Hammerhead pulled into Toulon, France after trailing Ivan for over
40 days, after being submerged for 53 days straight, after running out
of food with the exception of juice, broth and coffee (running out of coffee
is an emergency requiring an immediate emergency surfacing).
I was exhausted and slept for hours and hours. The mail bag
came down the hatch, containing a "Dear John" letter from my
fiancé, and I got in service dress blues and went out on the
town with the guys. My memory stopped around the seventh beer and began again
the next morning in the vomit soaked mattress of a Vietnamese streetwalker.
"Owwww," I said. "Did we do anything?" "Oh, no," she replied. "You much too
drunk. You come back tonight, yes?" No way, I thought. "Um, sorry, I have duty.
Which way to the naval base?"
Here are a few diary entries I wrote at the time --
9 March 1984 Friday
I'll finish my reflections of the 53 day run, the ASW patrol we're sworn to
secrecy on. Being on patrol is marvelous - the closest Hammerhead
ever comes to having a routine. You stand watch, handle after-watch duties
(the nature of which are honest-to-God top secret) clear out your box, read
a novel, and sleep till the cycle begins again. We ran out of food and were
rationing heavily. Qualification was at a standstill, since the patrol
couldn't support upper level officer time. Officers were occupied from
crack-of-dawn till well after sundown with the patrol report - a thousand
page top secret and very dull document. I had time to workout at the gym
and drink beer at the club. Electrical officer is good duty. Engineering
department is as full of bullshit as ops, but the load is shouldered by more
competent people in greater numbers. On arriving some ninety bags of mail
Friday 30 March 1984
I was thirty feet underwater, below the hull, hanging by a main ballast tank
grating. I was angry…we couldn't seem to get the preunderway dive in the
water, much less finished. I lugged tanks and gear topside, rolled Spock
and Skippy out of the rack and donned my wetsuit.
Once Skippy was outfitted we walked down the sloping afterdeck to the number
six main ballast tank vent cover. I was holding my breath and going down to
unscrew six bolts. Like drowning. We suited up, dove down below the screw
and under the boat looking for bombs. This usually is really fun. I just
wanted to get out of the water to go on liberty. Skippy ran out of air by
the sonar dome. I did the rest of the dive below the camels to the stern.
Dangerous with no "buddy." I became concerned at the loudness of a seawater
suction, but there was no problem. I emerged from the water by the rudder.
Saturday morning. More blinding sunlight and deep blue sky. After a
submarine deployment, I relished the sun. I led a sixty man workparty for
two hours getting shorepower cables off. Big job, stowing twelve of the
thousand foot long cables. When we were all done the men laid below. I was
alone on deck. I walked to the bow and muttered farewell to France.
I was frantically rotating number two scope on our departure as contact
coordinator. "Dive! Dive!" The klaxon roared, Hammerhead slid
beneath the water for the transit home. Another tough transit full of
drills, frantic admin, and new XO, and torpedo approaches for me and
Richard. Soon we'll be home and stand-down will come.
5 April 1984 Tuesday
An hour ago I qualified submerged officer of the deck, surfaced officer of
the deck and duty officer inport. This morning I did a periscope attack on
a merchant at five thousand yards. The simulated torpedo was a hit. The
captain said, "all things considered, that was pretty good."
9 May 1984 Wednesday
The transit home - standing OOD watch proved thrilling, exhilarating,
frustrating and depressing. My first submerged watch. An hour into it.
During a phoned report to the captain. "How is it out there?" "Well, sir,
I'm getting used to it." The CO laughed.
Bringing the ship to periscope depth was always a thrill: frightening,
bothersome, tense and exciting. Sorting out contacts and trying to get up
by a certain unforgiving time ("be up for the zero eight hundred broadcast"
- the 0800 broadcast is a burst communication lasting mere seconds and it
starts at eight o'clock and zero minutes and zero point zero seconds - you'd
best have that antenna dry and reaching for the sky at 0759, but tough when
15 contacts are around you at 0745 - where the hell are they?) is all very
tense. But once you order, "Dive, make your depth six six feet" it's
wonderful. Raise the scope and look through the beautiful blue at the
underside of the waves or watch phosphorous fireflies around the optics at
night. The rapid rotations looking for close contacts. The disciplined
search, projecting your mind out tens of miles from the humble steel hull
hidden beneath the waves. The go-ahead from the cap'n to take her deep.
Seeing the waves once more triumphantly swallow your view. A farewell to
the other world. You sigh as you lower the periscope into the well and
order the ship deeper, faster. On with the track. I kept thinking - the
most important thing on earth now is to deliver 4700 tons of nuclear
submarine to Norfolk by 16 April.