Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Monday, January 31, 2005

Bubblehead Answers Your Questions!

I've gotten a few questions, mostly by E-mail, since I started sub-blogging, and a few have shown up more than once. Here's a sampling:

Q1. Who are you? Do I know you?
A1. If you're a submariner who spent much time in Groton, Conn., or San Diego over the last 15 years, chances are we've run across each other. I was the initial manning Engineer on the last two Seawolf class boats, which kind of narrows down who I am. I'm not really sure why I don't put my name on the blog; I post under my own name over at Ron Martini's Submarine BBS, and link to this blog from it, so it's not that big a deal if you find out who I am. I mainly just wanted a cool name to post in other blogger's comments sections. If you still want to find out more about me, you can E-mail me at: subhusker funny symbol yahoo dot com. Or, if you do know me, and I haven't been keeping in touch, I'd love to hear from you. (Especially if you're the XO on USS LaJolla, unless you've just taken the job.)

Q2. You're not going to put what I told you in your blog, are you?
A2. No, I won't. I'm glad to know it, and thank you for sending it, but I don't put anything on this blog that's not available elsewhere on the Internet. As far as having it be "verified" by appearing here -- well, for all you know I'm a 13 year old kid with a submarine fetish.

Q3. Do you know the words to The Submarine Song? You know, the one that starts "Submarines once, submarines twice..."
A3. Yes, I do know the words, including both versions of the second verse. No, I will not put it on this blog. Some submarine secrets are so sacred that we can't run the risk of letting them out to the general public. Now, if you are a submariner who's forgotten the words, and would like me to send them to you, just drop me a note at the address in A1 above, along with your sub qual history and enough submarine-specific jargon to let me know you're the real thing. Indicate if you want me to include the second verse. (Warning: The second verse of the Submarine song is obscene, disgusting, and disturbing on so many levels.) Fair warning to Googlers: This is not the Submarine Song. Neither is this, although it's actually pretty good.

Q4. Did doing that post remind you of another, non-submarine related military song you used to sing?
A4. (OK, we may have finished with the E-mail questions.) Yes, it did. When I was at OCS (I did 6 years enlisted before becoming an officer) the members of my company sang the "Road Guard Song". It's a Jodie -- a marching song done in a "call and repeat" format. Whenever the company marched around the base, you had to send "Road Guards" (guys or gals from your company) with the dorky reflective vests on up ahead to stand in front of oncoming traffic when you marched through an intersection. They were also known as Speed Bumps. Here are the words, as best as I can remember them.
"Road guards in and road guards out...
Road guards runnin' all about...
If I had a low IQ...
I could be a Road Guard too...
If I had one lower than that...
I could be in Second Batt... (Batt = Battalion, 2nd Batt was our battalion's main rival in athletic events)
Road Guards, Road Guards, don't be blue...
______ can be road guards too" (Fill in blank with name of whatever unit you're marching towards.)
Okay... it was funny if you were there.

Wait... another question just came in by E-mail; let's check it out...
Q5. Would you like a larger penis in only 7 days?

Emergency deep!!!

Update 0729 01 Feb: No, this little ditty, sung to the tune of "The Green Berets", isn't the Submarine Song either:
"Silver Dolphins on their chest,
These are men, America's best;
One hundred men, she'll have today,
But only three, the normal way."

HMCS Chicoutimi Update

Here's an update on HMCS Chicoutimi, the Canadian submarine that suffered the at-sea fire last October. She's expected to arrive in Halifax, carried by a Norwegian sealift vessel, on Tuesday. Another story, with picture, can be found here. My discussions of the fire and the aftermath can be found in my October archives.

While you're here, check out A.E. Brain, an outstanding blog from Down Under. Scrolling down, you'll see his take on the San Francisco grounding, or you can click here and here.

Bell-ringer 2145 31 Jan: In the comments, Ninme mentions the West Edmonton Mall submarine fleet. Here's a picture of them. And here's another.

Update 0822 01 Feb: Here's an update showing the sub entering Halifax harbor.

Tin-Foil Hatters On The Loose!

Not much sub news today, so I'll cover my second favorite topic, as mentioned in my vision statement: general foolishness that deserves to be mocked and belittled. As you may know, the easiest place to go on the web to watch idiots in tin-foil hats is the Democratic Underground. Today, they've got quite a discussion going on what really happened to TWA Flight 800. This is a little sub-related, in that some of the wackier theories running around the net are that an American submarine shot down the airliner, or that USS Trepang witnessed it; being that New London Submarine Base is the closest ship homeport to the site of the downing, I guess that makes about as much sense as anything. The Navy probably didn't help matters by claiming at one point that no Navy units were within 185 miles of the crash, when in fact the Sub Base is closer than that. (Couldn't find the link to the actual statement, but I remember it at the time, and here's a moonbat site that brings it up.) The thing that gets me is that people will actually think that the entire crew of a Navy warship would keep quiet about it if they did shoot it down, or the Navy would "indimidate" all the witnesses. Anyway, the DU thread might provide you with a few minutes of wonder and bemusement at the gullibility of your fellow humans.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Electric Boat to Look for Non-Submarine Work

Just got back from our trip to the wilderness, and am catching up around the house. Looks like not much news around the submarine front (which is normally good news) with the exception of this report from Newsday that discussed Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton potentially looking for civilian work. This will be problematic for them, since the skills required of the nuclear workers demand higher pay; asking these skilled workers to ask for less to do non-nuclear work (which EB will have to do to remain competitive) is likely a non-starter in the heavily-unionized yard. However, since there really isn't that much competition in SE Connecticut for these workers (other than the casino industry) it may fly...
I'll get around to answering comments after I get unpacked...

Going deep for a quick sprint...

Friday, January 28, 2005

Plan of the Week

1) For those looking for links to the San Francisco drydock photos and the comments on those, scroll down to the post below this one, or click here.
2) Those of you visiting from may or may not be interested in my views on one of the articles that appeared there; my thoughts are here.
3) I'll be traveling this weekend to the land of the dial-up Internet connection, so subblogging will be light to non-existent. Others who may be stepping in to meet your subblog-reading needs are Bothenook, Chapomatic, Hamilton's Pamphlets, WillyShake, Submarine Brotherhood, and Rob's Blog. In fact, go to this post by Steve now and do what CDR Mooney, CO San Francisco, suggests. I'll still be here when you get back.
4) For a good general roundup of what's interesting on the 'net, I recommend Ninme. For a dose of off-beat humor, IMAO is a good place to start.
5) For all your Carolina Panthers and video games opinions, I strongly recommend Video Games, Football, and Life. First, though, a disclaimer. Seeing as how there's been much interest lately in the blogosphere on disclosing any potential conflicts of interests in blogging, I must confess that I am closely related to Pantherfan (and Yellowness, who will soon be joining Pantherfan's blog); in fact, half of their DNA comes from me. [Their other half comes from Subbasket, who was disappointed to learn that she'll have to pay money to put pictures of her baskets up on her blog; expect more from her after she does that.]
6) I'm looking for advice. In my profile, I note that I'm a "South Park Republican". Having lived in California and Connecticut for the last 10 years, it wasn't that big a deal; I fit in with most of the local Republicans. However, in Idaho, I'm finding that most people who believe as I do are not Republicans; many are even {shudder} Democrats. Bottom line, I'm thinking of registering as a Democrat here in Idaho; not that I could imagine voting for a Democrat for President, but for local elections, I think it makes more sense. Any advice, pro or con, is welcomed in the comments.
7) Finally, for anyone interested in the opinions of a old submariner on the global strategy of the War of Terror, I wrote a little essay here.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Picture of San Francisco in Drydock

(Intel source: Ron Martini's Submarine BBS) Here at last is the officially released picture of the San Francisco in drydock. I'll need to take a closer look at this later to see what I can figure out, but for now, all I can say is "Wow"... it's an even more impressive indication of the professional seamanship demonstrated by the San Francisco Captain and crew in getting her back home.

Update 1701 27 Jan: Some of my thoughts on the damage are in the comments. Here's another picture from the official Navy site; this one shows the view from the drydock floor. Click on the "Download HiRes" option for an even closer view.

Update 2245 27 Jan: Here's some more coverage of the release of the photos from CNN and the New York Times (registration will likely be required soon). The NYT article has one piece of information that I hadn't seen before:

"Also yesterday, Kent D. Lee, the chief executive of East View Cartographic Inc., a map company based in Minneapolis, said Russian Navy charts indicate more hazards in that part of the ocean than were on the American charts, though they also fail to show the undersea mountain.
"Mr. Lee said the Russian charts have been available for five years. He said one of the Russian charts noted that the area where the crash occurred had been "insufficiently surveyed." It also warned: "Cautionary measures should be taken when sailing."

