MAKE YOUR DEPTH 400 FEET, AHEAD FLANK

Farewell USS Bremerton (SSN-698)

CAPT. Tom Anderson’s Decommissioning Ceremony Speech – transcribed as written

COMMODORE MASSIE, MAYOR WHEELER, CAPTAIN LINDBERG, THE HONORABLE PATTY LENT, CAPT ZWOLFER, CAPT LOGAN, CAPT BEAM,

HONORED GUESTS AND FAMILIES, AND ESPECIALLY FORMER AND PRESENT CREW MEMBERS OF BREMERTON, WHEREVER YOU MAY BE WATCHING THIS CEREMONY.

IT WAS A COLD AND DARK NOVEMBER MORNING WHEN A BLACK FORM BACKED QUIETLY FROM THE ELECTRIC BOAT SHIPYARD INTO THE THAMES RIVER. IT WAS NOT YET USS BREMERTON. TWO DAYS LATER SHE RETURNED FROM HER FIRST TASTE OF THE OPEN SEA. ADMIRAL RICKOVER, WHO HAD BEEN ABOARD WROTE “I CONSIDER THAT BREMERTON PERFORMED THE REQUIRED TESTS MORE EXPERTLY THAN ANY OTHER OF THE MORE THAN 120 NUCLEAR POWERED SHIPS I HAVE RIDDEN ON INITIAL SEA TRIALS.” THAT TWO DAYS IS BUT A VERY BRIEF SLICE OF TIME FOR A SHIP THAT MOST OF US COULD NOT BELIEVE WOULD BE HERE MORE THAN 40 YEARS LATER. YOU KNOW 40 YEARS IS ONE THIRD OF THE TIME THAT THE US NAVY’S SUBMARINE FORCE HAS BEEN IN EXISTENCE.

HOW WAS IT POSSIBLE? WELL, THERE WERE ABOUT 1600 DEDICATED, PROFESSIONAL SUBMARINERS WHO MADE IT HAPPEN. IF TIME ALLOWED, I CERTAINLY WOULD LIKE TO RECOGNIZE EACH ONE PERSONALLY. I WILL SINGLE OUT ONE THOUGH, THE FIRST CHIEF OF THE BOAT, MASTER CHIEF PAUL GAGNON. HE KEPT THE CREW ON TRACK AND FOCUSSED DURING THAT LONG AND TRYING CONSTRUCTION PERIOD, MARRED BY SOME INCOMPLETE WELDS. ONCE BREMERTON GOT OUT OF THE BUILDING YARD AND DOING WHAT SUBMARINES ARE SUPPOSED TO DO, AS DIVING OFFICER OF THE WATCH, HE COULD MAINTAIN DEPTH WITHIN AN INCH OF WHAT WAS ORDERED. COB, IF YOU ARE WATCHING, THANK YOU. THEN THERE WAS SUPPORT FROM MANY OTHERS ALL ALONG. THE SUB BASE AND SHIPYARD PEOPLE WHO HELPED MAKE THE 40 YEARS POSSIBLE. AND WIVES, FAMILIES, AND LOVED ONES WERE A VITALPART OF BREMERTON’S SUCCESS.

