USS Casimir Pulaski (SSBN-633)

The Story Of A Cold War Warrior

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Sunshine, sunshine and sunshine.  Pulled in to load some practice torpedos and got to see the sights both on the beach and downtown.  Notice the stressed steel on the sail and the ship's horn.  The side sail access hatch is also visible in this view.  We will offload live torpedoes, load exercise shots, then depart for our TRE (Tactical Readiness Examination) the next day.

Visitors have come down to the pier to see the big black submarine and the torpedo loading cradle is already in place above the forward escape trunk.  Our "shark fin" sonar array is also visible. 

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

A foreign port visit!  The Canadian Maritime Defense Forces played host to us as we pulled in due to being in the area.  A crewman had a family emergency at home and the Canadians graciously agreed to come out and get him.  They whisked him away via Commando helicopter (in US Navy service, the helicopter is known as the Sea King).  Despite Hollywood, helicopter to submarine transfers are dangerous.  Luckily, our superior training and that of our Canadian Allies, ensured a smooth transfer.

The sea air feels good after being cooped up underwater for a couple of weeks.  The coldness of the Northern Atlantic is nothing compared to the feeling of being able to hit a port for a few days.  We will be berthed near some Canadian Oberon Class diesel submarines and a visiting French Navy Georges Leyges Class destroyer. 

It is the height of the Cold War and the locals are friendly.  As we eased through the channel on the way to our berth, people came out of their houses to watch and wave.  Below decks, conversation turned to how many beers one would consume and how long one would spend on the phone to loved ones at home.  A quick briefing from the COB about how not to act prepared us.  Stinky, amine enriched clothes didn't smell quite right, but who cares?  Not the bartender...

Downtown was a nice contrast to a crowded submarine and we all took an opportunity to explore the big city of Halifax.  Two of Pulaski's Sonar Tech's, Larry Parkerson and Barney Downey pose for a photo (photo courtesy of Fred Polchow).

Well, we didn't outstay our welcome, but it was time to go.  There was a free world to defend and we had to get back to our patrol.  We made the local newspaper and no one got into any trouble.  There was rumor that peace demonstrators would show up, but they never appeared.  We headed out the way we came in.

A Canadian MDF ship followed us out on it's way to patrol.  The Canadian submariners shared their beer with us and gave us tours of their pig boats.  No sense asking them if they wanted to tour our boat...our's had no beer.  Got to call home and talk to the girlfriend.  Called again before we left. 

Back out at sea, our nose headed back to the patrol area, we're joined by a handful of dolphins as we leave Canada behind.  The dolphins enjoy the fish we're kicking up as we head at high speed out to the ocean. 

Andros Island, Autec Range, The Bahamas

THIS is why I joined the Navy; an exotic port!  If you're gonna be at sea and pull into a port, this is THE port to pull into.  At first glance, there is nothing here.  Absolutely nothing.  Well, almost nothing...there was a bar...  We were doing a piggy back torpedo shoot for another boomer.  Basically allowing them to use our boat to fire torpedos.  So a good chunk of the crew has to leave the boat so that the other boat's crew can work, sleep, etc.  Damn...what a shame!  The first batch of liberty hounds gathers topside to board launches that will take them to Andros Island. 

You can't help but smile as you're leaving duty for fun.  This was the Bahamas so great weather was guaranteed.  Plus, the chance to ingest some of the local beverages. 

The loading is done in an orderly fashion but took forever.  Well, in actuality it didn't take forever, but it seemed that way.  All the things we wanted - fresh air, beach, food and a chance to phone home - were just inches away.

"Yeah, we'll miss you!"  The skipper comes topside to see his crew go on liberty.  For the next three days, the submarine will be commanded - sort of - by the piggy back crew, who's commanding officer just happened to be our ex-executive officer, CDR Peter Selde! 

Well I suppose we were there for others to do some work...  This is one of the underwater listening boats.  Basically, Autec is one big underwater shooting range for submarines to come in, shoot their torpedos and then run other combat tests.  These craft follow the submarine and provide feedback.

Once free from all traces of military clothing we settled in to the calm of crystal clear water.  The bar laid out some scuba masks and snorkels.  The entire island had a laid back atmosphere.  The island's two policemen seemed equally laid back.  We would soon task their good nature...

The beach really had to be seen to be believed.  It was like nothing I had ever seen in Charleston, South Carolina.  The sand was like powder.  And HOT!  Shoulda brought sandals...

The island was quite small by tourist standards, but as it's "guests" were primarily government types like us, that wasn't a problem.  There were boats to rent, bikes, etc. 

While there, swimming in the crystal clear water, one of our brood is attacked by a violent starfish.  Said creature is captured.

After some heinous torture from MM2 Jon Waude, it was determined the starfish was not a communist.  The creature's shape of a "star" had to be suspect.  Indeed others continued to doubt the creature's neutrality until evening came.

