Freedom's Warrior

One sunny day in 1961 I decided that to prevent starving when I graduated high school I needed to find an occupation. I didn't want to go to college so I decided to go to the School of Hard Knocks. Where better to graduate from that school than to join a fraternity of men who know the ropes.

recruting poster

Boy! Were they glad to see me! They sent me to basic training at Great Lakes Training Center with 8000 other recruits and decided that I was the right stuff for submarines. Toward that end, they sent me to the SeaBee Center in Rhode Island after graduation from basic training on temporary duty.

SeeBee poster

I had to wait for the next electronics school class which commenced in about 4 months. SeaBees are the Navy construction battalions that built air fields on the jungle islands in the Pacific during WWII. Now they are building facilities in the Antarctica. Wow! They give you a medal for going there!

arctic service medal

I volunteered but was turned down. My talents weren't the right stuff for them and my next school started before I could return from the six month encampment on the ice. So much for glory and a medal. While I was at the SeaBee base I performed the important duty of keeping the books inventoried in the base library. Important stuff!

After the winter in Rhode Island, I was sent to Dam Neck, Virginia for 26 weeks of basic electronics school. It sure was interesting learning about vacuum tubes and other WWII technology.

Then it's off to submarine school to be trained on WWII submarines and to verify that I had the requirements of that job. To separate the wheat from the chaff every student had to be crammed with seven more men into a recompression chamber where we sat shoulder to shoulder four abreast and knee to knee across from each other in a cylinder that was slowly pressurized to about 20 psi. Not quite enough for an automobile tire which usually runs 32 PSI but enough to let you know what sinus pain and strained ear drums were. Then they decompressed the chamber back to normal and everyone that was claustrophobic or otherwise disposed got a chance to quit. Then it's off to the submarine escape tower where we had to leave from an escape hatch with 50 feet of water above us and perform a "buoyant ascent" to the surface. Fail to perform that correctly and you wash out. Link to Escape Tower article (This is the new and improved tower with new escape suits. The old tower looked like a 100 foot high farm silo and the suit only covered your head.) It wasn't until much, much later that I discovered the we almost never operated in water shallow enough to escape from. Gulp!

After graduation from submarine school it was wait again for my next school to start. I wonder where the next crap hole is that I'll go to during that wait.

Woo Hoo! Transferred to the USS Requin SS-481. She was a WWII submarine that was built and outfitted for war against Japan but the war ended before she went on patrol. It was just like the war movies! Cramped, stinky and exciting.

USS Requin SS-481

Here is a picture of her in Pittsburgh, PA where she is now a war shrine and moored beside Three Rivers Stadium.

While I was on board her she steamed up and down the East coast from Mayport, FL to New London, CN for about 10 weeks. Since I was such a valuable asset, they assigned me to the engine room as an oiler. An oiler is the low man on the totem pole who does all the crap work in the compartment while the Engineman sits on his keister and reads a book. He is responsible for the compartment and operates the two diesel engines in that compartment. Now you're talking! I'd seen this very stuff in the WWII submarine movies. Glory at last! Then after the 10 weeks I was transferred back to Dam Neck, VA for basic missile school.

Basic missile school lasted for 32 weeks. Then they trained me on the Polaris missile. If I'd known I'd be spending the first two years in the Navy in training I might as well have gone to college. The Navy does have an incentive method that college doesn't. Get bad grades and you get to work after class until 8 PM mopping and waxing floors and there is no going off the base until grades improve. If they still don't improve, one gets sent to the fleet in some crap job worse than being an oiler.

After graduation from missile school I received a quick transfer to the USS Alexander Hamilton SSBN-617. Oh boy! Finally, my chance to terrorize the godless communists and keep America's mothers and sweethearts safe from the commie hoards!

What the ....!?! She was in a dry dock in New London CT being retrofitted for sea. The Thresher SS-593 had just sunk and the Navy was making all submarines safer by testing all the welds and hull penetrations to prevent that from reoccurring. At least my skills would finally be used! Well, that was wrong. Since I was a new transfer, I wasn't qualified to do anything but man a fire extinguisher and watch a welder burn about 60 to 70 rods over the next 4 to 5 hours from midnight til morning in the dead of winter while standing in the drydock or some other unheated area. Wow! I bet I had those godless commies scared!


The refit was completed and the ship went to sea.

Now the patrols begin. If the commies make a wrong move, 16 Russian cities or other targets will be destroyed before they know what hit them. At least that was the plan. I always wondered if we'd get all our missiles off before the Ruskies blew a half mile hole in the ocean to destroy us. That glory was starting to look dangerous!

The patrol cycle was 30 days in port in Holy Loch, Scotland or Rota, Spain making the ship ready for sea then a quick 55 to 70 day patrol while submerged, then back to port. There the other crew was waiting and after a 3 day turnover of the boat, they took the boat and we took a flight back to the states. 90 days later we were back there to repeat the cycle.

Repeat that 8 times and my enlistment was up, for a total time of about 16 months beneath the sea.

Photos of the boat

tied up beside the tender beside the tender looking forward beside the tender looking aft

Views of the boat tied up beside the tender in Holy Loch, Scotland. A typical dreary day, probably in the fall. The thing behind the flag is a floating dry dock to service the boats if hull work was required.

The warriors

Tom Frisch

Yours truly, age 24 in the upper level missile compartment, port side - aft.

Tom Frisch

Me again. This was after I qualified for submarines and was able to wear my dolphins.

crew members crew members

Some of the hooligans I went to sea with. They were the torpedomen and missile techs that maintained the missiles and launch equipment. They would make them war ready and then launch them if required. These are views of the missile compartment Missile Launch Station.

Missile compartment upper level

This is the upper level missile compartment. Isn't it roomy and spacious? The missile tubes are on the right, spare guidance computers are stored in the cylinders at floor level on the left past the books.

Weapons officer

Our Weapons Officer. Doesn't he look look a pirate? He was nuclear power trained and in charge of the Weapons Department (missiles and torpedoes). He retired a Rear Admiral.

The most important document (besides my discharge papers) that I received while in the Navy. This is my submarine qualification card.

Submarine qualification card

A lot of work went into getting all those signatures so that I was qualified in submarines and able to wear my dolphins.

I guess the commies slept better knowing that I had been discharged from the Navy and there was one less commie killer gunning for them.