Underwater River Excursions
Submerged on the battery, and "rigged for silent running", diesel boats are quiet. We could sneak into places that a Nuke wouldn't dare go because of it's relatively noisy signature created by propulsion reduction gear. There's more to a signature, but I'm not tellin'.
Going up a river into territory belonging to the badguys was not exactly a time to nod off and fall asleep. The density differences between sea water, brackish water and then the fresh water inside Ballast Tanks makes for an interesting excursion. A miscalculation could have us popping up to the surface of a river like a cork. We would then be exposed to those with a limited sense of humor possibly enduring deadly retaliation and getting killed, or far worse, captured and being made into soundbites on the Evening News to be repeated around the clock, day after day ad nauseum while being beaten. That sort of thing would make me grumpy, and I try to avoid things like that personally... but that's just me.
Submarine batteries are quiet, but can be only used for around a half-day or so before recharging is required. Diesel engines with generators attached to them are what's used for charging or the generators can supply power directly to the Main Motors instead of the battery. That's how we put put along on the surface. Diesel combustion requires air, and for a submarine to provide this air yet maintaining a low profile, the Snorkle came into being. That's fine for the open ocean, not good to expose a Snorkle Head Valve in a river of somebody's backyard. So for a mission of this nature, we'd sneak in, run out of batteries, sneak out and snorkle to recharge them, sneak back in again, etc. Simple. No problem.
Unless, of course, you have a shipmate who decides that now is a great time to have an attack of acute appendicitus. So now the questions come raining down of what to do: We're submerged way up a river belonging to the badguys, and it's broad daylight up there right? Do we wait for the cover of darkness and take a chance that his appendix might rupture? Afterall, he is only an Enlisted Rank... no... not a good option because entirely too much paperwork would be involved, and besides, The Chill Box is already filled up to the brim. The decision was made to go ahead and save his life.
So, as the Professional Killers Of The Deep that we were, we tippy-toed back down the river and out to sea far enough to call in a Medivac chopper. We were in time as you can see by the photos that I took here.
I cannot recall my shipmate's name. If anyone recognizes him, please email me so I can include it here. It's truly not a case of uncaring or senility on my part. Lumping together eight submarines (plus), service schools, shore duty, platform teaching and the like, over twenty years I had served elbow to elbow alongside well over a thousand shipmates. That's a good enough excuse, I think, to coverup being terminally stupid on my part, and aplogies to my shipmate here.
Flash Covers In Hogan's Alley
Most (but not all) of us in the submarine community had a distinctive nickname like mine (Chainfall). I took these pictures of Rabbit (try to guess why he was called that) on the Remora (SS-487). Rabbit was one of those individuals who always had a cheerful disposition, with a quick and ready smile. If you were watching a typical Hollywood movie, this would be the very first guy to get blown up and killed, because you just know that would happen to a guy like this. Fortunately for everyone, real life is NOT Hollywood's predictable world, and Rabbit remained a welcome asset to the crew. These pics were taken way before I was ever known as Chainfall, and I went nuts on Remora with my brand-new 35mm camera purchased at the Exchange (Building A-33 I think - somebody help me out here) in Yokosuka, Japan. Many of the photographs on this site of this nature came from me sneaking up on everyone. We were all very young back then. (sigh)....
Anyway, that green naugahyde that Rabbit is trying to catch a wink on, but we won't let him, is called a flashcover. I zippered around a normal mattress bedding, and doesn't catch fire easily. The idea was to unzip it, and crawl between the sheets and blankets like normal people. We seldom did that on the Old Boats for two reasons, but occasionally we did if we were senior enough to rate a rack of our own. The first reason was that by the time we were off-watch, done with quals, maintenance duties and chow, we were flat ready to drop, and could care less about taking the time to do that. The second reason was "hot-bunking". More often than not, there would be more crew than individual bunks that could be assigned to them. So when one guy was on watch, the other would be in the same assigned rack. It was more expedient to sleep on top of the flashcovers for reasons of hygene when hot-bunking. It would also serve to stem some pretty testy arguments between guys using the same bedding.
On a fleetboat, the berthing was divided up: Above the Forward Battery was Officer's Country where "O-Divvers" were assigned staterooms - The Commanding Officer (CO or Skipper) was the only one with a place he could call his own. The Enlisted crew were divided up between the Forward Torpedo Room, Hogan's Alley (above the After Battery Compartment), and the After Torpedo Room. In the Torpedo Rooms, removeable racks were carefully fitted and secured over live torpedoes. The After Torpedo Room also had a rack suspended from the overhead amidships called the Mezzanine, and that's where the Goat Locker (Chief's Quarters) was located. Because of where Hogan's Alley was located amidships, when the racks were not in use, they'd be "triced up". Those racks were on hinges and suspended by chains, which would allow raising them vertically. For a joke, guys would be sound asleep there, and a couple of guys would come along and trice him up and secure him still snoring away. I don't see any chains on Rabbit's rack, so I assume he was in one of the Torpedo Rooms, likely the After, when I took these pictures - hey, that was over 35 years ago, okay? :-)
Flashcovers served another purpose. In the event that we would not be allowed to come to Snorkel Depth by some really nasty people trying to kill us, air to breathe would eventually become a concern. It'd get so you couldn't even keep a cigarette going due to lack of Oxygen, and that was pretty inconsiderate of our enemies. You couldn't even sit around telling Sea Stories (absolutely true tales that could either begin with "Once Upon A Time" or more likely "This Ain't No S***!") all that much because all that hot air was producing a buildup of Carbon Dioxide. So while ordering everyone not on watch into their racks to concerve Oxygen, Sodium Chlorate candles were burned in a special framework with O2 as its by-product. Lithium Hydroxide cannisters were broken open with their contents spread over the flash covers to better obsorb the excessive Carbon Dioxide. When all of that ran out with the badguys still running circles over us dropping nasty things on our heads and shoulders, the CO had to make some very heavy decisions.
The equipment carried aboard today's modern submarines supplants concerns over breathable air. Luck with thermoclines takcs care of the other concerns in most cases.