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Francis Scott Key Sea Stories Index

We need your KEY sea stories.  You know, the no-shitters you tell your friends after a few drinks.  Submit them to   They can be funny, sad,  true events, scary moments, weird happenings... whatever you want.  But, they just need to be interesting.  

Below is a collection of Key Sea Stories submitted by your shipmates. The short stories are shown complete.  The longer stories have a brief portion of the story and you just have to click on the read more link to see the entire story.  Now sit back with your favorite beverage and relive some of the Keys funniest, weirdest, scariest, dumbest and proudest moments.

Thanksgiving 1970 - Fire on the USS Canopus by Tom Courtien, Russ Christie, Bob Lewis, John Linville, 

**** Updated with new material 2010 *****

Tom had just sent some info on the 1970 MUC to be placed on the web site so I asked him if he was also on board the Key in 1970 when it was tied along side the USS Canopus AS-34 in Holy Lock the night the Canopus caught fire.  Here is Tom's e-mail reply.

Yes, I remember that night well. I had the duty; I was in charge of the working party for baggage. We had just sent the baggage off to Preswick because you guys (blue crew) were taking over the next day. I was topside near AMR1 when the tender announced that there was a fire. When I told the topside watch to pass the word the below decks guys all thought it was a drill. I passed the word "I don't think so" because by then, all hell had broken loose....  read more

A very wet day! - submitted by Russ Christie, Harry Baker, Bob Weeks, Larry Keller, Jess Blankenship,  Bill Wendland        (updated 07/31/2019)

 It was in February 1972, we had just off-loaded our missiles in Charleston and were on our way to the Panama Canal to transit going to Bremerton, WA for the Key's first overhaul and conversion from Polaris to Poseidon missiles.  We were snorkeling at periscope depth with the head valve pinned open because it has been failing shut causing problems with ventilating the ship.  Then a reactor scram drill took place and, as it was explained  to me, instead of recovering the scrammed set of rods, the operator scrammed the only operational set of rods thus completely shutting off all ships power.  We immediately lost propulsion and the bow dipped causing the snorkel mast to drop below the surface.  The battery had kicked in so the fans were now drawing water down the snorkel mast and sending it throughout the ship.  The first alarm came, "Flooding in the torpedo room!" followed seconds later by more


First Trident Launch submitted by Bill Kaczmarek MT2- Gold crew 78 - 80       (12/15/06)

 The Key was chosen to execute the first submerged launch of a Trident missile back in 1978-1979 and we steamed from our home port of Charleston, SC to Cape Canaveral, FL loaded with ballast in our missile tubes.  When we got there, we outfitted the boat with a telemetry mast and then loaded two trident D-1 test missiles with the idea of doing two shots.  

When the boat was finally rigged, we proceeded out to the test range where we launched the first bird.  About three seconds into the launch, the status reports stopped being read and after a few more minutes we found out that the missile failed and was destroyed as it hit the more

Dip the Eye -submitted by Russ Christie         (07/15/06)

Everyone knows that FBM submariners are not good line handlers.  We only got to practice a couple of times a year.  I was in charge of line 6 which is the aft most line on the KEY.  I liked it because no one ever went back there due to the fact that you had to walk down the turtleback to get there and it was often slippery.  On this day we are returning to port and the tug pulls along more


Drop the Anchor? What Anchor? - Submitted by Bob Weeks QM2 Blue 70's            (03/14/07)

After the Key nearly sunk (See A very wet day sea story) we dried off and headed to Bremerton for the Key's first overhaul.  What else could possibly happen.  Well,  we took out a major communications cable that traversed Puget Sound. In preparation to entering the shipyard, we tested all systems, including dropping the anchor. The problem was that we could not totally raise the anchor back into a locked position without putting a man in the chain locker, so the captain made the decision to drag the anchor for the few remaining miles. As part of the Navigation team, my job was to plot our position and to pass that information to the bridge. As we entered the sound, the ship slowed and lurched forward - I checked our position and noted that an underwater cable intersected our position. The following day, the local newspaper reported telephone outages for areas served by that cable - the Navy, of course denied any knowledge of an incident.


Dot Dot Dash - Submitted by Bob Weeks QM2 Blue 70's  (04/24/07)

I served on the Key from 70 to 72 and made my first patrol out of Holy Loch - we set sail on Christmas Eve and I was on the flying bridge with Captain Yarger. Being a QM meant that I "knew" Morse code, so the Captain asked me to send a message, via signal light, to one of his buddies on shore. I was not a skilled signalman, and so made my best
effort. Much to my dismay, someone on shore flashed a message back - I have no idea what it said, but told the Captain that it wished us a "Merry Christmas and a safe journey".

Captain Bump Shanghaied me to be on the nav team to deliver the Key to Bremerton. Once we got there I was transferred to the Nautilus and was discharged from there in October of 72.


Ballantine Ale Anyone? - submitted by John Linville Gold  66 - 71  (05/05/07)

For those of us who rode the Key in the early days, you’ll remember the Ballantine sign that hung over the diesel coffin cover in AMR2LL.  I think it was “liberated” from the El Bolero in New London at some point well before I came aboard,  The drill was the watchstander doing a battery charge would turn the lighted sign on when starting the diesel.  Well of course the proper fellows from the ORSE Boards would comment on their physical inspection that there was an unauthorized sign in the compartment.  This went on for a couple of patrols until Admiral Rickover sent a personal letter to the Gold Crew skipper, detailing what actions he would suffer if the inspection team were to return and find the sign.  As I remember, no one wanted to turn the sign over to the Blue Crew for disposal so it was decided just to deep six it with proper ceremony.  Having done some battery charges, I thought it added a little touch of home during a fairly boring task.


Note: If anyone has a picture of the Ballantine sign, we would love to have it on the web site.  


Tool Stories - submitted by John Linville Gold  66 - 71  (05/08/07)

  Some of the early patrols used commercial charters that landed in Quonset Point , Rhode Island and we were bused back to the Grenfell Hall.  Customs at Quonset Point was usually a pretty perfunctory operation.  However on one return to the states, we were all required to open our seabags.  Lots of jokes about dirty skivvies and socks as we lined up single file for the process.  However one forward type, whose name will be concealed to protect the guilty, had just completed his final patrol in this man’s Navy and had brought a spare seabag which he spent the patrol filling with Snap-On tools.  Well that seabag was now sitting on the flight line, unloaded from the aircraft but unclaimed by anyone.  The COB made several announcements to get your seabags and get into line but this orphan sea bag just sat out there on the tarmac.  By now the customs guys were getting interested in it! more.


Drinks on the Key - submitted by MS1 Jerry Talberg Blue    Let me see......'87 to 90 I believe. (06/04/07)
Well we were about to get underway, but we had a major issue in RC.  They would not let anyone off ship for the week, not even pier liberty hardly.  Then they decided that it was going to take days to fix, so the Brew was on the Key.   Liberty for all, keg at club, care of FS Key.  We drank like there would be no tomorrow, closed the club, then went to  town, and wouldn't you know that at 2 AM we get a call, "Anyone here from the Key?"  Yeah  3 of us, but with town cops sitting outside club, everyone refused to drive so I faked it and said I was fine to drive.  Well St. Mary's in the 80's, needless to say, we got followed and stopped, and needless to say COB Rhinehart was not a happy camper.  He had to pick us up. Half the crew ended up 3 sheets to the wind as we got underway that night/morning.  I hopped in bed for about 45 minutes when ship was getting underway.  I remember asking if I could sleep in, that was not the right thing to ask.  All in the day and the life of a sailor, back then anywaysCharges were dropped after I got back from sea at St Mary's court and life is good...........That's my two cents.


Rota Root'in - submitted by John Linville gold 66 - 71 (06/14/07)

During one of the patrols we made out of Rota , some Key sailors were involved in the great “slop chute” affair.  If you, who made runs out of Rota , remember, the slop chute was the small bar out by the back gate.  You could get “hambergeros”, beer, and rum and cokes in your coveralls or dungarees.  A concession to the crews in overhaul that didn’t want to dress up for the various clubs on base.  The slop chute work force was local Spanish guys who spoke pretty broken English.  Someone, I don’t remember who, got the bright idea that the sailors in the bar could do a better job behind the counter than the locals so they were “evicted”.  People kept paying and whoever was behind the counter manned the till, all legitimate.  Then some guys sitting outside at the tables decided, having watched the local workers leaving the base on their little motorbikes through the back gate, to have some target practice. more


Navy B.S. -Submitted by Mike Moore - Both Crews 75 - 84  (07/23/07)

The dates of his time on the Key, 75 - 84, and the fact he was on both crews with no break in between means there is a good sea story to be told here.  Mike tells the circumstances of his 9 year run on the Key.  Click to read more...


Story about Gus Peterson and Carroll Coon, both on Eternal Patrol

by Ronald "Lonnie" Marchand 75 - 78 Radio Gold:  (8/27/07)

After graduating from RM "C" School, I reported for my next duty station, Sub School, New London in March of 75. The Sub Classes were full, so all students waiting for a seat were given temporary assignments. I knew one of the Radiomen assigned to the Staff. He worked up a deal that I could not refuse.  Click to read more...

