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 Memories of 9901s and Diesel Boats in the early '60s
by Sid Harrison ETCM(SS) USN(Ret)
Written sometime in 1997

As I recall at that time the old diesel boats were awash in 'em. They were designated 9901s and/or 9902s (I think). Usually they did a lot of cranking and were often assigned to barracks duty, seaman gang (of course) and some even made it to the boat. If they were lucky they were on board long enough to get their Dolphins but not always.

There were many that passed through as E2, E3 and E4. Most were good sailors and did what they were told. However, a few I recall had a, "hey I'm going to nuc school, cut me some slack" attitude.

I was regular Navy, general-service-black-shoe, NOT nuc designated (or anything else), petty officer --- and I like to think a pretty good IC Electrician --- when I went to subs and was immediately up to my butt in a lot of screwed up equipment that apparently wasn't on the boat's recent yard "to-do" list. One of those deals that when you report on board they say "Great! Here's your tools, here's your qual card, fix all that broken junk and get qualified." I did - and I did. Not much rack time for awhile. But for a natural born tinkerer and "workaholic" it was a sheer delight. (the workaholic trait I have thankfully managed to overcome) But I made up for the rack time eventually. They say you can never catch up on sleep or sex. Hey, I always tried.

However I do remember one strange guy (9901) that I called squadron about late one night as he was threatening suicide. He was the topside watch and of course packing a 45. I was section leader on the occasion of this last freak-out and had to get a relief for him and call for some "expert" guidance. Subsequently the Chaplain intervened and he disappeared from the boat.

His family was quite wealthy and shortly after he arrived on the boat his grandmother died and he inherited several millions of dollars. He claimed it messed him up. His family made their fortune in industrial brushes. Odd I remember BullS**t like that. Damn, those money problems I could have used. He got very little understanding from us poor grunts.

Epilogue: I was just telling my wife this story as I proofed it and suddenly remembered the Sqd-8 Chief Yeo (Roy Burkhardt) told me the kid got an admin discharge because they figured he'd do the country more good paying taxes. I suspect he had some heavy duty juice working for him too.

My take on the poor state of repair of the old boats is that all the career guys bailed out for nuc or weps schools. Which were wide open and was the definite fast track. But a lot of good people stayed on the diesels and their work-load was doubled. Plus they had to contend with the constant churning of watch bills due to the number of kids just passing through that had to be qualified which was time consuming. I still have some of my best memories of those three years in diesels - just got to the party too late I guess. Even though it wasn't always "fun" it was a hell of a learning experience and one that I cherish.

Later, when I was on the Hamilton in the late 60s we had an outstanding A-ganger by the name of Jimmy Shumate MM2(SS). Shu was in his mid 20s, I would guess, and had first gone to the diesels when he was 17 or 18. Now finding himself on a boomer was not to his liking. All he talked about was getting back to the river and the diesels. That was almost impossible to do at that time as all the traffic was going the other way. But somehow Shu convinced someone to cut him a set of orders and he left.

About a year later I met him in the NLon exchange. He was very disappointed that the old boats were not as he remembered them: no money, no parts, overworked and fading fast. I don't know whatever happened to Shu, never saw him again after that. Hope he found the sweet spot.

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