NOW AS A WARSHIP BREMERTON SEEMED TO HAVE A KNACK FOR DOING THINGS A LITTLE DIFFERENTLY. AFTER TOO LONG IN THE BUILDING YARD IT WAS AS IF SHE WANTED TO ESCAPE THE COLD WINTERS ON THE EAST COAST AND HEAD TO WARM AND SUNNY HAWAII. BUT, SHE TOOK THE LONG ROUTE, BYPASSING THE SLOW SPEEDS OF THE PANAMA CANAL, SHE BARELLED DOWN THE ATLANTIC, CROSSING THE EQUATOR, THROUGH THE INDIAN OCEAN TO HER FIRST FOREIGN PORT VISIT IN PERTH, AUSTRALIA. SHE ROLLED OFF THE BLOCKS IN DRYDOCK ONE TIME, BUT RIGHTED HERSELF TO KEEP GOING. WHEN DOZENS OF FIVE INCH ROUNDS FROM SURFACE SHIPS FAILED TO SINK THE HULK OF THE NEW CARISSA, BREMERTON ANSWERED THE CALL AND FINISHED THE JOB WITH A SINGLE TORPEDO. THAT BACKS UP A STATEMENT MADE YEARS AGO BY AN ENGLISH ADMIRAL THAT YOU DON’T SINK SHIPS BY POKING HOLES IN THEIR TOPSIDES BUT YOU SINK THEM BY POKING HOLES IN THEIR BOTTOMS. PROVED IT. IN ADDITION TO A REALLY COOL OFFICIAL EMBLEM, THE COIN VERSION OF WHICH I AM TOLD IS ALSO USEFUL FOR REMOVING BOTTLE CAPS, THERE IS THE ONE FOR BADFISH. I AM TOLD THAT THIS ORIGINATED FROM THE WIVES GROUP AT SOME POINT. BADFISH! WHAT A NICKNAME. AND OF COURSE A VIRTUAL CEREMONY SUCH AS THIS MAY BE BREMERTON’S WAY OF DOING IT DIFFERENTLY. IT’S NOT COMPLETELY TRADITIONAL, BUT THROUGH TECHNOLOGY MORE SHIPMATES ACROSS THE COUNTRY ARE ABLE TO PARTICIPATE THAN WOULD BE POSSIBLE IN THE PAST.

THOSE OF US WHO HAVE HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF SERVING ON ANY SHIP HAVE BUT A BRIEF PERIOD OF TIME ON IT, BE IT TWO, THREE OR FOUR YEARS. A LUCKY FEW MAY HAVE MORE THAN ONE TOUR. BUT MOST OF US CONTINUE TO HAVE AN ATTACHMENT TO AND AFFECTION FOR A SHIP LONG AFTER WE DEPART. WE SOMETIMES WONDER HOW SHE CONTINUES TO DO. IS SHE DOING WELL OR HAVING SOME BAD LUCK? THE ANSWER IS OBVIOUS NOW. IN KEEPING WITH THE TRADITIONS OF THE SILENT SERVICE, MUCH OF BREMERTON’S OPERATIONAL RECORDS ARE, OF COURSE, LOCKED AWAY IN VAULTS SOMEWHERE. AS INDIVIDUALS THOUGH, WE HAVE MEMORIES OF THE GOOD AND SOMETIMES NOT SO GOOD TIMES WE HAD ABOARD. THE LAUGHS, GROANS, JOKES, COMPLAINTS, SEA STORIES, CHEERING AN ACEY DUECY WIN, SNORING OF THE GUY BELOW, AS WELL AS THE BLARING OF 1MC AND DIVING ALARM ARE BITS OF WHAT WE HEARD. DID BREMERTON HAVE A REAL KLAXON? AND NEED I MENTION THAT SHE WAS THE BEST FEEDER I HAVE KNOWN. AND OF COURSE THERE ARE THE PORT CALLS IN EXOTIC AND SOMETIMES ISOLATED PLACES. I SUSPECT THAT NOW IN THE HORSE AND COW AND ELSEWHERE, IN THE BEST ORAL TRADITION OF MY FELLOW TUBE DWELLERS, MANY SUBMARINE STORIES ARE PRESENTLY BEING REVISITED AND REVISED.

I’D LIKE TO ACKNOWLEDGE CAPTAIN LINDBERG AND HIS CREW FOR TAKING CARE OF THE OL’ GAL IN HER FINAL DAYS. DESPITE THE CHALLENGES OF COVID AND SECURITY, THEY HAVE MADE THIS OCCASION SPECIAL. A COMPLETLY TRADITIONAL CEREMONY WAS NOT POSSIBLE, BUT IN THE SPIRIT OF THE 698, THEY FIGURED HOW TO DO IT WELL, IN TRUE BADFISH TRADITION. I COULD NOT FIND AN OFFICIAL OR UNOFFICIAL NAME FOR THE FINAL CREW, BUT THEY CERTAINLY DESERVE ONE. THEIR TASK IS NOT EASY. THE COB SUGGESTED TO ME THAT THAY BE CALLED BAD ASSES. THEY ARE THE LAST TO CARE FOR AND KNOW THE SECRETS AND STORIES OF THIS SPECIAL SUBMARINE. THANK YOU, GENTLEMEN.