M-Div ELT Stories from the early days.... From John Linville 66 - 71 Gold M-Div  (8/24/07)

Couple of short stories come to mind about first cycle gold crew patrols 1 through 9.  Three out of Rota, three out of Holy Loch and three out of Charleston. Sort of a submarine EastLant or something.   A couple deal with the ELT gang of which I was a member.  First patrol our lead was Larry Sorensen who was a good guy.  There also was another ELT who was already qualified ELT but not SS if I remember right.  Anyway back on those days, before the charged disc for you young ELTs, you actually did an iodine separation with chemicals and glassware.  At the end you had to shake a flask with a stopper before filtering the contents.  Well ol’ Charley (who I notice isn’t on the crew list and left the boat immediately after that patrol) forgot to hold his finger over the stopper.... Click to read more...

Busby down... From Cory Curtis 91 - 93 Gold Nav ET  (11/03/07)
Here is one that I didn't witness but was passed down to me.  I was told it happened the patrol before I arrived in '91.
I would like to know if anyone can confirm or deny the actual event.  This is how I remember it being told to me. The ship was surfaced in heavy seas. It was night. The OOD was on the bridge and everything was rigged for red. PO. Busby requested permission from the C.O.W. to go to the bridge to relieve the watch. Permission was granted and he proceeded up the ladder. He almost made it to the top of the ladder when it all hit the fan....Click to read more
"It's got me."... From Cory Curtis (11/03/07)
I was on watch in Nav Center. It was midnight and wakeup calls were being performed.
The shipmate doing the wakeup calls passed by the rack of my watch relief. (My friend should remain nameless to prevent embarrassment) anyway as I was saying, as the watch walked by, ET2 Johnston started screaming and yelling for help "He's got me! He's trying to kill me! Help!"
This woke everyone up in forward berthing and the lights came on. They quickly tore open the curtain to find him in his rack with his hand around his throat. It seems his arm had fallen asleep and in his stupor he heard the footsteps by his rack. He couldn't feel his arm or hand but he felt a hand (his own hand) around his throat and started screaming for help thinking someone was trying to strangle him. It took a while to live that one down, "Help my hand is trying to strangle me!"

Loss of Shore Power at 200 feet?  From Marty Clemens 1972 – 1975 Gold Crew.  (11/03/07)

It was the first overhaul in Bremerton.  We were doing sound trials in Dabob Bay.  Only this time we were rigged with shore power and hanging on buoys at 200 feet depth.  We were like that for about a week.  The reactor was shutdown for this and we were too deep to snorkel.  I remember walking around in my blue working jacket.  The next day the sound trials were supposed to be over and we would surface.  Mostly the nukes would remember that the day before we were to surface we lost shore power.  Not a pretty sight.  Especially when we could not snorkel.  That was only time I remember having to do a reactor/steam plant startup on the battery.  Couldn't wait to get the first SSTG on line.  Not a lot of room for error.  But, we pulled it off.

Kings Bay vs St Mary's   From F.M. Thornal RMC Blue  Radio 77 - 81  (11/10/07)

I had just reported to the Key in Kings Bay, GA.  My new Chief, RMC(SS) Jack Morrow, whom I had served with aboard the USS Madison, went into St. Mary's to wash clothes in the only Laundromat in the county. We put our clothes in the washer and decided to go to the only bar in town, Old Town Pub.  After getting totally sloshed we went back to the Laundromat only to find it closed.  All our uniforms were in the washer.  The next morning we had to explain to the COB why we didn't have a uniform and needed to go to St. Mary and dry our uniforms and then return to the ship.  Thankfully the Laundromat owner had seen them in the washer and dried them for us. He was NOT happy.  Kings Bay was just beginning to start up as a base.  There was nothing there at all.  Now the area is totally a Navy town. Even the paper mill has closed and in the process of being torn down to make room for shopping, condo's and single family houses.

Ashes to Ashes - well sometimes    From Cory Curtis 91 - 93 Gold NavET  (11/10/07)

On one of the last deterrent patrols aboard the Key in the 1990s I participated in two burial at sea ceremonies.

We brought the ashes and the family's requests with us as we left for patrol.
The first ceremony was very respectful. The ashes were contained in a carved stone box. We brought a plank with us for the ceremony. The ship surfaced on our way out to our patrol area and several sailors went through the bridge and stood on the port plane. It was a calm bright day with a light wind and a few clouds for extra depth. Participating in the ceremony made you feel very small in that great big blue ocean under a never ending heavenly sky. During the ceremony when the time was right we released the stone box and watched it respectfully slide down the plank and into the briny deep.  Unfortunately, the second ceremony did not go as well... Click to read more.

MCC Memories - Did those guys ever do any work?  From Dave Carter FTB Gold 80 - 83 (11/20/07)

One of our favorite tricks to avoid putting on EABs in MCC during drills (in-port or at sea) was talking on the sound-powered phones using coffee cups from the mess decks. We'd talk to Control with our mouths and one hand over the cup...It sounded just like we were wearing EABs.

Also... I often wonder what happened to the sound system (cassette deck and speakers) we had in MCC... We certainly had enough cut-off switches to shut off the music if anyone suddenly appeared at the MCC door (one on the MCC door and one next to the Dial-X with a reset switch in the slot for the MCC log next to the console). I remember Greg Cook spending a whole weekend drilling holes (through the holes in the insulation) in the overhead in front of the keyboard for two additional speakers, not to mention all the drill bits he burned up getting through all that HY-80... I think he said he went through over 20 bits, but that memory is over 20 years old :)

Pranks - From Jesse Sims Blue Weapons 67 - 70  (11/20/07)

I used to stand LOS watch...a 1st Class Aux by the name of Hankel used to stand Aux 1 watch.  We played pranks on each other all the time.  We both slept in the Missile Compartment.  Anyway, one day/night, Hankel was in his rack asleep...I took several rolls of EB Green and completely taped the entire entrance to his rack shut, except for a small hole in the middle ( I didn't want him to suffocate).  I was at launcher when I heard laughter as people were walking by his rack, all they could hear was a muffled cry for  help, and when they looked inside the cube, they saw Hankel's finger sticking out of the hole I had left.  He had to be cut out of his rack.
He got me back tho.....I awoke one day/night to an alarm going off...I jumped out of my rack and grabbed my poopy suit and tried to put it on as I was trying to get to my station.  He had stapled the legs of my poopy suit shut....There I was jumping on one foot down the aisle, In Middle level Missile, trying to get my other foot in the leg to the suit.....everyone thought it quite funny. I never did get that damn suit on.
He was a great guy.  I'd like to know what happened to him, I do not see him listed on the crew list....could you ask everyone?
Thanks, Jesse

Phil-o-Sea-Pher Stories - By Mike Rodgers 76 - 80 Gold (12/31/07)

Here’s a true story that’s pretty funny (After 30 years, though, maybe I should say, “Here’s a pretty true story that’s pretty funny.” )

During ET1 Karl Varanti's (Gold crew, mid 70's) submarine qualification oral board, he was asked the question, "What's the main source of the atmospheric contaminant methane aboard this ship?" (Correct answer: inboard venting of the sanitary tanks.) The questioner was the COB, Chief  Gus Peterson. Varanti replied, "Farts?" The COB,  who was well known for his dislike of 'nukes' in general and wise-ass remarks in particular, turned red in the face, clinched his teeth, slammed his fist onto the table and barked,  "I asked for the MAIN source!" Varanti paused in mock thoughtfulness for a few seconds, and then said,  "Petty Officer Roarick?"   I think the examination was postponed for a week or two after that. 

Another true story. Wise (and funny) words from a Phil-o-Sea-Pher.

An E Div Chief * (sitting on the aft workbench in AMR2UL, drinking coffee and  looking down at me scrub the deck on the mid watch):

“You know why the Navy is always running you ragged, Rodgers?”

“Why’s that, Chief?”

“To keep you pissed off, that’s why. Happy, contented sailors might think twice about launching a missile that will kill 20 million people in an instant. But, on the other hand,  take your average pissed off submarine sailor who’s cleaning something that’s not dirty for the umpteenth time this patrol. He’ll push that button in a friggin’ heartbeat. Don’t kid yourself, the Navy knows this. And that’s why you’re scrubbing this deck for the 30th time this month, Rodgers. And that’s why these things are called ‘strategic detergent’ patrols.”    

Surf and Turf compliments of the Hunley - Not - 

submitted by Jesse Sims TM Blue Crew 67 - 70 (01/04/08)

The Blue crew had taken over the boat, and we were tied up to the tender "Hunley" (I believe).  Steve Rosen, another TM,  and I were told we had to go on the "Stores loading party".  For what ever reason, we ended up at the front of the line, just behind one guy from the Hunley who was supposed to lead the party and tell us what to load.  First he lead us to the Meat Locker, and opened the door and went inside.  Rosen and I followed just inside the door.  As the guy was looking around for what we were supposed to take, Rosen looked to his right an saw prime steak sitting there.  I looked to my left and saw Lobster tails sitting there.  SO...the guy handed us a ground beef, which was passed down the line, Rosen picked up steak and passed it down the line, I picked up Lobster tail and passed it down the line.  To make a long story short, we ended up running out of storage space on the boat for meat, so we stored the cheap stuff in the Missile Compartment bilges.  Same thing happened in the gee dunk locker...we had PLENTY of nuts, Oysters, etc in our lockers.  The boat had Lobster and steak twice a week that patrol, and when we turned the boat over, we had more $ value left than we were supposed to have left on patrol understanding.  Anyway, Rosen and I paid the price...we were assigned to every "stores loading party" after that.  I also understand after that, the tenders got tough and nobody except tender personnel were allowed in meat lockers, etc.