Going deep...

More Idiotarians on Campus

Earlier, I blogged about a Central Michigan University professor who describes terrorists in Iraq as "freedom fighters". Today, I found a professor from the University of Colorado who makes even the loonies at the Democratic Underground (mostly) curl their toes. Ward Churchill, professor of Ethnic Studies at CU and chairman of the department, is featured in this article from The Rocky Mountain News regarding his statements that the 9/11 victims were not innocent. Money quote:

"As for those in the World Trade Center," the essay said, "well, really, let's get a grip here, shall we? True enough, they were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break."
The essay goes on to describe the victims as "little Eichmanns," referring to Adolph Eichmann, who executed Adolph Hitler's plan to exterminate Jews during World War II."

This article was brought about by a protest against Churchill speaking at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y. I guess my question would be: why aren't people in Boulder protesting against having him on campus every day? Or are they too busy protesting about other things that matter to them more? I understand academic freedom and all that, but still, this is a state school... is this really the kind of professor the Colorado Regents want teaching their students? Or is this just another case of CU being irreemably depraved, especially compared to the virtue of paragon that is Nebraska football? (Believe it or not, that last sentence isn't sarcastic; as a native 'Husker, I actually believe it.)

Update 1342 28 Jan: Via Instapundit, here's Opinion Journal's take on the kerfluffle. While you're there, check out Best of the Web if you haven't already.

Update 2139 31 Jan: Campbell has resigned his department chairmanship, but not his professorship, at CU as a result of the controversy. Has he learned anything? Doubtful, based on this excerpt from the link:

"In his statement released Monday, Churchill protested what he called "grossly inaccurate media coverage," which had "resulted in defamation of my character and threats against my life. What I actually said has been lost, indeed turned into the opposite of itself," Churchill stated.
"The essay, On the Justice of Roosting Chickens, wasintended to make the point "that we cannot allow the U.S. government, acting in our name, to engage in massive violations of international law and fundamental human rights and not expect to reap the consequences."
"Denying that he is a "defender" of the September 11 attacks, Churchill said, he had simply been "pointing out that if U.S. foreign policy results in massive death and destruction abroad, we cannot feign innocence when some of that destruction is returned.
"I have never said that people "should" engage in armed attacks on the United States, but that such attacks are a natural and unavoidable consequence of unlawful U.S. policy. As Martin Luther King, quoting Robert F. Kennedy, said, 'Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable'."

Update 1507 02 Feb: CU Ethnic Studies professors tepidly back Churchill, most other public officials call on him to resign, from this FoxNews story.

Update 1509 03 Feb: As Glenn says, this one's got to hurt.

New Sub-Blogger

In previous posts, I've done my best to explain that I'm an Engineer, not an English major, and have asked you to excuse any run-on sentences and dangling participles. Now, though, you can have your literary blog-reading needs met from a submariner's perspective by WillyShake over at Unconsidered Trifles. Check him out!
While I'm posting, here's an update on former USS Greeneville (SSN-772) CO Scott Waddle, provided without comment...

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

San Francisco Drydocked

According to this report from KUAM, USS San Francisco (SSN-711) entered drydock in Guam today for an inspection. They had to do a one-time certification for the drydock to handle submarines, probably one of the ones mentioned at the bottom of this article. I doubt the Navy will be eager to release pictures of the damage when she is in drydock, but may do so if deemed expedient from a public relations perspective.

Speaking of pictures, one that I discussed in my entry here is also available for download on the NavSource Online San Francisco page. Other pics of the boat are also available there, including an interesting one that may be of the GRP sonar dome that was removed from the boat (although it looks like it might be a little small, diameter-wise, to be that).

Staying at PD...

Update: From Ron Martini's Submarine BBS, here's a link to a picture of the drydock the San Fran is apparently in.

Update 0122 27 Jan: This report from KUAM Guam says the Navy has released a video of the San Francisco in drydock, showing the damage to the bow. I haven't found a link to the video yet, but I'll post it when I find it.

Bell-ringer 0811 27 Jan: From the comments -- link to video:, click on webstreaming, click on 27 january news, and watch the newscast. The video is well into the newscast, about the 3 or 4th story.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Gnomes Stole My Underpants!

Taking another swing around the wonder that is the World Wide Web, here's what this submariner is looking at tonight:
Ninme is on a roll, as usual. You should also check out Flightpundit, who is a really informative Marine aviator. (No such thing as a former Marine -- same as submariners.)
If you get a chance, check out the "new kid on the blog" over at Video Games, Football, and Life. He hasn't posted much, but I happen to personally know that he has a lot of great opinions, which I know he'll be happy to share with you.
Here's one that I've thought long and hard about whether or not I should share. I have one really guilty pleasure on the Internet, and that's this satiric site: Blamebush. This is a website that will not appeal to almost anyone except those with my particular brand of humor (me and about 20 others, seeing how many people post there). This website is for those who are incredibly amused by the moonbat-tery over at Democratic Underground, and gets their jollies from mocking and belittling them by taking their illogic to the extreme. "Liberal Larry", who runs the site, is frequently a little over the top in his columns, but the comments are where it can really heat up. We have the most fun when someone comes along who doesn't realize that the site is a satire. You probably won't like it, but maybe someone will like it and join our loony band.

Possible New Pic of USS San Francisco

(Intel source: Rontini's Submarine BBS) For those interested, there's a thread over on FreeRepublic with what is claimed to be a new picture of the San Francisco with the damaged sonar dome removed. The person who posted it claims that the picture is acceptable for Internet release, and hey, I'm just part of the Internet. Linked without additional comment on my part.

Update 0724 26 Jan: Based on this additional picture, I'd say that the picture above is almost certainly of the San Francisco.

Idiotarians on Parade

Still not much submarine news, so I thought I'd link to this really funny guest column on the Fort Wayne News Sentinel web site. Amber Mahaffey is clearly a very idealistic person who has no idea of how the world really works. Here are some of the more hilarious quotes:

"What makes a person so desperate that they will blow themselves up to hurt others? What creates terrorism? The occupation of a country pops up repeatedly, such as the occupations of Iraq and Palestine. It makes sense to me. No matter if they were right or wrong, if someone stomped on our land, how would we react? I do not even like Bush and his cronies, and I know I would become a “freedom fighter.” Perhaps if we un-occupy these countries, we will have fewer problems. But it is not that simple.
"Ending occupations, although a big step, is not all we can do, because love is what really leads to peace. With no enemy, there is no one to fight. With nothing to fight for, there is no foundation for terrorism...

Through violence, you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that. If we asked the people of the world where to find the last terrorist, would the majority say that America was the real enemy of peace? No wonder we are hiding behind our defensive might."

I'm glad we live in a country where Amber Mahaffey is free to hold such simplistic views, and I am equally free to mock and belittle her. Many otherwise sane people I've known have held such views, at least until they get laughed at during a freshman year bull session (high school, not college), or until they run out of weed, whichever comes first. Publishing humor columns like this may serve a good purpose in getting the vast majority of the readers to recognize that such views are idiotic, but I fear that it may also lead our enemies to question our commitment; they've been brought up in societies where only items with official sanction are published, and likely do not understand what a "free press" really means.

Malicious Code on the Web

Man, there are some sick puppies out there in www-land. So there I was, innocently using the "Next Blog" button you see in the upper right hand corner to the Blogger blogs to find a blog with my template that already had a blogroll from which I could "borrow" the coding, when I got slammed by the nastiest little piece of malicious code I've ever had the misfortune to encounter. I hit this one site (can't remember which one) and see the "download" window flash up. I immediately turned off my internet connection, but it was too late; the damned thing screwed up my computer something awful -- it deleted (or hid) about half of the icons on my desktop, hid the "Quick Lauch", turned "My Documents" into a hidden folder, sent my IE Favorites somewhere, and removed the "Accessories" program tab (which made it tough to get to system restore). I'm sure it did some other weird stuff that'll show up over the next couple of days. What pisses me off the most is that my AV and Firewall programs are completely up-to-date; I guess that teaches me to randomly surf to sites where I don't know what I'm getting into. I was able to recover pretty much everything in a couple of hours, but still...

Monday, January 24, 2005

Reactor Coolant Leak at Nuke Plant in Michigan

While not submarine related, this is a nuclear power related story, so I'll blog it (my main expertise on submarines was the nuclear-power part.) Via Drudge Report, we find this article from WXYZ in Detroit, about a reactor coolant leak at the Fermi II plant. (Here's another report from the Detroit Free Press.) The Drudge Report "flash" header says the leak is about 75 gallons per minute of primary coolant, which is a very big leak, if true.

