Tommy Cox


Written by: USS Bremerton SSN-698 Plankowner Russ Woods

My memory of a hero and my friend,

may he rest in peace.

From mid-June 1978 thru early 1979, Naval Submarine School, New London, spit out a group of swaggering, cocky, freshly minted Submariners, AKA “Boat Sailors”. One by one we reported to the Electric Boat shipyard in Groton, CT. to become crewman in the Pre-Commissioning Unit Bremerton SSN 698 which would become USS Bremerton.

We reported aboard standing tall and proud. We just knew the world revolved around us. As we checked in and learned of what was expected from each of us we discovered we were now part of Admiral Rickover’s Nuclear Navy.

There was serious work being done, requiring the full attention of serious men. Every Monday, we would arrive bright and early, 6’2”, shoulders straight and chest swollen with pride. Each successive day the responsibility and accountability of our duties weighed us down. As we exited the building ways on Friday afternoon we were now more like 5’ 8” and a bit bent over from the load.

Fortunately for us, just down the road at Norm’s “Tug Boat Annie’s Lounge” there was the Submarine Troubadour, Tommy Cox and his band. Tommy Cox, “TC”, “Tango Charlie”, whatever you called him, he was one of us. He was a recently retired Senior Chief, whose specialty in the Navy was as a Crypto Tech, a Spook, in plain English, he was a spy. He was part of the Special Ops group, that would report aboard a boat just prior to deployment on some Top Secret mission with specialized equipment, the Skipper would get him somewhere on the globe he needed to be and he would set about obtaining secrets our adversaries would rather stay unknown. His specialty was what the Submarine mission was most about during the “Cold War” years. And here on stage was this American Hero, regaling us FNG’s…. you know, “Fun New Guys”, with a song list of all the current Country and Western songs, interspersed with those of his own creation of the daring do of Submarines and Submariners whose shoulders we were standing upon.

His band was as they say in the music industry, “Tight”. Tommy’s voice boomed clear and crisp thru the mic and out the speakers of the Amps. For the “Bremerton Boys”, when we would hear, “Torpedo in the Water”, “Gitmo Blues”, “Seawolf” or any of the Submarine Ballads he would belt out our backs stiffened, our shoulders straightened and our chest swelled with pride. We were playing the game of “Blind Man’s Bluff” of which he sang.

This infusion of pride gave us the energy and will to head back down to the boat for the better part of two years as we oversaw the construction of what would become during our time the fastest submarine in the world. And 40 years later she would be de-commissioned as America’s longest serving submarine.

Uncle Sugar, certainly got his money’s worth with Bremerton. Many boats born after her went to the scrap heap years before her. Us Bremerton Boys, the “Plank Owners” choose to believe the standard of excellence that was created by that original crew, was passed down to successive crews for 4 decades, which allowed her to endure so long. That equation cannot be calculated without factoring in the contribution Tommy Cox, made to our pride and morale. So much so, moving forward, in my humble opinion, he should be recognized as an “Honorary Plank Owner” of USS Bremerton.

During this time several sailors of Bremerton, met and married the love of their life. Happily, to my knowledge they are all still together. A common theme of these weddings was Tommy and his band playing at their receptions. There was, is and always will be a special bond between the Bremerton Boys and Tommy and Sandy Cox.

Yes, Sandy, we can never leave you out either. How many weekend nights did you sit close by and support Tommy as he invigorated all of us with his music.

At this sad but inevitable time what gives us comfort is knowing Tommy’s voice is still being heard by the generations of cocky young bucks that are just now graduating from “Underwater U”, and by those who will come later. All of his songs are in my Spotify line up. When one of them comes on I sit up a bit taller in my pickup seat.

From all of the Bremerton Boy’s to Sandy and the entire Cox family we send our sincere condolences to you and we grieve with you the loss of Tommy. All I can say now is “Sailor, rest your oar. We have the watch”.… Tommy Cox



