THE DECOM & REUNION BEAT

RECON OF THE 698 DECOM AND REUNION

What we have, though specific details of the event have not been updated for several months is:

THE DECOM CEREMONY

DECOM will be held at KEYPORT NAVAL UNDERSEA MUSEUM on APRIL 16, 2021.

This is the latest official information and it has not yet been changed.

This is open to the public and will adhere to all of the social distancing rules that will be in effect at that time.

We do not know details yet of how the ceremony may be broadcasted via internet or other method.

However, as of January 2021, the MUSEUM IS CLOSED, but one would presume the DECOM ceremony would still be performed. The situation requires continued monitoring.

As for a DECOM ceremony being held near the boat… that time has long been gone.  Basically, for those of you who are late to the game, that’s why Decom ceremonies for boats in Deep Shipyard are conducted at Keyport.

 

COVID RULE AFFECTED ACCOMODATIONS AND VENUES

Using the Fairfield Inn as a benchmark due to it’s proximity to the Horse and Cow and the waterfront district, we have a condition report as of January 5, 2021.

-BLOCK RESERVATIONS can be made for alumni at a rate of $104 per night for a room with a king size or two queens.

This from the Fairfield Inn group coordinator on Jan 5, 2021: ” For a your group in April, I can quote a rate of $104 per night for the rooms.  For the room block we need a cut off date of about 30 days prior to your event, and any cancellations of the group due to Covid restrictions have no penalty.  We do ask for 30 days notice of cancellation if possible.  We are not requiring deposits for room blocks at this time. ”

Proposed block dates are Wednesday, April 14 through Monday, April 19. How long would you like to hang out?

There are recommended quarantine rules post inbound travel in place but they are not mandatory.

Group meeting areas are limited to 25% capacity. This is the general rule for all meeting spaces. For example the 120 group capacity meeting room at the Fairfield will be limited to 15 people with social distancing. I know that sounds like less than 25% but that’s what it comes to, a ball room could suffice for a welcome area, but not for a major gathering.

Across the board, establishments are subject to quarantine rules.

HORSE & COW and other local restaurants are limited to take out and outdoor social distanced dining when available.

Museums and even the USS Turner Joy (the Destroyer on the waterfront) are closed.

The Fairfield and the Hampton are under the same management, so details will be similar to both hotels.

Even the awesome breakfast buffet has been modified for social distancing some how.

Catering for a group event can be provided by the hotel from the tavern across the street called the AX & ARROW, which is a veteran owned establishment.

ANALYSIS

At the moment, I don’t see a whole lot of organizing for this event based on the current limitations.

The are no tours on submarines or on anything this time, no getting on base for fun, no late nights trying to get your base security credentials straightened out. No confrontations with Squadron, NBK Security, or any other control point.

Centralized accommodations would make it easy to gather.

A group photo is still important. Don’t forget. And don’t use a mission impossible camera.

A transportation plan is needed for the day of the DECOM ceremony.

-The number of people renting cars and the amount of parking at Keyport would be helpful info.

-Limo bus rental is a possibility since many will not have rental cars. A quick sampling of hired 10-30 passenger options range from $500-1500 or higher depending on the number and style of vehicle.

-LYFT – UBER

Don’t know about your State, but Washington and California, where I live, have similar COVID restrictions.

Personal considerations regarding health, living with any high-risk family members or roommates, your work’s quarantine policies may affect your decisions.

THIS IS THE SITUATION AS OF JANUARY 2021  Things can change, so this is what makes this a bit harder to manage or organize anything too ambitious. It’s possible to see the essentials of a reunion to meet with shipmates, albeit affected by rules of engagement in the public spaces.

Your ideas are welcomed.

THAT IS IT FOR THE SANE SIDE

 

 

P.S.  WELCOME TO THE UNDERWORLD – THE UNDER THOUGHTS OF A REUNION PLANNER

Trying to develop a picture from a murky situation, when you just want to hear anything.