Staying at PD...

Update 2304 24 Jan: Secure from drill; this update from the Detroit Free Press indicates that the leak was from a non-radioactive section of piping -- therefore, not a primary coolant leak as initially reported.

Going deep...

Jane Fonda School of "Effective Protest"

Not much new news on the submarine front today, so I thought I'd discuss something that's been bothering me for quite a while: the apparent belief among the anti-American left that one cannot effectively protest American policy/culture/existance without actively supporting the other side. We saw this first and most famously when Jane Fonda felt the need to go to North Vietnam and make propaganda appearances for them during the Vietnam War. We've seen this continue through the Global War on Terror, whether in Afghanistan or the Iraqi theater. Ignoring complete moonbats like Ramsey Clark and Noam Chomsky, the need to actively support our enemies is alive and well in many corners of America. An example I found today comes from Sterling Johnson, political science professor at Central Michigan University. In this article, Johnson describes the terrorists fighting Coalition Forces in Iraq as "freedom fighters":

"Sterling Johnson, political science professor, said he hesitates to even use the term “elections” for the new Iraqi government.
“Elections have to be planned and of course not even the war was adequately planned, which is why it’s hard to conceive of the Iraqi elections being planned,” he said.
"The upcoming elections are largely based on the myth that the United States can export democracy, Johnson said. He said that has about as little credence as the old Soviet belief that they could export revolution.
“Major Iraqi candidates are of question of legitimacy in the eyes of their own people. I think they’re largely seen as Western stooges,” he said. “This is why their freedom fighters are resistant because they’re doing all they can to preclude a peaceful polling process.”

Of course, it appears that Johnson is only taking the lead of one of the left's favorite moonbats, Michael Moore, who described the terrorists as "Minutemen" last year.

I for one do not have a problem with Americans objecting to their government's policies. However, in this new world, where the only method our enemies have of winning the war is to have their allies get us to quit fighting (as I discussed in the comments section of this post), I do have a problem with the frequent lionization heaped on these protestors by the press. Should we outlaw such press coverage? No, clearly we can't. The only method we have of protesting these protestors is to vote with our wallets and remote controls.

Update 1447 25 Jan: Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette lets moonbat Ramsey Clark mock himself with his own words.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Origin of the "Discolored Water"

Much has been made about the notation on the chart that USS San Francisco was using during her grounding last week that had been marked "discolored water". This area was apparently charted 3 miles south of where the San Francisco collided with the undersea mountain. This article on the Navy Times website shows the actual satellite photograph that, in retrospect, may have shown the seamount, and could have been used to update the chart. An important thing to remember is that the "discolored water" notation was not based on the satellite evidence; it was based on a single report from the Japanese from the 1960s or earlier. The potential misplotting of the discolored water is probably therefore not due to incompetence, as the Navy Times article seems to be trying to imply. Rather, it is probably more likely due to navigational accuracies available in the 1960s, before GPS. Probably some Japanese surface ship had noted discolored water, and conscientiously reported it to their authorities along with their best estimate of their position when they saw it. Hopefully the San Francisco grounding will act as a spur for the cognizant authorities to investigate these reported anomalies that litter the charts and determine once and for all if they're accurate.

Going deep...

Update 2144 22 Jan: Here's the New York Times' take on the same story. (Will probably require registration soon.) Excerpt:

"David Sandwell, a geophysics professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, said it was also possible that the danger zone - an oval area described as containing "discolored water" - was a mistaken and poorly located reference to the undersea mountain.
"Defense Department officials have said that the notation dated to the early 1960's, and that it probably came from a surface ship that had spotted murky water. The discoloration could have been a temporary problem, like an oil slick, or a hazy indication of an undersea structure...

"The exact location of the crash remains classified. But the undersea mountain shows up on the satellite images at 7 degrees, 45.1 minutes north latitude and 147 degrees, 12.6 minutes east longitude...
"Besides relying on charts, submarines also receive fixes from navigation satellites and take soundings of water depths. According to officials, the San Francisco's officers have said they took a sounding just four minutes before the crash, and it indicated that the vessel was still in 6,000 feet of water."

This one piece of new information, that the ship took a sounding four minutes before the collision, will be very important in possibly exonerating the Captain and crew of any dereliction, if the sounding was properly evaluated (i.e. verified to match the expected water depth shown on the chart).

Update 0727 25 Jan: Here's another copy of the story above, from The Seattle Times, that probably doesn't require registration.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Why We Fight (a shorter version)

Earlier, I posted my take on why fighting the Global War on Terror is so important. I used a lot of big words (OK, big words for me) and high-falutin' concepts about how we have to deter the terrorist leaders. While I still believe that these concepts are important, here's a new, simpler to understand reason to continue prosecuting the war: To kill bastards like these as soon as possible, before they decide to come over here. If you think these monsters only commit this kind of depraved act because of US support for Israel, or because we overthrew their dictator, then I hope you find your way back to the real world as soon as possible.

Irresponsible Monday Morning Quarterbacking

Do journalists for semi-major web publications make unsubstantiated charges that further their political agenda? Is Lt. Raymond Perry, USN (Ret.), DefenseWatch Contributing Editor who publishes articles online at Soldiers for the Truth, a total asshat? These are the questions I intend to investigate in this hard-hitting blog entry that will see if the 29-year retired Lieutenant is simply following the orders of his high-ranking (retired) boss, or if he comes by this particular agenda on his own.
Okay, not really... but I am quite pissed about some of the little snippets thrown into this article by the above-mentioned Raymond Perry currently [Edit 1207 26 Jan: now about a quarter of the way down on the front page] on the front page of the Soldiers for the Truth website. In discussing the recent grounding of USS San Francisco (SSN-711) he throws out these little gems:
"Reliable sources indicate that a senior officer was embarked on San Francisco. Could her skipper have been showboating? Did his presence aboard the sub intimidate her skipper? This has been a pertinent issue in earlier submarine mishaps (See “Why are Navy COs Getting the Ax?” DefenseWatch, March 2, 2004). It is critical for the Navy to investigate the potential involvement of a senior officer in order to determine the full account of why the San Francisco accident occurred (also see “A Second Look at the Greeneville Collision,” DefenseWatch, Apr. 1, 2004)."

All in all, the article up to this point is, to be honest, about as factually accurate (if boring) as you might expect from someone who has no clue about the differences between submarine navigation and surface ship navigation. By bringing up these "questions" (read: accusations), we see that Lt. Raymond Perry, USN (Ret.) is really interested in continuing his quest to blame all submarine accidents on the presence of senior riders onboard. In his "A Second Look at the Greeneville Collision", he notes that the senior riders onboard the USS Oklahoma City (SSN-723) and USS Hartford (SSN-768) during their recent collision and grounding, respectively, were both relieved of their duties. The focus in this article is questioning why the senior officer aboard the Greeneville was not similarly relieved. (The fact that the senior officers aboard the Hartford and Oklahoma City were the direct operational commander, either deployed or normal, of the respective boat's COs, while the SubPac Chief of Staff on the Greeneville was not, apparently has no relevance in Lt. Perry's world.)

For those unfamiliar with attack submarine life, here's the "straight skinny": I can count on one hand the number of underways I had in which no one other than the ship's crew was on board. Subs almost always have riders aboard, frequently senior to the CO. While the recent accidents may have been on submarines in which a senior rider is present (and I have seen nothing to indicate that there was a senior rider aboard the San Francisco other than this article), I think we can conservately estimate that 99.9+% of underways with senior officers aboard do not "make the news".

"Showboating"? "Intimidated"? These words do not in any way describe the CDR Mooney that I am honored to have known, and do a great disservice to his dedication and service to our country. And, by the way, Lt. Raymond Perry, USN (Ret.), if a submariner were to "showboat" for a visiting dignitary, there are better ways to do it than run at a flank bell to make up ground after a field day. (Maybe that's how skimmers did it in the little less than 29 years it took you to make Lieutenant; subs are a little more exciting.) And, I fail to see how someone could be "intimidated" into not having the fathometer manned properly, as seems to be the thrust of the earlier, more boring part of your screed. Maybe you could also investigate how many suicides of Chief of Naval Operations happened prior to meeting your employer.

