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A Veteran Submariner's Analysis of the
USS San Francisco Undersea Accident
[Editor's Note: Philip Ledoux had sent me a remarkable compendium of original information some months ago. I haven't had the chance to write about it yet, but when I do, you will be blown away by what he's discovered. Philip used to make a living as a market analyst and possess a keen eye for spotting trends and overall movement. His ability to connect all the dots eventually got him into some trouble with our covert friends because he was spotting things that the sheeple aren't suppose to know about and telling some of his friends about it. That brought on the typical onslaught of psychotronic assault, mail tampering, phone threats, not so accidental "accidents", etc. You get the picture.
I didn't realize that he had such an extensive background in the Navy until I read this wonderful piece, but I was not a bit surprised to find out that he graduated 3rd from submariners school out of a graduating class of 300 (which started out as a class of 1200 before the washouts hit the wall!). He gave me the idea that he didn't need commentary e-mail, so I didn't include his e-mail address, but if you have something of importance to tell him, I will attempt to forward your e-mail to him. More to come from Philip Ledoux in the near future...Ken]
By Philip Ledoux
January 23, 2005
I served on the old “Fleet boats” on the Bugara SS 331 at the time ported in San Diego. After more schooling I was assigned to the USS Ethan Allen SSBN 608, a big missile boat at the time, in the building at the yards in Groton, Connecticut. From service on both types of boats and service under two distinctly different types of captains and sharp COBs, I feel reasonably qualified to analize the recent disaster of the USS San Francisco, which supposedly hit an underwater mountain 500 miles South of Guam.
CNN Washington Bureau
Officials: U.S. submarine hit undersea mountain
From Mike Mount
Monday, January 10, 2005 Posted: 7:17 PM EST (0017 GMT)
The USS San Francisco (SSN 711), pictured below, enters Apra Harbor Guam, Jan.10, 2005.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Navy submarine accident that killed one sailor and injured 24 others occurred when the vessel -- traveling at high speed -- hit an undersea mountain head-on, Pentagon officials said Monday.
Saturday's accident caused part of the sonar dome, which is part of the submarine's nose, to flood, officials said.
The commander of the USS San Francisco, Kevin Mooney, has not been relieved of duty while the investigation of the accident continues. Mooney could be relieved of duty if officials determine there is enough evidence that the accident could have been averted. The investigation will look at the sub's speed, its location and whether the undersea formation was on navigational charts, officials said.
The submarine was traveling in excess of 33 knots -- about 35 mph --when its nose hit the undersea formation head-on, officials said. The nuclear submarine docked Monday at a U.S. naval base in Guam, a spokesman with the U.S. Pacific Fleet said.
The San Francisco was escorted to port by U.S. Navy and Coast Guard vessels, according to Lt. j.g. Adam Clampitt. The submarine suffered "some external damage," he said.
"The injured sailors are being treated at a U.S. military medical facility on Guam and will be transferred to other facilities -- possibly Pearl Harbor in Hawaii or Okinawa in Japan -- as necessary," Clampitt said.
According to a military statement, the injuries included "broken bones, lacerations, bruises and a back injury."
The accident occurred about 350 miles (560 kilometers) south of Guam, the U.S. Navy said. There were 137 crew on board at the time of the accident.
Machinist Mate 2nd Class Joseph Allen Ashley, 24, of Akron, Ohio, died Sunday from injuries suffered in the accident, Clampitt said. "The Navy continues to offer its sincerest condolences and prayers to the family and friends of Petty Officer Ashley," he said.
Navy sources said the submarine was en route to Brisbane, Australia, for a port visit at the time of the accident. There was no damage to the sub's nuclear reactor, according to Clampitt.
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I was thinking about my "buddies" on the San Francisco. I forget the exact numbers, but around a crew of 130 with 1 dead and 23 injured. It was about like a train from 60 years ago hitting a gigantic boulder on the tracks that stopped it dead. Imagine the workers in the mail car! How they get tossed around and everything not "bolted down" follows them head over heels into the front of the car. It would be no different in that submarine.
I will spare you detailing "inside a submarine" but I've been imagining myself in such a disaster these many nights. To me it is easy to conclude that the 23 injured are men who cannot "stand watch". That's every 5th man incapacitated. There is no easy way out of a sub, it is up the vertical ladder in a tube. So, the convoy that escorted the S.F. into port couldn't take the genuinely injured off the sub and treat them in more commodious quarters on a surface ship. The sub does have a genuine doctor on board, and most likely doctors from the escort ships went aboard the sub to help him out setting and pinning broken bones and whatever surgery was necessary. There couldn't have been enough gauze and plaster of paris on board, and the surface ships cupboards must have been mostly empty passing it onto the sub's doctor.