TO SERVE ON THE SECOND SHIP TO BEAR THE NAME BREMERTON WAS AN HONOR. IN MY OPINION THE SHIPYARD HERE WAS THE BEST PLACE, NAVY OR PRIVATE, TO HAVE MAJOR WORK DONE ON A SHIP. MOST CITIES OF WHICH BOATS OF THIS CLASS WERE NAMED DO NOT HAVE THE CONNECTION AND IMPORTANT RELATIONSHIP TO THE NAVY AS DOES THE CITY OF BREMERTON. MAYOR WHEELER, I THANK THE PEOPLE OF THIS PROUD NAVY TOWN FOR THEIR SUPPORT AND HOSPITALITY OVER THE YEARS. IT HAS MADE A DIFFERENCE. MAY SOMEDAY ANOTHER SHIP AGAIN BEAR THE NAME OF YOUR FAIR CITY.

WE NOW BID FAREWELL TO A SHIP THAT HAS KEPT US SAFE AND PROTECTED OUR GREAT NATION OVER FOUR DECADES, CREWED BY THE FINEST TO WEAR DOLPHINS. ALL OF YOU AT THE HORSE AND COW OR WHEREVER YOU MAY BE WATCHING, I ASK THAT YOU RAISE A GLASS TO THE OL’ GAL, THE FASTEST, LUCKY 698, AMERICAN CLASSIC, BOLDFISH, BADFISH, OR SIMPLY THE BOAT, AS USS BREMERTON (SSN 698) DEPARTS ON HER FINAL PATROL. WHAT I THINK SHE MIGHT LIKE TO HEAR AS FINAL WORDS IS THE COMMAND “MAKE YOUR DEPTH 400 FEET, AHEAD FLANK.”

CAPTAIN LINDBERG, THE CONN IS YOURS.

 

 

Image: The Spirit of USS Bremerton (SSN-698) “Make your depth 400 feet, ahead flank.” – CAPT. Tom Anderson, Decommissioning Ceremony, May 18, 2021. Bremertonreunion.net staff artist

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CAPT Lindberg’s Speech

Capt. Chris Lindberg hands Capt. Tom Anderson a special award. Photo source: Capt. Jerry Logan

 

Good afternoon and welcome again to the Decommissioning Ceremony for the USS BREMERTON. This ceremony is a culmination of over 45 years the BREMERTON has been actively part of the United States submarine force. From her Keel laying on May 8, 1976, Commissioning on March 28, 1981 to this Decommissioning ceremony. It has been an eventful 45 years and we do not have time at this moment to even scratch the surface of all the stories and memories that were made by the over 1600 sailors who served in her. We are here today though to honor all of those stories and memories. I have come to learn over the last couple of years how strong the BREMERTON bond is. Having talked with alumni organizers and meeting some of the plank owners who came here to wish her farewell I know why BREMERTON is the American Classic.

As we all know we are in unique times and for this reason this ceremony is being held with limited attendance, but it is being live streamed and there is a group of alumi who are gathered at the Horse and Cow in Bremerton, watching this ceremony and paying their respects to an important part of their life. I would like to take this time to thank our guest speaker CAPT United States Navy Retired Tom Anderson the first Commanding Officer and plank owner for representing all previous officers who have served in Bremerton and Sonar Technician Submarines Senior Chief United States Navy Retired and plank owner, Gregory Carroll who is here in the audience representing all previous enlisted personnel and the first Chief of the BOAT Master Chief Paul Gagnon who passed away last year.

Both CAPT Anderson and Senior Carroll served aboard the Bremerton at her commissioning, and I feel it is appropriate to bookend this ceremony with sailors who served in her from the first underway through to today, commemorating the 40 years of commissioned service the crew and submarine BREMERTON have given for our country.

As I said we are live streaming this and I have received numerous emails from prior BREMERTON sailors expressing their fondness and stories of their time on board the Bremerton. From watching the space shuttle taking off when Bremerton was moored in Port Canaveral, to the comradery cemented in foreign port calls. The one thing that holds true is the connections the BREMERTON sailors made with each other and the bonds that formed during their service together. That is why we are here today, to remember those who have come before to revitalize the memories, so the BREMERTON lives on.