OK, I'm calmed down a little now. In all fairness, a review of some of the articles Perry has written about other subjects seems to show that he is generally fair, if a little naive. As far as Col. Hackworth is concerned... he does seem genuinely interested in improving the military and getting better equipment for the troops, and if he doesn't like flag officers too much, well, some of them piss me off as well. For example, I pretty much agree with the points he makes in this article. But, it does seem that you frequently see him being trotted out on the various news programs if someone is needed support a more defeatist agenda from a military point of view. All in all, I think the "questions" raised in the article do little to advance the cause of determining why the San Francisco ran aground, and unfairly impugn the character of CDR Mooney.

Postscript: I found this article while searching for this guest column, which I think makes for interesting, non-sub related reading.

Bell-ringer 1558 21 Jan: CDR Salamander weighs in with an earlier discussion on the political ties of Col. Hackworth, who runs the DefenseWatch organization for which Perry works. Although I didn't answer the "asshat" question I rhetorically posed above, the good Commander provides his vote in the comments.

Update 1208 26 Jan: Now that has linked to me, I guess there's a chance that Lt. Raymond Perry, USN (Ret.) himself might read my little snit-fit above. If so, I'd like to offer him a chance to respond on this page; I'll post whatever you send me, Ray. Just know, though, that my "frequently intoxicated sources" are saying something different than your "reliable sources" about who may or may not have been on the boat during the grounding, so be prepared to defend yours.

Where Are They Now?

(Intel source: Western Standard) We all remember the bravery of the various "human shields" who went to Iraq in the leadup to the opening of the Iraqi front in the Global War on Terror. After they protected various orphanages and hospitals from the merciless coalition bombing, they all drifted off to their homes, or caves, or wherever else they lived. Now, they're being called to once more defend freedom! 2nd LT Lance Frizzell, a Medical Platoon Leader from the Tennessee National Guard currently in northern Iraq, sees a need for them again:

Well, I think I have just the job for these globe-travelers: Iraq Election Poll Worker. They are familiar with the terrain and people, they have a self-professed desire to help and they seem very articulate. However, their biggest asset is bravery. If they are willing to hunker down between Coalition Forces and a bridge, standing between a foreign terrorist and a polling precinct should be no big deal. Any takers?

I'll stand aside while all these brave champions of freedom rush to Baghdad... hmm, where are they? Or is it possible that they were just anti-American, rather than pro-Iraqi?

Going deep...

Back at PD 0748 21 Jan: From the comments for this post, here is a link to a true example of bravery, as opposed to the "human shields" discussed above.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

San Francisco CO Reassigned

Three articles, one from KUAM Guam, this one from Pacific Daily News, and another from The Navy Times, say that CDR Kevin Mooney, CO San Francisco, has been reassigned to Submarine Squadron 15, with a CSS-15 Deputy Commander temporarily taking command of the San Fran. The Navy Times article also provides this update on the plans for the boat:

"...the Navy is planning to put the San Francisco into a floating drydock in Guam to enable technicians to make the most accurate assessment of damages. Still to be determined: if the drydock is nuclear-capable, something the Navy continues to check out. Davis said that’s expected to happen. If it does, the sub could be in drydock in about a week..."

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, and I really don't know all the facts, but I'm still disappointed that the Sub Force took this action. I guess I've been out long enough (3 1/2 months) to start looking at it emotionally, rather than strictly going by precedent...

Staying at PD...

Update 1205 20 Jan: Here's the official announcement from the Seventh Fleet website. There's also some discussion goin' on amongst the submariners over at Ron Martini's BBS.

San Francisco Blog Posts

I just noticed that a lot of my posts on the USS San Francisco (SSN 711) grounding are dropping off the front page. You can access my entire January archive, including the San Fran posts, by clicking here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

So There I Was...

The well-deserved attention being paid this week to the outstanding professionalism and seamanship of the crew of USS San Francisco (SSN-711) in bringing their damaged ship safely home may have obscured for some of us the fun side of submarining. For the benefit of any readers who may not be as familiar with submarine life, and even for those who are, I thought I might share one of my more humorous sea stories. Anyone with other good sea stories are invited to tell 'em in the comments.
Anyway, my first boat, USS Topeka (SSN-754), was on the homeward leg of her first WestPac in January 1993. It was a very eventful deployment -- the Global Security website describes it thusly:

In August 1992 TOPEKA began her first overseas deployment which involved six months of operation in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. TOPEKA was the first attack submarine in the Pacific Fleet to deploy in support of a carrier battle group. On 4 November 1992 TOPEKA achieved another first by conducting operations in the Arabian Gulf.

We were on our way to a well-deserved port call in Hobart, Tasmania. I took the watch as OOD when we surfaced at about 0200 on a clear January morning, and drove her up the River Derwent. It was one of those watches where you wonder why they're paying you; early summer night, a full moon, good deep water all around, no ship traffic, a quiet lookout, and the CO in the rack. It came time to station the Maneuvering Watch, and I was getting relieved on the bridge by a young officer who was getting his "final observed watch" prior to earning his submarine qualifications, from a Captain who happened to be riding us from Perth to Hobart (wonder how he scammed into that boondoggle?) As I was giving the young officer a turnover, I pointed out the lay of the land. "Okay, see that island up there? We'll be going to the left of that; our anchorage is about a mile past the tip of the island. There are some small boats there, but don't worry, they'll get out of the way."

He relieved me, and I went below to change, and await the first liberty boat. (As off-going OOD, I didn't have a Maneuvering Watch station.) I'm sitting in the wardroom, listening to the conversations between the bridge and control. The "small boats" I had seen earlier turned out to be a protest fleet, concerned that we would turn their fair city into a radioactive holocaust with our evil nuclear reactor. As the poor OOD was trying to reach our anchorage, the kayaks and other small boats kept trying to cut us off, while the Aussie police boats were trying to keep them away. Eventually, a protestor in a kayak pulled alongside our sub and jumped onto the hull. The Aussie police pulled up, grabbed the guy, held his head undewater for a few seconds, then hauled him up into their boat. Eventually we got anchored, and the protestors left (the TV crews had gone away), and they went up to a mountain near Hobart to fast for the duration of our stay. The rest of the town opened their doors to us, and gave us what all agreed was the best liberty call anyone had ever experienced. (I ended up sleeping on a park bench that first night in my Service Dress Blue uniform because I missed the last liberty launch back to the sub.)
The comments are now open for your sea stories...

Nuclear Submarine in Kentucky

This article from The Kentucky Post, about a local school getting a submarine simulator, reminded me that the ex-USS Narwhal (SSN 671) will be moving to Newport, Kentucky in 2007. (Here's the rider attached to the 2004 Defense Appropriation Bill that made it possible.) If I remember right, this will be the only nuclear-powered submarine, other than the Nautilus, on display anywhere in the U.S. Of course, there are plenty of diesel boats being preserved as museum-type exhibits throughout the country; a partial list may be found here, which was linked from the excellent USSVI website.

Today's San Fran News -- No News

This report from KUAM Guam says basically that the Navy is still assessing the damage and considering its options.
Since there's no new news, I thought I should bring my 5 or 6 readers up to date with some other blogs I enjoying visiting. (Actually, I've been getting a lot more visitors since last Saturday -- about 2,400 all told, mostly due to Blackfive's link and some very specific Google searches.)
For those of you new to the blogosphere, I think that the best place to start is at the home of the "Blog-father", Instapundit. Other good "mainstream" blogs include IMAO, A Small Victory, and Best of the Web.
Of the smaller blogs, I really enjoy the "mil-blogs" Citizen Smash, Mudville Gazette, and the above-mentioned Blackfive. Ninme, which I found via Hamilton's Pamphlet's, is my idea of the "perfect" small blog -- just posting on interesting things you find, and letting your audience know how you feel about it. My favorite sub-bloggers are Chapomatic and Bothenook; they've both expanded their interests beyond submarines to other items as well, but frequently have good posts on submarine life and news. Steve has a new entry to the sub-blogging world at Submarine Brotherhood. TechnoChitlins, Power and Control, and Pink Slip Central also offer consistently interesting reading.
Eventually I'll get the guts to try to insert a "blogroll" onto my blog so you can find these sites more easily, but right now I'm not confident enough with my HTML-editing "skillz" to try. Maybe this weekend...

Going deep...

Update 2136 19Jan: Congratulations to M. Simon at Power and Control for his Instalanche!

Update 0926 20 Jan: I can't believe I forgot to include CDR Salamander on my list of favorite mil-bloggers. He has the best blog "vision statement" of all time...