When in port, some of those men will be able to manage it up the ladders with some help. Others will be strapped in baskets and hauled like mummies up the ladder tubes, or out the torpedo loading tubes (not the torpedo firing tubes). "Only 23 injured" certainly is "under-reporting" the disaster. Medical personnel being transferred to damaged USS San Francisco (Jan. 9, 2005)
I was assigned to the USS Ethan Allen SSBN608 as she was being built and took her through her sea trials. If we had not been operating in the "deeps" we would have been a "mysteriously lost" submarine. We leveled out at 2 miles deep; deeper than anything at the time. EVERY log book on the sub was ordered re-written and signed by everyone in the order the original was created! If you have the interest and the time go to (search) SSBN608, on home page on the left click MISC; on next page click on sea tales. About half-way down the list is "Ledoux", click on that. I was surprised that my story of the events was published! It will give you a different perspective of naval operations. I personally had reported a primary system leak (atomic reactor) within 8 hours of the disaster. All officers ignored it until it couldn't be denied any further and 5 days later we made an emergency return to port.
Now, that I have your attention. Harriti har. I served under captain Schulz who had a submarine sliced into by a destroyer when he was called to surface on command. The sub was salvaged and was crippling back to port aided by a destroyer. It was lost when the "heroes", the salvage tugs took over. No men lost except for all hands in the torpedo room where she was sliced. Normally nobody is given another command when they seriously damage or loose a ship or sub. Schulz later took command of the sub I served on. We would have followed him through hell, he was that kind of a man and gentleman.
The nuclear navy was forming at that time. This was the mid to late 1950ies. These seasoned, warry, savy, not too old captains (not captains in rank) didn't stand a snowball's chance in hell of getting into the nuclear navy. When I finally was assigned to a nuke, I found out why. Not very many in the Navy knew that the numbers of submarines were going to be drastically cut, merely because of the "nuclear" part of the vessels, and their unique abilities. The officers assigned to the nuclears were relatively young men with comparatively little experience sea-wise. In other words they were "politicians" and through their military-political connections got the choice assignments. (The word captain is a rank just below admiral, but it is also the "title" given to anyone in command of a ship regardless of rank.) The captain assigned to the SSBN608 had been director of the Naval War College just prior to his reassignment. Both positions a naval political plum.
This lack of sea experience by the officer corps on a nuclear sub can be shown in the "little things" that happened on the SSBN608. On a submarine there is one unique special guy called "the COB". He is an enlisted man, usually with a lots of sea time under his belt, and is sort of elected by the senior members of the crew. He is the laison between the enlisted "grunts" and the officers. Usually his decisions (limited somewhat) are equal to the captain at times, and can override a junior officer. "Yes Virginia, experience does matter." I had volunteered to be Log Room Yoeman Aft in addition to my regular duties. I had to keep all the operating and repair manuals updated and in order for the total engineering spaces. As a bonus of that small compartment, I had a typewriter of my own and a mimeo machine. Ideal for off the cuff work on a ship. The engineering chiefs and the COB encouraged me to start publishing "Nukie Poo News Aft"; and so it birthed on our first sea trial, and printed only while at sea. I was a fair cartoonist, so with exaggerated everyday events, blunders and family news, etc. it was a popular newspaper. Because of the inexperience and "gung ho" attitude of our officers the COB was living a frustrating to hellish life. In desperation he came to ye 'ole publisher and suggested a cartoon, and left pronto. (He didn't want anybody to see him entering or leaving my "hole".) He would slip in and out quickly 3 or 4 times before another publication (about 1 a week). The upshot was that what he couldn't negotiate logically with the officers, he was accomplishing through my knife cutting satirical cartoons.
Most of us enlisted were accustomed to the captain announcing on the general announcing system: "We are out of sight of land. I want the enemy. How you do it is up to you. If you need a jockstrap to do it, you have my blessing." Navy is Navy and you can't throw out all the rules, but it was understood that there was no need to spit and polish anything. That didn't get any "enemy". Only when we were a few days from port would we hear "Time to clean up this tub, and I want it to shine." And shine it did! Unseasoned, non-submarine officers cannot understand such behavior. And thus the clash of COB and "forward crew". It got so embarrassing that the executive officer (2nd in command) would censor every newspaper I published, yanking a page, but never explain what was offensive.
