SSN698: Coming of Age

Blog Editor’s notes: This blogpost article was originally titled as “SSN698: An American Classic”. The term “American Classic”, in reference to the USS Bremerton, made a sensation in social media by then Bremerton Commanding Officer, CDR Wes Bringham, in the Kitsap Sunvideo published on February 28, 2016. This is a republication with a few minor revisions of the original article published in 2016.

This is the second article by contributing writer Russ Woods, a 698 Plankowner, who offers his insights to life on the Bremertonin the early days as she began her ocean going journey out of the shipyards. Although we in the early generations of 698 crews did not refer to our boat as the BadFish, I believe, Russ really offers this as a token of respect to the later crews and her cadre of submariners who were responsible for taking her deep in the best interests of the nation. 

Not only does Russ Woods offer valuable crew member insights of the early years of the Bremertonbut he also offers it with a certain retrospective sharpness, humility and self-disclosure that I appreciate as a fellow submariner and shipmate.

EastPacmanningbridge1
The new shining star of the US Navy’s submarine fleet, USS Bremertonarriving in Bremerton, Washington, Fall 1982. Image courtesy of Donald Jones, Plankowner, USS Bremerton.

 

 

USS BREMERTON SSN 698: AN “AMERICAN CLASSIC”

By Russ Woods

In my time I served in three different submarines: Bremerton, Henry M. Jackson and Michigan. I was fortunate enough to be a Plankowner in Bremertonand Henry M. Jackson.

I must confess in my youth I did not demonstrate the affection for my Submarine as I seem to these days. I was just as quick to make comments like “This boat sucks” or “I hate this boat” as many of my shipmates did at one time or another. Case in point “C.A.R.T.” – If you were there you know what this means.

How naïve I and we were. As many of you have experienced or at least heard, the ’98 boat was a problem child. She was impudent and cantankerous. She did not seem to want to come out of the gate. We, my Plankowner shipmates and I, collectively through hard work, inspiring dedication and endurance of significant hardships brought her out. We were also one of the last to hear the phrase “Rig for Rickover”. Those who were there know exactly what that means.

How were we to know then we were serving in a history-making Warship? The first clue should have been her maiden voyage around the southern tip of Africa and into the Indian Ocean, where she performed flawlessly while we troublemakers steered her into troubled waters and performed sneaky spy stuff on the unsuspecting Soviets and the hapless Libyans motoring around in shallow waters that they felt they were the masters of. Yea, not so, says Badfish 698.

Then a short few months later our girl goes out on a pleasure cruise to visit her namesake city and allow us steely eyed denizens a “fun run” to reward us for our great service to America. But in an instant the Badfish phone rang and Uncle Sugar needed us to re-think our priorities and turned our “fun run” into a Spec-Op. And of course our thoroughbred answered the call and hit full stride on our run to the Pacific North West to counter Ivan’s nefarious plans. She made history then by becoming the fastest submarine in the fleet and by extension the fastest in the world.

The Captain’s log from commissioning forward reads of one challenging exploit after another that our girl accepted and excelled at.

When I reflect back on my sometimes crappy attitude that at times I demonstrated I feel a strong pang of regret deep inside my soul. I am hopeful any of my shipmates who occasionally shared my bad behavior have been fortunate enough to feel remorse for their wicked tongue that blasphemed against what is now our pride.

She is now beyond a shadow of a doubt the finest of the 688 class. Testimony to the professionalism of her first august crew and every single crewman who has served in her since. We my shipmates own a part of history. No matter what those evil yard birds do to her after she is finally decommissioned, she will always belong to the Ages. Her name will be there at the top of the list of longest serving submarines in our country’s history. Our great grandchildren and beyond will see her name in Jane’s fighting Ships. They will be able to say with pride, “My great-grandfather served in her.”

Yes, any of us who besmirched her name even once should feel justly ashamed. Because USS BremertonSSN 698 was taking us all on a ride in history. Marking us as a very privileged group. A brotherhood of the Badfish, an “American Classic”.

russwoodsRuss Woods,Plankowner, back in the day.

 

 

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LOOKING FORWARD

USS Bremerton, the most senior commissioned submarine in the United States Navy, is currently at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard preparing for Decommissioning.

 

SAVE THE 698

Join the Movement. Are you passionate about preserving the USS Bremerton in any way shape or form after her decommissioning for the benefit of the public and of naval history? You are invited to a new closed group forum on Facebook “SaveThe698” to be involved in public discussion related to Saving 698. You can see the group site by clicking HERE.

Copyright © 2019 bremertonreunion.net

Bremerton – Keyport 2021

photo source: navalunderseamuseum.org

For those of you unfamiliar with the Bremerton, WA area, the Naval Undersea Museum at Keyport is along Port Orchard Bay, 11 miles due north of the City of Bremerton.

