Friday, July 10, 2009

Perils of the Noon Meal - Part 3

The following completes a reprint of an article originally published in the April-June 2001 Issue of American Submariner Magazine, the official publication of the U.S. Submarine Veterans, Inc. and reprinted with the author's permission.

Perils of the Noon Meal
Part Three
By Maurice Lee Barksdale CS2(SS)

USS Razorback (SS-394)

Another time, we were submerged and I was in the middle of serving the second sitting for the noon meal. All was well. The crew was muttering their usual complaints about the meal while asking for seconds. The Exec had the Conn, and I heard the command, “Prepare to snorkel”. One of my mess cooks was qualified, and he immediately started to assist me in rigging the After Battery for snorkel (I had just made Commissaryman Second Class). We finished the checklist, and I yelled into the Control Room, “After Battery rigged for snorkel”. Minutes later, I heard the Exec give an order that I had heard hundreds of times, “Commence snorkeling”.

The quiet of the boat was shattered by the familiar sound of diesel engines coming alive. Suddenly, the entire sequence was interrupted by the groaning, high-pitched sounds of exhaust gases desperately searching for an outlet. This was followed by an extremely loud sequence, which meant that hot air was giving up its attempt to escape, and was retreating back to the engine housing. There was total silence as all of the engines shut down. I looked directly overhead at the snorkel exhaust valve. The indicator was in the “locked” position. I began to think many things. Why did I volunteer for submarine duty? Would it be possible to swim back to port? Were there any openings in my old anti-submarine squadron? I heard the Exec yell from the Conning Tower, “Who is the duty cook”? “Barksdale”, yelled my ‘friends’ in the Control Room. “Ask Barksdale to come up to the Conning Tower”, bellowed the Exec. I stepped through the after battery hatch into the Control Room desperately trying to think up a logical reason why the snorkel exhaust valve was not in the “Power” position. I was brain dead. As I looked at my “buddies” in the Control Room for help, it suddenly appeared that I had been stricken with bubonic plague, as no one seemed to know me. There were many giggles.

I finally thought, “Maybe the Exec will remember that nice chocolate pie that I sent up to the Wardroom last week”, or “Maybe he will think about the nice New England Pot Roast that he likes so much”. The only thing the Exec was thinking about was why the snorkel exhaust valve was not in the “Power” position. “Barksdale, did you hear the order to prepare to snorkel?”

“Yes sir!”

“What did you do?”

“I started to work through the snorkel checklist, sir!”

“Did you complete the check list?”

“Yes sir!”

“Then what happened?”

“I, I, I must have…”

“You must have what?”

The Exec was a good guy, but he was very unhappy, as the Division Commander was in one of the surface craft monitoring our movement. He reminded me that I had just made Second Class, that I wore the Dolphins of a qualified submariner, and strongly suggested that I would have neither if the Razorback was not snorkeling in a very short period of time. Needless to say, all was well when we received our second command to “Commence snorkeling”.

Several months later, I was able to redeem myself from all of my past transgressions. Yes, it was during the noon meal. We were working with aircraft. They were the cat, we were the mice. Up and down, up and down, all morning. My most important job, as the duty cook, was to yell into the Control Room as we dove, “Main Induction shut and locked”. This particular morning, the Chief Gunner’s Mate was working the Christmas Tree (yes, we had a Gunner’s Mate and a Boatswain’s Mate on the Razorback. Now take that, you Nukes). The diving alarm sounded, and I looked up at the main induction. I started to shout, “Main Induction shut and loc…”, when I noticed that the main induction had just shifted to the “Open” position. I yelled into the Control Room, in a voice that could be heard in Brooklyn, “Gunner, you just opened the main induction”. Things happened fast. “Blow the forward group. Blow the after group”. It was the fastest surface that I ever remember. I received an “Atta boy” from the Captain, Exec, COB, and many others.

I still do not like the noon meal, and when friends and associates ask me to “do lunch”, I usually reply, “No thanks. Been there, done that”.


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