Med Cruise, U.S.S. Thornback (SS-418).
June 2, 1958 through October 9, 1958
By Norm Hammond, EN2(SS).
* * * Diesel Boats Forever * * *
The following has been transcribed from a logbook I kept while on my second "Med" cruise
on the Thornback. Some of the more rambling parts of it have been abridged, but I've tried
to keep most of it as close to its original form as possible.
I've enjoyed going back through this log over the years, and every time I do I wish I'd
recorded some of my other submarine experiences, like submarine school, daily operations
out of Key West, trips to Cuba, and some of our other cruises. If I had done that I would
know the long forgotten names of those two Mermaids that were painted on the inside of the
escape tower in New London. We were among the only people who ever got to see them as
we followed our bubbles up through a hundred feet of water during our escape training. I
once saw them immortalized as tattoos on a boat sailor, and thought they made two of the
finest tattoos I have ever seen.
As diesel boat sailors during the Cold War we took our job very seriously, but we played
hard when we could. Sometimes we got pretty wild and wooly, and some of those details
have been left out of this narrative to protect the not-so-innocent (including myself).
I hope others will contribute to this website and share some of their experiences with us . .
* * * * *
June 2, 1958. We left our home port of Key West, Florida at approximately 1030, heading
east to the Mediterranean with the Bendix reading 157.7. At approximately 1430 we sighted
Sombrero Key lighthouse. Those of us in the engineering gang were standing "three-section
watches," with mine being the 0400-0800 watch.
#3 Main Engine fresh water cooler sprung a leak so we were put on "port & starboard"
watches with 2 sections designated as "working sections" to work around the clock, relieving
each other every 4 hours.
June 3. I got 2 hours sleep before taking the watch in the F.E.R. Went back to sleep
afterwards, then was awaken for the 1600-2000 watch. Engine 3 now out of commission
and we're running on #3 & 4, making fresh water with our twin X-1 Badger distillers. Went
up on the bridge to get fresh air. It was cloudy with no stars, but calm weather. Course was
changed from 012 to 050 degrees. The pit log shows we're making 13 knots, Bendix reading
is 505 knots.
June 4. Assumed watch. The cook came through with a large tray of pizza, which was
good. I ate two large slices. Got relieved from watch and went to bed but was rolled out for
the 0800-1200 watch. Hit the rack again and then stood the 1600-2000 watch. All our spare
time is now spent trying to catch up on our sleep.
June 5. Engine 3 cooling water leak is fixed, so there's no more "port and starboard"
watches. I finally got my first eight hours of uninterrupted sleep since we left Key West. We
are approximately on the same latitude as Cape Hatteras, bearing northeast on 050 course
heading. Making 15 knots with 3 engines.
June 5. Played guitar with RM McCormick in the radio shack.
June 6. I have the 0000-0400 watch again. We just set our clock ahead one hour due to
crossing the time zone, which cuts an hour off my watch. Course changed to 076 degrees,
Bendix now reads 1211. Held field day in engine room. Dove at 1330 for trim dive. Trim
satisfactory at 100 feet. Manned phones for testing of battle circuit. Surfaced at 1430.
When I got off watch I played guitar with McCormick in the radio shack again. My amplifier
has quit working. Later I tried to get some sleep but Bert Wright kept clowning around in the
After Battery and I managed to wrestle him to the deck.
June 7. I've been drawing cartoons of things that happen on board. I put them up on the
wall in the mess hall and leave them there until I do another one. Today I got in trouble for
drawing one of Lt. Stafford wearing "Santa Claus" boots and had to go see the Executive
Officer. He told me to basically quit portraying the officers in a bad light.
June 8. We crossed another time zone and we made out again by setting the clocks ahead
one hour while we were on watch. Weather getting rough. We got the word we can grow
beards if we want.
June 9. We've been underway for a week now and are about halfway across the Atlantic. I
took my first shower since leaving Key West, then went up on the bridge to get some sun.
Bendix reads 2356. Course changed to 053, making 14 to 15 knots in rather rough seas.
June 10. On watch with Bryan. Our luck continues to hold and we once again got to
advance the clocks one hour, giving us another three hour watch! On the last Med cruise
the advances always occurred on someone else's watch.
Weather getting rough. The rocking back and forth is about to wear a hole in the back of my
shirt. I keep sliding on the bench my back is leaning against.
1200-1600 watch. Rough storm and taking water in through the Main Induction. All loose
gear lashed down. Almost impossible to walk through the boat without falling or being
thrown against the bulkheads. Average rolls are 35 degrees. The best roll so far today was
38 degrees. On our last Med cruise we had a 47 degree roll during a storm in the North
Eating has turned into an ordeal with everything sliding around, even with Terrycloth
tablecloths. Bridge hatch finally secured. We seem to be running with a slight port list…
June 11. The Quartermaster estimates waves are now 20 to 40 feet high, with wind velocity
at approximately 40 knots. Took a 45 port roll and flooded through the Main Induction
again. Ventilation piping flooded. Water from the induction flooded into the sleeping
compartment of the After Battery. I was in my bunk and got soaked before I could get out.
All hands turned to bailing water, lest it seep through to the battery wells below and we
would have a chlorine problem on our hands. The look-outs on the bridge have lashed
themselves down so they can't be carried out to sea. Good time not to be hanging around
on the bridge.
June 12. Weather turned better with the storm subsiding. Getting colder, though, with 58
degrees topside. Lucked on going across another time zone, and stood another three hour
June 13. Friday the 13th. My Grandfather was born on Friday the 13th (October, 1880).
Field Day today. I hate pushing paint-work rags!
June 14. The cook made some pumpkin pies. I razzed him saying they were "port list
specials," with the crust thicker than the filling. He claims the boat rolled so hard most of the
filling spilled out while they were in the oven, which might be true.
McCormick tried his hand at cutting hair today, so I let him cut mine. Turned out pretty
good. Better than Greenawalt's unique creations with white sidewalls and stairs up the back
of the neck.
We're way north now. The days are long and the nights are short and cold. Sunset was at
2130 and sunrise at 0200!
We tied up in Londonderry, Ireland at 1830, and we hit the beach at 2000. Green hills and
countryside and lots of trees. Everything is very clean. Londonderry has a population of
about 50,000 people. There's a lot of textile mills in this area and the men generally go
somewhere else to work, leaving a ratio of about 6 women to every man!