Since most of the submarines being decommissioned, including USS Bremerton, are situated in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in a security zone known and the Controlled Industrialized Area (CIA), access to the public is off limits.  Therefore, it is virtually certain, ceremonies will be held apart from the submarine. In regards to the actual ceremony’s location, it is highly probable that it will be held at Keyport where other boat’s have held their DECOM events.

The Naval Undersea Museum at Keyport (image source: navalunderseamuseum.org).

The latest word regarding the Bremerton is that the Navy will sponsor a Decommissioning ceremony. In the lives of some boats,  there are two separate events, an Inactivation and a Decommissioning (DECOM).

DECOM will be the one and last official ceremonial event in Bremerton’s service to the United States. The timing is based on shipyard schedules and key elements of the work involved. In a recent article, it is estimated by CDR Chris Lindberg, 698’s Commanding Officer, that Spring of 2021 is the period that SSN 698 will Decommission.

Commissioned in March 1981, the good ol’ BadFish is looking to make an amazing 40 year run. 40 years! The first U.S. Navy submarine destined to achieve that milestone. Get ready to hoist your glasses with your shipmates, family and friends, that deserves a grande celebration – as bittersweet as it may be.

The BadFish Beat

A fresh buzz surrounds the USS Bremerton community with the mention CDR Lindberg’s target date. Many of the navy alumni, submariners who have called Bremerton their home, have often expressed that one of the best boats if not the best boat they have ever served on was the Bremerton, a fine testament to their shipmates and to the commanding officers they served under.

Last year, meeting up with the boat before she went into the CIA, affectionately known as “Deep Shipyard”, caught many 698 alumni off guard. The sudden  change in operational orders of the boat, coming straight off a West-Pac to go into the yards for DECOM, was game only for the maniac efforts of the most nimble reunioners ready for rapid deployment.

Many who attended were connected through Facebook which made communication in the fast moving situation feasible. Even so, for this event that was almost conjured out of thin air, we final-mustered a group of over 100 BadFish supporters who were willing to divide into four groups over a 3-day period to take one last reminiscent walk across the well-traveled decks and ladders of the fast-attack submarine.

 

Get your non-Facebook using Shipmates to Act Now

Over the next year we need to get interested alumni who are not members of Facebook onto our contact list.  If you know any alumni who wants to get a periodic update for reunion news, please email Master Chief Steve Everett at his email:  southzvi@gmail.com (Subject Line: 698 Email List).

Please also provide your:

  • rate/rank/dept 
  • which years served on 698
  • mailing address (email and postal) and
  • phone number 
  • Surviving family members are also welcomed to send their contact info

Please Note: EMAIL outside of Facebook, is preferred to keep costs down, but if you do not even have email, text messaging is low cost alternate. If you are actually still living in the stone age and has neither e-mail or text message ability, we’ll still do our duty to keep you informed the best we can using the postal service.

Now, we’ve got the Navy time-honored event on the horizon – DECOM. We expect to have room to maneuver our personal schedules to get into position; in the meantime, we hope the Navy will avoid doing any Crazy Ivans with their scheduling. The exact date for DECOM is TBA.

Some people were concerned that the ceremony itself will be a restricted affair in regards to security, location and audience size. At this time, it appears none of these factors will be an issue.

This website was developed particularly for those who are not on social media but have access to the internet. So tell your Facebook-hating shipmates to get their email to Master Chief or at least tell them to subscribe to this website to get important updates.

Stock illustration from Wikipedia, note the VLS Second-Flight mods which are not installed on First-Flight 688s like the American Classic.

SIGNIFICANT  & OFTEN UNREPORTED DATES:

08 MAY 1976: KEEL LAID
22 JUL 1978 LAUNCHED
28 MAR 1981 COMMISSIONED
11 JUL 1981 DEPARTS GROTON

28 OCT 1981 Reports to Homeport PEARL HARBOR

18 AUG 1998 Reports to Homeport SAN DIEGO
16 SEP 2003 Reports to Homeport PEARL HARBOR
27 APR 2018 Arriving in BREMERTON to begin inactivation/DECOM process

 

For more information about the museum at Keyport, please click on this link NAVALUNDERSEAMUSEUM

 

Source photos for Naval Undersea Museum at Keyport: http://www.navalunderseamuseum.org

Copyright © 2019 bremertonreunion.net

Bremerton’s “Annie”

ANNIE

“Annie” and USS Bremerton SSN698

By Russ Woods, Plankowner, USS Bremerton

(Editor’s Note: This is a reposted and revised article consolidating USS Bremerton SSN 698 specific articles on this reunion website).

OK, shipmates this video has been around a day or two. Here’s a couple of trivia questions for you. In the video there is a moment where the diving klaxon is sounding. This is a non-stock klaxon with the name “Annie” painted on it. What is the origin of that klaxon? And who is Annie? I will provide the answers after a respectable amount of time has passed.