What I am trying to demonstrate is the lack of cooperation between what had been the smoothest operating crews in the past. This is conducive to making blunders, rather than mistakes. And in submarines there is almost no margin for error. Your life depends on the guy next to you and even the guy you hate! And if it is non-reconcilable, the COB or the captain invited you to apply for service on another sub. Everybody's life depended on cooperation! This was a lacking commodity on the nuclear subs, where it was the most dangerous.
Here is another hidden factor even sailors overlook, that is conducive to "accidents." Those of us who served on the old diesel boats were in sailor heaven when assigned to a nuclear. The truthful joke in subs was: Here we are in New London, clean up, go downtown to the locker club, clean up again, perfume heavily, head into NYC and what's the first thing we hear (remember we're dressed in "civies"; "Hi sub sailors, what sub jest got back to port?" You could NOT wash diesel and sweat smell out of your hair, skin or anything else. And on a nuke you had a queen sized (seemed that way) bunk with air conditioning or heat as desired and almost enough room to "sit up"! Every man had a bunk of his own. On the old boats you could flake out all day except duty time, and study to advance or not - your decision. Out at sea on a nuke, the officers were afraid of the enlisted men. They were in charge of all kinds of "make work" and the guys were seeing through it all; they even forced everybody to study to advance in rank. An outsider might think "so what?". Most sub sailors figured out that we were kept busy all the time so we didn't have time to "think". It took thinking sailors to operate a reactor and exotic electronics that are crammed into those nukes. And that kind of a man was dangerous if he had too much time on his hands to figure things out. And believe it or not (ha ha) sailors do figure out a way to "get even".
All those classes of submarines have been sunk out in the deeps (reactor section removed). The new class like USS San Francisco are purposefully designed with too few sleeping bunks for the crew; the enlisted have to "hot bunk". That means when I come off working duty, I slide into your bunk as you go on duty. And there are fewer men to do the same work we did; 135 vs 150. Under those working conditions tempers are short, and men are not well rested. Theoretically rested enough to do the work.
The USS S.F. was 350 miles south of Guam. That would be about into the 3rd change of hands (watch). Did she pull into Guam for supplies and the crew get plastered? Navy wouldn't tall anyone that! Just long enough as sea for the nasty routine of hotbunking, short handed, frayed nerves, and a forced workableness between enlisted and officers; and you have a disaster in the makings. The blame will be put on the officer who was navigating, he will be low enough on the totem pole to be sacrificed, and hopefully (for Washington) he doesn't have very much political clout.
The old diesel subs had stubby noses added for the sonar housings. A nuke requires a smooth sleek nose or it will make all kinds of noises in the water. So, that means that the bow (nose) had to be crumpled horribly to have flooded the sonar dome! It would be like running an 18 wheeler down hill into a cement barrier. Remember the only casualties the U.S. now suffers is a combatant who is dead when the medics find him. If other sailors die from that disaster, officially they will not have been an accident casualty; they are alive whether in the morgue or ward. Imagine being flung across a 15 foot room at 45 miles per hour as the sub suddenly stopped! Those who were in control seats were strapped in, but that doesn't prevent smashing your face into control levers and switches. Men in their bunks could easily have been seriously injured. 1 dead 24 injured. Can't use the rule of 10 here, there would be double the number as there were total crew. No submarine is ever escorted anywhere unless it is crippled and the possibility of loosing the vessel is imminent.
This is the thinking of a guy who was there 40 years ago as a reactor operator/technician.
USS San Francisco in dry dock at Apra Harbor, Guam Jan. 27, 2005 Tarp covers sonar dome area.
That sub weighs much more than a WW II Battleship! I am certain that the figures given for speed are knots not MPH. They were moving! Hauling ass.
When I served in the Navy I was all over the US and the Pacific. I would write lengthy letters home. My sister was in grammar school at the time and recently she and I were talking about those days; she said that she could see where I was and/or had been because of the descriptions and details.
I loved my work and the men I worked with in the Navy, but the "navy" itself I never learned to like. Submarine school is a hazing party in disguise; it is all psychological to eliminate those who couldn't handle the mental stress of the real thing, that was what it mostly was and well disguised. The second most important thing was the sea stories. All the instructors had a lot of time in subs. These instructors were experts in teaching the "real stuff" as sea tales during their classes. Basically "keep your mouth shut". The school materials were reasonably easy and anyone who really wanted to could have gotten through and graduated. I graduated 3rd out of 300; we started with 1,200. No one was penalized for voluntarily dropping out; because it really was a weeding out process.