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Classified Information and the Internet

Here at "The Stupid Shall Be Punished", I do my best not to post any classified information (which really limits the quality of what I can say in response to different news articles). In some cases, classified information may make its way into the public domain, and I may link to it. However, you hopefully won't find me saying that "This is from a secret document, and as someone known to have once had a security clearance, I'm confirming that this is what the secret document actually says". Additionally, I've never been the presidential nominee of a major party.
This is why I'm concerned about a new E-mail Sen. John Kerry sent to his supporters today. (Scroll down to today's 5:40pm entry, "Sorry, Senator: You Don't Pick The SECDEF".) (Direct link to the E-mail at the wacky Democratic Underground here; read the comments at your own risk.) This E-mail contains the following paragraph:

'In August 2003, the Joint Chiefs of Staff prepared a secret report assessing the post-war planning for Iraq. The report blamed "setbacks in Iraq on a flawed and rushed war-planning process." It also said "planners were not given enough time" to plan for reconstruction.'

The quotes he gets come from this Washington Times article, printed in September 2003. What concerns me is this: if a person known to hold a secret security clearance (such as Sen. Kerry), who presumably has access to the document in question, is holding forth these statements as true, based on a report the paragraph itself says is secret, is this not the same thing as releasing the classified information? Granted, it could have been that these quotes were taken from unclassified portions of the report. I just believe that it's "bad form" for our senior statesmen (despite what you may think of Sen. Kerry, he is still a senior Senator) to be quoting from documents they know to be secret in E-mails released into the world. Surely he could have made the same point by using an unclassified source -- let's face it, events have shown that the planning for aftermath of the Iraq War probably could have been improved.

(Disclaimer: I did work in the Planning Directorate at Central Command in the aftermath of the war, so unfortunately I can't provide any concrete examples of what happened there, due to the aforementioned secrecy issues. However, I can make a general statement to the effect that if I were to choose an organization I've worked for to be held up as a model of efficiency and clear planning, CENTCOM J5 would not be at the top of my list.)

Textbook Example of a Misleading Headline

Here's an article from the KRNV (Reno NBC affiliate, Channel 4) website, which I assume is just a result of ignorance. The article, titled "Nine wounded Nevada National Guard soldiers denied Purple Hearts" makes one think, "Damn! Nine brave soldiers wounded in battle are being capriciously denied their deserved honors by an unchecked bureaucracy/uncaring military/Bush Family/neo-con conspiracy" (depending on your specific level of anti-idiotarianism). However, if you continue into the actual story, it turns out that the medals haven't been "denied" (which means the paperwork has been routed through channels, and the award turned down by competent authority); rather, the paperwork is making its' way through the military bureaucracy. Although I am personally unhappy that it seems to take much longer for an average grunt's personal awards to get through the bureaucracy than it does for, say, someone on a flag staff, I don't think it rises to the level of writing shrill headlines about it. As one of my favorite sayings goes: "Never attribute to malice that which can be ascribed to sheer incompetence."

Monday, January 17, 2005

50th Anniversary of Nuclear Submarines

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the initial sea trials of USS Nautilus (SSN 571), the first nuclear-powered submarine. (At this point, all submarine historians are required to mention the first message sent by the Nautilus: "Underway on nuclear power".)

Peter Brookes has an excellent op-ed piece in the New York Post on the anniversary, which I highly recommend.

An excellent collection of USS Nautilus pictures and information can be found here.

Update 1213 18 Jan: Robert Hamilton of The Day has a report on the anniversary celebrations in Groton, CT. (After one day, annoying free registration required.)

Update 0558 20 Jan: Here's an account of the anniversary celebrations from the SUBASE New London base newspaper "The Dolphin", that doesn't require registration. It also has a picture of the first CO of the Nautilus, VADM Eugene Wilkinson.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Why We Fight

Deterrence: The condition in which an adversary is certain that any attack will be met with retaliation, but is unsure of the extent of the retaliatory response.
I don’t claim to be an expert at international relations, world history, or current socio-economic trends. What I am is a simple retired submarine officer who has spent the last 20+ years living and traveling around the world, interacting with military officers from dozens of countries, and developing a world-view that I hope will allow me to explain to my children in a logical way why some people might want to kill them just because they’re Americans. Here’s what I believe right now: (Disclaimer: I reserve the right to modify my opinion if and when I get new factual information. I’ve seen many people on the ‘net complain that people “believe their opinions are right”, as if that’s a negative. Opinions are, by definition, what one believes to be true based on the information they have. To those who are against one believe that one’s opinion is right, I would ask them to name an opinion they have that they believe to be wrong. Not too easy, huh?)
We (the United States) have been at war with people who subscribe to what is frequently called an “Islamist” philosophy since at least 1979, when our Embassy in Teheran was over-run by Iranian militants. This war continued on through our involvement in Lebanon in the early ‘80s, through the scattered terrorist attacks of the ‘90s, and reached new heights with the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen and finally with the attacks on September 11th, 2001. This was a rather one-sided war; not from a military point of view, but from the viewpoint that only one side (the Islamists) recognized that we were at war – that is, up until the morning of September 11th. At this point, the American public realized, as had many in the military that I had worked with through the 90s, that we were in a no-shit, world-wide war against a determined enemy.
We prosecuted the opening phases of this “new” war brilliantly, overthrowing the Taliban in Afghanistan and mostly chasing Al Queda (or the “UBL” organization, as we military professionals always referred to it before 9/11) into the ungoverned regions of Pakistan. Our next step in the war is where it got tricky.
Our goal should be to deter the terrorist from attacking the U.S. homeland, or that of our allies, ever again. As I said at the beginning of this entry, deterrence is the state where the enemy is certain that we will retaliate, but unsure of how we will retaliate. This brings us to the Iraqi theater of the Global War on Terror (GWOT). We had any number of reasons to attack Iraq and replace their government: 1) They were shamelessly violating oil sanctions imposed as a result of their failure in their aggressive war against Kuwait; 2) they were shooting at our warplanes enforcing the “no-fly” zones imposed as a result of previous Iraqi violations of the cease-fire ending the Persian Gulf War; 3) they were harboring terrorists who’s stated goal was to attack the U.S. (the fact that these particular terrorists were not involved in the 9/11 attacks notwithstanding). [Note to readers: I personally saw 1) and 2) above, so for the purposes of this blog they will be treated as a "given".] Also, and what I believe was the best reason to eliminate the Baathist regime, is 4): They were "loose cannons" whose future actions we could not predict, and who were likely to cause even more trouble by not being removed. In saying I believe that this was the best reason for a pre-emptive war, I'm not arguing that this is the "ethically right" causus belli (arguments 1, 2, and possibly 3 above fit the bill better), I'm just saying that that is how power politics operate in the new, unipolar world. Might may not make right, but perceived weakness doesn't mean you can kick the bully in the nuts and not expect him to hunt you down. This is the real world, not a college classroom. There are those who say that the oil sanctions and no-fly zones were unfair; that may be so, but I believe that a country (or stateless people, in the case of the Palestinians) should suffer some penalties as the result of starting an aggressive war that they then go on to lose. Two centuries ago, that penalty would have been complete loss of sovereignty over some or all of their territory; international opinion now seems to have moved away from this option.
I believe that the message we were trying to send to the Islamists in positions to attack the U.S. by invading Iraq was, basically, “You attacked us, and you figured that you could accept the loss of your major base of operations. However, we’re also taking away an option for a future base of operations as well, as part of our retaliation. Think about that the next time you want to start something.” [Is this fair? Probably not. Is this type of thinking required to defeat our new enemy? I believe it is.] Although for political reasons we had to go through the UN and try to base the war on “weapons of mass destruction” (which we assumed was a “slam dunk”, mostly based on our failure to understand the Arab psyche, as well as assuming that the Iraqi acknowledgment of a chemical/biological stockpile in the mid-90s was valid), I believe that most international leaders understood the real story.
We now find ourselves occupying a country who doesn’t want us there, and where we honestly don’t want to be for an extended period of time. This wasn’t a “war for oil” – if we wanted cheap oil, we could just occupy Canada. This was, in my opinion, a warning shot across the bow of Islamist strategists: our level of retaliation was more than you expected, and you can expect it to be worse next time. Our goal should be, such that when a terrorist wakes up in the morning and thinks, “Hey, I should attack the United States”, his next though should be “…but if I do, the consequences will likely be worse than I am able to bear. Therefore, I won’t attack the U.S., and live to fight another day.”
That being said, I believe that, unfortunately, we have shown that the U.S. wasn’t psychologically or politically ready to pursue such a strategy, as shown by the negative public reaction to recent setbacks in Iraq. We’ve shown that there is a level of resistance that can make a large part of the electorate start declaring the operation to be another “Vietnam” and a “quagmire”. This is unfortunate; we had a chance to change the world. I believe that we must “stay the course” in Iraq, and finish what we’ve started there, hoping that the small seed of democracy can grow, and choke out the Islamist thistle patch that is flourishing there now. Perhaps we have taught the terror masters that we won’t let an attack go unanswered, as we did when the USS Cole was attacked. I hope so, but I doubt it. We still don’t understand the motivation that drives our most implacable enemies and their supporters (Note: I do not mean we should alter our behavior to change their motivations, just that we need to understand them to be able to counter [and kill] them more effectively). Until our leaders and the public at large fully understands the hate that dwells in their hearts will we find the will to fight them at the level where we need to in order to gain complete victory. We aren’t there yet (I’m not even there – I was repulsed by what I saw from Abu Grahib), and I fear we won’t be until another attack helps force it into our collective psyche. I hope it won’t come to that, that we have met our goal of deterring our adversaries, who know that another attack will likely result in the increase of American will to will enable us to fight them on their terms… and that’s what I tell my children.

