22 November 1963....Where were you?
by Sid Harrison

I don't recall whether it was the mid or the 4 by 8 but I had the right hand seat that night on patrol on the USS Blenny (SS-324), and a guy by the name of Selikus had the junior controllerman seat. Slick dipped Copenhagen so of course he also went by Snuffy. The IC watch had brought us some fresh coffee earlier and Snuffy having finished his had just put in a fresh dip as we sprawled back on our seats and watched the gauges on the cubicle.  Funny I should remember that, in such detail, after so many years have passed.

We were snorkeling and trying to cram in a battery charge between repeated annoying hi-vac shutdowns when the IC watch suddenly reappeared around the corner of the cubicle excitedly saying that radio had picked up an English speaking station from Europe (VOA I guess) and there was something about an attempted shooting of the President. 

Then the 1MC clicked on and after a pause, off.  A few minutes later the skipper started to speak again and clicked off again. After a few minutes and a couple more clicks he finally got it all out ---  our official transmissions had confirmed that Kennedy was dead. I have never felt such a cold, hollow and lost feeling in my life. 

No one spoke for awhile --- at least not about what this could mean ---  I suppose we all assumed the worst. That we were going to come back in the middle of a nuclear war, and given the shape the boat was in and the miles to go, we likely wouldn't get back at all. We saw no other outcome. 

Our old RBO in the crew's dinette stayed on continuously and each time a guy came in he would fiddle with it and the cook would yell out that he had it set "just right - and when they got a goddamned signal we'd hear something and to leave it alone". So when we got a decent signal we listened intently, quietly playing solitaire, chain smoking and drinking coffee. It was satisfying however to get those intermittent English language broadcasts out of Radio Moscow. We knew that so long as they kept reporting in such a matter-of-fact way that WWIII hadn't started. 

Maybe it was that winter or spring after our return that I heard my first Beatle's song - or maybe it was the Dave Clark Five.

by B.R. Barbee 

I was halfway through my first patrol on the USS Thomas A. Edison (SSBN-610 Blue). I was sitting in the crew's mess eating a meal (I don't remember if it was the noon or evening meal) when the CO, Captain Charles Young, came over the 1MC to say he had some bad news. We were due back to the States a few days before Christmas and my first thought that he was going to tell us that the patrol had been extended and we wouldn't be home for Christmas. 

Then I realized that the CO's voice sounded like someone who was about to break down. He proceeded to tell us that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas and that first reports were that the shots came from an overpass that JFK's limo had been about to pass under. Two men were seen running from the scene. Of course, in those days of extreme tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union my next thought was, "Holy shit! Those damn Commies have gone and killed our president. My first patrol and we're going to war." Everyone in the crew's mess turned pale and no one said a word. I think we were all sitting there waiting to hear the word passed over the 1MC to, "Man Battle Stations Missile. This is no drill." But we didn't. We just continued on with our normal patrol routine. 

You see all those movies and read all those books about COs on boomers going nuts and somehow getting to the point of being able to launch their missiles. If there was ever a real-life time when this could possibly happen this was it. Captain Young (who was the son of Cassin Young, who won a Medal of Honor for his heroism during the attack on Pearl Harbor and later had a Destroyer named after him) was a personal friend of JFK. 

As far as I know, EDISON was the only submarine that JFK ever actually went aboard. He had watched launches of Polaris missiles from a surface craft before but in 1962 he had come aboard EDISON when she pulled in to Norfolk after a shakedown cruise. They had to build an elevator (which is now in the Submarine Museum in New London) for him to access the AMR-1 hatch because of his bad back. And poor Captain Young was probably nervous about that visit because because the day before he had surfaced under a tincan (damn near sinking it) and had bent the upper part of the rudder (the part visible above water) over about 90 degrees. They had placed a tarp over it before JFK's arrival but I guess JFK never asked why the tarp was there. 

During my time on EDISON we had framed photos of JFK touring the boat hung all over the passageways and wardroom. I wish I had one of those now (but that would be stealing government property and none of us have ever done that). Anyway, of course nothing happened like in the movies but it might make a good plot point for someone who might want to write such a fictional screenplay or novel. Do any of you guys out there have any similar stories about what you were doing when you found out about JFK getting assassinated? I'd like to hear them.

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