One day when supervising the loading of weapons aboard a submarine, I found myself in a difficult position because I was a lower rank than the submariner filling the same position on the boat. The submarine we were loading was from a different home port, so they operated under similar, but not exactly the same set of rules.
An important rule was the flying of the “Bravo” flag. The bravo flag was a symbol of a hazardous operation such as ordnance loading, or fueling, and it instructed the observer that they should not smoke, or perform any kind of hot work (welding/cutting/brazing) on the pier, or topside of the unit where the hazardous operation was taking place. The sub’s home port only required the sub’s after half (aft of the sail and adjacent to the torpedo loading hatch), to fly bravo.
When both my crew and the submarine were ready to go, I informed the handling supervisor on the sub (a LT.), that we were waiting on the BASE ORDNANCE safety observer to arrive and that we were not allowed to start until that happened. This aggravated the LT because he didn’t have this type of delay in his home port, but he merely growled and waited on. I also informed him that his boat would have to put out the smoking lamp forward of his sail because we had bravo flying on the pier. This set the LT off and he cursed me roundly, while informing me that they would continue to operate as per normal for them. I informed him, “that’s fine, but you’re not going to get any weapons until you secure the smoking lamp up there.”
He really lit up.
He informed me that he was a LT and the sub’s weapons officer, and I was a mere 2nd Class Petty Officer, and that I was going to do what he told me to do, or else. I just turned and walked down the pier towards my ship to inform my chain of command of the problem.
Just then the Base safety observer arrived; he was a salty old sandcrab who went by the name of “Red”. I explained what had happened, and he asked me to follow him back to the boat. When we got to the submarine he asked the LT what the problem was. The LT let him know in a hurry that I was an insolent little prick, and that if I didn’t have him 2 torpedoes on the pier ready to load in 5 minutes that he was going to see me courts-martialed! Red stroked his chin a couple of times and told the LT that no ammo was going to move until he said so, and that he could take that to the Officer’s Club and smoke it!
That was the last straw for the LT. He took the handling procedure binder and hurled it to the deck of the submarine, pages flying everywhere. He took off his hard hat and chucked it into the harbor. He was screaming and foaming at the mouth and spinning around in tight little circles. His shipmates there on the sub restrained him until the Executive Officer came up topside and took him below (If I were the XO I would have opted for a straightjacket). In a few minutes the XO came up and informed us that the smoking lamp was out on the sub, and that he would appreciate it if we would commence loading as soon as possible. Once they had a new handling supervisor on deck we commenced, and had her loaded up in a jiffy. I never found out what was bugging that LT, and I never had another officer treat me that way in 22+ years of service. I reckon the old boy just had a bad day.
Hopefully he is out of the straightjacket by now…..
By Mark Lovelace
Wow, liberty in Barcelona! I hadn’t even been in the Navy for a year yet, and here I was, about to pull into the same port that Columbus sailed from to go and find the New World. Continue reading