Golden Flapper Golden Flapper - and I'm not stuttering - By Ron Shouse TM 69 -74 Blue

I did win the “Golden Flapper” Award one patrol. It was the same Patrol Dave Andrus (TM3 unqualified, aka Carrot Top) won the award for a “Double Golden Flapper”. After he had opened the flapper and got blasted, he immediately shut the flapper but  left the flushing water running. Cowan ran in and saw the material dripping from the ceiling and the bowl overflowing. He yelled to Andrus to pull the flapper and drain the bowl and Andrus reached over and pulled the flapper for a second time. At this point Dave Andrus just sat down about to cry with sanitaries blowing all over. I don’t remember who was in the next stall but he ended up having a sanitary shower !

I tell you all this to take the spotlight off my “Golden Flapper”     Oh, the salty taste, the paper and corn in the beard !  Gosh I love all these memories !

Nearly a Close Shave - Mike Rodgers ETI(SS) Gold crew1976-1980  (04/06/08)

 It was the my first patrol (1976, Gold crew). I was a line handler and the aft-most person standing topside. We were headed down the Cooper River away from the Naval Weapons Station. The line handlers were getting ready to go below. LtCdr Johnston, the XO, walked toward me and said,“Rodgers, take this line and secure that steel cable next to the escape trunk so that it  doesn’t slap against the hull while we’re submerged.” “Yes, sir.” LtCdr Johnston handed me about 6 feet of brown twine and walked away. I crawled as far aft as I could, but my ‘come-along’ tether kept me about a foot away from being able to reach the escape trunk hatch. I thought,  “I’ll be damned if I fail at the very first thing I’m asked to do while underway on a submarine!” So, like an idiot (I am much smarter in my old age), I unhooked my come-along tether from the rail and crawled aft to the escape trunk hatch. After I finished tying the last knot, something made me consider the screw turning at the aft end of the ship. I assumed we were doing about ‘all ahead standard’, so I did a quick mental calculation and figured about how many thousand horsepower the screw was transmitting to the river water. Then I had an epiphany that snapped me out of my mathematical reverie:  I’m on a slippery, wet, rounded piece of smooth HY-80 steel, and if I start sliding,  one of those beautifully curved blades could knock my head clean off, and the shaft wouldn’t even slow down! I would have been chewed up and spit out by that screw less than a second after I slid into the water. With my heart pounding, I very carefully crawled back to the rail and hitched my come-along tether to it. After I stood up and was beginning to recover from my near-death experience,  LtCdr Johnston  walked toward me again. He leaned aft and squinted at my handiwork. (I noticed that he didn’t disconnect his come-along tether.)  “That’ll do. Go below.” “Yes, sir.”  

Fire in the Bridge!  - Jeff Burke RM1(SS) Blue  85-88  (04/12/08)
 We were on the surface inbound to Kings Bay. The Communicator, LTJG Becknell was the OOD in the Bridge.  We had Radio traffic to clear so I called the Comm and asked him if we could set up the Emergency whip for training to transmit the traffic Via Oresties. He got permission from the CO and then the Radiomen took the whip to the Bridge, put it in the Base, hooked up the cable from the transmission line to the base, Then went below. Now if you remember, the Whip inserts in a hole  just in front of the OOD and the Base it just to the right and behind the bridge box. Mr Becknell didn't get excited about anything.  EXCEPT!!,  when the radiomen started transmitting. We heard LOUD AND CLEAR on the 1MC "FIRE IN THE BRIDGE, TELL THE DAMN RADIOMEN TO STOP TRANSMITTING!!! TELL THEM TO STOP TRANSMITTING!!!"   When the Radiomen installed the Whip they didn't tighten the wing nuts tight enough on the  cable from the transmission line to the base, So when they started transmitting, a 1000 watt arch of electricity was dancing all around the base and bridge box. Needless to say, Mr Becknell had a few choice words for us when he got relieved and came to radio.
IOver Easy - Submitted by Marty Albright ET1(SS) 68-70 Gold (04/12/08)

It was early morning on the 00-06 watch when a certain cook capable of cooking only one egg at a time, was in the galley getting ready to prepare the crews breakfast.

Into the galley walks one very funny Nav ET with a clipboard in his hand. The cook asked the Nav ET what he was doing. The ET replied, "Just checking for assholes". The cook quickly replied, "I'm one". The Nav-ET, referring to his clipboard, says, "I had you down for two".

Turbine Legend? - Submitted by Mike Rodgers ET1(SS) Gold Crew 76-80  (6/20/08)


This was told to me at least 2nd hand, so is it a True (Sea) Story, or merely a “Turbine” Legend? You decide.


During a refit period in the late  70’s, the Key was tied up to the submarine tender ‘Proteus’ in Rota , Spain . One morning, an M Div chief making his rounds through the engineering spaces noticed a third class and a couple of seamen, presumably from the tender, hooking up a chain pulley to the overhead, loosening the bolts holding a motor to a pump, and wrapping a thick canvas strap around the motor housing.


M Div Chief:  “Whoa! Timeout, guys… let me see your paperwork.”


The chief studied the work order for a minute and then said,


“OK. First of all, that’s an auxiliary sea water pump, not a reactor plant fresh water pump, like it says here.

Second, this is the USS Francis Scott Key. The USS Will Rogers is tied up outboard of us.

And last, but not least, that pump you’re about to pull apart is running.“

Size 9 TDU - Submitted by MT2(SS) Tom Lee      (7/10/08)

We were out about a month from Rota and the following is fessed-up since the UCMJ is no longer applicable here. Bubble Heads involved shall remain nameless but those sailors will remember that eventful night, or was it day? Turns out a strong odor emanated from somewhere in the Missile Compartment and became worse as the cruise went on. Those of us in missile berthing will undoubtedly recall that awful stench. Anywho, I couldn't get any much needed rest from my ALOS hikes and decided to pinpoint this foul assault on my "scrubbed" air supply. In the shadows between the tubes I encountered the villain. There they were. A pair of size nine leather construction boots worn by a rookie from Pittsburgh. It must be written somewhere that Poopy suits clash with this footwear. I took matters into my own hands. For the sake of the crew mind you. I enlisted the help of an MT who somehow was allowed to strike for Sonar Tech, but shall remain nameless. Together we made our way to the mess deck and proceeded with the dirty deed. I made the can, and placed the weight on the bottom just like they showed me. The cook on duty turned a blind eye to the goings on and besides, he was a non-quall striker. My dastardly assistant handed me the first boot and I gingerly inserted it into the galvanized coffin (lucky they were for small feet). In went the second shoe and another weight was added, just for effect. I attached the top disc and sealed the package. The TDU performed flawlessly and now somewhere in the Med there lies a pair of size nine leather construction boots which even the fish avoid. I feel better now. 

Maybe she’d be good at cards… Submitted Mike Rodgers ET1 (SS) Gold 76-80      (08/16/08)

One Saturday morning on patrol on the Key, the Engineer was conducting department training in the crew's mess.

Engineer: "The Navy is thinking about letting women serve aboard combatant ships. [This was in the mid 70's.]

Smith, what do you think about that?  What would you think about having a female shipmate aboard this submarine?" 

A Div-er Smith (not his real name) wrinkled his brow in thought for a few seconds, then his eyes got big and you could

almost see the light bulb turn on above his head. Finally he yelled out, "She could make a FORTUNE!!"