698 Reunion Rap

As of February 2023, the there is no expected “major” 698 reunion scheduled for this year.
Having said that… here’s some thoughts off the top of my head…
The wide world of creating a reunion is open to any anyone who has the time, drive and the initiative. There have been some successful reunions organized in the past by a variety of shipmates and this could be a good opportunity for others to step up with ideas for a reunion.
Reunions by Connectability
There is no one way to organize and set the specs on an alumni gathering. A reunion can be anything from meeting with one shipmate, which requires little preparation, to a mass gathering of 100 that can be a passionate ordeal unless you are a professional event planner.
Groups and group ideas I’ve seen or have heard of  in the past  may be a small group that gets together just because they are a really tight circle and they gather every couple years in a place like Las Vegas, or a gathering for a camping and/or fishing trip, someone has access to a cool venue and invites their shipmates, maybe it’s a call to those who served during a particular year(s), someone mentioned an overnighter on a diesel boat, some have even called for participants on a particular WestPac, or under a certain COs.  The possibilities can be quite endless. 
Veteran Activity: Inside a U.S. Army Airborne Association chapter —
There was an army association group I was involved in, the 11th Airborne Division had a national organization and then there would be all kinds of chapters which tended to be regional. My dad was involved in starting a chapter along with some of his fellow troopers who lived in the San Francisco bay area. They named their chapter after their commanding general in WWII who happened to live nearby.
In the early 1980s, about 10 veteran soldiers got together, they ranged in rank from Lt. General to private, and became the first charter members. They were presented aide-de-camp pins from Lt. General Joseph M. Swing in a ceremony at his home in San Francisco.  Thus began their official Lt. General Joseph M. Swing Chapter of the 11th Airborne Division Association.
Once they went down that road, there’s a lot of meetings and record keeping for the non-profit status requirements. I do not think this format lends itself to individual submarine alumni groups but it was interesting to see how involved they were monument creation, community events, service events at the local VA hospital, parades, and giving talks at schools. Every year they would attend the Division reunion, a few I’ve been to, so it was quite organized and part of their lifestyle.
Their format would be most liken itself to the USSVI , where several 698 shipmates have taken leadership and membership roles within that organization.
There was also a renown Airborne sponsored event near Monterey, CA in Marina called Maggie’s Drop-In, named after “Colonel” Martha Raye, the patriotic entertainer who was awarded an honorary Green Beret for her support of soldiers during the Vietnam War. She would make her appearance at the annual and that was a popular gathering for all airborne soldiers and their families. It was highlighted by a massive BBQ and a parachute jump by by a special Army unit. You guys would have had a blast there, I’m sure. Being a submariner, the airborne guys I would meet would almost invariably say something to the effect of, “There’s no &%$#*@ way you’d get me on a submarine.”
Planning Basics – Leadership and Accountability
Planning an event or setting the criteria for who is going to show up will have a lot to do with whoever is willing to call the shots and take on the mantle of organizing a team to put an event together. It really becomes the head organizer’s call and just becomes his prerogative as the lead. (Remember, we are not a monolithic national organization and like the Silent Service, we are all volunteers and often applying our limited resources to the task).
The head organizer or reunion committee, should best understand his/their limitations in regards to time, energy and the venue limitations. It’s a real commitment and more so the larger it gets.
Planning a large event requires a few more hats and budgeting the necessary time to be responsible for broader planning, communication, decisions and execution.
Major events necessarily require a more exhaustive organizing and planning just because it is in effect an open to all who ever served on 698, with considerations for family involvement, and a wide age range of people participating, working hotel accommodations, facilities, catering or working with restaurants with private rooms  – sadly, it’s a bit more complex than getting together at a nice watering hole, most reminiscent of the days when all we could at the spur of the moment take off for the patio lounge of choice to watch an awesome sunset… and then six or more hours later, weave our back to the base and hit the rack and hope you didn’t have duty the next morning (Those were the days, my friends, we’d thought they never end…).
Shipmate Psychology 101
It’s understandable that shipmates gravitate towards those they shared their personal experiences on the boat with, that’s natural and more easily organized.
Some ideas for reunion spots ideas that have popped up so far that are not 698 specific (Pearl, Bremerton, Groton, San Diego) have been
Charleston SC, Little Rock, and Indianapolis.
I bet there’s a Texan out there that would have some wild idea.
I saw two enthusiastic shipmates call for Olangapo.
Obviously, there are ongoing private gatherings of shipmates throughout the country getting together as life permits.
In discussions with previous reunion organizers involved with the INACTIVATION and DECOM reunions (held in Bremerton in 2018 and 2021 which were host to over 100 people on each occasion) our eyes are set on the boat’s “50th Anniversaries” (that’s plural)  to be held in Groton, at least once, in either 2026, 2028 , and/or 2031 (those are special years for 698). Some information has been gathered already in regards organizing an event there by an industrious plankowner 698 TM/SS.
Groton, Connecticut offers attractions no matter who served on 698 or when. This includes SUB School, SUBASE, SHIPYARD, the local hangouts, all able to elicit your memories of your proud service, the camaraderie of your shipmates, and the pure essence of your introduction to the Silent Service.
In regard to USSVI, their annual is in Arizona August 28-Sep2 (about) you can check their website. In lieu of a 698 National Organization (of which there is nothing of the sort), the USSVI can be a surrogate and arrange with your circle to meet at these events.
The CA 130 Bremerton group, once a regularly gathering group of the cruiser’s officers and crew and whose roster included several 698 guys , is no longer meeting, as far as I know. Sadly, Time takes its toll. Let us know if you heard anything different.
Their hopes that the submariners would help takeover the organization did not work out, but to no ones fault. If we look more closely, there are probably many demographic differences between a cruiser (larger crews) of an older generation with less distractions and a submarine crew (with less sailors) growing into the age of technology with every possible distraction known to mankind. 
Nevertheless, the CA-130 sailors, hats off to them, they managed to have a viable group for a very long time.
Getting the Word Out
There are some generic reunion websites out there, you are free to use them. As for this website, I can help make announcements. A non-social media website like this one helps to connect with those who are not members of the various social media apps.
Do you have any event organizing experience and would like to be involved in future reunions?
Your Vision of a Reunion
What are your ideas for a reunion or a good venue? What does your vision of a gathering look like?

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