Posted by Mike Rankin on July 27, 1997
Thanks much for sharing the essay - truly brought tears to my eyes and my fingers are shaky as I type this. I am doing much backspacing, etc. Forgive the mistakes.
I lost track of Jack when I went to nuc school. When I came back to Charleston and the newly constructed FBM training center, I ran into the TRACEN COB, ENC(SS) Flatley. As I stated, Jack and I worked for Flatley. He told me that Jack was on the Hamilton, but until I read your piece I had forgotten all about it. I never saw Jack again after leaving the Trumpetfish. It was during one off-crew period that Flatley told me Jack had volunteered for 'Nam. The next time I saw Flatley, (a patrol or two later, it seems), he told me Jack had been killed. I cried like a baby.
The T-fish was out when I got to pier November in Charleston. I was told it would be tieing up in a couple of hours. I sat on my sea bag and waited. In she came, right on time. Fresh from an extended Med cruise. I waited until after the flurry of mooring activities topside and on the pier were over and went aboard. COB, ‘Soupy' Campbell TMC(SS), was already below. He told me what the situation was. It was Friday and the first that T-fish had seen of homeport in 6 months and there was no way I'd get checked in until Monday. He told me to go to town and find something to keep me amused. I did.
I was a skinny 150 lb, 6'-0, FA NQ when Jack took me under his wing. When I came aboard the T-fish he shook my hand and put me on the deck. He asked me about what I'd done, etc.. As I was old to be a boot, (23) I told him I had been a maintenance machinist in a paper mill. He immediately told Flatley that he wanted me for his striker in the A-gang when my mess cooking duties were over. Flatley told him that there were too many 3rd and 2nd class that had been on board for years wanting to get out of the engine room and into the A-gang. He also said having a nuc designated puke on the A-gang was worthless as I'd be gone as soon as I was qualified.
Anyway, I was assigned to be a night mess cook under Andy Maples CS1(SS) as my at-sea duty. In port I was in the deck gang: chipping and painting and loading stores. But the T-fish lived up to what I had already heard was its part of the SUBRON 16 legacy of "Harder, Darter, Trigger, Trout. Always in and never out. Irex, Odax, T-fish, Sennet. Always out." We put out to sea after an in-port of less than a week. She was really in need of upkeep, but the money was not there. But I digress.
On this, my first voyage my luck ran good. We were still on the surface when my watch came up. So there I was, staring into greasy dishwater that was rolling in the sink in sync with the rolling of the boat. It didn't help that my hands were in it. Ah, King Neptune's revenge! I made it to the AB head, but the two toilets were occupied. I let it go into the urinal. And while I'm standing (make that leaning) there, somebody says, "Move over, I gotta piss. Then you can clean it all up." Right! It was Jack. I knew better than to question his declaration.
About midnight the 2nd of our three Hardy Times' crapped out. The HP cylinder was wiped. EN1(SS) Jones from the Forward Engine Room said it could not be fixed. The skipper wanted it fixed. The storekeeper determined that we had a spare HP cylinder in #7 MBT. (#7 MBT was used entirely for storage of supplies since the Guppy IIIA conversion.) After torpedo room lead TM1(SS) Leatherman and EN1(SS) Sam Clary dug it out but the cylinder had never had it's bore machined out to the proper diameter and had never been honed out for use. So it was declared that it could not be used. All of this was being discussed on the mess deck while I was on watch. So I, boot FA NQP messcook, popped up and said something to the effect that it could be bored out with the lathe in Maneuvering. Jack said it couldn't be done because we didn't have a boring tool long enough to go the length of the cylinder and we didn't have a dial indicator to center it up in the lathe in the first place.
I pointed out that I might know a trick to get by without the dial indicator and that we could bore halfway down, take it out of the lathe and turn it around and bore the other half. This was an extremely long shot and Jack and everyone else said to the effect of, "there ain't no way." They were right and I admitted it. But I also pointed out that we had nothing to lose by trying as the compressors were OOC as it was. They all agreed to that. So A-gangers and engine room people Luntsford, Clarey, MM2(SS) Bruce, and Jones went to Flatley and MMC(SS) Nichols to sell it to them. All agreed that we had nothing to lose. Next it was sold to the MPA and then the Engineer and then the skipper.
After explaining that the boat needed to be as steady as possible, the skipper agreed to take her to 150' and stay at 3-5 knots with as close to a zero bubble as the planesmen could keep.
The next battle was with the EMs. In the maneuvering room, brothers Gus and ??? Hahn, EM1 and EM2 (SS) didn't want their table over the lathe torn down. We got around that with Jack's threat of bodily harm. But he almost had to actually deliver on his threats when the metal shaving started coming out of the cylinder and flying about the space. (I contained most of them by placing a paint brush over the opening and the tool. But some did escape.)
To everyone's surprise, and with everyone's cooperation, I hit the bore exactly and we made a hone from a dishmop and emery cloth. Jones' guys installed the cylinder and had the compressor on line shortly thereafter.
Jack took me to Flatley in the Control Room where Flatley had the watch. He sold Flatley on taking me off messcooking and making me his striker in the A-gang. From that day forward I was under Jack's tutelage. He showed me everything. He QUALIFIED me. A better teacher never lived.
Jack's favorite liberty - going to the club at the Marine Barracks and getting into a fight. Two other crazy things he did: one was driving that amphibious car of his across the Cooper river and the other was when he missed one of the T-fish's sailings. He went up on the Cooper river bridge and bombarded the boat with empty beer cans as she sailed beneath. The boat came back and got him. Or maybe it pulled up to the degaussing pier and picked him up, I forget which. That one was a sea-story that Jack and Flatley told. It HAS to be true. The car story is true. I saw that one.
Jack and his French made amphibious car. Damn!!!
Jack taught me about hydraulics, refrigeration and Freon, air systems, diesel engines, you name it. He was a submariner's submariner. The man was raucous, raunchy and sometimes rancid, but as far as I am concerned, he walked on water. I never saw him do it, but I'd swear on a stack of Bibles that he could if he wanted to.
Perhaps now you can understand why my Silver Dolphins mean so much to me.
So, Sid, thanks for sharing with me.
I hope we can meet someday and give tribute to Jack.
GDU secured, sir!