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(1997) by Sid Harrison ETCM(SS) USN(Ret)


Remembering some goofiness on the A. Hamilton SSBN 617(G)...mid '60s ...or "what did you do in the cold war daddy?"

We had just concluded a routine Friday "up-all-bunks" field day and after the evening meal we watched our designated movie and thought we would like another.

Now at that time, our XO had this policy of alternate days for running double movies - and on that particular day we happened to be in the "one movie day" status. Well of course we rationalized that because of our super hard work during the field day, and the fact that the patrol was getting short we could get away with running a second flick.

Someone was sent to ask the XO's permission for the 2nd movie. Which he emphatically denied and that naturally pissed us off. So when we got the word we just hung around for awhile, drinking coffee, smoking and grumbling.

The empty projector was still set up, and after a short time a few creative submariners turned it on, pulled down the screen, snapped off the lights and began to make shadow figures with their (our) hands. The images on the screen soon were enhanced with blasphemous dialogue. By that time our creative juices were really flowing as we added mock dialogues between the old man and the XO and any other targets that we thought might draw a laugh.

Well laugh we did as the light and shadow performance got better and more imaginative. It was so good in fact that the crew's mess began to fill up as more guys got involved. Pretty soon it sounded like a half-way night, and the whoops could be heard in the Control Room and the XO's stateroom.

Suddenly, the after door of the crews mess flew open and there was the XO, illuminated by the blinding light of the empty projector, convinced we had disobeyed his orders. I can still see him: half asleep in his PJ bottoms (yes PJ bottoms), his hair sticking up, an angry, puzzled expression on his face as he peered into the shadows beyond that light.

He immediately shut down the projector, then stood there in the dark and chewed our asses out for such infantile behavior. As he stormed out we buried our faces in our folded arms on the table tops, stifling the most un-cold-warrior-like giggles. We knew we had won a small victory.

From then on, the phrase "there will BE NO, NO MOVIES" had a very special meaning for us and was often repeated with knowing smirks. It was even slipped into patrol newspapers and later became the centerpiece in an Oscar-caliber skit during a half-way night.

Just steely-eyed killers of the deep whiling away the time waiting for the big one or...a few minutes snipped out of submarine life while keeping the finger on the nuclear trigger.

I think it's safe to say that as young men in those days our contribution to "winning" the cold war was considerable. But when I recall some of those incidents. I think: "if America only knew". Just as well they don't it would probably prompt a "60 Minutes" investigation.