 

“SONAR-CONN -TALK TO ME, SONAR…”

Putting into words the current situation in regards to the upcoming DECOM of the USS Bremerton (SSN 698) is not something I’m gung-ho about but given I am a blogger with a light finger on the pulse of the 4-month period leading up to the April 2021 DECOM date, the dilemmas deserves some effort to unpack during this time of unparalleled and real complications.

So this is what you want the sonar supervisor of a writer to do sometimes, make subjective calls and reports to the CONN:

“CONN-SONAR…”

What I am going to write is not based on anything official, oh not at all, but just observing the international and national state of affairs, insight from shipmates who have either a better view of things than I do, and the blank responses from people which can mean more than saying nothing in particular.

For many of you who will look at this as sort of no holds barred go for broke attitude towards planning that parallels your pent up desire to party, un-shelter, or just plain explode, what I am going to write may sound like a restraining order. Yet, in either case, it can spur dialogue and ideas in these unconventional days we live.

“SONAR-CONN: COMMENCE REUNION PLANNING”

“CONN-SONAR AYE”

Planning an event like a reunion attached to a DECOM ceremony requires some known factors, things we usually take for granted in an open and law-abiding peacetime society, like:

  • Unrestricted group and individual travel
  • Access to military units and facilities
  • Direct and indirect support from the military
  • Unrestricted accommodations and meeting facilities

“SONAR-CONN: SECURE REUNION PLANNING”

“CONN-SONAR, AYE. GOING ACTIVE.”

“(EXPLETIVES DELETED)”

Now, let’s be blunt. You don’t hear much about it with all the noise but in so many ways our military, our US Navy in particular with their long term deployments, is at a high state of alert and between internal and external threats and the restrictions based on health issues and/or political overreach, we have one difficult situation to plan anything, at least anything that you would expect to stick that rises to the level of an EPIC BASH.

It’s a sobering thought and one that puts DECOM ceremonies and reunions attached to them in a priority somewhere far below national security and operational readiness of all active duty personnel.

As another shipmate pointed out, submarine tours have long become a thing of the past in today’s ever tightening security environment, not to mention COVID, yea, the CCP virus, the possible operation altering virus is an unwanted enemy collaborator.

Moreover, the Badfish, is in DEEP SHIPYARD getting ready to have her atomic guts removed and the only people who can see her are hard-hatted googley-eyed aliens who are hovering with sinister intentions to our ol’ gal’s feminine figure. Hazardous work zone, no public access. Dig it? Those yellow and black cross striped signs keeping the creeps out.

If you as a retired 698 bubblehead weren’t caught stealing aboard the Navy Bus to tour the 698 when she was last seen tied up at NBK BREMERTON Pier D in 2018 during that slimmest of opportunities to see the American Classic in one piece, well, sorry, you missed it.

If you blinked too long when she arrived from Pearl then left for Puget-Sound Naval DEEP SHIPYARD, you missed the boat. Literally.

As one associated with reunion organization,  I must believe, the reunion space will avail itself, if at all, close to the scheduled date on April 25th, it’s highly likely that any action taken will occur much like in 2018 – close into to the target, where the target solution is known, it cannot evade, the options are clearly defined and the immediate environmental conditions are unlikely to change. High probability mean less wasted effort although it’s likely to be like an emergency drill  just like in 2018 or maybe worse, unless there’s not much to organize.

While we have little control of the national requirement for operational readiness in our volatile world, we can continue to assess the changes and effects of COVID restrictions and be prepared to move if there is any certainty closer to the planned date for DECOM.

Until the situation gets more clear, it will take more personal  assessment (especially for any quarantine requirements affecting your work and travel plans), patience, flexibility, imagination, possible local organization on part of reunion participants, maybe a private date with your own bottle of your favorite brown liquid, and a crucifix pointed at the commie-controlled ZOOM software, as we take part in commemorating the formal ending of the Commissioned life of the Bremerton, a veteran of the COLD WAR.

If there’s anything to contradict what I’ve written, I’m sure I’ll get word. I’m sure you’ll tell me.

