of the Blenny
by JIM ALBERTIN, Lt. USN(Ret)
|I served on the Blenny from Oct. 56
to Sept. 57.
She was my first ship and I earned my dolphins on her. As I recall there were still two or three chiefs aboard that wore war patrol pins. One of them was the COB and he made my life hell until I became the sailor that he thought I should be. I recall going to NYC one weekend and coming back drunk. Well, the COB didn't like that so he showed me how to work the next day and the next and so on. I wanted to be an electrician and he thought that I should be an electronics tech. I told him no, so I ended up on mess cooking. It was a 60 day stint and at the end of the time he checked my qualifications and asked if I wanted to apply for electronics school. I said no so I went back to mess cooking for another 30 days . At the end of 30 days I was asked the same question and gave the same answer so my billet didn't change. We became friends as I washed dishes over and over and over and I finally relented and was sent to electronics school. I am thankful to the ornery cuss and went on to retire as a Lt. After spending 24 years in the submarine force.
From mid Nov. 56 to early Feb. 57 Blenny was the northern boat in a barrier from the ice pack to Greenland. There were four boats involved (Grouper,Blenny, can't recall the others) and all four took a tremendous beating with high seas and almost constant storms. I can recall not being able to snorkel and when we snorkeled on the surface we cycled the head valve and bent the mast. About the first 60 feet of the forward superstructure was damaged by high seas to the point that we returned at a very slow transit time. These conditions set the stage for the Christmas Eve Captainís mast.
During my tour(s) of mess cooking I became a party to the Christmas eve chocolate pudding pie massacre. Riding seas with about 50 foot waves ( I recall the quartermaster saying stage 8) we all were holding on for dear life while trying to maintain station. We had eaten sandwiches for a day or two because the cook had trouble staying in the galley. The storeroom below and starboard to radio room in the aft end of the control room was like a combat zone with all the cans shooting back and forth. The cook used to say that he did not know what was on the menu because he would just stick his hand down in the hatch and catch whatever was going by. We would roll about 20 degrees at 350 feet so this being my first run I knew that I had died and gone to hell. We used a lot of lithium hydroxide to bring down the CO2 as we always seemed to have several trawlers as sonar contacts.
Somehow the cook had managed to make pie shells for Christmas dinner and to this day I don't know how they got put in that forward storeroom. About 2 AM on Christmas morning COB shook me out of my rack and I was told to go to the mess hall. The other mess cook (Bob Croft) was already there along with the Capt., XO and all the cooks. The Capt. (Joe Grace) went into a long spiel about every since he was a child he had had chocolate pie for Christmas dinner and that someone had purposely destroyed his pie crust so that he could not have his chocolate pie for Christmas dinner. Bob and I just looked at each other and the cooks shrugged their shoulders.
His speech went on for several minutes and the XO was tasked to get to the bottom of who was plotting to spoil Christmas. Bob and I were to be busted to E1 when we returned to port and were to be assigned extra duty but somehow the COB intervened and that never occurred. We had chocolate pudding for dinner and the wardroom had pieces of crust with their pudding.
Bob, the cooks, and I had a lot of fun with trying to figure out who had put the crust in the storeroom and we finally figured out it was one of the stewards. We had a steward that was a SubLant boxer for years and had always been assigned to the squadron. He got older and started losing and there was a question of how many wives he had. It seems that he also started his own church for some reason and part of his religion was that he could marry his flock. So he was assigned to the wardroom of the Blenny, I recall that he was so large that you could not get by him in the forward battery passageway.
On the way into port at the end of the run I recall the Capt. coming on the 1MC and saying "that the crew had done an outstanding job and that realizing that everyone would miss their families over Christmas so he made the crew angry at him and then they would not be as homesick over Christmas. What his real intention was or how good a Capt. he was I can not say as he was my first and I went on to serve under several that made Admiral and some that didn't.
Bob Croft was a diver in the 60's. You may recall the stories of him and a Frenchman who kept setting records for the deepest dive without any tanks. They just held onto a weight and went down to unrealistic depths.
I recall that Blenny was part of DevGrpTwo out of New London when I rode her.
She was a good ship and the crew hung together and made her a proud ship.