June 15. Underway at 1700 to go up river about 4 miles, which puts us right in the heart of
town. We're tied up outboard a British tender, H.M.S. "Stocker" (3515). At 1530 six girls
came aboard for a tour of the boat. I got friendly with a girl named Peggy O' Neil and we
wound up dancing to the jukebox in our mess hall. Not much room, but it was fun. After that
we watched a couple of movies and cleaned up what was left of the gingerbread. The cook
will be upset because it was supposed to be for dinner tomorrow. The girls all left at 2000. I
made arrangements to meet Peggy tomorrow at the Embassy.
June 16. Went to the city hotel to exchange currency. Drank some cold ones with some of
the guys off the boat, then went to a dance where I met with Peg. We sat with Blakely,
Brooks, and a couple of girls that were with them. The dance was over at 1200, and I got
Peg home about 0130. She said she wasn't going to have anything more to do with me if I
didn't shave off my scraggly beard.
I was a little nervous about walking back to the boat through that maze of alleyways and dark
streets. One of our guys got mugged in through here a few nights ago. They would have
cleaned him out if not for an old Irishman he had been drinking with who came out into the
street a few seconds later.
June 17. Stationed maneuvering watch at 0600 and got underway down the river Foyle to
the sea. B.L.T. Thompson is now an engineman striker, and I have him as my oiler. We
dove at about 1030 and played war games with the British Navy "pinging" on us. They
seemed to be more efficient at finding us than our own destroyers back in Key West.
Surfaced at around 1800.
June 18. Dove twice and snorkeled, continuing Anti-Submarine Warfare exercises with U.K.
Forces. Secured operations and headed back up the river Foyle. We tied up at Lisahally
Fuel Pier, which is 4 miles below Londonderry.
It's considered likely that the vibration we are having in one of our shafts and struts was
caused by hitting the bottom of the river in the shallow waters of the Foyle. As ship's diver,
I've been put on notice I may have to go down to inspect the damage. The water
temperature has been measured at 48 degrees, and we didn't have an exposure suit. I was
told they would have a bottle of brandy for me when I came up from the bottom. This doesn't
sound like much fun…
June 19. English divers had the right equipment and were pressed into service, so I wasn't
called upon. They found the leading edges of the port screw bent 7-14 inches, so we
definitely need to get a new screw which will have to be flown in from the States.
Hit the beach and hooked up with Peggy. Got back to the boat at 0200. I knew that while I
was gone the boat would be moving from Lisahally up river to Londonderry, which saved me
about 4 miles of cab fare.
June 20. Went on liberty at 1800 and found most of the crew in the Aquarium Bar. Met Peg
and we had a few drinks and then we went to the Embassy. Got Peg home about 0200.
Met Kamin on her doorstep with Peg's younger sister. Kamin and I got back to the boat
about 0300. It rained all day.
June 21. Had the duty. More girls toured the boat and I traded a set of dolphins for a photo
and a date with a girl with black hair and green eyes named Pat.
June 22. Pat called me at 1130. I met her for a few hours and went back to the boat where I
met Bryan and Weiduwilt. We went back downtown to meet Pat and some other girls. We
all got in a cab and went over the border into the Irish Free State and the town of
Boncranna. Got back to the boat around 2200.
June 23. Underway down the river Foyle at 0200. 1340 rig for snorkel. 1404 secure from
snorkeling. 1735 commenced snorkeling. 1836 secured from snorkeling. 1940 commenced
snorkeling. 2000 secured from snorkeling.
June 24. Exercising with U.K. Forces, snorkeling off and on all day.
June 25. Arrived in Faslane, Scotland at 0244. Moved across the channel to drydock (ARD-
58) at 1810. We fouled the keel blocks getting into drydock and they floated to the surface
around us. We finally gave up and tied up back at the pier where we first started. Went on
liberty at 2045, taking a bus into Glasgow. The town was basically shut down for the night…
June 26. Succeeded in getting into the dry dock on the first attempt. I stayed aboard to get
caught up on sleep, but I wound up having to hand-jack the propeller screws down in the
motor room flats and the ratio is like 1,000 to 1, which took forever. The boat looks
precarious all propped up in the air with timbers.
June 27. By 0200 the new propeller was on. The dry dock was re-flooded and we were
underway at 1000 to go back to Londonderry and pick up "Uncle Funny," one of the officers
whose name I have forgotten, and Joe Lemons with the mail. No liberty though.
June 28. Haase says he's taking 30 days leave as soon as we get back to the states and
come back to Londonderry.
June 30. The weather is getting warmer as we get further south. Got word I have to clean
up all the taps and dies with emery cloth and put preservative on them. What a pain! At
least I can do it while I'm on watch.
July 1. The Bendix reading is 5902. Went to the bridge where it was sunny and warm. The
bridge thermometer read 70 degrees, reminding me of Monroe Beach back in Key West.
July 2. It's now been 30 days since we left Key West. We tied up in Gibraltar at 0805 and at
1130 I hit the beach. Went to the Trocadero Bar and had too much to drink.
July 3. Had the duty and helped load 7,000 pounds of stores. Damn hard work!
July 4. Went ashore to the Winter Garden bar and had way too much to drink.
July 5. Horrible hangover. Drank gallons of ice water. At 0900 we were underway for
Naples, Italy. I have the 1200-1600 watches with Pat Gurr as oiler. We had spaghetti and
meatballs with garlic bread for lunch.
July 6. The fresh water we made somehow got fuel oil in it, so we had to blow 2,000 gallons
of hard work over the side. I told "Billy Boats" Franklin he was getting fat and he came
July 7. Field day to get everything ship-shape for entering port.
July 8. Tied up in Naples, Italy at 1107. There's only about 10 of us left who still have
July 9. Duty day. Added water softener to #1 main engine fresh water system by orders of
"Shaky Jake" Hake. Got caught with a battery charge and lit off the engines at 1955.
Secured at 0325.
July 10. Rode a bus into Rome, which took about 6 hours in pouring rain. Met some girls in
the hotel we were staying in. They were college girls from Texas and we wasted no time in
lining ourselves up. The youngest one had a birthday party that night, so the hotel gave us
3 bottles of champagne. The lobby was turned over to us and we had music on the radio
plus a record player, so we drank and danced until 3 a.m.
