25 Jan 2006
Born in Ross, California in 1948, I lived in the California towns of Chico, Biggs, and Yuba
City before enlisting in the U.S. Navy in July 1967. I reported onboard the USS
THORNBACK early 1968 after IC "A" School and Submarine School. Although an ICFN
when reporting aboard, I did my tours in the Seaman Gang, standing planes watches,
lookout watches, and mess cooking before actually getting to the electrical gang. I was
not onboard long when I realized that I totally loved submarine duty and wanted to stay in
the navy for a career. Being onboard THORNBACK was the greatest learning experience
I encountered in my 23 plus year career. I will never forget the professionalism of the
crew and the leadership principles they all taught me. I will forever treasure my tour on
this wonderful diesel submarine.
I departed USS THORNBACK after the turnover to the Turkish Navy and
decommissioning. I was also stationed onboard the USS SEAHORSE (SSN 669) and
USS MARIANO G. VALLEJO (SSBN 658) for the next four years. I reported for Instructor
Duty at SSC Great Lakes in late 1975. I was advanced to ICC(SS) in early 1976 and
selected for the Limited Duty Officer (LDO) as an Ensign in 1978.
As an LDO, I served aboard USS PROTEUS (AS 19) and USS HUNLEY (AS 31) where I
was assigned to various repair department divisions until 1981. I was then stationed
onboard the Floating Drydock, USS ALAMOGORDO (ARDM 2) in Charleston where I was
the Docking Officer and Executive Officer. I then went to shore duty at the Fleet Ballistic
Missile Submarine Training Center in Charleston. Upon completion of shore duty I
reported aboard USS FRANK CABLE (AS 40) in Charleston as the Chief Engineer.
I retired in 1990 as a Lieutenant Commander. I spent approximately 18 years of my naval
career in Charleston and still reside in the area.
My successful career in the navy was the result of my first sea duty onboard USS
THORNBACK and all I learned during those years. And now, I occasionally tour the USS
CLAMAGORE (SS 343) at Patriots Point Naval Museum here in Charleston. I stand there
in the Maneuvering Room looking at the split cubicles and the familiar controls…so
reminiscent of those wonderful days when I stood Senior Controllerman watches. I
wander through the boat as my mind wanders. I remember when T-Back returned from
our Mediterranean trip I believe in 1970, screaming across the Atlantic Pond on three
Fairbanks, the smell and hum of those engines, when Captain Spear called down from the
Bridge and asked, “Petty Officer Wilson…how many turns would you have to take off to
answer a flank bell?” I will never forget those memorable years and the shipmates I
served with onboard USS THORNBACK.