Note: I intentionally did not read Bill Whittle’s essay titled “Deterrence” when that came out several months ago, because I’ve been planning on writing this since before I started blogging. If any of the ideas expressed here were expressed earlier (and I’m sure better) by him, this wasn’t a case of plagiarizing; simply a case of a lesser blogger reading some of the same resources and coming to similar conclusions.

(Edited to correct mis-spellings and poor sentence structure... I'm an Engineer, not an English major.)

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Details on San Francisco Grounding Emerge

Robert Hamilton of The New London Day continues his series of articles revealing new light on the recent grounding of USS San Francisco (SSN-711). (Free registration required after one day.) An excerpt:

"In late morning, the ship was at periscope depth, checking to make sure it was on course. Everything checked out; the ship was just over 400 miles southeast of Guam, near the Caroline Islands ridge, but the charts showed that there was no water less than about 6,000 feet deep for at least seven miles around the boat, more than enough of a safety margin for submariners, who are known to be cautious.
"Some time about 11:30, after running through a safety checklist to make sure the boat was ready to submerge, the officer of the deck gave the order to dive. The San Francisco used the dive to pick up speed, and was soon running at flank speed, something in excess of 30 knots.
"Although its destination was to the southwest, it was headed in an easterly direction, probably because it had “cleared its baffles,” or changed direction to check to make sure there were no submarines trailing it in the spot directly behind the ship, where its normal sonar sensors cannot “hear.”
"At 11:42 a.m. Guam time, about four minutes after diving, the San Francisco crashed head-on into a nearly vertical wall of stone, a seamount that was not on the charts. In an instant, the submarine's speed dropped from almost 33 knots horizontal to 4 knots almost straight up as the bow whipped up and the ship tried to go over the obstacle — without success."

This article, while very informative, does have a few problems. Hamilton's use of the word "dive" in conjunction with the ship coming down from periscope depth (PD) is technically inaccurate; in submarine language, "dive" indicates a change in condition from surfaced operation to submerged operation, which is not what happened in this case -- the ship had been at a depth where it could stick its' antennae out of the water, and transitioned to a deeper depth. Also, his later discussion of "water space management" is inaccurate, but not enough to take away from the largely informative nature of the article. Read the whole thing...

Staying at PD...

Friday, January 14, 2005

Satellite Picture Showed Possible Undersea Mountain... in 1999

Christopher Drew of the New York Times rebounds from a controversial (at least within the submarine community) earlier story on the San Francisco grounding with a useful and informative article on the possible shortcomings of the charts being used by the Submarine Force (annoying free registration to get the second page of the article). Here's the money shot:

The submarine had crashed head-on into an undersea mountain that was not on the charts. One sailor was killed, and about 60 others were injured. Now, Defense Department officials say they have found a satellite image taken in 1999 that indicates an undersea mountain rising to perhaps within 100 feet below the surface there.
But the older navigation charts provided to the Navy were never updated to show the obstruction, they acknowledge, in part because the agency that creates them has never had the resources to use the satellite data systematically.
The officials said the main chart on the submarine, prepared in 1989 and never revised, did not show any potential obstacles within three miles of the crash. They said the incident happened in such a desolate area - 360 miles southeast of Guam - that updating their depiction of the undersea terrain was never considered a priority.
The new information about the charting flaws also illustrates what many experts say is a broader danger not only to submarines but also to many surface ships. At the same time, it provides a glimpse into the arcane task of plotting an undersea world that in some areas is still more mysterious than the surfaces of Mars or Venus.

There are lots of areas left in the world where the charts will show only a few narrow tracks where sounding (water depths) have been taken, and a lot of blank space. What we're finding out here is that even if your chart seems to be full on information, there's a lot going on under the water that we don't know about....

Going deep...

Update 1651 15 Jan: Here's a website that gives a general view of mapping the seafloor by satellite.

Roll Call Memorial

On Thursday, the crew of the USS San Francisco held a memorial service for MM2(SS) Joseph Ashley. This story in the Pacific Daily News, "Shipmates Honor Sailor", does a nice job of giving us the details of the service. The article calls the service a "last man roll call".

During a last man roll call yesterday, all the sailors in the Auxiliary Division of the Engineering Department were present -- except Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Allen Ashley.
The "brotherhood," as many submariners call it, gathered yesterday at a memorial service for Ashley, who died from injuries suffered when the nuclear-powered submarine USS San Francisco ran aground Jan. 8 about 350 nautical miles south of Guam.

This type of service has got to be, without a doubt, the most gut-wrenching, emotionally-charged type of service I have ever seen. For those who haven't see one... well, here's an example of how the Army Rangers do it (from

"Once an Eagle" Ceremony
All Rangers (from any era) in attendance sit together for the ceremony. This may be conducted at the actual funeral, or at the gravesite service. If this is conducted during the actual funeral service, coordinate the placement of the "Once an Eagle Ceremony" during the service with the family and those conducting the actual funeral service. If this is conducted at the gravesite service, it should take place just before the rifle salute and Taps.
One Ranger, designated as the OIC, announces,
OIC: "Rangers, post".
Upon the detail posting, he then calls out:
OIC: "Report for Ranger Roll Call!"
He then reads a list of the names of all Rangers present at the service.
OIC: Ranger________
Ranger in formation replies: "Here"
After each name is read, the Ranger present replies with, "HERE" until a roll has been called for all Rangers in attendance.
The last name called, is that of the fallen Ranger.
OIC: Ranger_________(name of deceased Ranger)
pause for a reply.....when there is none
Ranger_________(name of deceased Ranger)
pause for a reply.....when there is none
Ranger_________(name of deceased Ranger)
After the third calling of his name, a Ranger standing in formation announces,
Ranger in formation: "Sir, Ranger ______(name of the deceased Ranger) who was "Once an Eagle" is now reporting as a US Army Ranger to a much higher authority. May God bless him.
OIC replies: "Yes, may God bless him. Rangers, you are dismissed."
And the ceremony is over.

Probably the most poignant example I remember reading of such a ceremony happened when I was stationed at U.S. Central Command Headquarters last year in Tampa. The St. Petersburg Times had a wonderful article on Army Sgt. Paul Smith, who laid down his life for his brothers outside Baghdad on April 4, 2003. (I believe that he, along with Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta, deserves the Medal of Honor.) Here's how the author of this story describes the "roll call" ceremony Sgt. Smith's squad held the day after his death, just behind the front lines:

At 8 the next morning at a spot a few miles from the courtyard, the B Company engineers held a memorial service. In front of them stood a rifle, stuck bayonet-first in a dirt pile. A helmet rested on the stock. 1st Sgt. Campbell called the roll of platoon sergeants.
"Sgt. Bergman."
"Here, first sergeant."
"Sgt. Roush."
"Here, first sergeant."
"Sgt. Brown."
"Here, first sergeant."
"Sgt. Smith."
"Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith."
"Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith."
The company stood at attention. The soldiers fired a 21-rifle salute. No one had taps on CD, so they went with what they had, a bagpipe version of Amazing Grace.

I have tears in my eyes as I type this story, thinking of the brave men and women who leave their homes to defend our freedoms, our way of life, even the future tenuous freedom of those they fight. Whether on land, in the air, or on or under the sea, these warriors deserve our special thanks. To Petty Officer Ashley, Sergeant Smith, Sergeant Peralta, and all who risk their lives for me, know that my family and I honor you, and will keep your sacrifices in our hearts.

Update 2345 14 Jan: bothenook has a some thoughts at his blog.

