Greetings to the officers and crew of TUNNY from Big Red /a.k.a. Capt. D.Y. Sloan, USN (Ret).
I can't recall what our originally assigned call sign was, but upon arrival in Pascagoula I told the senior ops type (RM1 Wheeler, I believe) to change it to BIG RED. How he did it I don't know and didn't ask. Like so many other things TUNNY crewmembers did, the job was done promptly and as requested without fanfare and bureaucratic involvement. That was the first of more examples than I can enumerate.
Our original home port destination was Pearl Harbor, and most of our experienced new construction crew came from SubPac units. An early task facing a new construction crew is the design and approval of a ship's emblem to start the ball rolling on organizational trinkets (lighters, patches, decals, coffee mugs, tie clasps, etc - anything to make money for the commissioning party!) We settled on a silhouette of the first TUNNY (282) inside the silhouette of the 682, and using the motto of the first TUNNY, Illigitimi Non Carborundum. I approved that, subject to finding a suitable translation that I could send to our sponsor, Mrs. Lola Aiken. This gave the X.O., LCDR Mike Heath, fits as he contacted Notre Dame, Loyola University, and every other school apt to have a Latin department, but they all came up with the same translation for Illigitimi. I didn't feel that was appropriate to send to Lola, so we consulted Webster's Dictionary, and I told her our motto translated to, "Don't let those of questionable origin wear you down."
Her prompt response was, "That's roughly what the Library of Congress told me."
She will never know the man hours that went into that effort. COMSUBPAC's approval was prompt and perfunctory. Fortunately we maintained the correspondence on this subject as the motto was challenged when our homeport was changed to Charleston.
TUNNY had a reputation for doing things well and on, or ahead of schedule. During our first sea trial, we had completed the propulsion trials and off-loaded ADM Rickover, and we were progressing smartly through the test agenda, several hours ahead of schedule. We were due to enter port in the morning, but if we got a couple of more hours ahead, we could go in a day earlier. About 0200 we were due for a 1/2 power dive followed by a full power dive (presumably a vestige from WWII days when subs ran on the surface and rapidly dived from aircraft). The requirement for each was to be submerged in 2 minutes. I've forgotten who was Officer of the Deck. The Diving Officer was ETC Stapleton (his previous duty was on diesel boats with bow planes).
ETCS Stapleton and CDR Dennis Sloan in 1975
Figuring a 1/2 power dive was a warm-up for the main event, and that the dive, surface, air charge, etc would take two hours, the test director (Shipyard) and I decided the full power dive would suffice for both, and we'd have a shot at getting in early. All our diving trainer experience told us that the stern planes were the key. Keep the screw buried, watch the angle, and drive her down! We built up to flank speed on the surface, and on the second blast of the diving alarm the Diving Officer, OOD and I riveted our attention to the stern planesman, the clock and the depth gauge. Meanwhile, our superbly trained helmsman followed the diving procedure flawlessly, placing the fairwater planes on full dive. With one minute to go we had it wired - 2 degree down angle passing 35 feet, when the fairwater planes bit! No one had the presence of mind to record the maximum down angle achieved, but the screw cleared the water/air interface, the main engines tripped on overspeed, and we managed to pull her level about 450 feet. The torpedo room was filled with riders in temporary bunks afthwartships - everyone moved up (forward) one bunk, and fortunately the ones who fell off weren't hurt. Equally as fortunate, no one was cooking in the galley at the time. The rest of the trials were a piece of cake, and Chief Stapleton went on to be a great COB on TUNNY, but neither of us forgot that dive.
Another example of the crew's spirit was our early completion of PSA at Portsmouth NSY in New Hampshire. We finished ten days early, mainly due to the crew's preparation and assistance in shipyard work, and we looked forward to an extra week at home. I was greeted in Charleston that the "rabbit" for working up the next deploying SUBRON 4 unit was broke, and our reward for busting our tails was another week at sea! I was not a happy camper, and we got underway Monday morning with me in a foul mood. Right away things crumped faster than we could fix them! Tuesday I realized I was the problem. I was ticked, so everyone else was too. I met with the officers, and then the Chiefs, explained that we were professionals in a dangerous environment, and we need to get our heads screwed on right, beginning with me! Let's go get 'em! By Wednesday night all was back in commission and we had detected our adversary so often, the Commodore made us snorkel for 4 hours!