July 11. I got up early to see Rome. Was very impressed with the architecture and old
ruins. When we got to St. Peters Cathedral we met 2 girls from New Jersey, both named
Barbara. They didn't have a guide so we asked them to fall in with us. They rode with us on
our chartered bus, one with me and one with Weiduwilt. We took them back with us to our
hotel and ran into the same girls we were with the night before, which was a bit awkward.
After dinner we all went sight seeing again, trying to see as much of Rome as possible. The
last place we saw was the catacombs beneath the city and after that the two Barbaras left us
to go back to St. Peters to get their car. We got back to Naples about 2300. It was good to
get off the boat for a couple of days.
July12. Duty again. Had 6 hours of topside watch.
July 13. Went to Pompei and spent most of the day there, and got back to Naples about
1830. Had some pizza and went to the Y.W.C.A. to meet the two Barbaras. Got thrown out
a couple of times, then finally convinced them we were trying to meet someone and not
trying to get a room. Tried to get the two Barbaras on board the boat but the guards at the
gate wouldn't let them through, so we went to an open air restaurant at the top of the
mountain near the cameo factory for dinner. Real classy place with lots of candles, violins
and guitars. Took the girls home around 0100.
July 14. We got the word that the Marines had landed in Lebanon. All liberty was
suspended the next two days.
July 15. Got the duty.
July 16. They finally gave the crew just one day of liberty, so I tried hooking up with the
Barbaras but they had already left for the States.
July 17. I stayed aboard. Wiggins showed up from town with two bottles of brandy which he
wasn't supposed to bring on board, so Homer, Collison, myself, and some of the others had
a "superstructure liberty." We hid out in the superstructure and had a great time discretely
putting away the brandy.
After awhile, Wiggins went below and irritated some of the crew in the mess hall who were
watching a movie. They yelled at him as he staggered back and forth in front of the screen
looking for a loaf of bread and some butter to take topside to go along with the wine.
July 18. We're underway for Malta, which was only a one-day run. I've been temporarily
demoted to Oiler, so Hasse and Bryan can get qualified as Throttlemen.
July 19. At 1000 we tied up in Malta, outboard the H.M.S. Forth, a British submarine tender.
Went ashore and rode in a horse-and-buggy taxi. I bought some books (I read 36 books on
this cruise) and some fancy cuff links in Valetta. Stopped in a bar and drank with Manuilow
and Mackler. They drank beer and I had gin and orange with some Vienna sausages for a
snack. Returned to the boat around 2200.
July 20. Two U.S. planes were shot down in Lebanon today. I went swimming in the harbor,
along with most of the crew. Sunshine felt great!
July 21. Stayed aboard.
July 22. Field day, pushing a paint-work rag.
July 23. Through a "crew exchange" program, I got to go to sea as a guest on the British
submarine, H.M.S. Tally-Ho. The Tally-Ho was a "T" Class submarine, commissioned April
20, 1943, Pennant # 137 (This was a very memorable experience and will be described in
the "Sea Story" section on Pat Gurr's website).
July 24. Pulled my very first duty at "Shore Patrol," wearing an armband and carrying a
nightstick. I wasn't 21 yet, but they were very short handed and pressed me into service
anyway. We patrolled a section called "The Gut," which is where the bars and whore
houses are. We played nursemaid to a bunch of drunk sailors (one who got caught stealing
some women's nighties), but nothing very serious happened on my watch and none of our
guys got into trouble.
July 25. Captain Wilson, former skipper of the Thornback in 1955 came aboard to see how
many of the old crew was still aboard. Finding a few, they held a party in town and some of
them came back really bent out of shape. Merve and Kovac got into a heated discussion
about some of the components of the snorkel system safety circuits, but things cooled down
about 0400. Chief Myers and Chief Favors also got argumentative. I had the below decks
watch (having stood by for Merve) so I was witness to all this.
July 26. We put to sea again, heading east on a course of 095 degrees. Made a trim dive
which was satisfactory.
July 27. Still headed east on bearing 095. Dove and went to 200 feet for awhile, then
surfaced. Held jam session with McCormick in the radio shack. Had to run the fresh water
stills while on watch in the Forward Engine Room.
July 28. Veered south on a false alarm about a downed American plane. The search was
called off and the Thornback, Pompon and Trutta steamed west. Clear skies, warm water,
and very calm. Washed clothes using a plunger and a bucket, then hung the wet clothes in
the engine room flats to dry.
July 29. Bong! Bong! Bong! Battle Stations as the Thornback, Trutta and Pompon made
submerged runs on each other. Surfaced in nice weather and started battery charge and air
charge at 2355. Couldn't get any sleep with collision and chlorine drills going on every 15
minutes or so. Our former skipper, O.J. Bryant was drill crazy and loved it when the crew
were falling all over themselves as Fire, Chlorine, Man Overboard, Collision and Repel
Boarders were sounded simultaneously.
July 30. Came to all stop today and held swim call in the ocean for about 1-1/2 hours.
Some of the guys got a little cut up by barnacles on the hull getting out of the water. Spent
the rest of the day having "cold iron" watch, with the engines shut down.
July 31. Swim call again today. We were challenged by the Pompon to a boat race, so we
inflated the rubber raft and got out the paddles. The two subs were lying still in the water,
abreast, about 200 yards apart. The object was to have both rafts race to the opposite sub
and then back, the winner would be the first raft team to return to their own sub.
When our guys got to the Pompon, the guys on the Pompon broke out their fresh water hose
and blasted our guys royally. What a display of poor sportsmanship! The Pompon can
afford to waste fresh water this way, with their 9,000 gallon per day capacity stills. Ours only
produce 4,000 per day.
When the Pompon guys reached our boat and started back, "Carrier" Harry West jumped in
the water and grabbed a line they were trailing and tried to hold them back. They quickly
untied the line. Just then the Pompon then started swinging their bow towards us to
decrease the distance. Despite all this trickery, we won amid loud cheering and a long, loud
blast from our ship's whistle.
Our guys in the raft were too tired to climb out for awhile, until they had rested. We broke
out a basketball and had some water polo for another hour, then swim call was secured. We
were just lying to on the surface with the engines shut down, so Klein and I secured the
engine room and went to the bridge. We knew we were crowding it, but I took my guitar with
me and when we got up there I told the duty officer to be sure and let us know when he
wanted to light off an engine so I could run back there and answer the bells. He did not think
that was funny and I got the hell out of there…
August 1. Rigged for high-line transfer at sea. Took on Borax, wire brushes, sandpaper,
paint brushes, niter-cake and other supplies from U.S.S. Mercury (AK 20).