Welcome to submarines, Ensign!   Tom Wagner (RCA/AWEPS Blue Crew 90-93)  (09/09/08)

Bill Nunan (MPA '90-'93) and I, a pair of Ensigns fresh out of nuclear power training and sub school, reported to the Key in the summer of 1990 in Kings Bay, right in the middle of an extended refit period (ERP) in the floating drydock ARDM they had down there.  It reminded me of the movie "The Caine Mutiny" where the new Ensign reports to the USS Caine, and he sees all these nice new shiny destroyers all over and keeps asking "is that the Caine?  Is that one the Caine?"  Someone says, no, the Caine's over THERE" and points to a dirty, beat up old thing in need of a lot of work.  That's what the Key looked like in the middle of this longer than usual refit, sitting in drydock, hoses and ventilation ducting fouling every hatch, noise and dirt and commotion everywhere, the crew living in a nasty old barge next door b/c the boat was uninhabitable, you get the picture.  Of course Bill and I are just wide-eyed and impressed despite all the mess, we were both civilians a little over 2 years previously, and even though we'd been in the Navy for 2 years every single day of it until then had been in training or in some kind of school on land.  We were excited, finally, finally after all this training, we're finally actually assigned as crew on a submarine.  We knew we had a year to a year and a half more of quals to go after that, but hey, this day was a big step forward, FINALLY at a "real" command and not just yet another school.
It was very disorienting to say the least, on top of reporting aboard to a ship that was just torn apart and not habitable, we were the newest of the new guys, and even after 2 years of training and schools and so forth we didn't know dick, had to have someone show us around and how to do the most basic things even flushing the toilet.  (Didn't really apply since the sanitary system was OOC while all this work was going on, but you get the picture- when you step aboard your first submarine, even as an officer with all this schooling and so forth, you're really starting from zip.  You report aboard with your qual cards that have zero signatures, there are over 1,000 signatures you have to get to qualify EOOW/EDO/Contact Coordinator/DOOW/OOD surfaced and submerged and SS, and to earn your gold dolphins and you have something like a year to get them.  Looks like a mighty tall hill to climb when you're there on day 1 starting from the very beginning)
So, Bill and I are being shown around the next day (our first full day "aboard") by the Captain (CDR Weitz) himself, and we're so new to everything that it's all jovial and friendly and so forth.  Bill and I are just wide-eyed and rubber-necking around at everything as the Captain is showing us nub Ensigns around.   He was walking us through MCML (all of this the very first time I'd seen any of it mind you) when suddenly Bill and I get knocked off our feet and down to the deck, whump!  Look up and the LOS is pointing his 45 right at us-WTF?!!?  The general alarm starts going off, the 1MC is blaring "weapons security violation in missile compartment middle level!"  crew are running everywhere with guns, nightsticks, wrenches, whatever and they're all running over to US!?!  Imagine my surprise when I hear on the 1MC "Ensign Nunan is the perpetrator!".  WHAT!?!?!?!  Unfortunately for us the Captain was a bit of a prankster, and on the spur of the moment he'd decided to take care of the week's security drill and had given the LOS a secret signal that we were coercing him.  The crew correctly got the security alert team and reaction force armed up and got the drop on us.  It helped them some I guess that we didn't know we were suddenly the bad guys.  Let me tell you that was one HELL of a surprise!  What a great introduction to weapons security and a "welcome aboard" at the same time.  Talk about not knowing what the hell was going on, until then I didn't even know there was such a thing as security, let alone what the secret code sign and all that was.  Fortunately the drill was over within a few minutes and we had a good belly laugh about it.  Not sure I remember right anymore but that might have even gotten a signature on our basic sub officer qual card taken care for something or other.  We even got a free lesson in security from the Weapons Dept LCPO (FTBCS Weaver), "if you're on the tender and they sound one of those alerts, sit your ass down and DON'T MOVE. The Marines on the tender take that stuff REAL serious like and they especially LOVE it when a Chief or an Officer gives them some attitude during one of their security alerts, they're not nice guys like we are".
Battle Stations - oops Never mind

I (finally) qualified OOD early in Patrol 69 (1991), and was feeling really good about it.  The Captain trusts me to run things while he's asleep, I decide where we go, how deep we go, how fast we go, yada yada.  I'm really close to finally finishing my gold dolphins quals finally, things are going well and this is great stuff, so I thought (and it was all that).  The Captain wisely started me off easy on the OOD watchbill, putting me on the morning watches generally since there wasn't a lot going on in the mornings other than maintenance, divisional and departmental training and meetings, etc, and getting ready for the afternoon watch section's drills.  A good way for me to "cut my teeth" as he said.  So one calm morning within a week or so of standing OOD all by myself, we were moseying along in our slow patrol routine and doing some navigational work that shut everything else down for a couple of hours while the NAV-ETs did their thing.  Suddenly the radio sup called over and warned me "flash traffic" incoming.  Uh oh Something Important was coming down the line.  A few seconds later after more of the message came in, the radio sup called me back with a code name for one of the exercise messages we would occasionally get ordering us to simulate a missile launch.  Not to worry, I'm on the case, and crisply ordered the general alarm and "battle stations missile" to be called away.  I'm in charge, I've got it, no worries.  About 10 seconds after that, the general alarm had just quit gonging, the Captain ran out to the Conn, still in his skivvies and rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, and growls at me 'what the HELL are you doing?"  That was when I remembered, oh, right, that navigational thing we were doing took precedence over all this exercise stuff, I was supposed to ignore it until this navigational thing was finished.  I'd forgotten to tell the radio sup we were doing this other navigational thing so he didn't know to not pass along these exercise messages to me.  Oops.  That was just a tad, embarrassing, especially when I had to pick up the 1MC and secure battle stations a few seconds later, while most of the crew are still trying to wake up, running to battle stations, zipping up poopie suits and throwing on shoes.  In today's slang I guess that would be like saying "oops, my bad".  The worst face-the-music part was the next time I had to go back aft (I was still an aft div-O and still stood EOOW occasionally), the nukes especially the EMs just LIVED for a chance like that to remind us JOs of a slipup like that.  I will say at least, working with the nukes back aft was good for stopping a JO from getting a big head, you really had to stay on top of things or the nucs (especially the electricians) would really put you in your place.
Tom Wagner (RCA/AWEPS Blue Crew 90-93)

"He dropped the ball!  FUMBLE!"

On the Blue crew (early 90s) the MTs had a thing going called "don't step on the X".  They'd duct-taped (excuse me, they'd "EB-greened") a big "X" on the deck just forward of Launcher, and you didn't step on the "X" or there was hell to pay.  It was unfortunate really, because this "X" was right in front of a bench that was a natural shoot-the-shit place with one of the ship's xerox machines, an ashtray, and a place to stand and work.  Lot of guys used to step up there to shoot the bull and have a smoke.  But don't step on the MT's "X"!
If anyone (including an MT) stepped on the "X", anyone standing nearby would yell "he dropped the ball!  FUMBLE!" and the guy who stepped on the X would get seriously dog-piled, MTs would run from every corner of the MC to pile on and that pile could get very high.
I was assigned several div-O jobs during my 3 years on the Key but my favorite one was being the MT division officer or AWEPS.  There was a good-natured if fierce thing going on always between A div (who owned AMR1) and the MTs.  It wasn't unusual for an unwary A ganger loitering near the opening between AMR1ML and MCML to get 'kidnapped' and 'fumbled'.  Of course the A gangers wouldn't take that sitting down, so they'd grab the next MT they caught alone and would rough him up in AMR1. And back and forth, good natured but sometimes a little rough. 
So one day the DCA, LTJG Orlando Suarez (a LTJG like I was) inexplicably attacks me in MCML.  Understand Orlando was not a typical  JO.  Prior to becoming an officer, he'd been enlisted out in the Fleet for 12 years, was a shellback, had done lots of time out in the westpac, a salty guy.  He'd been an HMC/DV and had been with the Marine Recon as a corpsman, before getting picked up and sent to NROTC and eventually entering the nuc program as a JO.  In nuc power school as an Ensign he had I don't know how many rows of medals, campaign ribbons, stuff like that. He also had a black belt in karate.  He was the only officer I knew who had a big tattoo of a dragon taking up his whole back, he'd gotten that in the Phillipines back when he was attached to the Marines.
Fortunately for me he was only wanting to rough-house a little and wasn't seriously after me.  I say he "inexplicably" attacked me because he did it up near the "X", and I was the MT div O after all.  We were fighting and wrestling, but I saw one of the MTs and hollered out to him "FUMBLE!", and 5 seconds later I was part of a fast-growing pile of MTs on top of poor LTJG Suarez.  I think the LOS used to use the 35MC to let everyone know "fumble-all MTs assist".  In fact this dogpile got stacked all the way up to the overhead, I was afraid it was going to turn Orlando (and me with him, since I was on top of him and under everyone else) into a greasy smudge on the deck.  Black belt and ex-recon corpsman or not, myself and ten other MTs were just too much for Orlando to handle, so he was forced to scream 'uncle' and make the fumble stop.
I paid of course.  I ignored the obvious BS attempts to get me like "the XO wants to see you back aft' which would take me past AMR1.  Finally though Orlando and 5 of his A gangers got me stuck somewhere and taped me mummystyle up to the overhead.  Not painful but very embarrassing to be taped up to the overhead like an oversized cockroach stuck up there, I don't remember who got a pocketknife and let me down but it took a while of getting pointed to and laughed at.  It was still worth it though, jeez, what were you thinking, jumping me in front of Launcher for crying out loud!?

Jokester Captain
That reminds me of another story about Captain Weitz, the jokester.  One day underway while I was the MT div-o, during field day, I got an urgent message from the WEPS (LT Wyant)- "the Captain needs to see you and me, bring Chief Truhett (MT Chief)".  Uh oh, so all 3 of us me the Weps and the MT Chief all troop up to the CO's stateroom.  The CO is sitting in his chair, and he is PISSED.  At me.  Uh oh.  Better stand at attention.
"Mr Wagner, I need to have a little chat with you".
"Yes sir?"
"I was down in the Missile Compartment a little while ago"
"Yes sir?"
"I stepped on that stupid X on the deck"
"Yes sir?"
"Yes sir?"
 I started stuttering and stammering and was trying to think of something to say.  I mean, what do you say to that? I was horrified and didn't know what to do or say.  I looked over at my Chief for some kind of advice or what I don't know, and he just had a blank look on his face.
So while I'm dying there trying to think of what to do, all of a sudden the Captain starts busting out laughing and says "I can't do it".  Turns out (fortunately) that he just felt like pulling my chain and told the WEPS and my MT Chief to go along with it.  I was so relieved I didn't care about being the butt of the joke. Whew!