The creature is made an honorary crewman and issued with an honorary submariner card.  As a gesture of goodwill, the creature is given a drink.  The creature for some strange reason thrived on Ron Rico rum and was smuggled onboard and hidden in the engine room in a bucket of sea water.   The starfish made it all the way back to Charleston and lived in the bathtub of one of the crew for about a year, attending parties and making other appearances.  It was the closest the Pulaski got to having a mascot...

The island was the wrong combination of cheap alcohol and warm weather.  I treated myself to a drink or two...  Next to my right cheek, out in the distance is a channel marker buoy.  Keep that in will be the source of a sea story later...

The torpedo shoot didn't go that well for the piggy back crew.  Oh well...shooting's not for everyone.  And hey - as long as you can shoot the BIG weapons, I guess that was all that mattered.  The torpedo retriever boat returns with one of the exercise torpedos.

There is a special device inside the torpedo that takes it to the surface so that it can be picked up after the shooting is done.  The weapon is then sent back home to be readied for another submarine on another day.

Meanwhile, the fun continued full throttle.  Here, STS3 Fred Polchow examines an artifact from the local bar.  Strangely...we were not accompanied to shore by any of the chief petty officers and only one of the officers.  And the officer was a rider so he really didn't know us that well.  Well...not well enough to yell at us or put a stop to our partying...

The rest of us soaked up sun and explored the beaches.  The water, as previously mentioned, was crystal clear with unlimited visibility.  This caused problems later for those of us who neglected to use sun screen...

A swim call was the order of the day for those awaiting their turn to come to the island.  Here, Sonar Techs Alex Dunmire, Fred Polchow and Barney Downey muster topside to take advantage of the warm water (photo courtesy of Fred Polchow).

Eventually, the fun had to come to an end and we congregated on the pier to await the launch that would ferry us back to the Pulaski.  There was time for one last drink, one last swim and one last sunset.  FN Beaudreau sips the last of his drink as we await the boat.

We were advised not to bring any shells back with us or alcohol.  Well...there was no chance of any "full" bottles of alcohol surviving.  And obviously the shell ban did not include star fish.

Then, once onboard the launch, we headed for our rendezvous and a continuation of patrol.  I had to stand watch immediately after coming aboard which was funny as my condition probably didn't account for the most level headed decision making.  I often wonder what insane force of nature concocted the watch bill, but hey...I had gotten to leave the boat!  And I constantly reminded myself of that as I donned my rig for red goggles and buried my aching head in a manual...

Others were much worse off than me.  Several of our lot were suffering from sun burn and had to get permission from the captain to wear slippers instead of work boots.  The other crew - the sympathetic ones - would pretend they were going to step on the feet of these poor unfortunately soles - or should that be souls?  My head was still killing me the next day.  It was my first anniversary and there I was away from home!  What a scam.  So maybe I overdid the celebration in absence thing?  EM1 Page reminds me of why I love the Navy...

Cape Canaveral, Florida

Following AUTEC, it was time for a mini-DASO (demonstration and shakedown operation).  For this evolution we pulled in to offload missiles and load different ones.  There was excitement as we anticipated the firing of a live missile, but such was not to be.  What can you say about Florida that's bad?  Some of us were still recovering from too much fun ("booze") but all in all, Florida was a blast.  Here, FTG2 Randy Davis and I join two of the midshipmen outside the old Ron Jon's in Cocoa Beach.  Kennedy Space Center treated us to a free tour of the Center which included an up close peek at the shuttle on the pad. 

MT3 Leon Siggers and MT3 Calvin Williams prepare to go downtown for liberty.  The base had a nicely stocked bar and restraunts, but it was great just to get out of uniform and get off base.

The beach beckoned to others, tired from the jaundiced tinge to the skin that submarine life brings.  The only problem was that some of us who shall remain nameless (you know who you are Scott Sleeper!) forgot to put suntan lotion on.  Especially disconcerting was that, as a Florida native, Scott shoulda known better, hee hee.

To celebrate July fourth proper, the Kennedy Space Center folks put on a special tour for us.  This tour included the old launch complex as well as the new areas.  The old complex area looked amazingly similar to the equipment we were using to throw missiles at the enemy!  Our guide had a good laugh; then started to worry...

The old launch complex was included in our tour.  At the time it was not an option for normal tourists.  It was amazing to see where the initial NASA launches started. 

We were taken to the underground mission control center which looked like it was right out of an old science fiction movie set.  Our hosts included a few personnel who took part in those historic Gemini and Explorer launches.

The highlight of course, was a close up peek at the Space Shuttle Atlantis on it's launch pad.  Normal tours are not allowed this close, so we were all awestruck by the sight we'd been allowed to view.