Steamed towards Greece, making 13.5 knots through choppy sea on course of 300
degrees. Bendix now reads 9,000 knots.
August 2. Tied up in Piraeus, Greece and I got the below decks watch right off the bat.
August 3. A Soviet cargo vessel came into port with a big gold hammer and sickle on their
stack. They had port list and were pumping a lot of water overboard. Joe Lemons and I
walked down the dock for a closer look. At 2000 Haase, West and I chipped in and got
some beer and brandy along with a little bread and lunch meat and had superstructure
liberty. We stayed with it until about 0100.
August 4. We did it again and went through the gate in our dungarees and purchased a
couple fifths of wine and a six-pack of beer. We climbed up on top of a large stack of wire-
bound paper bales on the dock and enjoyed ourselves. Siwik and Kirk (both already on
restriction) decided they were pressing their luck and went below at 2300.
Bert Wright came over the gangway and decided to join us, so we went back for some
more. We got more bottles and sat back on the bales of paper and drank it all. By now
there was enough empty beer bottles lying around to take them to the liquor store and
redeem them for another bottle of wine, so we did. Bert, Harry West, and I drank the bottle
in about 2 rounds. Just then Gilbert Drysdale got out of a taxi and we talked him into going
back for another bottle. We drank that bottle and went below around 0200. Things got real
fuzzy after that…
August 5. I didn't feel well when I went topside in the morning for General Quarters. And of
all the days the Chief had to pick from, he picked this one to put Haase and I down in the
superstructure to work on "Able" valve (key component of the snorkel system). It was cool
early in the morning, but as the day wore on it got real hot. I was sick from drinking and
finally had to give it up and go below.
Later on in the afternoon Bryan and I went back in the superstructure to finish the job. I went
below and hooked up the 225 pound air to blow out the clogged drain on Able valve, but I
forgot to tell Bryan to stand clear and when I cut in the air and he got blasted with water and
wasn't very happy.
Then I got stuck with a battery charge, and lit off the engines at 2000. Ten minutes later the
tachometer started vibrating violently, then the hand went completely around the face of the
gauge about three times and then hung straight down. Just then Bryan came through and
we both stood there looking at it and laughing. I finished the battery charge at 0405.
August 6. Toured Athens, saw the Acropolis and nearby temples. Rode a bus to the
outskirts of town to see more temples, where there was a round hole from which the ancient
gods of the underworld were said to have emerged. On the bus back to town Ed Wiggins
had a bad reaction to something he ate or drank, and his face and hands swelled up real
bad. We got him to the fleet landing where he was immediately taken to the infirmary.
August 7. The crew played host to an orphanage. They came aboard and we showed them
movies in the After Battery and gave them some ice cream. Around sundown Bert Wright
and I went down the waterfront and got some wine from the same guy we bought it from
before. We were in dungarees just like before, and could have got in trouble (just like
before). We drank part of it and decided it wouldn't do for us to be going to sea the next day
hung over, so on mutual agreement we poured out what we hadn't finished drinking.
August 8. We took on fuel from U.S.S. Chukawan (AO-100). We also took on some 50
gallon drums of 9250 lube oil via "high-line" transfer, then poured them through a funnel and
into our lube oil tanks. This transfer was completed by 1300 and we got underway towards
an operating area S.E. of the isle of Crete.
DeKing called me a hypocrite for calling him the "ship's drunk," saying I'd been drinking more
than he has on this cruise.
August 9. Field day. Dove about 1300 and had a destroyer making runs on us. About 1430
we found a sharp six degree drop on the bathothermograph, and came to "all stop" and
hovered beneath that layer. I was on the trim manifold, trying to help keep us motionless
while submerged. The destroyer was unable to find us under the temperature gradient and
lost sonar contact. He went away and we surfaced at 1610.
Weiduwilt rigged up an amplifier for my guitar that allowed me to use the sound room
speakers. This had a lot more volume than the one McCormick and I rigged up.
August 11. Franklin was instructed to jump over the side so we could have a "man
overboard" drill for real. He did, and we did.
August 12. On the 12th we anchored off the isle of Rhodes and had to take a small boat to
go into town. The seats of the boat had mud and puke on them from the guys (not us) who
had gotten sick in town and walked in their own muddy puke. It was hard not to get our
uniforms all messed up.
The people here speak Greek, so we had to use sign language. We ate at a sidewalk café
where we met some school teachers from Pennsylvania.
August 13. Worked outboard main engine #1, pulling and cleaning pyrometers and exhaust
ports. The new Commissary Officer turned us down when we requested some fresh fruit
and vegetables. Homer Coulter wryly commented that the new ship's motto should be,
"She's not a home, she's not a feeder. But, by damn, she's the Squadron Leader!"
August 14. Finished work outboard #1 engine. Bonham broke out his harmonica and we
made some music. Stood watch on the stills at 0230 until 0800. Bryan had the watch before
I did, and rigged a thermometer where we had to sit to run the stills and it read 136 degrees!
August 15. Tied up next to a destroyer.
August 16. Toured the Island of Rhodes. Saw the Acropolis and temple of Athena at
Lindus, which sits on the edge of a cliff with the sea crashing below. The bus quit on us
three times and once we had to push it. Bryan had given me his 35 mm camera as payment
for the 30 dollar balance he owed me on the 1949 Ford I sold him last April. I took pictures
but never could get the settings right.
When I got back to the fleet landing I ran into Vennen Ferguson and we went to a bar where
he had met a girl. In the bar there was a four piece band and a guitar no one was using, so I
joined in and we soon had a lot of drinks coming our way. I played with the band for about 1-
1/2 hours. Before the night was over, Vennen's girl friend and one of her girl friends wound
up taking most of our money. We wound up with nothing and should have known better…
August 17. We moved from that mooring and tied up next to the carrier U.S.S. Saratoga
(CVA-60). Their flight deck hangs so far out over us we couldn't see the sun. We were able
to get all the fresh water we wanted from them so we didn't have to run the stills.