It was after I got out that I put 2 and 2 together and came up with 8. That's when I began to see through everything including the military. TPTB depend on the former military man's oath of secrecy and/or patriotism to hide the secrets that are handled by the military. Once I realized that, I started "talking". I put my discoveries together (non-military discovered) and shared, that's when I found out just how hard the ball is that they deliver! Rash of near accidents, 2 curare poisonings, one high-speed-lead-poisoning event that was a miss by inches, and implants in my mastoid sinuses while in the VA for a hernia operation. Black-balled from all work since 1981. I then became paranoid, and still am 20 to 25 years later.
I have said to friends privately just about what was in that analysis. And by golly, it happened. You can operate a surface ship on politics; but in submarines that like mixing gasoline and matches. There have been all kinds of accidents in the nukes, but this is the first to make the news; kind of too big a parade entering port to hide, so they informed the world first with half-truths as "damage control" with the public. There are certain "brands" of private airplanes that are "forgiving" of pilot mistakes and others that are death-traps for anyone with less than a thousand hours under their belts. A surface ship is very forgiving of mistakes, not so in a sub! That is why every sum-mariner has to "qualify"; he has to learn every man's job just enough to be able to do it if required. As an electronics tech, I had to be able to start the diesels by myself along (obviously supervised to "make sure") On the nukes, the qualifications were a half-assed-cross between surface craft (nothing but your specialty) and a well watered down knowing of the sub. Obviously if a man didn't have training in "nuclear" there was no way he could operate a reactor even in an emergency. Basically it was a "surface" command thinking transplanted into a gigantic sub. It appeared to work mainly because the capabilities of an atomic plant are beyond imagination even to surface engineering types; so it covered up many a mistake.
One of my friends told me about being at sea on a sister ship to the one I took in the building. Five days out of port and the engineering officer had a problem with the "list" (too heavy on one side or another); and a work gang of everyone off duty had to help move garbage weights (don't want any garbage floating up to be detected), they look like cheap weight-lifting weights. Twice a week this went on; finally the engineering officer was satisfied (a week before re-entering port [continual moving around the sub for three months]). The officer thought the men would be confused from the workload, but everyone of them recognized that the place where the weights ended up was exactly where they were when they started the cruise. "Make work" does not "bond" officers and enlisted together. The next trip they worked like a gulag work gang; and the officer(s) got all worked into a lather; which made him/them perfect targets for personal psychological sabotage. You can play those kinds of games up on top, but not down under. 2-D up above, 3-D below.
I do not know whether "Mr. Roberts" is still available in video or DVD. Worth looking up and you will see a slightly exaggerated surface ship in action. The best submarine movie I have ever seen and depicts life on a sub as it really is "Das Boot" with English titles; or the same thing "The Boat" with sound track in English (mouthing doesn't match words). I think the German version is better because you got better inflection and thus meaning. Another good one is "Operation Petticoat" the removing of nurses and gold from Corregedor. Lots of humor. The boat that was used in that movie was exactly (a sister) to the one I qualified on. I was an "extra" on board with no real bunk, so my mattress was in the sag between two torpedoes in the torpedo racks. Loading torpedoes into the tubes as ass breaking work, and any extra muscle is appreciated (I happened to be the strongest man on board, but nobody nor I knew it); so I had helped load many a torpedo. When I saw "Operation Petticoat" with my girl friend; when they started loading torpedoes, there were the exact same curves in the wheels, the same exact positions of everything, the same hernia making work. I got up out of my seat and was going to help! My girlfriend was tugging at my sleve "Phil, it isn't real, Phil, Phil.!!!" I had just returned from a "trip" where the Russians had depth charged us for 3 hours, my hair turned white on that trip. Loading torpedoes was no "exercise" in my mind, it was for real.
And I now think: those rotten bastards. All that blood, sweat and tears only to line the pockets of Rockefeller and Rothchilds with gold. I haven't quite figured out how to "get even" with the right people yet. Yes, I understand sending love and peace; but; if a few of those bastards were hung by the thumbs in Central Park (NYC) and on the Esplanade (Washington, D.C.) the remainder would know that we weren't playing with the buffer zone, we were hitting the core. The remainder would disappear so fast it would leave a vacuum. I am not a bit vindictive. I come from the old school where if you made a mess, you were the guy who cleaned it up. A tweaked ear and a hot ass worked wonders; you just have to adapt that a bit on adults.
Sorry to carry on like this, but it really is part of the analysis that most people wouldn't want to hear about.
Philip N. Ledoux
Photos found at: http://www.navy.mil/view_gallery.asp?sort_row=1&category_id=17&sort_type=0&page=1
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