“SONAR-CONN, BELAY YOUR REPORTS”

“CONN-SONAR, BELAY MY REPORTS, AYE”

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WWII: Legendary Dynamic Duo

NEW YEARS EVE 1942 -Brisbane, Australia

MORTON TAKES COMMAND OF WAHOO

O’KANE IS HIS EXEC

-excerpts from “Wahoo” by Richard H. O’Kane

The heritage we share as members of the US Navy’s Silent Service: The New Year’s submariner story of leadership, teamwork, audaciousness, intelligence, and innovation right before Wahoo’s 3rd War Patrol. Raw nerves required.

USS Wahoo (SS-238) with the “Clean Sweep” broom atop the periscope returns triumphantly to Pearl Harbor in early 1943 after a history making 3rd war patrol, the story in this article is a small but critical part of the legend that came to be…(image source alchetron.com)

 

Late in the morning on the last day of 1942, without ceremony, Dudley W. Morton took command of Wahoo. Back at the apartment my new captain told of the PCO school he had attended just before coming to Pearl.

“Commander Patterson and Hensel were our underway instructors, and while I was on the scope calling angles on the bow, reading the telemeter scale for the range, giving orders to the steersman for rudder and speed, whirling the ISWAS, and checking plot for the new course, the instructors would be making entries in their notebooks. After the approach, they’d compare my actions that were recorded in the Quartermaster’s Notebook with their recommendations. Because they could concentrate solely on conning, they almost always arrived at better submarine maneuvers and more quickly.”

Captain Morton paused, but only long enough to bring over a bottle of ale, and then continued.

“Now you’re going to be my new co-approach officer, not my assistant. You’ll make all of the approach and attack periscope observations, or on the TBT if we’re on the surface. I’ll conn Wahoo to the best attack position, and then you’ll fire the torpedoes.”

He paused again, and his serious countenance changed to the usual engaging smile as he added, “This way I’ll never get scared.”

This opportunity and sharing of responsibility was new within our submarine forces.  I answered with a simple, “I appreciate your confidence, Captain,” and told him I was off to the Sperry to make a lazy susan for our ship models. I would need them to sharpen the ability to call angles on the bow quickly and accurately.

There’d be no fired oysters or tuna delight this evening, for we had all been invited to a New Year’s Eve party….

 

Under the command of Dudley “Mush” Morton (right) with his executive/co-approach officer, Richard “Dick” O’Kane, the the crew of the Wahoo embarked on their 3rd war patrol. They proceeded to engrave in the annals of submarine warfare an unprecedented and astonishing series of successful attacks against the enemy including the intrepid “down the throat” sinking of a destroyer and the destruction, within one day, of a four ship convoy. These actions set the precedent for other aggressive U.S. Navy submarine skippers to emulate. The tenacious and dominating offensive provided by the United States Navy’s submarine force deprived the Imperial Japanese war machine of essential naval and maritime assets, natural resources, supplies, equipment and personnel. The result: Allied victory and an earlier end to World War II. (image source: google).

 

Regarding the “down the throat” shot, Dick O’Kane writes of the moments surrounding the firing of the final torpedo in Wewak Harbor:

 

…The destroyer continued her turn, completing three-quarters of a circle, and then headed down the still visible fan that had been left by our torpedo wakes. Their apex marked our firing position, and the enemy would know that a submarine could not have traveled far.

“That’s all right,” said the captain, “Keep your scope up and we’ll shoot that SOB down the throat.”

(a few edge-of-your-seat paragraphs later O’Kane writes)

… the wire was steady on. “Fire!” and we headed for the bottom, rigging for depth charge.

The range on firing had been 750, which was the best, especially since the time for our first torpedo hit had now gone by. The props of our last torpedo had been blanked out by those of the destroyer, which were now roaring through our hull. There was no other noise, only her screws now menacingly close. We were passing 80 feet, and men commenced bracing themselves for the coming depth charges; though still confident, I chose the spot between the scope and the TDC.

The first depth charge was severe, but only to our nerves, and we braced ourselves in earnest for the pattern that would follow. A mighty roar and cracking, as if we were in the very middle of a lightening storm, shook Wahoo. The great cracking became crackling, and every old salt aboard knew the sound – that of steam heating a bucket of water, but here amplified a million times. The destroyer’s boilers were belching steam into the sea.