Tons of carrier guys came on board to tour the boat and were impressed because we could
wear beards and didn't have to salute our officers. I took a tour of their ship and couldn't
believe how big it was. At one point I was way down in the lower part of the ship and they
had all their watertight doors open on that level. The doors were all in a straight line and
when you looked through there were hundreds of doors, each one a little smaller than the
one before, until they got so small in the distance they just blended together and
disappeared into each other.
We took on water, 18 big cans of coffee, sugar, and flour from the Saratoga, which was all
stored outboard #1 main engine. If anything goes wrong with the engine, all that stuff will
have to be moved somewhere else in the boat so we can make repairs.
Had to tear Able valve apart again.
August 18. Finally finished work on Able valve today. But it's still in the same condition it
was when we started; it's still froze up and won't grind it's seat in from below. It has a new
shaft from the operating gear to the valve itself, which Hasse and I broke trying to turn it
back in Piraeus, Greece by orders of the Chief. It's going to be a yard or tender job after this.
Bonham and I went ashore at 1930. We went to the Kit-Kat Club and had a few drinks, then
sat in with their band for awhile. We left and went to an open-air restaurant he knew about.
They served French food and we couldn't read the menu, so we ordered some stuff but
didn't know what it was for sure. Some of it looked like cheese, some tasted like anchovy.
Some things looked like beetles. We made some sandwich type affairs out of it and ate it
August 19. Stationed maneuvering watch at 0630 and underway at 0700.
August 20. Operated with destroyers. Went up on the bridge for some sun and fresh air,
and was chased below by Berkheimer just prior to diving.
August 21. Running the stills today. Daily routine has fallen into standing 0800 to 1200
watches, turn to until 1400, hang out on the bridge until 1600, read or have jam session until
2000, stand 2000-2400 watch and then in my bunk until 0800. Getting about 7-1/2 hours of
uninterrupted sleep except for battle stations.
Dove and went to Ultra Quiet. Secured the vent axial fans and air conditioning. No talking
or unnecessary movement throughout the boat. The temperature sky-rockets and the air is
very stagnant. Finally surfaced and started an equalizer charge. All cells were brought to
"zero float" and we do this every 28 days, which convinces me this submarine is female.
The batteries are no longer holding a charge like they used to, but we'll be getting new ones
when we go to Charleston, South Carolina in February.
August 22. Still running the stills. We finished making the battery water and started on fresh
"B.L.T." Thompson goofed up today by shutting #4 main engine down and closing the
exhaust valve for #3 engine. When he did that #3 engine was exhausting through the cross
connect out #4 exhaust valve which he had left open. Having no cooling water, the rubber
gasket in the valve was burned which would cause it to leak when we dove. The guys in the
After Engine Room went up on deck on the 1600-2000 watch to replace the gasket, which
was crystallized and was hard as a rock when it was taken out. Thompson made negative
points with the Chief for that one.
Went up on the bridge and stayed too long and got sunburned. The watch list has been
rotated again, so I have my old Throttleman position back. I have 0400-0800 watches with
Bryan as oiler.
August 23. Finally secured the stills at 1500. Kovac is oiling for Merve now and I'm razzing
him pretty good, especially since he gave me such a bad time while I was oiling for "Shakey"
Jake Hake. That was when I had to go back as an oiler while Hasse and Overhulser were
being broke in as Throttlemen.
The temperature on #3 engine hit 180 degrees with 10 pounds back pressure and the load
had to be dropped, which doesn't look good.
August 24. Field day. Tomorrow we'll be in Turkey.
August 25. Tied up at Izmir, Turkey at 0919. At 1400 Kris Krestensen, Bonham and I went
into town and hit several bars. I wound up playing the piano in one bar while Bonham
played the drums. It was fun, but some Marines started a fight in the bar and we got out of
We eventually wound up at the International Fair, which was spread out over a lot of
ground. They had a large tower you could jump off with a parachute, so we climbed up to
the top and waited in line. The wait was too long so we came back down. I got back to the
boat at 2350, just before liberty expired at 2400. Bonham, Blue, Siwik and Lemons stayed
past 2400 at the Morroco Club and they are now on restriction.
August 26. Had the duty. From 1300 to 1800 there was a solid line of people coming
through, touring the boat.
August 27. Stayed aboard and wrote letters, read, and washed clothes with the plunger and
bucket system. This method of doing laundry is actually done with a regular toilet plunger
and a bucket. It takes awhile, but really works well. I put the washed clothes down in the
engine room flats and they dry out in no time. Once they're dry, they are folded according to
Navy regulation and I put them under the mattress pad on my bunk. After they are there a
couple of days they actually look like they have been pressed.
Later I went ashore and back to the International Fair where I saw exhibits by the U.S.S.R.,
Turkey, Iran, Germany, and many other countries. The U.S. had a "pre-fab" home as one of
their exhibits, and a crowd gathered around me while a "interpreter" asked me questions for
the audience. The house was a nice house with regular plumbing etc. The interpreter
asked me if that's how people lived in America. I said yes, a lot of people live in houses like
that. The audience found that hard to believe and asked more questions.
The crowd wanted to know about automobiles in the U.S., and I told them through the
interpreter that I had owned three cars and a motorcycle. They were astounded to hear that
a 20 year-old had owned that many vehicles, and the mood of the crowd started getting
hostile! I was totally caught off guard and couldn't figure it out. I hadn't been bragging or
anything, but I could see the crowd scowling and actually moving in around me. I didn't
know if they thought I was lying to them or what, or even if that "interpreter" was a real one.
He could have told them anything and I wouldn't have known the difference. I didn't stick
around to find out what it was all about and got out of there as fast as I could!
August 28. Stationed maneuvering watch at 0815, underway to who-knows-where. The
Chief put Bert Wright in the Forward Engine Room to do some lathe work and I've been put
in the After Engine Room to oil for Poirer, much to the delight of Kovac.
Vennen Ferguson said he dreamed he was on a surface craft and it made a 360 degree roll.
I told him he's spent way too much time down in the battery wells.
August 29. (See "Ultra Quiet" in the Sea Story section on Pat's website).
August 30. I feel like I have a real bad cold, but I'm probably just not feeling well from the
extreme heat I was exposed to yesterday.
August 31. Cold iron watch, lying to all day. Sunday and no field day for a change. I got 10
hours of uninterrupted sleep last night and feel a lot better today. Spent a couple hours
hanging out on the bridge. Lit off the engines about 1800.