Weapons Memories  Submitted by Ples Reynolds MT Both 90 - 93                        (09/09/08)

Story #1 - While I would love to say this happened to someone else it did not, I was the guy in lower level, missile. We were on a TRE/NTPI patrol and running one of those much loved war game weeks toward the end of patrol.  We had been dueling it out with the fictitious country of Orange for a couple of days and everybody was tired. We went to Battle Stations Missile and simulated launching 4 birds and then stopped for about 45 minutes until the next launch window. Well we had to stay at battle stations the whole time, I was the only MT in lower level, Everybody else down there was other rates so I had to handle communications for both port and starboard lower level. I set the Weapons Procedures (WP) book down and was about half asleep when they ran a Weapons System Readiness Test.

 Launcher started taking readiness reports and I will let you read what was said to the best of my ability to remember.

“Launcher, lower level port and starboard -  set for condition 1SQ for (drum roll please) Strategic Launch”

“Lower Level, Launcher – WRONG”

About this time I woke up to what I said and realized the pages had flipped back to the wrong WP. So I made the right report.

“Launcher, Lower Level port and starboard set for condition 1SQ for WSRT, all EBW firing units verified safe”

After the drill was over and by the time I got my phones rolled up and stored every FTB off-duty and the weps was back at launcher waiting on me to come up.  They had been recording the drill for the patrol tapes so my goof went out to SP for review. It took me weeks to live that down. Every drill after that they would yell down thru the hatch to tell me to make sure I was on the right WP.

Story # 2 - This happened my first patrol. We were on sea trials and the captain wanted to hover so that some Chief of the Watch’s under training could get that signed off on his qual card. I was at launcher when they passed the word to rig for Hovering and a couple of minutes later the rover reported us ready to hover. Well they flipped the switch to hover and the bottom fell out of the boat. We started sinking like a rock. I sat there at launcher watching the depth gauge show us going deeper and deeper and the LOS saying that’s not right. Well we heard later on that the captain was standing by the chicken switches waiting to pull them (I don’t know if this was true or just scuttlebutt) when they finally got the boat under control.

 After looking into it, they discovered that the rover forgot to open the hovering valve, so when they turn the hovering system on it thought we were at the surface so it started flooding the main ballast tanks. But the pressure gauge never changed because the valve was closed so it just kept sinking us lower and lower. We were about 9 times normal hovering depth before it was stopped (I don’t know if I still cannot say hovering depth, but if you remember hovering depth you can figure it out).  

Added 11/13/09 by Jackson Plant QM3 - No the CO didn't handle the chicken switches but the COW was ready to.  I was in control and we were doing a battle stations missile drill at the same time.  We had done an emergency blow the day before this happened also.  Well I am QMOW and hear the order to hover and doing a round and noticing the depth, I asked the helm to mark depth and was told we had a problem then all heck broke loose.  It was interesting.

Story # 3 - About my third patrol I was the repair parts petty officer for the MT’s. We were getting ready to go to sea for patrol and ran a readiness test the night before we went to sea. One of the Integrated Monitoring Panels (IMP) at launcher would not work and the trouble-shooting books said replace it. There was not a spare one onboard the boat so the SK1 and me ordered one but it could not be delivered for 2 weeks. So we started looking for one anywhere because we did not have the time to wait for it. The tender did not have one or squadron. Finally one was located onboard one of the other subs tied up to the tender. After being up all night, about 6 in the morning the supply officer and me started to the tender to get the paperwork completed to cannibalize the part. But to do this you have to go thru all kinds of hoops. Finally about 11:00 in the morning, the supply officer had to go back to the sub leaving me on the tender by myself. I made it up into Admirals country on the tender to get the last couple of signatures and when I looked out the window all I saw was the tug boats going by.

 I finally went to the other sub and they had to hunt for the part. It was finally located and I took off for the Key. When I got to the fantail of the tender I could see the tugs tied up to the Key just sitting there. Now the Key was tied up to the pier about 500 yards from the tender so I am trying to run back to the boat carrying this heavy IMP panel. When I got to the Key all the lines to the shore but 2 were gone, the tugs were tied up and the crane was hooked up to the gangplank and the Captain was on the bridge waving for me to hurry. My feet had barely left the gangplank when it was lifted off the Key and the last lines were dropped.

 When I got to launcher to deliver the part, they told me for the past half hour every 3 or 4 minutes the Captain would call down from the bridge and ask them “ Where is Reynolds?”

“Still not back from the tender sir”


Story # 4 - As any MT out there will tell you, part of the missile compartment Rovers duty’s is to physically check the padlocks that were on the missile tube access hatches and the LOS also checks  them before coming on watch. This meant shaking all of them every 30 minutes but I know that most of us just looked at them. Well that got us into some big trouble one patrol. We were going on patrol and did the normal evolutions to go from 4SQ to 2SQ and went on about our business. About 4 days later I was up in control talking to one of my buddies who was an FC. When all of a sudden “Nuclear Weapons Security Violation” came over the 1MC. I came down the ladder from upper level, missile to middle level in time to be handed a nightstick, guard belt, and access list and put in the entrance to the tubes 1 – 4 area. It turns out MT3 Bankert had for some reason touched the lock to the inboard tube 4 hatch and the lock fell off in his hands. After we went into the tube to verify everything was still hooked up properly the Weps tore a strip out of our hides because the only way it could have been unlocked is from when we were in the tubes days ago. Well after that we had a new page in our logs where we had to check off that we had checked the locks and the LPO had to sign off on this every change of watch. We were later assessed down time for that missile by SP. If I remember right the only MT who did not get in trouble was MT3 Duprel because he was on mess duty the whole time the hatch was unlocked.
Engine Room Swim Call   Submitted by ETC(SS) Kenneth Rushton, USN RET  (10/02/08)

Last Patrol of Blue Crew -

I love good practical jokes and this one was no exception. During one of the mid-watches (of course), the Engine room Supervisor, Engine room upper level, and myself (EWS), called the Engine room lower level watch to the top of the ladder, which is about 12 ft tall. We then asked him, "Which is faster, this bucket of water (& gravity), or you?". Well, he began scurrying down the ladder and, of course, by the time he reached the bottom he was soaked. The only comment he made was "I'll get you back." Of course, during this time the 4 watchstanders in maneuvering were watching and laughing. I believe ET2 Bottorff, EM1 Pynn, and Lt. Suarez were there.
The next evening during the watch I heard the announcement, (2MC) "Engineering Watch Supervisor come to Maneuvering." As I stepped through the hatch from AMR2UL to ERUL the engine room lower watch popped out from the hatch from lower level. You must remember that when stepping through the hatches your forward momentum often carries you through and there's no turning back. Imagine my surprise to see 7 faces roaring with laughter and the ERLL watch with a pressure washer - I was SOAKED! To this day, I wonder what the engineer thought when he came back a few minutes later and I was still dripping.
Nothing quite compares to putting your skivvies on backwards for swim call.

Rectal Readings   Submitted by Bill Wise,  Blue Crew Nav Gang, ’66 to ‘68    This is “no shit”. (10/04/08)


I remember my third patrol in the Blue Crew Nav Gang – must have been in ’68. 


Simply put, the Nav Gang’s job was to know where Point A is so the Missile Gang can hit Point B.  One key element in our Nav systems was the Transit System (today known as GPS).  Back then it worked a little differently, instead of stationary satellites constantly transmitting position, Transit satellites flew over every couple of hours and used the Doppler effect combined with very accurate time to allow us to very accurately fix our position – Point A. 


So going to periscope depth every so often and checking out our actual position against what our systems were saying was vital.  Getting a periodic good fix on Transit was essential to knowing where Point A was.


Well, halfway through the patrol, something happened to our Transit – we weren’t getting good fixes and Point A wasn’t quite the “dead-nuts sure thing” it had been.   “Mac” McAdams & I worked non-stop trying to figure out what was wrong, swapping out just about everything.  Finally, we figured out the Transit memory system had lost its heater – bad news.   We didn’t have a spare memory on board and the heater was “epoxied” into the core memory – more bad news.


So we come up with the crazy jerry-rig idea – we’d use a medical heating blanket from the “Doc” to heat the core memory so it’ll operate in its temperature range.  We went to periscope depth and tried to get a fix.  It was better but still not the “dead-nuts sure thing” we needed.


The medical heating blanket idea worked but we needed better control to keep the memory in temperature range while were we’re getting actual fix.  Solution?  (They would have killed us back in New London)  Drill a hole into the core memory and insert a rectal thermometer to track and keep the temperature in range about 150°F.


