There are days when I feel old. The kid who sleeps in my old bunk aboard USS Michigan hadn’t been yet born when I left her. My Navy was as different from today’s Navy as mine was from the days of World War II.
Each month I try to attend my local USSVI (SubVets) meeting, and I sit in a room with a bunch of other guys who are like me. We rode boats in the Cold War, for the most part. we have one WWII Vet in our Chapter, but most of us rode the boats that faced off against the Russians during the War that wasn’t a shooting war, but everybody was afraid it would be. In many ways, there was more tension because you couldn’t shoot first and ask questions later.
Politicians and Brass eager to justify budgets kept coming up with more and more ways to use the Silent Service that enhanced “national security” by sending so many kids into dangerous places to do dangerous jobs for dangerous reasons. All so that we might have that one piece of data that either gives us the advantage or prevents them from catching us off guard.
A bunch of us rode the Boomers. The boats designed to end the world. from Polaris to POSEIDON to TRIDENT, the missiles grew ever larger and ever more accurate. The technology became more advanced and the kids who closed the hatches and dove beneath the ocean to hide them did so because we believed it was necessary and critical. It was. Whether we were snooping or hiding or trailing or hunting, we kept the peace.
Whatever we did gave the politicians and Brass just enough of an edge to never need us to do the main job we were trained to do – kill people. A lot of people very quickly.
Anyway, all that to say that I really enjoy sitting around a table with coffee and Submariners.
This month our guest speaker was Pete Batcheller, a former US Navy A-8 Crusader Pilot who flew three combat tours in Vietnam. The Crusader was the last pure “Fighter” the Navy flew (according to Pete, I wonder if the F-14 counts?) and he had some great stories about how the plane handled and flew and what it took in combat to make sure that he came home from flying two missions a day off of USS Hancock CV-19. His main point was we – the submariners – and they – the airdales – had a lot in common when it came to facing off the Russians. Like us, it could be nerve-wracking and tense. But it helped maintain the peace, which was the mission of the Cold Warrior.