September 1, 1958. Got another 2 hours of sun up on the bridge. After I went below I
caught a big port roll during chow and wound up wearing the butter, spuds and some water
that was in my cup.
September 2. Dove a couple of times while exercising with destroyers, and they scored a
number of hits directly against our hull. Later I was up on the bridge and just got seated on
the partition when a big wave came over. The diving officer ducked under the bubble and
the two lookouts got under the sail. I caught it square in the face and was completely
While on watch Poirer and I cleaned blower intake screens.
September 3. Dove at 0810 and played ASW war games with friendly Destroyers, then
surfaced at 1330 with a hedgehog on deck by the after loading hatch. It was bright blue with
the word "inert" stamped on it. Kris went on deck to retrieve it and brought it on board. It
weighed about 70 pounds and was full of plaster and sand. Kris lashed it into the
superstructure and it was later used as an ash tray in Key West by one of the officers.
September 4. 0100 dive, 0645 surface. 0650 dive, 0700 surface. 0704 dive, 0740 surface.
0745 dive, 0810 surface. 0811 dive, 0828 surface. 0839 dive, 0910 surface. Then at 1250
we stopped all engines and were lying to on the surface, then held swim call. At 1815 we
commenced our semi-annual engineering run, which will consist of 10 hours full speed on all
three main engines, 10 hours standard speed, 10 hours snorkeling, and we'll top off our
fresh water tanks with the stills while we're at it.
We received word that all personnel on the Thornback were to have an entry made in our
service records for having been involved in three historic "firsts" while on this cruise:
(1) First U.S. Submarine to dock in a Royal Navy Dry Dock (ARD-58), Vaslane,
Scotland, June 25, 1958).
(2) First U.S. Submarine to tie up to an Aircraft Carrier (Saratoga).
(3) First U.S. Submarine to transfer supplies at sea via "high-line" method.
September 5. Commenced snorkeling run at 0945. Snorkeling was automatically aborted
on high vacuum cut-out (Harry was on the diving planes). Commenced snorkeling again at
1730 until 2030. As soon as the head valve cycled Collison said, "I'll bet anything Harry is
on the planes." Just for fun, I went to the Control Room to find out and sure enough he was
right; Harry "the Rabbit" was on the bow planes.
September 6. Operating again with destroyers. Bryan got caught reading on watch by Mr.
Valcamp and got in trouble for it.
September 7. Mr. Valcamp has now put out an instruction sheet for us engineers, making us
do everything "by the book." Things have been going just fine the last couple of years, so
September 8. Bad news: Able valve is messed up again! Poirer, myself, and Bryan had to
go topside and crawl down into the superstructure to take it apart. I can almost do it
blindfolded. The waves kept washing through and we had to work barefoot with our pants
rolled up. Afterwards Chief Oney told me that if this was wartime we would receive a medal
for doing that, because if they had to dive with us in the superstructure they wouldn't have
time to wait for us to make it back to the hatch.
Later we dove and had water leaking into the Conning Tower and we immediately surfaced.
The problem was fixed and then we had a "hydraulic casualty" drill, consisting of a "hand
dive" where all the vents have to be opened by hand. They don't open simultaneously when
opened by hand, so the flooding of the tanks isn't uniform and we go down at a weird angle
and usually with a list. Once submerged, we went to Ultra Quiet for two hours.
When we surfaced we held target practice with .45 cal. pistol, shotgun, and M-1 rifle. We
shot at tin cans thrown overboard. I only had time to fire a clip with the .45 as I had to go
back and work on Able valve some more.
September 9. More exercises with destroyers and we ran the stills to make fresh water. It's
been 11 days since I've had a shower, which is my all-time record for not bathing.
Merve has pin-up girls all over the place. Everywhere you look there's all kind of skin,
breastwork, and torsos. I have one redhead pinned in my locker that's been with me a year
now. She's going with me when I leave the Navy, in case it gets as bad out there as it does
in here sometimes.
September 10. I took a shower today, so my record for not bathing will stand at 11 days.
When we get back to Key West I plan on having a very long hot shower. After my last Med
cruise I stood in the shower for 1-1/2 hours!
September 11. Operating with destroyers and more Ultra Quiet. Tom Arrigo has been
winking at Ferguson, who finally told him if he didn't stop it he'd go see the Exec. Now that
everyone found out about it, everyone's doing it to him…
September 12. We're now heading West. Went on the bridge with Berkheimer as diving
officer, and Siwik and West as lookouts. Siwik had starboard lookout and couldn't hear the
jokes Berkheimer was telling, so Berkheimer yelled down the conning tower hatch to have
Carson bring up the megaphone. Berkheimer continued the jokes with the megaphone and
when he was through he handed it back down the hatch to Carson and told him to wear it.
September 13. Very rough sea and I stood watch with a bucket in case I got sick. Manuilow
got the word today that he was going to be transferred to the Ibex.
September 14. Water was a little calmer today. Held exercises with planes today (P2Vs)
and set the clock back an hour at 1300. Thompson got a 5 hour watch. He and Raspe have
declared hostilities because Raspe called him back to the engineroom three times before he
was satisfied with the way Thompson had wiped down the engines.
Went up on the bridge for some air and relieved Harry on the port lookout while he made a
"tea and coffee run" for the bridge crew. He came back with some of those tiny officer's tea
cups that hold about a teaspoon. To make it worse the coffee and tea were cold when he
got it up to the bridge. The diving officer complained about it and Harry told him that he
couldn't help it because the officer's cups had built in air conditioning in them so the officers
wouldn't burn their lips. The diving officer looked at Harry, gave him the finger, then turned
his back on him to scan the horizon with his binoculars.
September 15. Tomorrow we should hit Palma de Majorca, which will make it 20 days at
sea since our last port. The women of ill repute will be cleaning up off us, and so will the
bars. We had sunbathing on deck today while underway, which is the first time we've ever
done that. The water was like glass. We enjoyed the sun while sitting and lying on deck,
slicing through the sea at 12 knots on a nice warm day.
September 16. Tied up at Porto Pi, Palma de Majorca at 0907. I had the below decks
watch. We had mail call and I got three letters from home. Merve got a "dear John" letter
stating that as far as his wife was concerned their marriage is over. Merve said he guessed
it was nice to be a free man again, and that he will don his white sports coat and hit the
beach and hang with it tonight.
