
Stores load – good times!
Steve Campbell - FTB 90 - 92 sent in the below pictures of him having surgery on the wardroom table. His e-mail explains what happened:
surgery was because of the mast head light falling on my head. We were
pulling into Puerto Rico at night to drop off a sailor that had gotten GPC
in his eye while walking thru a GPC war in the Missile Compartment. It was
night and I was only an FTB tech on my first patrol working on finishing up my
qual card. I asked Senior Chief Tanner if I could go up in the sail and
look around and he said yes. When I got to the control room and received
permission to go up, nobody told me that the mast head light was being held up
by wooden wedges or that it had already fallen down 3 times. While
stand in the sail between the OOD and the lookout I heard something behind
me so I turned to look just as the mast head light came crashing down on my
head causing me to sit right down. I was coherent the whole time I
was transported to the wardroom and prep'd for surgery. Steve Hady, our
corpsman, was an E-5 during this first patrol of his, and I'd like to think
he made E-6 because of me. Anyway, The picture shows Steve sewing me up with my brother ET Tim Campbell on the left
and FTB1 Lyle Minyard on the right. If you look close you can see my blood
running through the flag on my poopy suit. That night when I was laying in
my bunk all drugged up. I've been told that the XO came and asked me if I
wanted off the boat and I told him no. My brother told me later I was an
idiot and that I told him I wanted to get qual'd before the end of patrol.
(That didn't happen by the way.) All I have now to show for it is these
pics and a VA record that denotes me having brain damage. P.S. I
think I should have gotten a purple heart because I'm positive it was a sniper
that tried to take me. :-)"
Steve on the wardroom table Steve after surgery
PS: from MT Russ Christie I really don't think it is possible for an FTB to have brain damage... how would you tell? But seriously folks, we are glad that Steve pulled through and took the time to send in these pictures and story of his most memorable moment on the Key.
George Roarick MM1(SS), M-Div, 73-77 Gold Crew sent in the below picture and certificate along with this note: "We gained a pretty good reputation in the mid seventies and became the showboat of Sub Flot Six. We saw many distinguished visitors. The SecNav toured the boat in 1975 and gave use the "Order of the Golden Snipe". I have enclosed the award and the picture taken topside. You will no doubt notice we were snorkling at the time. Before I detached in April of 1977, we were awarded the Engineering Red "E" and the Battle "E"." I've also added this picture to the bottom of the 1970's Photo area. Just click on the thumbnail of this picture found there and you can zoom in and see individual faces of the guys on the brow.
Shipmate Jim Shirley sent in these pictures he took of the Key in the yards during overhaul #2. The ship is undergoing an emergency blow test. For those of you who have never gone through a yard period, these pictures will give you a hint of the mess you have to work around in the yards. Somewhere under all this is a submarine. Although, I kind of like the ship's sun hat.
A Real Barn Burner
I received the below e-mail regarding a sign found in a barn in Pennsylvania. I explained to her what the sign was used for and asked that she take a picture of the sign along with her son Jeremy. She kindly sent along the below picture so we wish to send along our thanks to Donna and Jeremy for sharing this lost piece of Key history.
Good evening, Russ -
My name is Donna Armstrong from Muncy, PA. I'm writing after doing a bit of research on the internet regarding a sign that we found in our barn. It is a wooden sign, hand-painted, and reads "To USS Francis Scott Key Commissioning". I believe the very bottom portion may have been an arrow, but that part is missing. I was wondering where the sub was commissioned, as I haven't been able to find that in my searches. I'm assuming a previous owner of our property left it here. My 4th grader rekindled my interest in it this evening, as they discussed Francis Scott Key and his role in history in school today. Thanks!
Valued Memories to a Dad
The below newspaper articles are from June 19, 1979 and announced the launch of the first Trident missile from a submarine - the Key. These articles were found in a folder marked "Important Papers" and belonged to Dennis J Pyne Jr., a US Army vet of the Korean war, and were found by his children after his funeral. Dennis was the father of Dennis Pyne III who died of cancer while serving on the Key on July 27, 1979. He was obviously very proud of his son and we are proud to have them both listed here side by side again. We want to thank their daughter/sister Stephanie for send these clipping to us and for sharing their story.
Oh say can you see..
Joe Heflin 65-70 Gold Crew sent in this e-mail along with the picture, medal and documentation for the Francis Scott Key association's presentation held aboard the Key. Here is Joe's e-mail: " Just found all of this in different boxes I was going through. We [enlisted men] were all from Maryland and the Francis Scott Key Memorial Foundation was honoring the Key and us. The certificate for charter membership is at the foundation in Frederick, Maryland. I'm beside the Captain Logan and the shipmate in the middle was Bill something but don't remember anyone else. "
Christmas in November. Jesse Sims sent in this picture taken in November 1969 of several blue crew member having Christmas early, before leaving for patrol. Here is Jesse's e:mail:
Blue crew was always at sea on Christmas during that time period, so Sue (my
girlfriend at the time - now my wife) and her friends decided we should
celebrate early.....it was on the front page of the Norwich Bulletin...AP picked
up the story and also the Military paper. Pictured left to right are Don
Stanfield, Frank Gavigan, Jesse Sims and Greg Snell. The picture was
taken at my "snake ranch" on Laurel Hill in Norwich, CT. I
shared the "ranch" with Frank and Don, Gregg lived a few houses up the
On Day 1 of our 2010 Key reunion during a trip to the waterfront Marty Clemens caught this great picture of the USS Harry Truman and the USS New Mexico passing each other on Thursday, May 20, 2010. The New Mexico was returning to port to drop off a sailor, then immediately returned to sea. The Truman was heading out to sea. Who has the right-of-way? It looks like a mother and her chick.
Here is a picture of TM Steve Rosen in 1970 and ole Chief Bulkhead (Wall) running ammo thru the Thompson . Since Steve is wearing jeans in must have been during a sea trial - probably out of Holy Loch. We tried to qualify many on the service .45 and 30 caliber carbine, but too much fooling around...and then the XO tried to give a lesson on the .45 and pushed the clip eject and dropped a full loaded clip overboard....the CO ended the exercise.
Recently received this picture and description from Jim Sheridan, Blue Crew 1981-1984, AWEAPS, Three patrols and then the hellish never ending overhaul in Newport News.
While I didn’t realize it at the
time, these were some of the very best years of my life working with some of the
very best Sailors in the business. Thanks to you all for all of your support to
me during those years. So many memories – almost getting killed by Dan Foster
playing football in Newport News – I’ve never been hit so hard; crazy
Thanksgiving flight home to Atlantic City with Frank Reno in a 4-seat Cessna.
Many thanks to Matt Hayball for always putting me on the watch bill to get those
initial “prac facs” signed off so I could qualify ahead of those
“nuke JO’s” – Ha! Retired from the Navy Reserve as a CAPT on Sept
11th, 2005. I’ve been working with Lockheed Martin since 1984 and
am the Director of Aegis USN Programs. Obviously, would love to hear from anyone
I served with onboard the Key.
Hello to my first CO onboard Key,
Rik Spruitenburg, Greg Bajuk, WEPS (Vernon “Tom” Williams), Vince
Broome, Steve Lee, Ken Krieger and everyone else.
Attached picture was taken at sea
onboard Key in October ’81 as you can see on the calendar on the right side of
the picture. I’m on the left and Kenny Ellis in
on the right. All the officers were asked to wear their dress uniforms for the
evening meal to commemorate the Navy’s Birthday. Ken and I decided to make the
career limiting move, but hilarious decision to show up as The Blue Brothers –
“We’re on a mission from God!”