You could not believe the tension: Commander Barker, our Nav Officer, the CO, and the whole Nav Gang holding their breath while we drilled into the only core memory on the boat to allow us to insert a rectal thermometer.  We had checked out the specs and the diagrams hoped we were drilling in the right place.  If we blew it, patrol performance would suffer.


Long story short – the jerry-rig worked.  For the rest of the patrol, we used the medical heating blanket and rectal thermometer to keep that memory heated within range to get good fixes. 


Mac and I were so glad when that patrol was over.  And we probably stocked an extra memory system on board after that patrol.


Note: To read more about the Transit System go to:


Updated 05/12/09 - Bill Wise found this picture in which you can see the heating blanket over their shoulder on top of the equipment.

409 Reasons to Think Before You Act  submitted by Mike Rodgers ET1 76 - 80 Gold


One time in the mid-70's, I was standing watch in AMR2UL. Between my hourly log taking,  I was doing some field day in my cleaning area in the aisle next to the primary coolant instrumentation panels. I was using the Navy's generic el-cheapo cleaning solution, what we called 'Formula 409',  after the commercial version you could buy in the store.  LtJG Douglas,  our brand new RC division officer, came up behind me and started ragging me about my cleaning technique. (I knew from meeting him before the patrol that he had a pretty good sense of humor.)  "Rodgers,” he said, looking at my cleaning work, “…that's just pitiful...just when we thought we'd found something for you to do that you may be good at, you screw it up because of your general incompetence.  Gimme that bottle. Gimme that Kim-Wipe. Let me show you how to clean a bulkhead....look and learn...if it doesn't over-tax your feeble mental abilities..."


 I watched Mr Douglas smear dirt over the patch of bulkhead that I had just gotten clean.


"Oh, thank you, Mr. Douglas, sir," I said, dripping with sarcasm. "Gee, I don't know what this submarine, or heck, even the Navy as a whole, would do without such high quality, non-qualified, know-it-all, newby junior officers such as yourself. Is there anything you don't excel at, sir? ....The guys in RC Division are always saying, 'That Mr. Douglas...what a great guy.' "


Mr. Douglas pointed the '409' bottle at me and and made about a 3 inch diameter wet spot on the front of my dungaree shirt.


"What are you going to do about that, smartass?", he asked, with simulated anger.


I grabbed the bottle from him and stuffed the spray nozzle up his left nostril.  We stood like this for a few moments, with my first 3 fingers on the trigger while Mr. Douglas sneered at me. Finally, he said, in a nasal, stopped up voice, (partly due to the spray nozzle lodged in his left nostril, and partly just to be funny):  "Rodgers, you habbent got duh BAWWWWS to puh dat trigger!"  The word he meant to sound like  "BALLLLS" was drawn out so long it took about 3 seconds to pronounce.  It's one thing for someone to insult your "balls". It's something completely different when your "BALLLLS" are  on the line.


Clearly, there was only one thing that could have happened at this point, and it did.


Due to a direct nerve connection from my eardrums to the muscles in my right forearm, bypassing my brain completely, my right hand spasmed into a fist while pulling the trigger home. Mr. Douglas was no longer playing. Even though he had asked for it, he was genuinely flabbergasted when the cleaning fluid sped into his nose and throat. He started hacking and

spitting with wild abandon all over the aisle. "..I can't believe you pulled the trigger...I can't believe you pulled the trigger..", he kept saying,  between convulsive explosions of phlegm and '409' from his nose and mouth.  I must have squeezed that trigger pretty hard,  judging from how much he was carrying on about it, all teary-eyed and red-faced as he was. After about a minute of making a sound like a '39 Ford pickup trying to get into 1st gear,  he ran forward, bent over and rasping something about finding the hospital corpsman. Later, as I was wiping up the drool and mung that he had spewed over my cleaning  area, I remember thinking, "...I hope there's nothing  toxic in that cleaner fluid..... Surely there wouldn't be….that would be an atmosphere contaminant…..wouldn't it?... I wonder what's in that stuff, anyway.... I hope he doesn't  get sick, for cryin' out loud...."


After a few minutes, the missile compartment roving watch ran back, stuck his head into AMR2UL, and yelled,  "RODGERS! What the HELL did you do to Mr. Douglas?!  He said you sprayed '409' up his nose! Oh man, you assaulted an OFFICER, you idiot! You are BUSTED, son!"  This guy was way too happy about my predicament, seeing as how I could have put him on report for leaving his watch area, if I were the kind of submariner who would rat out a shipmate. I sure hoped Mr. Douglas wasn't the kind of submariner who would rat out a shipmate.


After I had taken my hourly logs and was standing around thinking about how I was going to make a living after receiving my dishonorable discharge from the Navy,  I spotted the XO walking toward me through the reactor tunnel. LCDR Johnston had a serious look on his face. "Rodgers, I was just now talking to Mr. Douglas." "Yes sir?" I thought, "Here it comes. I'm doomed...dammit." "The way he tells it, he begged  you to spray Formula 409 up his nose...Is that right?"

"Yes, sir. That's what happened."  The XO looked to the left, then to the right, then moved his head closer, as if to share some secret with me. "Rodgers, I'm worried about Mr. Douglas. If you don't mind, I'd like you to keep an eye on him for me."

"Ok. Yes, sir."

The XO smiled and chuckled as he walked back forward. Relieved at not having to report to the brig when we got back to Charleston , I thought, "That Mr. Douglas...what a great guy."


Who Needs Oil?  submitted by W.A. Taylor

After nearly 45 years I can still say "the most heroic scene I ever witnessed first hand happened on the USS Key". While an ELT was standing ERLL watch to maintain qualification, he was directed to perform a common procedure. ( Line up to purify Mail Lube Oil Sump ) One hour after this evolution had started, all the reduction gear bearing temps had dropped sharply . At the beginning of the second hour the temps had not increased even with all water secured to the oil coolers. MMC was then sent to investigate. He found the expansion joint between gears and sump pressurized many times its normal size. At that moment the boot began to leak. The MMC immediately jumped on top of the sump and attempted to hold the joint together. He also ordered the purification halted. The expansion boot then gave way on one side and an estimated 700 gallons of oil squirted out. The MMC maintained his hold and if the oil had been at normal temp it would have at least scalded the man. The crew cleaned and pumped and cleaned and pumped and a few days later passed an ORSE with ABOVE AVERAGE. Saw it all with my own two eyes.

My Best Sea Stories - submitted by James "Brutus" Cortell  Nav-ET 75 - 78 Blue  (05/14/09)

The Night I Blew a Hamm Inboard

I was COW/UI the COB was COW, I was almost finished with my COW quals, so he was working on the WQSB, glancing over to make sure I wasn't screwing up too badly. We  were at periscope depth doing weekly house keeping after firing a water slug from tube1(?). We had been there for about 1 1/2 hours, the ship was getting out of trim so the DOOW ordered "pump 2,000 lbs. from aft trim to fwd trim" as I took control of the fwd trim header and all hell broke
loose. With the report of flooding in the torpedo room from tube 1, the OOD (Weaps) didn't hesitate, he ordered "emergency blow all main ballast tanks".  At the same time as the alarms and the flooding report Mike M. the (DOOW) and I both knew what had happened, I secured the fwd trim header, discretion being the better part of valor, we looked at each other an decided it would be better to discuss it on the surface. Good thing Charlie E. wasn't onboard as our COB yet, never would have been able to lift him and the emergency blow valves, as it was it was a real struggle lifting Jim L. as he was crawling over my backside and the blow valves at the same time. Later as Capt. Hastie called all of the involved parties into his stateroom, I kept waiting for the hammer to fall, it never did, I was just the dumbass UI. Mills the TMLPO was the only one that seemed to have a problem with me until TM3/SS Ricky Hamm dressed him down, as he put it, if he was ever diving a tube again he would rather have me on watch, because knowing me I would never make that mistake again. I swore I would prove Ricky right, later in my career I was Battle Station COW during an ORSE, the ORSE team was getting pissed because I was finding and getting fixed their little inserted problems almost as soon as I would sit down. During their final drill they broke all of my trim an drain system, I had the AUX FWD line up and blow SAN 1 to stay on depth, blew their minds, to say the least we passed with flying colors. If your out there Ricky Thanks for making me a better person.

The JG Switch

The goat locker had 2 VCRs set up so while one was playing a G rated Disney type movie the other would be playing something a little more racy we had them rigged so if someone opened the goat locker door the TV would be switched to the G rated film, we had one JG that was determined to catch us watching  banned movies, never did, just couldn't beat the speed of the switch.

Final DOOW Quals

Late one night as I was finishing up my DOOW Quals we were transiting out of the Med headed for Rota, Capt Hastie, XO Weight, NAV and WEP's came out to the CONN. What I didn't know, it was my final test for DOOW. The Capt took the CONN and shortly there after the shit hit the fan, we started sinking at an alarming rate. I starting pumping to sea, order full rise, increased the bubble,  requested speed, which the Capt ignored, so I started blowing DC tanks. Finally the descent slowed and we started to come back up. After I had the boat trimmed back to neutral, several thousand lbs. lighter than when we started the watch, the Capt congratulated me for passing my Dive Quals. I was still shaking like a leaf and completely dumbfounded as to how I could have passes my dive test when I let the ship get 300' off depth. It seems that when you leave the super saline waters of the Med and enter, by comparison, the fresh water of the Atlantic you instantly get several thousand lbs. heavier and most new Dives lose 600' or more. The next couple
of times we entered or left the Med the Capt made sure I had the dive and I'm happy to say we never got off depth more than 50'.