 

Watch the video by Josh Farley, Kitsap Sun reporter, and see and hear Annie in action (about time marker 1:07) and also meet Captain Wes Bringham, the originator of the popular nickname “The American Classic”

 

 

[No one in the FB group could provide the right answer, so Russ Woods enlightened us…]

 

 

OK, my Bremertonbrothers it is as I suspected. The history of Annie has not been past on. Frankly I was very surprised to see her still onboard and being used. Kinda got a little thrill when I saw her in the video.

Most everyone should have heard if they did not experience it first hand the labor pains (pun intended) Mother Navy experienced in giving birth to Bremerton. It was a struggle to all in Navy blue connected in any way to her. We were mostly complete in the EB shipyard. Days away from our first sea trials. We were “in service” and flying the commissioning pennant. Galley was open and then the bad welds were discovered along with the hangars made with high carbon steel.

For the younger members of this group it was the design of our boat and her sisters to be able to withstand 100 G’s of instantaneous impact. I.E.. a close aboard nuclear detonation. The high carbon steel hangers would have shattered instantly in that situation creating much hate and discontent to us lowly swabs.

So after serious thought and verbal jousting between Capt. Anderson, the Admiral at the time whose name escapes me and the nefarious P. Takis Valiotus the head of Electric Boat the decision was made to change all of the suspect hangers which numbered in the heaps. And virtually every weld on the boat was re-inspected and either completed or redone as needed.

To facilitate this we as a crew were moved off the boat and into get this mobile homes and Winnebagos. We were virtually living on the Electric Boat shipyard. Only watchstanders and supervisory persons from the boat were allowed onboard.

Here is where the creative minds of young sailors were allowed to run free.

Onboard at this time was IC1(SS) John R. Wollseifen “Wolf” to us. I at the time was a snot-nosed, wet behind the ears IC3 and as Wolf was fond of saying to stupid to be afraid of electricity. Anywho with nothing but time on our hands Wolf and I would go exploring in the shipyard. We would visit the different “Codes” just to see what they did and perhaps what we could scavenge.

Wolf is a gregarious fellow that can engage anyone in conversation. In our ventures out he spotted this diving Klaxon. He inquired from the shop foreman if it indeed was a Klaxon of the “aaooooga” variety. And by golly it was. He engaged the foreman in conversation for a bit before exclaiming how neat it would be if we could have a Klaxon like that for Bremerton.

Now I cannot be sure if the shop foreman could care less about this device since it was not going to ever be installed as stock equipment on another boat produced there or if he felt sorry for us swabs who were enduring the rigors of an extended shipyard stay. Bottom line, he gave Wolf the Klaxon and out the door we hustled.

Now instead of heading back to the boat as I suspected we would do, Wolf says, “Come with me I got an idea.” Over to the paint shop we go. He spies a lady painter he had made friends with previously, and no, close your dirty minds, he did not know her in the marital way. What she had going for her was she was more than a person who spread paint. She also had the artistic hand.

Wolf asked her to paint the name “Annie” on the horn of the Klaxon. Annie was the name of his wife.

The lady painter broke out her brush and some black paint and in short order had “Annie” scrolled across the horn. Wolf was just beside himself in his pride and satisfaction. I was too, although I was nothing more than a tag along infected with his pride in what we had.

We brought our prize back to Bremertonand there would need to be some wiring done as she needed 120v to operate. Hence the power cord we installed in her.

The skipper was pleased with Annie but we were told when guests were on board, i.e. Admirals and such, we would keep her under wraps. When we did use her the COW had to hold the 1MC mike to the horn and push the button to sound the Klaxon. It was old school and we were as far as we knew the only 688 boat to have one. She was still there and in use when I left Bremerton in 1983.

As I said I was tickled to see her in use in the video above. And that is the story of how Annie came to Bremertonand got her name. So if Wolf is present when Bremertonis decommissioned I would hope he could have Annie. We will see.

 

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Looking Forward

USS Bremerton is currently preparing for decommissioning in Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. The average lifespan of a submarine is expected to be about 30 years and Bremerton is nearing 40 years. The plans for Decommissioning the American Classic is under consideration, the dates are TBD.

 

Save the 698 

Are you passionate about preserving the USS Bremertonin any way shape or form after her decommissioning for the benefit of the public and of naval history? You are invited to a new closed group forum on Facebook “SaveThe698” to be involved in public discussion related to Saving 698. You can see the group site by clicking HERE.

 

Editors Note:

This is a republication of an article originally published on June 29, 2018 consolidating USS Bremerton SSN 698 specific articles on this reunion website.

Russ Woods is a USS Bremerton SSN 698 Plankowner and I want to thank him for sharing his heartfelt insights.

Republished with the permission of Russ Woods.  CY