September 17. Merve hung with it real good I guess, because he hasn't come back yet. I
went to town about 1700 and got a haircut and went to a little Chinese Restaurant
recommended by Kris. Went to a couple of bars and ran into Merve at the "Ole Bar." He had
some gal with him and when I asked him when he was going back to the boat he said he
wasn't. He'd had a lot to drink and tried to steal my hat because he'd lost his somewhere.
Later I wound up at Larry's Bar with Bonham and we played for drinks, with me on the piano
and him on bongo drums. I left there to go to the Trocadero, to see if that girl I knew from
our last Med cruise was still there. Everything looked double by that time and I couldn't even
remember her name. Returned to the boat at 0330.
September 18. Merve finally came in this morning. Overhusler was late coming in from
liberty too, so he and Merve are both on restriction. Chief Oney was worried that the whole
engineering gang was going "over the hill."
I went ashore at 1700 and went into a lot of bars. It seemed like there was an awful lot of
lesbians in the bars for some reason. Returned to the boat at 0330. We've had good
routine here, where we have reveille at 1100, turn to at 1130, then knock off at 1400.
September 19. Got the duty and had to stay on board.
September 20. Klein and I had taken turns taking showers when a lady visitor was brought
through. I had my shorts on and was brushing my teeth, but Klein was completely naked,
having just stepped out of the stall to dry off. The lady was followed by the Executive Officer
who was escorting her through the boat. She came to an abrupt halt in front of Klein and
stood there with her mouth hanging open. Klein snatched the door open on the shower stall
and barged in on Henry and closed the door after him. There's just barely room enough in
there for one person and it took a moment for Henry to figure out what was going on.
Later the Exec came back through and chewed Klein out for taking a shower while there
were women aboard.
September 21. Liberty expired and Hackler was still on the beach, so they sent two officers
to find him. When they found him he was sitting in a bar and he said he wasn't coming
back. One of the officers went back to the boat to get Chief Favors and Danny Howell with
the handcuffs. When they brought him on board they put him in the After Torpedo Room
and locked him in there because he said he was going to try to swim back. This whole
episode held up our departure time by two hours. He had just made his crow back from
being busted last time, so there's no telling what will happen to him now…
We finally got underway for Gibraltar at 2000, which is about 36 hours away.
September 22. There's only 4 guys (including me) who started beards when we left the
states and still have them.
September 23. Tied up in Gibraltar at 0800. Lots of U.S. and Royal Navy ships in port. We
took on about 84,000 gallons of fuel, which took about 15 hours to get on board. Some of us
went ashore for awhile and had a safe and sane liberty. Later on, "Roach" Brabham and
Klein got into it over something and almost went topside. Some of the guys held Roach and
Klein bowed out, realizing Roach gets mean sometimes when he's drunk and probably
wouldn't even remember it in the morning.
Took on lots of fresh vegetables, fruit and stores in preparation for the trip back across the
Atlantic. Couldn't take on fresh water because there was a shortage of water in Gibraltar.
The water in Gibraltar is caught from rain traps on the rock and funneled into cisterns, but
the weather had been dry for some time so we were on our own for fresh water.
September 24. I got moved back to the Forward Engine Room and we got underway at
0800. We set all non-essential clocks back 6 hours so no one gets stuck with 5-hour
watches. It's now 0200 according to our engineroom clock, but the sun is shining. As we
cross six time zones the time will gradually coincide with the real world and when we hit Key
West our clock will have the right time.
Taped some of my music in the sound room but didn't like it so I erased most of it. We made
a trim dive today and I had to take the trim manifold. With all the stores we had taken on
board we had taken on a lot of weight. I had to work really hard to compensate for the
uneven distribution of weight to obtain neutral bouyancy of the ship.
September 25. Steaming west. I spent as much time up on the bridge as possible.
September 26. What we call "Hate Week" is coming. Hate Week is the last week before
hitting home port. The fun of the cruise is over and everyone is just really tired of the
endless routine of living aboard the steel hull, especially the married guys who have been
away from wives and family for 4 months.
Everyone is tired of bumping into each other in darkened passageways in the After Battery
compartment where most of the crew try to sleep, dumping scalding coffee with a volley of
cursing, causing those who are already asleep to groan and toss about.
We try to sleep as watertight doors are always being slammed-to and dogged down with a
hiss, then undogged and swung open again with a click of the latch as the next guy comes
through. The hatch to the battery well hatch gets propped open by the EM checking the
batteries, flooding the sleeping compartment with glaring light. Someone gives up trying to
sleep and snaps on their reading light. Then there's another click and now there's two men
are reading with two bunk lights on and there is even more light.
There is a loud, "Ka-bam" as someone trips and stumbles in the passageway. The sleeping
men turn over and groan some more. The drip pan in the overhead suddenly leaks and Eric
gets wet and shocked rudely awake from the depths of slumber. "Son of a bitchin' bastard!"
he screams, and drops barefooted to the deck, dragging his wet blanket after him. Then the
main compartment light comes on and the speaker in the overhead barks, "turn out and turn
"It's sad, but it's true," says the Pharmacist's Mate as he comes in to make sure everyone
gets up. All the racks are to be chained up so the floor can be cleaned.
Broken sleep. Can't sleep. The strain builds up and everything just feels really tired. The
steel hull is tired, and so is the iron of the engines, the tortured machinery, and even the high
September 27. Washed clothes using a plunger and bucket. Shaved off my beard and feel
naked without it. Distance to Gibraltar is 1255 miles, and the distance to Key West is 2833
miles, so we're about 1/3 the way home with all three engines on line.
The electricians in the Maneuvering Room are putting a little more load on the engines than
they're supposed to, and when the Engineering Officer walks aft I can see the load drop
down on the gauge board, and when he comes back through the other way I can see the
load easing back up. We're making about 15-1/2 knots.
September 28. Hate Week is here. Everyone's a little tense and we all have "Channel
Fever." Bryan made a bread knife for Holleman out of an old hacksaw blade, then found
Siwik cutting cheese with it and came unwound. The watch has been rotated and I have
September 29. Hanging out on the bridge today. Very nice weather and someone came up
topside with a portable record player.
Merve has put up a sign in the mess hall announcing the beginning of Hate Week. The sign
has "HATE" written all over it in big red letters. Smaller letters say, "If you can't find anyone
to hate, then hate Brooks." I don't think Brooks did anything to get on the wrong side of
Merve. I think it's just Merve's way of trying to be funny.