I have to say my tour on Key was the hardest tour and the most rewarding. We had the best crew, goat locker and  wardroom I ever served with, the Nav gang were the best in the fleet, I'd put them up against anyone. Thanks to A
DIV MMC/SS John Mills, our COB's FTCS/SS Charlie Eberhardt, TMCS/SS Jim Lindsey QM DIV QMC/SS Lynn "Bugs" Moran, ICCS/SS Mike Mulkey and so many others.

Nav ET & QM Radar Nav Training
   As you know off crew training can get a little dull for old timers on a boat, how many times can you repeat a class? During the 70's it got especially bad because the pencil pushers had taken over an we had to account for every second of our off crew training days. After seeing some of the photos with stories section it brought back a flood of memories
QMC/SS Bracken and I became fast friends even though we only made two patrols together before he was transferred to his final duty Station, Special Services, Charleston Naval Base. He was placed in charge (read Captain) of the special services Moonlight Cruise Party Boat, one of his duties was to do a shakedown cruise before a moonlight cruise to make sure everything was working. After calling me to let me know he had to do a shakedown. I would schedule Radar Navigation training for the Nav-ET's, we would pack up our fishing poles and beer. take turns on the Radar plot, while we spent the day cruising the river. Didn't take the new NAV long to figure out what we were doing and join us. Soon we had the QM's plotting our course up and down the river, several times we had more people doing the shakedown cruises than the moonlight cruises.
Another innovative training exercise was Digital proportional servo training. Read radio controlled model airplane flying or boat sailing.

Tootsie Roll Caper - submitted by Tom Springsteen Stores 69 - 72 Gold  (12/04/09)

   As I read the Key web site and wondered how all are doing, I can't help but recall the dedication of those who served back aft on the Key. John Linville comes clearly to mind as not only dedicated but sincere. Of course many would say John was a bit gung ho, and in retrospect I was one of those. Truly though John was also a funny guy. We were under way and all  of us really felt that the Nucs back aft were really to serious over the Rads. So one shipmate came up with the idea of getting some Tootsie Rolls and pre-chewing them in a configuration of a ripe turd, and leave it in the Reactor tunnel, and then wait in the upper level Missile Comp. to see the Nucs reactions. Well as the old saying goes of, "Hey little man where were you when the shit hit the fan", comes to mind as alerts were sounded and there was John in his radiation suit, gloves and mask determining what the small package really was in the tunnel. We all had a great laugh over his turmoil, and those involved paid dearly, as John let them, in so many words, how dumb a joke that was. Pete Peterson had the best laugh which you could hear thru the entire boat. It was, and still is, the best Boat in the Fleet and I am proud to have served on her with all aboard.

Updated 12/03.13 by Mike Robertson TM2

Now, for the rest of the story.  It was a boring evening at launcher and we were all in a "festive mood"  Something to lighten the mood was in order.  Ideas were presented and rejected until the idea to "mess with the nucs" came up.  But how.  Certainly we couldn't "touch or twist" anything and we didn't want to impede the mission of the Key so just then the rover came in and said that the nuc taking his readings certainly isn't very friendly tonight.  I waved at him through the window and he ignored me.  "That's it. We have to do something."  I reached into the bowl next to the LCP's chair and began unwrapping the Tootsie Roll.  In my haste I stuffed too much of the little chocolate ditty into my mouth and after a minute or two of swishing it around I elected to expel some onto a piece of paper.  Here is where the idea began to finalize itself.  The chocolate was wet with salvia and just looked like a little turd.  It was here that the artistic ability came into play.  We couldn't just throw this in there, it had to be right.  Someone suggested using some caramels from the bowl to enhance the large end.  Another participant suggested, with great laughter, inserting a peanut or two.  This item grew by leaps and bounds.  The final suggestion was to wet the entire thing and place it on toilet paper.  It was done.  We delivered it just prior to the next scheduled readings in the reactor tunnel then retreated to the upper level missile for the show.  And show it was.  The "reader" entered and began recording his findings on his clipboard.  After a minute or two he glanced down on the deck and then back up to the gauges.  You could see his disbelief come over his facial expressions.  "Did I just see what I thought I saw?"..GOD YES.  Holy shit...and out he went.  We were rolling in the isles.  Until the little fella returned with the cleaning detail. Two guys in suits and an OFFICER standing in the doorway.  I was the first person he saw and I knew he wasn't happy.  Mr. Parry was his name I believe.   Us culprits returned to launcher and hoped it was over.  It wasn't.   A few minutes later I was in the forward Torpedo room when Mr. Broderick ( Weapons Officer) entered and said, "What the hell did you do?"  I told him.  He shook his head and said this isn't over.  Mr. Parry intends to have you up on charges.  I said it was just a joke.  Broderick snapped back, "JOKE, crapping in the reactor compartment is no joke,sailor."  But, it wasn't real.  It was made out of candy.  Lt. Broderick left and my heart sunk.  I went back and told the guys what was going to happen.  Lt. Broderick and Ltjg Mickett and Chief Barry came into launcher and said that Captain Forsyth will hold the mast tomorrow.  Wow, this isn't fun anymore.
Tomorrow came and I reported to the ward room.  Inside sat Captain Forsyth along with the Executive Officer, Weapons Officer and my Division Chief.  Seated at the other end of the table was Lt. Parry.  The captain began the proceedings by reading the charges and citing the statue that covered it.  I was sure that I was probably headed to the Destroyer fleet up in Newport when we came back to New London.  My mind wasn't really paying attention as Mr. Parry was explaining how insulted and angry he was with my conduct and offended that we would do such a horrible thing aboard a ship of the United States Navy etc.  I was in a daze until I heard him say it was just unholy to defecate ....I looked at Captain Forsyth and said, Sir, it was candy.  We made it out of candy.  Mr. Parry dismissed this with a "We know what we saw" and I repeated, explaining the entire story of what took place and why we did it.  Mr. Broderick spoke up saying that my sense of humor was well known among the weapons division and the Captain looked at me and said, "Can you do it again ?"  I said yes.  He told me to do it.  So, picture this.  I'm running back to launcher where all my friends are and yelling to them, "Come on, we have to make another shit and fast.  Go get the stuff.  Three guys sucking on Tootsie rolls and caramels while another is running to find peanuts.  I wondered how I would tell my mother what I did while in the Navy...this wasn't going to be one of the stories for sure.  Ok, we're done. Another masterpiece on toilet paper and I have a little cup of water to add at the right time.  I'm walking up towards the ward room with a candy shit in my hand trying to save my career....What a life.  I entered the ward room and laid the item on the table in front of the captain.  I could see the smile come to his face although he stopped it quickly. "My, my that does look rather authentic.  Is this what you did in the reactor tunnel ?  Yes, sir it is.  Mr. Parry is this similar to what you saw ?  It is.  Ok, said the captain. I see no reason to continue here.  Will you withdraw the charge?  The pause was forever. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest waiting for the answer.  Yes, but with a reprimand.  So, I was reprimanded and told not to attempt to humor with the Aft personnel.  My return to launcher was a happy one but when Chief Berry came back I could tell I wasn't one of his favorites.  He told me to go forward and stay away from launcher for the rest of the patrol.  Sorry John, I didn't mean to cause so much trouble and didn't do anything like that again. 
A footnote, showing what kind of person Captain Forsyth was, Awhile later he came up into the torpedo room where I was standing watch and began a conversation.  Just regular stuff, where you from type.  Then with out any warning he reached into his pocket and reached out offering me a tootsie roll.  His smile was genuine.  I accepted and as he was leaving he said, " Just make sure you only eat one at a time from now on."  So ended the Tootsie roll caper.
Mike Robertson TM2 (ss) 70-72


"Get out your petards, men. There's some hoisting to be done."  submitted by Mike Rodgers RC Div Gold Crew '76 to '80 (01/03/10)

One day on patrol, near the end of a watch while we were waiting for the relief section to show up, we were smokin' and jokin' at the aft workbench in  AMR2UL. EM1 Tim Kreuger asked the newby AEA trainee EM3
August Zupka, "Hey Auggie, how do you keep an idiot in suspense?" Auggie thought about this for a while and then said, "I give. How do you keep an idiot in suspense?" Kreuger just stared at him. Auggie said, "Tim, are you deaf? I give up! How do you keep an idiot in suspense?"  Kreuger continued staring at him. By now, everyone was chuckling at Auggie. Finally, after a few more seconds, Auggie's furrowed brow disappeared from his face and was replaced by a look of comprehension. "Oh, I get it!  I'M the idiot. I was kept in suspense...ha ha...very funny...Hey, that's pretty good! I can't wait to try it on someone!" About this time an M Div Senior Chief passed by on the way to the engine room.  Auggie yelled, "Hey chief!" "What's up, Auggie?" "How do you keep an idiot in suspense?" The chief just stared at him.  After about five seconds of waiting for an answer, and for the second time in less than a minute,  the same look of comprehension crossed Auggie's face. His shoulders drooped and his whole body seemed to deflate.  "Damn!", he hollered, as he hit the workbench with his fist.  Everyone roared with laughter. 