Outstanding Article from The Day

Here is about the most informative summary yet I've seen of the San Francisco grounding, from The New London Day. It'll require free registration after today, so see it quickly! Here's some new speculation that actually makes sense if you think about it:

Cmdr. Kevin Mooney, the captain of the Guam-based San Francisco, had not been relieved of duty as of Thursday night, an indication that Sullivan is not concerned that he was at fault in the accident, Navy sources said.
Privately, several retired senior submarine officers said it would not be surprising if Mooney is eventually court-martialed for the incident, but only so that he can be acquitted in a public forum, giving him a stronger defense in the event of any civil actions by the family of crewmen. Given the nature of the accident, few expect he would be held liable for the crash.
“If he is court-martialed, it would be for his own protection,” one of the sources said.
The San Francisco was apparently following all the required procedures and was supposed to be more than seven miles from any obstacles when it hit a seamount, or underwater mountain, while traveling about 500 feet below the surface at more than 30 knots, or about 35 mph, sources said.

Good stuff, if true...

Update: Welcome, Rantburg readers. The comments from this thread on Rantburg are starting off in an "unfortunate" direction. Regarding Bob Hamilton's theory in the article above that there may be a "show" court martial for exonerate Captain Mooney, I also don't think they'd go through the legalities, but he could be taken to "Admiral's Mast" (for form of non-judicial punishment, as they did for the USS Greeneville collision) and found not guilty there. However, these aren't official judicial proceedings like courts-martial are.

First Hand Report from the San Francisco

An E-mail that was purported to be from a Chief Petty Officer on the USS San Francisco has been circulating around the submarine community the last couple of days, but I wasn't sure about its' authenticity, so I didn't link to it. However, it's now up at, so I figure they've vetted it enough to give it a link. (Hey, I don't have too much in the way of standards, but when someone's name is on the thing, I'll try to err on the side of caution.) Here's an excerpt:

As it was, it happened while chow was going on and most people were either sitting and eating or on watch. I don't remember much of the collision. People describe it as like in the movie, "The Matrix," where everything slowed down and levitated and then went flying forward faster that the brain can process. My mind has blanked it out exactly what happened. Adrenaline kicked in and I have no real memory of how I got down to middle level or what I did immediately following. I helped carry several shipmates to the crew mess deck (adrenaline is a wonderful thing - my shoulder was wrecked and I had no idea until about 4 hours later). I sat with several of my junior guys that had bad head wounds and talked with them to keep them conscious until doc could see them. It seemed like an eternity but I'm sure [it] wasn't that long.

The teamwork and immediate response to a casualty that are the hallmarks of the submarine force were definitely in evidence aboard the good ship San Francisco.

Staying at PD...

Update: I just realized that this post has pushed all my non-San Francisco postings off the front page. There's more in the archives, including a couple of my "critiques" of the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner's science coverage here and here.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

This San Francisco Article Has The Right Focus

I wrote yesterday about the NYT article that I felt had the wrong "tone" -- trying to highlight the "Navy withheld information" part rather than the bravery and skill of the crew. An article today by Robert Hamilton of The New London Day (who I discussed earlier here) does, in my opinion, a much better job. This article (registration required) begins as follows:

It is increasingly clear that the submarine that hit a seamount in the Pacific Ocean last week came close to being lost and that only the valiant efforts of its crew kept it afloat, Navy sources said Tuesday.
With uncontrolled flooding in its forward ballast tanks, the USS San Francisco had to run a low-pressure air pump for 30 hours straight to maintain buoyancy on its trip home, Navy sources said. The pump is rated for only intermittent use.
In addition, the submarine ran its diesel engines, channeling the exhaust into the forward ballast tanks in an effort to force out more of the water and make the ship lighter.
“Based on the information I've seen so far, they're very lucky this ship didn't sink,” said retired Navy Capt. John C. Markowicz. “Only through the heroic efforts of the crew did that ship survive.”

Thanks, Mr. Hamilton.

Staying at PD...

(Edited title to correct stupid misspelling)

Update: Alexander, another submariner (there's no such thing as an ex-submariner) has a blog, and he provides some excellent comments on the grouding here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Pictures of USS San Francisco Pierside

Donmac was kind enough to let me link to 4 pictures he obtained of the San Francisco pierside in Guam. The top two pictures show how low she's riding in the bow; the front end of the towed array fairing is essentially in the water. The frothing in the water is from air being forced into the forward ballast tanks to keep the water level in the ballast tank as low as possible. The air pressure is either coming from the ship's Low Pressure air blower, or, more likely, a temporary system they have hooked up being supplied from the pier. The capstan is up just aft of the forward hydophone; this isn't normal, but it could have been used in mooring, since the ship was riding so low forward, or it could have been damaged in the collision (I think the former is more likely).

Going deep...

New York Times Goes for the Sensational

The New York Times, in this article by Christopher Drew (annoying free registration required) tries to dredge up what they can to make the Navy seem uncooperative and secretive regarding the grounding of the USS San Francisco (SSN-711). Excerpts follow:

The nuclear submarine that ran aground Saturday in the South Pacific hit so "incredibly hard" that about 60 of its 137 crew members were injured and the sailor who died was thrown 20 feet by the impact, according to internal Navy e-mail messages sent by a top admiral...

The messages were written by Rear Adm. Paul F. Sullivan, the commander of submarines in the Pacific. They paint a more dire picture of the accident, which occurred 360 miles southeast of Guam, than had previously been disclosed. They also hint at the extensive efforts to steady the vessel and save the sailor who died...

The e-mail also indicated that about 60 crew members had been injured. All the Navy had said publicly was that 23 crew members were treated for broken bones, cuts and bruises.

The messages said those 23 were hurt seriously enough that they were unable to stand their watch duties as the submarine limped back to Guam. Mr. Ashley said the submarine's captain, Cmdr. Kevin Mooney, told him by phone on Monday that among the injured crew members, "there were a lot of broken fingers, broken arms and legs and one fractured back."

The tone of the article indicates that the Navy had something to hide in their initial reports, whereas I think the Submarine Force has been as forthcoming as possible, especially with information as hard as it was to come by when the boat was still transiting back to Guam. The main information in the article seems to come from a series of E-mails sent by RADM Sullivan, ComSubPac, that I discussed earlier here. The main issue seems to be that there were 60 Sailors injured, rather than the previously reported 23. The Navy had never said there were only 23 injuries; rather, there were 23 injured so badly that they couldn't resume watchstanding duties. It is reasonable to assume that submariners will stand watch with minor injuries when they know that others are hurt more badly; the ship still needs people to operate the ship, especially on the surface. They may not have even reported their more minor injuries until the ship was safely in port.

This article, although informative, disappoints me somewhat in that Christopher Drew, who spent a lot of time with submariners (not me!) in researching his book Blind Man's Bluff, should have known better. I'm sure he is under pressure to get the most sensational story he can, but in this case he should have focused more on the real story of this tragedy -- the total professionalism, dedication, and bravery shown by the officers and crew of the San Francisco.

Update 1311 12Jan: Here's another version of the article that might not require registration. Based on my good friend Bothenook's comment, I re-read the article, and decided that, overall, it's actually fairly well-written and balanced. I guess I fell victim to one of the classic blunders: Reading a wacky Democratic Underground post about the grounding that linked me to the NYT article; I was still in the mindframe of idiotarian mocking when I read the article.

Going deep...

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Petty Officer Ashley (SSN-711 Sailor) Info

Here's a story from an Ohio TV station website that has information, and a picture, of MM2(SS) Joseph Ashley, who was killed in the line of duty onboard USS San Francisco (SSN-711) this weekend. (Hat tip: Kurt)
A more personal remembrance piece from the Akron Beacon Journal is here (free registration required). A sample:

``When he had his heart set on something, he would try his best to get it done,'' said his mother. ``I always told him to do what he wanted to do in life, but to be the best at it and to always try his hardest."
One day he came home and shared his future plans.
``He said, `Mom I passed the Navy test; I'm going to do what daddy did. He always excelled in what he did.' ''
He made rank in minimal time and was named Junior Sailor of the Year for the entire Guam naval base.''

I had one shipmate pass away when I was on USS Connecticut (SSN 22). We were in new construction, and he died in an accident at home. He never went to sea on the boat; he earned his dolphins riding other boats while our ship was being built. His mother said his greatest goal was to take the Connecticut out to sea, so when we went out on our second underway, the ship's company committed his remains to the deep. MM3(SS) Richard Keen, was and remains to this day, my shipmate. In the same way I honor Petty Officer Keen, the officers and crew of the San Francisco will always remember and honor Joseph Ashley.

Going deep...

Update 0730 12 January: Welcome, Blackfive readers! Blackfive is one of my favorite mil-bloggers, and the winner of the 2004 Mil-Blogger of the Year award.