Merve "got lucky" while we were in port, so now I'm teasing him about being among the
"International Playboy Set."
September 30. Today we turned the big map over that we had taped up in the mess hall, so
we're about half way across the ocean now. We're about out of fresh fruit and vegetables
now and the cook is hearing about it.
I got my first "shipping over" lecture today. I was asked, "What do you think of the Navy?"
"What will you do when you get out of the Navy?," and, "Do you realize what your shipping
over bonus will be worth?" I thought about showing him this log book and saying something
like, "This is how I lived the last 4 months. Do you think I want to do it for 20 more years?"
September 30. We're running the stills for fresh water and battery water. We're having
trouble pumping the bilges and the lube oil purifier is giving us trouble. It rattles and shakes
like it's going to tear itself free of the deck plates. We have about 1,400 miles to go.
October 1. It's been four months to the day since we left Key West.
Last night Roach and Brooks got into a heated argument and big Bryan ("the-bear-who-
walks-like-a-man") said he would clean house on both of them if they didn't knock it off.
Things cooled down quickly after that.
October 3. Field day. We need to clean up the encrusted brine formations on the piping for
the stills in the lower flats which look like Santa Claus' beard or something.
I took the spray gun and a hand full of rags and crawled outboard the engine to clean things
up. I worked there most of the day and it was very hot with no air circulation. I got feeling
weird from the heat and finally had to come out to take some salt pills and drink a lot of water.
October 4. Field day again. "Every day a field day, and every night a duty night," is what
we're all saying around here. We had a below decks inspection at 1400 with only a few
minor discrepancies. They found "Shakey" Jake's boots in the overhead and he had to
Poirer was down in the flats when he saw all kinds of fire and sparks coming out of #4 main
generator. They dropped the load off it immediately and found a fouled up brush and a
melted brad. It's a good thing Poirer happened to be down there or the generator would
have destroyed itself before anyone knew what was happening.
Danny Howell is leaving the Thornback soon after we get back, and Chief Oney will be the
new Chief of the Boat. Merve will then be in charge of both enginerooms.
October 5. At 1230 we sighted Great Abaco Light. Weather was cloudy with many
rainsqualls, but calm water. Hurricane reported 250 miles south of Cuba, moving northwest.
Very limited visibility towards evening so we were running with all water-tight doors on latch.
Collision alarm was sounded and a ship came into view with a 20 degree port angle on the
bow, closest point of approach approximately 300 yards. The boat shuddered as we backed
full emergency with our whistle blowing, then the ship roared past in the fog with their
running lights on.
October 6. We pulled into Key West with lots of wives and girlfriends waiting on the pier. In
keeping with tradition after long submarine cruises, there were boxes of milk and fresh fruit
waiting for us on the dock. As soon as we tied up we tore into the milk and apples while the
married guys tore into their wives.
As soon as liberty went down I went ashore and got a shower and a haircut. I stayed in the
shower a long time and had the water about as hot as I could get it. I let it cook the
submarine feel out of me; the accumulated smells, fuel oil vapor and drippings, carbon driven
into my pores and lube oil caked in my hair.
I walked around town until I was sore all over because I was unaccustomed to walking much
the last couple of months. On the street I heard songs coming from radios and jukeboxes
that I had never heard, but they were already old. I had a feeling of having missed out on
the good life back here in the good old U.S.A.
I ran into an EM off the boat, and we went down to the N.C.C.S. I watched as he interrupted
the girl's meeting by making faces and waving through the window. The priest didn't think it
was funny at all, and tried to get the EM away from the window but he didn't want to leave.
The EM got mad and was going to fight the priest, but someone finally got him cooled down
and we walked off down Duval Street. Then he started openly propositioning every girl we
met on the street and that was it for me. When he started doing that I decided it was time for
us to part company.
I later heard he had gone into Cecil's Bar and started crying, then beat his fists on the table
and screaming to the barmaid that he wanted "a piece of ___!" Then he started throwing
barstools around. He picked one up and was going to hit Chief Griggs, but "Shakey" Jake
Hake stopped him. Overhulser finally helped him back to the boat, and later on they had to
carry Henry back too.
After leaving the EM I went into the Starlite Club and ran into a couple of destroyer sailors
who had a fifth of Seagrams under the table. We drank it straight from the bag when it was
passed around, and I danced with some of the girls until 0300. I returned to the boat having
had way too much to drink. The dim, red bulb illuminating the passageway winked at me as I
fell into my bunk and that was it.
October 7. I woke up to stories about how drunk it was out there last night. I heard that
Overhulser woke up this morning on the floor of the women's rest room in the Downtowner
Bar. He said he couldn't remember how he got there, but he woke up when the cleaning
lady slapped him in the face with a dirty wet mop!
I spent the day moving my gear to Barracks #66. I lost my keys somewhere last night so I
had to cut open my sea bag to get my things out. We had inspection later that morning and
Danny Howell received a commendation from the Captain. After 5 years as Chief of the
Boat, he's leaving the boat to go to New London as an instructor.
Rates and dolphins were presented to the crew. In keeping with submarine tradition, those
receiving them were thrown over the side of the boat into the harbor to finalize the ceremony.
I enjoyed the luxury of using the washing machine in the barracks to wash my clothes. Much
more convenient than the old plunger and bucket I used during the last 4 months on the boat.
October 8. I have the below decks watch. Two new enginemen came aboard and I showed
them through the boat and gave them an idea of what kind of work they will be doing when
they get into the engineering gang. They're both from Texas. Bert Wright won't be fit to live
with when he finds out we finally have some Texans in our gang.
October 9. Bert Wright, Pat Gurr and I bought some skin diving swim gear and walked to the
end of Duval Street (South Beach) and went swimming. The sun felt good. The water was
still cloudy because of the winds from the hurricane which had spent itself far out to sea.
We swam along the shore and finally wound up at Monroe County Beach. Along the way we
went ashore at the end of Vernon Street where we found some coconuts that had fallen from
the trees there. We smashed them open on the coral right there on the beach, pried the
meat out of the shells, and had a great lunch.
I'm slowly working the soreness out of my body and getting used to solid ground under my
feet. American and Cuban music in the air, Pepsi-Cola, and long quiet hours of sleep,
waking only when I wake.
My thirty day leave starts tomorrow…