"Don't ask - Do Tell"  Doug Largent, RC Div 87-91 Gold Crew - Submitted 01/17/10 

 The best memories were standing Mach 2 UL.  Plenty to do to keep oneself from getting too board.  Plus I was happy to be the official "Coffee Pot Petty Officer".  It was curious how the shower in the head always seemed to malfunction when an a-ganger went in.  The "k-man" in lower level kept things interesting too.  I remember hearing an oops from down below.  His head popped up the ladder.  He asked if anybody was around.  I told him no.  He said good, let me know if anybody's coming.  I asked why.  He said, "You don't want to know."  And down he went.  I found that the "don't ask, don't tell" policy went hand in hand with him.  However, my best memory is when I discovered that if you turn the crang for the phone slowly, the light doesn't come on and it makes a weird growling sound.  I must have spent hours tormenting the lower level guys.  From the top of the forward ladder, I could select the RC coolant pump station just below me.  Pretty soon the watch would come by trying to find the source.  Of course the noise mysteriously stopped when they got too close.  I tried to get the watch to walk circles by selecting the different stations, but it wasn't as fun since I couldn't see him.  If there are any pranksters still on patrol, this ones still good to go.

"First Liberty" Jeff Burke RMCS Radio 85 - 88 Blue Submitted 2/17/10

I was an RM1(SS), when we left the yards in Aug  85, and about 50% of the crew had never gone to sea before. We started conducting our post overhaul drills and inspections to get the boat ready to carry missiles. During this time, we pulled in and out of Norfolk a couple of times and then went to sea to play war games with a lot of P-3 aircraft, surface ships and other submarines. After about 6 weeks at sea, we got orders to head to Cape Canaveral to conduct out post overhaul DASO. The Boat was buzzing the prospects of getting some liberty and spirits were high.  I walked into the lounge and was listening to a bunch of new guys talking about the first thing they were going to do was go to a bar or club to go dancing and to pickup some women. I kind of laughed at them and told them the first place they need to go is to a laundry mat and wash their clothes because you STINK!!  They looked at me and said.. "My clothes are clean..I washed them."  I laughed and turned away knowing that their clothes reeked with Amine and Snorkel dust. 

  After we pulled into port and the next morning after first liberty I was talking to a couple of the guys I saw in the lounge and asked them how their liberty went.  They looked at me and said..."We had to find a laundry mat and wash our clothes".
P.S.  I finally told them that if they wanted to keep the Boat smell off their liberty dud's to double pack them in plastic bags.  It doesn't keep all the smell off, but it helps

Haircut! What haircut!  I don't need no stinkin haircut!  Wayne Wilson Blue Crew 68 - 71 E-Div  submitted 8/18/2011

This is  a no shi-er
     We were sitting having coffee in the crews mess. A first class electrician, Dirty Al was putting sugar and creamer in his coffee up by the galley facing us. He started to tell us that a certain red-
headed XO, Mr Harner, told him to get a hair cut. Well we are only a month into the patrol Bill Allen aka Dirty Al was not happy. You have to realize Dirty Al's military appearance was more squared away than 
anyone else in E-division. He said he went back aft and someone was cutting hair. He picked some up hair off the floor and sprinkled it on his shoulders. He then went back to the blankety blank XO and said, 
"hows that"? The Xo said, " that is much better".     While Dirty Al was relating this incident to us the Xo Mr. Harner stepped in behind Dirty Al and heard the whole story of how he had been tricked.

Dirty Al turned around to find the XO standing right behind him. Dirty Al said to the Xo "why don't you put a bell around your neck instead of sneaking up on people!" Dirty Al then turned around and 
went back aft for a real short hair cut.

Lasagna Anyone! submitted by George Roarick 73 - 77 on 01/15/2012
I had just reported aboard the spring of 1973 in time to participate in some of the many post overhaul sea-trails. One day at for the noon meal the cooks prepared lasagna. They decided to serve it buffet style at the aft end of the Mess Deck. The table had two large “gunboats” full of lasagna sitting on it and was far enough away from the aft bulkhead to allow for two serving lines. I was standing at the table with one of the old salts in E Div when the word was passed on the 1MC “Testing the Emergency Blow System”. Has the boat took the sharp up angle, the two of us watched the two gunboats slide off the table and landed upside down on the deck. It was really good lasagna and I must have looked really disappointed. My shipmate looked at me and said “hey, the stuff on to is clean” and proceeded to heap some on our plates. He started to wolf some down. I didn’t have the balls not to do the same!
No Athlete's Feet Here
Carroll Coon (“Coon Dog”) was one of the most colorful persons I have ever known. When he was off watch in the rack, he would sometimes wake up with the hankering for a cigarette. Coon Dog slept in the buff. Getting dressed for the 10 minutes it took to have a smoke made no sense to him. He would get up and stroll out into the crew’s lounge, naked as a Jay Bird, plop down on a bench, and puff away. If you happened to be sitting in the same bench it tended to be rather awkward. On one of the smoke breaks, the Doc looked up from the never-ending poker game and scolded him for being unhealthy. He pointed out that all manner of ailments were possible including athlete's feet from walking around bare footed. The very next time I saw Coon Dog on a smoke break he was still naked, but was wearing cowboy boots!

Line Problems submitted by Bill McClain  MT2 67 - 69 (posted Jan 15, 2015)

I was on the Key just after commissioning and the first two patrols.  During shakedown after commissioning and the Gold crew had the boat.  Since I was not there, this is only a sea story but I cannot confirm it anywhere on the internet.

Down in the Caribbean they were doing some tests when all of a sudden the boat seemed to be slowing down.  The captain called for more turns but engineering said they were maxed out and turns were still slowing.  Time to surface.  By now there were zero turns.  The ship's diver went over the side.  When he got back aboard they reported that one of the nylon mooring lines was wrapped around the propeller.  I did not find out who the culprit was but someone apparently forgot to dog down a hatch on the freeflood line lockers and the line got loose then wrapped around the screw and shaft.  Apparently friction had melted the nylon and it re-solidified where the shaft exited the hull.  The Key limped into St Croix on the outboard.  The all swimmers went over the side to chip solid nylon.

Did I Save A Tanker or the Key OR Both by Mike Stanley Gold Crew 69 - 72


Ok, I know this story is going to give some people pause and think I’m full of it. However, if my life depended on it, I would swear on a stack of bibles that this incident transpired exactly as I am going to relate it. You can argue whether my actions actually saved the Key but the sequence of events are as clear to me now as the day it happened.

But before people think I’m a braggart and just tooting my own horn, I have another story to tell. Since I’m telling the story of how I saved the Key, I must, in all modesty and for transparency, also relate the story of how I almost lost the Key. But first, How I saved the Key:

We were somewhere in the North Atlantic. I was a seaman and on the stern planes. We were going at a pretty good clip so, being on the stern planes, I was basically in control of the ship when I got the order to bring us up to periscope depth.  The next incidents all happened in rapid succession.  As we approached periscope depth, suddenly right through the hull I heard the Wosh Wosh of a ships prop coming directly overhead. Mostly out of fear, I immediately went into a dive; a split second latter sonar came over the loudspeaker “we have a ship directly above us”. The officer of the deck, instantly, yelled “dive, dive” but I was already well into a dive when this order came.

We went back up and took a look at the ship that was above us. It was a fully loaded super tanker! The officers on deck surmised that we couldn’t have missed the collision by more than about 5’ and there was much speculation on why sonar couldn’t hear the ship until it was right above us.

So the question is did I save the Key by going into the dive a split second before getting the order? Since I was the one controlling the ship at the time, I’d like to think so but now this:


The situation was very much as I previously stated, we were in the North Atlantic, going at a good clip and I was on the stern planes. I was ordered to periscope depth and when I got there, the sea was really rough. Trying to maintain depth, I fell into the worst possible situation, I was chasing the bubble! The Key was bouncing all over and I was overworking the stern planes going back and forth from an up angle to a down angle. At some point, I’d had overworked the hydraulic system so much that I not only sent the stern planes into the emergency mode but also the rudder and fair water planes as well! Alarms were flashing and bells were buzzing all over the place and I froze. Unfortunately, when I froze, the stern planes were in a slight down angle position and in emergency power proceeded to go to a full down angle.  The Key went into a deep dive, the COB reached over and pulled the planes out of my hands and righted them. After which, he proceeded to tear me a new, you know what, saying that in all his years in subs he never had to do anything like that. My only excuse is that I was not yet a qualified submariner.

In any case, for whatever reason, after I did qualify, they made my battle station the stern planes. Go figure!

Mike Stanley, Gold Crew 69-72