“We hit the son of a bitch!” rang out in unison from the whole fire control party, and doubtless throughout the boat. Never could apprehension and despair have changed to elation more abruptly. Already, George had an up angle on the boat in anticipation of the captain’s order, and with speed to help, had Wahoo back at periscope depth.

-End Excerpts from “Wahoo” by Richard H. O’Kane

 

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

 

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698 PLAQUE AT THE PACIFIC FLEET SUBMARINE MUSEUM

USS Bremerton Alumni participated in a campaign in support of the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum that was completed in early 2020.

 

An update from CAPT. Chuck Merkel, Executive Director at the museum:

This is a quick note to update you on our renovation.  When we broke ground in January 2019, we knew there would be challenges, but no one envisioned a world-wide pandemic.  I am happy to report that we are on track to complete our project early next year.  For the latest progress photos, I am regularly updating the drop box at this link:
.
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The SSN Plaque is here!

The final grand-spanking total qualified our group for the $25,000 24 inch SSN and it was created in silver to stand out from the crowd. Yes, some killer donations came through on behalf of the Bremerton to bring us up to the highest level. The result is something every BADFISH sailor can take pride in.

The inscription is a composition of several shipmates’ ideas and crafted to fit in the allowable space.

Photo courtesy of Chuck Merkel of the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum and Bowfin Memorial.

“Dedicated to the USS BREMERTON (SSN 698) Her Officers and Men

Submariners Standing Ready to Defend Our Country”

 

The WALL

 



 


698 LOOKING FORWARD

USS Bremerton, the most senior not yet de-commissioned submarine in the United States Navy, is currently at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard preparing for her date with destiny. Decom ceremony and reunion in Bremerton are tentatively scheduled for Spring of 2021, that puts BadFish on course for a 40 year run.

Cheers – from RMCS(SS) Don Jones, Plankowner, SSN698

SAVE THE 698

Join the Movement. Are you passionate about preserving the USS Bremerton in any way shape or form? Do you wish to be involved before, during and after her decommissioning in whatever works are needed to establish the memory of 698 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.

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First Wartime Christmas Story

-from “Christmas Retreat” from the Book “Dive!” by Deborah Hopkinson

The story is from Mel Eckberg who served as a radio and soundman in Seawolf (SS-197) as the United States entered World War II

image source: wikipedia

 

“There wasn’t much we could do about celebrating Christmas,” said Mel Eckberg. The Seawolf had been on patrol since December 8 with no end in sight; the men would spend their first wartime holiday at sea.

Eck felt depressed about being so far away from Marjorie and baby Spike. He would miss his son’s first Christmas. Yet thanks to some of his inventive crewmates, there turned out to be some surprises. “The first inkling I had was when I strolled into the mess hall after my afternoon watch on December 24.”

As Eck and a few others were leafing through magazines, John Edward Sullivan burst in, beaming and red-faced. “Sully” was the chief yeoman, serving as the clerk for the Seawolf, handling files and supply orders, and maintaining official records.

“’ ‘Well boys, she’s finished. Want to take a look at her?’ ” Sully asked.

“ ‘What’s finished?’ ” Eck and the others wanted to know.

“ ‘Why, my Christmas Tree.’ “

Sully led the way into the yeoman’s office. There, Eck laid eyes on a Christmas tree – or at least what passed as a Christmas tree on a submarine at sea. A broom handle served as the tree trunk, with tongue depressors as branches.

“He’d made tinsel by gluing tinfoil from cigarette packages to strips of paper, and decorated the branches with that. He’d painted half a dozen flashlight bulbs green and red and silver and strung them about on a dry-battery circuit, and so his Christmas tree gleamed green, red, and silver  a work of art two feet high….