Our first year in commission, TUNNY fired more torpedoes / mines / shapes then the rest of SUBLANT combined! We did 2 PCO Ops, Mk 48 cert., proofing of tubes and fire control alignment and mining exercises. Our TM's were good! (Including the night a TM1 was escorted back to the ship in St. Croix for driving a golf cart down the wrong side if the road without lights at 0200).
The Engineering department won the red Engineering E our first two years in commission. We had our share of incident reports, but two stand out in my mind. The first was during initial criticality - we had just achieved criticality and the next step was to stow the neutron source. The crewmember moved the source to the stowed position smartly, and the source passing a detector gave us a start-up-rate scram… Corrective action - move the source slowly to the stowed position.! The next one was more embarrassing - the Eng. (LCDR Clemins - now CINCPACFLT) had the mid watch and took the R.O. panel with the EWS in Maneuvering while the R.O. made a head call. While walking through the ship I observed this and opened the spare scram breaker, causing the alarm without scramming the plant. I had forgotten we were at standard speed and the throttleman was caught flat footed and didn't get the throttles shut promptly. The Eng did not notice that no rods had dropped and commenced the scram procedure. As soon as he went to LPCO, we scrammed for real. It is not pleasant putting yourself on report to ADM Rickover. A final Rickover story started when I was called to see the Commodore about the report of our recently completed ORSE. We had done well, and the Board was particularly impressed by ENCS Gay's performance across the board; watchstanding, drills, administration and leadership. Since we had more divisions than officers, some outstanding CPOs were designated as Division Officers. Chief Gay was the Machinery Division Officer. His division had 100% on time watchstation and submarine qualification, above average advancement in rate, and superior retention. The Commodore to exception to a CPO as an Engineering Division Officer, and when I reaffirmed Chief gay as M-Div Officer, he opined I would hear from ADM Rickover about it. Sure 'nuff, not 30 minutes after I returned to TUNNY, the YN burst into my stateroom to tell me ADM Rickover's office was on the line. When I picked up the phone, a crisp voice told me to "stand by for ADM Rickover". As I was mentally packing my bags for Siberia, the Admiral came on the line and our conversation went something like this: "Sloan?" "Yessir", "You know those ship's belt buckles?" (referring to the chrome belt buckles with dolphins attached and the ship's name engraved) "Yessir", "Can you send me two more?" "Yessir" click! To this day I regret not having the guts to call the Commodore and say, "You were right. ADM Rickover called" and hang up. Two belt buckles were in the mail immediately!
Our return from our first Med deployment was super! We had won the Battle Efficiency "E", the Engineering E (second award), and the ASW "A" for SUBRON 4. All officers and crew were submarine qualified. Not willing to chance a late arrival, we entered Charleston harbor so early we almost had to back down to avoid arriving before the tender and tugs were ready. So early, in fact, that my wife and daughters arrived at Ft. Moultrie (Charleston Harbor entrance) after we had passed, and followed the wrong submarine up the river. We had lots of pictures of the SUNFISH!
Enough for one setting! I think often and fondly of my days on TUNNY, and the super folks I was privileged to serve with. I encourage you to support Tom and his fine efforts on the TUNNY web page. Each tale from "Big Red's War Wagon" triggers another memory. Please write them in a way that we would all be proud to have our grandchildren read them.
Big Red's cruising is now done in a 34' Southwind RV towing a Honda stationwagon. Homeport is Marietta, GA. Fair winds and following seas to all TUNNY sailors.
Here is a photo I have of CDR Nelson and CAPT Dennis Sloan (Ret) at the Decommissioning Ceremony in 1998. The last and first Commanding Officers onboard TUNNY!
Here are a couple of photos Mr. Sloan loaned me from the 1975 Med deployment. Note: The OOD is Archie Clemins.
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