I would like to take a few moments to thank the final crew who has stood the watch during the final push to reach this point. As all the active-duty submariners here know we live a very much a “semper gumby” way of life. We take what we know should happen and prepare for what may happen because what should happen definitely will not be what does happen. That is the spirit of all submariners, and it is very true of the current crew. In your pamphlet for today’s ceremony, you will find a list of submariners standing watch on the Bremerton today. I am not going to read each name, but I would like you to open and read the names. Each one is a hero. They came to BREMERTON knowing they would be completing the decommissioning as the final crew but were given a schedule that would change week to week and sometimes from one day to the next. Through all of that unknown they have stood the watch, they drained all the fluids, depressurized all systems, secured the electrical power and emptied all the lockers. They have finished the job.

Another group that I would also like to personally thank today is the families. They are the unsung heroes, the bedrock, our foundation that allow us, the sailors, to do what we do. As we gather amongst shipmates and retell stories of the adventures at sea, don’t forget to listen the family stories as well. I know some of the family stories make what we had to deal with at sea seem minor. We, the sailors, sometimes forget in our rush to head out sea the true impact our nomadic life can have on them, and they are as much a part the BREMERTON story as the sailors. From PCS moves while the boat is deployed to family emergencies while the boat is in radio silence they maintain our homes ready for when we return. Please join me in a round of applause for the spouses, children, parents, grandparents and all other family members who have supported BREMERTON sailors these last 45 years.

In closing, as I said we are here to celebrate the history, that is the BREMERTON. The history of the BREMERTON is the sailors. I am a believer that the soul of the any ship is the crew that lives, eats, and breathes on board. They stand watch on the coldest days of the year to the sun scorched days in faraway places. When equipment breaks, they respond to determine the cause, find the parts (or in some cases make the part) to get the mechanical beast operating at full capability. The crew is the BREMERTON! As we pay homage and bear reverence to executing the ceremonial hauling down of the Ensign and securing of the watch for the last time, we recognize the decommissioning of the submarine BREMERTON. BREMERTON will be stricken from the records of the commissioned Warships and will await her final disposal. Our job today and the days and years to come will be to keep the BREMERTON tradition alive! She will live on in the story’s shipmates tell each other, parents tell their children, and grandparents to their grandchildren. Thank you.

 

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Bell & Shirt Dedication by CAPT Anderson

At the Horse & Cow in Bremerton, WA, on the eve of the Decommissioning Ceremony, a restaurant full of USS Bremerton alumni and crew, with drinks in hand, gathered with deep respect for the man who was the Los Angeles Class fast attack submarine’s first Commanding Officer, plankowner CAPT. Tom Anderson.

As he stood at the center of the main floor he shared his thoughts about the new home for this ceremonial ship’s bell.

 

.

 

The BELL DEDICATION

 

“First of all, it’s GREAT to see everyone here, it’s fantastic… What I really want to do here is, this bell that was at the last reunion, it was something that I got and I was very lucky. But the luckiest I ever got was to serve as the CO of the USS Bremerton …”

[big cheers]

 

“… here is my thought, I’m not going to spend too many more years on this planet, I don’t really want it to go where I go, but it needs to go to somebody or something. Since I’m probably the oldest crewmember, it might be appropriate to go to the oldest crewmember, but then you have to think about  ‘when that person passes how do we find the next one?’

“It should remain in some place appropriate where [people] can see it and enjoy it, so… is this the place?”

[ a great chorus of approval]

“Who’s in charge of the Horse & Cow?”

[audience encourages the owner forward, front and center]

Capt Anderson continues, “If this remains here, or whichever way you put it, the tradition should be if some patron comes in and rings the bell, simply because they see it, what happens?

[crowd erupts “THEY GOTTA BUY ANOTHER ROUND]

“… so, if somebody doesn’t really know that, can get to it and see if it really works… then the rest is history.”

 

 

The SHIRT DEDICATION

 

“The last little thing, it may be offensive to a few people here… I notice the Parche has a T-Shirt up there, but at one time in my career, and this was after I left Bremerton, I was on my way to become the CO of the Blue Crew of Ohio.  Somebody, I don’t remember who, gave me this fine piece of wearing apparel….and I’ll hold it up so everyone can see it”

[crowd erupts in laughter and approval]

 

 

 

Captain ANDERSON writes a personal inscription on the now famous shirt

 

 

I’d like to thank Plankowner Tom MacPhillips for the video I used to transcribe the CAPT’s speech and capture some images and Plankowner John Scanlan for the photos

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