“We liked that little Christmas tree,” Eck recalled, “ The men would look at it, and someone would say, ‘Jeez, isn’t that a pretty little thing,’ and then you’d hear someone else’s voice ‘Sure wish I was home tonight.’ “

That wasn’t the only surprise. A while later, someone hung up some stockings bulging with with what Eck considered “the wildest collection of junk I’d ever seen in my life. A bunch of garlic; a twelve-inch Stilsen wrench; a can of oil.”

Eck lingered in the small messroom, unable to sleep. Just before midnight, crewmates wandered in to wish one another a merry Christmas.

“There was a lump in my throat,” he said. “I had to swallow a few times, sitting there, thinking.  Here it is Christmas, and Marjorie and Spike alone at home, not knowing if I’m dead or alive, and we’re off Corregidor, and men are dying in Bataan, and we don’t know if we’re going to be dead or alive ourselves twenty-four hours from now.”

On Christmas Day, the Seawolf’s crew got one more unexpected gift – courtesy of the cook. “Gus Wright came into the mess hall [or mess room, the area where enlisted men eat and relax] and announced what we’d have for dinner that night – mince pies. He’d been up all night baking them, twenty of them. Gus was the hero of the boat that day.

“He was a thin fellow, about twenty-eight, with buck teeth and a pleasant way about him; and the fuss the crew made over his surprise made him so happy that his eyes got watery, and he went back into the galley and banged his pans around until he got it out of him.

“A Christmas tree, mince pies – well, it was a better Christmas than the boys had on Bataan and Corregidor, we thought.”

(End excerpt)

We’re grateful for Mel and his personal story and honor the sacrifices made by the submariners of the Silent Service.

Image Source: pigboats.com

 

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698 Alumni Search

Based on the membership of SSN 698 related social media groups, there are roughly 300 shipmates on-line out of the estimated 1400 to 1500 or more sailors who served on the USS Bremerton SSN 698.

You may know some shipmates who are not using social media and can only be contacted by email, telephone, US Mail or by website. Please forward this information to them.

Capt. Alan R. Beam (698 CO #3), one of the key organizers of events related to USS Bremerton, requested that alumni information be gathered. In effort to consolidate contact information specifically for USS Bremerton SSN 698 alumni, a user driven database on this website has been established where contact and some service information can be entered and collected.

In the header menu you will see 698 Alumni Sign Up. There, you may volunteer your information by clicking on it and entering your contact and other requested information.

By providing some specific service info, we want to weed out imposters as well as help document a part of the history of the 698.  In order to add yourself to the database, some of the service information is not required, though all the information is requested.

This information will only be used by USS Bremerton SSN 698 event organizers and it is understood that your contact information will be used for announcements and other event business. The use of email will help reduce cost of mailing when formal invitations are not required and circumvent difficulties encountered with any given social media platform.

Please, if you are not a 698 Alumni, if you have not served aboard USS Bremerton SSN 698, do not try signing up through the 698 Alumni Sign Up.

In special cases where a shipmate has passed away and you are the primary contact for our lost shipmate, please send a message to bremertonreunion.alumni@gmail.com to request being place on the contact list. We honor the survivors who desire to maintain contact and attend events with those who shared an important part of their loved ones life in the Navy.

If there is significant interest in event info from non-698 personnel, other than survivors, another database may be created. If you are not a 698 alumni and are interested in following events, you can follow this website and/or strongly recommend the Navy League of the Bremerton – Olympic Area website at https://bremolympicnlus.wordpress.com   You may also contact bremertonreunion.alumni@gmail.com with your request to be added to a contact list, use subject: 698 SUPPORTER with a brief description of your connection with the Bremerton and your contact information.

Keep on reading, important note below…

SIGN UP NOTE/CHECK SPAM SETTING:

The sign up tool is designed to provide you a private  link where you can manage your information, however, be on the alert, you may get this email in your spam folder. Please un-spam that email. If you have any issues with receiving the confirmation and link, you may contact this website’s administrator with any problems. Your information can be entered manually by an administrator and, if needed, your lost private link email can be resent.

If you have any suggestions for modifications to the information requested or other bright idea, feel free to contact me at bremertonreunion.alumni@gmail.com

THANK YOU

Photo Courtesy of Bob Miller

 

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