Seamounts near the Caroline Islands

Robert Hamilton, of the New London, CT, Day, and one of the most informed newpaper writer around on the subject of submarines, has a good article (annoying free registration required after two days) in which he talks to local retired submariners about the area where the San Francisco (SSN-711) ran aground. The article (limited to the blogosphere's requisite four paragraphs) states in part:

•••During the Cold War, the Navy focused on charting the Atlantic because of the threat the Soviet Union posed from that direction. Submariners said that until recently some of the Pacific Ocean charts carried warnings based on soundings made by Captain Cook in the 18th century, and even modern charts can be based on soundings taken 20 miles or more apart.
Local submariners say the area where the sub was traveling is notorious for no-warning sea mounts; the water depth can change 1,000 fathoms in seconds.
“We know more about the backside of the moon than we do about the bottom of the ocean,” said retired Navy Capt. James Patton, president of Submarine Tactics and Technology in North Stonington.
The area in which the San Francisco was traveling, through the Caroline Islands chain, is one of the worst, with dozens of islands rising out of the water and many more uncharted seamounts between them.

I remember transiting once from Perth, W. Australia, to Hobart, Tasmania; the charts for the area basically had only a narrow lanes of sounding data, and a lot of blank areas. The Pacific is a big ocean; there's lots of places we haven't been yet, and the San Francisco may have been in one of those places.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Official Information on San Francisco grounding

Here's a portion of what is purported of an unclassified message sent today by Commander, Submarine Forces Pacific.

At 10 January 1634 local (100134 EST) the USS SAN FRANCISCO returned safely to Apra Harbor, Guam. The ship moored with her own line handlers in a normal submarine configured mooring (AFT draft is 27'-10'' (normal AFT draft is 32') and FWD Draft is above the draft marks with the waterline at the point the towed array faring begins; 0.8 degree STBD list and 1 degree Down bubble indicating by naval architecture calculations that 1 A/B and 2A/B MBTs are most likely flooded). The severely injured Machinist Mate (Engineroom Upper Level Watch at time of grounding) was evacuated immediately and transferred by ambulance to Naval Hospital Guam where a fully staffed medical team was standing by. He is conscious and in stable condition. Approximately fifteen additional injured personnel requiring medical care subsequently departed the ship and were transported to the hospital after taking a moment to meet with family members.
Crewmembers from the USS CORPUS CHRISTI, HOUSTON and FRANK CABLE assisted in linehandling and various return to port evolutions such as propulsion plant shutdown, shorepower cables, and rig for surface. Standing by on the pier was a full complement of watchstanders from USS CITY OF CORPUS CHRISTI (and SAN FRANCISCO stay-behinds) to satisfy all watchstanding requirements for reactor plant shutdown with follow-on inport forward and aft watchsections.
Following the grounding on 8 January, the ship transited on the surface at 8kts with surface escort, USCGC GALVESTON ISLAND to Apra Harbor, Guam. Due to deteriorated weather conditions on the evening of 9 January, the Commanding Officer shifted bridge watchstations to control and shut bridge access hatches to maximize watertight integrity in light of reserve buoyancy concerns. The ship maintained stability throughout the surface transit with continuous operation of the Low Pressure Blower on the Forward Main Ballast Tanks. SAN FRANCISCO has experienced no reactor plant, propulsion train or electrical system degradations as a result of the grounding. The Commanding Officer shifted the Officer of the Deck's watch to the bridge on 10 January in preparation for piloting into Apra Harbor.

The ship's Main Ballast Tank damage and deformation has degraded maneuverability and mandated the use of two tugs to moor in Apra Harbor. A Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard/NAVSEA Material Assessment Team comprised of a structural engineer, MBT vent expert, air systems expert and naval architect arrived in Guam with special ship salvage and recovery equipment to stabilize the ship pierside as soon as possible. The team, led by Captain [Name], commenced a seaworthiness and repair assessment upon the ship's arrival. Once additional buoyancy measures are in place and testedsatisfactory, the Low Pressure Blower will be secured to allow divers to enter the water to conduct an inspection. While this grounding is a tragedy, with a through investigation led by [Name], we will find out all the facts and then ensure we learn from the mistakes. But, I too believe we have much to be thankful for today, and much to be confident in. An operational warship has returned to port on her own power with all but one of its crew after sustaining major hull damage. The survival of the ship after such an incredibly hard grounding (nearly instantaneous deacceleration from Flank Speed to 4 KTS) is a credit to the ship design engineers and our day-to-day engineering and watchstanding practices. The continuous operation of the propulsion plant, electrical systems and navigation demonstrates the reliability of our equipment and the operational readiness of our crews as a whole.

I can't guarantee that this is an actual message sent out by ComSubPac, (I'm not on the mailing list anymore) but it certainly is in the same tone as similar messages I've seen previously, and if it is a hoax, it's a darn good one, by someone who knows submarines. The description of two flooded forward main ballast tanks matches with the boats attitude as it was coming into the harbor. If true, this message confirms to me the professionalism, dedication, and incredible seamanship demonstrated by the crew in the aftermath of the casualty. I expect we won't hear much more about the specifics of this incident for a while, unless they do determine that there really was an uncharted seamount that the boat hit.

Going deep...

Possible Second Hand Report from San Francisco Grounding

I really hate to post anything from a bulletin board (especially Free Republic, which can be as bad in its own way as Democratic Underground), but this thread, down in the 900s, has what is claimed to be a relative of one of the San Francisco's Sailors giving a report of what they heard from their son. Part of the thread is as follows:

The incident was very touch and go. They were at depth and near flank speed.The the petty officer at the helm immediately did an emergency blow, (with a broken arm) to surface the ship. [Name's] compartment was filling with water, and while looking for the source was sprayed in the face when he became aware it was not sea water. There were no hull breaches and no high pressure steam leaks. Two of the ships three bow ballast tanks were compromised severly and a air pump rated only for intermittent service was employed for more than 30 hours to provide bouyancy in those tanks. There were two risky option to keep the boat afloat if there were a pump failure, thank goodness the pump held. The hull of the ship actually accordioned. I would like to thank the welders who put her together.
My son said that with the emergency blow, they surfaced very quickly. He also talked about the water leak and fortunatly, it was not sea water. The collision also knocked out the sonar. The sonar guys helped out with other duties and the injured also worked at getting the sub back home. He went up to the control room to help out and said there was a lot of blood around there. The medic and and jg with paramedical experience and a couple of guys with EMT training did a fantastic job on treating the injuries. When a medical doc finally came on board, he highly complimented the work, stitching, etc that this group did. We can be proud of the good work of the crew of the SSN San Francisco. My son said the charts showed open country for clear sailing. The senior people are really beating themselves up over what went wrong. And the crew is also concerned for the Captain, XO, Navigator,etc. He hopes everything will turn out good for them. Yes, the hull is pretty well wrinkled. Our tax dollars were well spent there to be able to withstand such a colliding force. My son said that nothing came apart or was damaged in the engine room. He said when he meets an engineer or designer of the reactor and engine room, he will buy them a beer.

Some of this you obviously have to take with a grain of salt... I doubt that the "Petty Officer at the helm" performed the Emergency Blow, unless the Chief of the Watch and Diving Officer of the Watch were both knocked out of their chairs; unlikely, since they are supposed to be wearing their seat belts if they're running at flank speed. On the other hand, the description of the ballast tanks being "severely compromised" does match with the bow down attitude the ship had. I'll be interested to see if when some more official information comes out, how well it matches with this report.

Update: A sailor from the San Francisco reports that the specifics described in the account above didn't happen on his boat. On the other hand, the descriptions of the damage and the use of the Low Pressure blower ("air pump") match the description from the CSP E-mail above pretty closely, accounting for "translation errors" caused by running it through a non-submariner family member.

Update: Here's a report from the MSNBC website that has similar information to the one above, but which I really can't call any more authoritative. One line in particular stands out as sounding like they got the information from an uninformed speculator than someone who has a clue:

Everyone standing on the bridge was violently thrown forward, NBC News was told.

As anyone who knows anything about submarines knows, the "bridge" is on the top of the sail, and is not manned when the sub is submerged. (It's a free-flood area, so whoever is on the bridge during submerged ops would get very, very wet, then very, very dead.) The space from which the sub is controlled/driven is called the control room. Also, why specify that only those in Control got thrown forward? Obviously everyone on the ship would have been thrown forward (we don't have an inertia-dampeners installed in the non-Control spaces of our submarines... yet...). Overall, I rate this story as "third-hand knowledge that may have come from an Internet bulletin board".

Staying at PD...