Tuesday, November 27, 2012

At sea, on patrol....

11-22-63 Remembered…


            I was on patrol aboard USS Ethan Allen (SSBN-608). We had left our base in Holy Loch, Scotland a few days before. I was a lieutenant in the Navy, serving as weapons officer of a fleet ballistic missile submarine, carrying 16 nuclear warhead Polaris missiles. I wrote this entry in my personal journal:

Saturday 16 Nov. 1963:  This morning, on our watch, we drove through the Straits of Gibraltar at 200 ft. depth and 16 knots. The straits were really buzzing with traffic… wouldn’t those skippers have been surprised to know that an 8000-ton submarine was droning along beneath them, her crew busily eating and working and sleeping their lives away down there?
            Just about four months ago I had the watch as we steamed out of the Mediterranean, and now here we are in it again. Today we went up to periscope depth, just at sunset, and the first thing that I saw as my periscope swept the horizon was the mountainous south coast of Spain—the Sierra Nevada range.  I couldn’t linger in admiring those mountains because spotting surface ships was far more important.  We must remain undetected, and certainly did not want to be shallow enough to collide with a surface ship. I saw one ship astern, headed away, right in the middle of an absolutely beautiful sunset.   There were three other ships, all hull down, on either side and ahead of us. 

Manning the periscope

Friday 22 Nov. 1963: Just as I was standing in the Control Room tonight, after being relieved of the 16-20 watch, the Executive officer passed a sickening word over the 1MC (ship’s announcing system).

“The President has been shot and killed by assassins.”  At once I thought of those stupid mobs that spat upon Adlai Stevenson a few weeks ago in Dallas, and I wondered how my little wife reacted to this news, and I thought what a shock this must be to the world and indeed the nation.  Lyndon Johnson our president! A Texan seated as President after the bullets of a fellow Texan!  I feel the assassin must have been some sick-minded Bircher that saw this as the only way to solve the 1964 political quandary.
            What will this do to our foreign policy? Our defense policy? Who will the Democrats run for president next year? I don’t envision LBJ as the man of the hour, but now we shall see.
            Here we are, cruising along submerged in the Mediterranean, and we probably got the word before many Americans.  As a Texan, I feel especially bad that Kennedy had to go to Texas to have this happen.
            We are on 15 minutes notice to launch missiles and we don’t even have a leader to give the launch order!
            I pondered over this fateful date, 22 Nov. ’63, and remembered that 13 months ago, on 22 Oct. ’63, Mr. Kennedy distinguished himself for all time by ordering a Quarantine of Cuba, and thus backed the Soviet Union down on the Cuban situation.

            One of the agreements in resolving the Cuban  Missile crisis, in return for removing Soviet missiles from Cuba, was for the United States to remove its Jupiter missiles from Turkey.  This left targets in the USSR uncovered and so Ethan Allen and other SSBNs were ordered to pick up those targets, which meant that during part of our deterrent patrols we would have to move into the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

                When we received the flash message that President Kennedy had been shot our clocks  were on Zulu time, six hours ahead of Dallas, and when the flash message arrived at around 1900Z, (7 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time) no one in our government knew what would come next.  
            We  imagined that the assassination might be part of a large plot by the Soviets, culminating in a nuclear attack on the United States.  For a very scary period of time we didn’t know if we would be ordered to launch missiles for the start of World War III.
Saturday, 23 Nov. 1963: At 2000 tonight CINCLANT (Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet) sent us to battle stations, to prepare to launch our load of nuclear missiles.  [This is usually a drill, to check our preparedness for the real thing, but as we ready our missiles, preparing to arm our warheads and readying each huge launcher to eject its missile, we don’t know if it’s the real thing or not.] 
            I had the deck when the message came in, and after passing “Man Battle Stations” on the 1MC, I grappled for an alarm, and by mistake pulled the collision alarm. This so unnerved me that I reached for the diving alarm.  There being only one more left, I finally hit the General Alarm.  By this time I had men running in all directions, rigging for collision, preparing the surface, and scurrying to Battle Stations. 

            The Captain took over, and I ran down to the Missile Control Center, which was my battle station. for launching our missiles.  We spun up the gyros in each missile and proceeded through our countdown.  Then… came the order that this was a practice launch.  With all the uncertainty after the assassination, we were in the dark.
The Captain and the executive officer held the actual message, which in this case was indeed a test, and we didn’t arm the nuclear warheads. But it was scary!
Polaris Missile Countdown

                We all know now that the Soviets were not launching an attack, but we didn’t know it then, and things were very tense for several hours.

            We had a pretty good practice launch, and that’s all, Thank God!
                In the next several days we were fed news reports which helped us to piece together a fragment of the massive television and newspaper coverage that the rest of the world was getting.  When we returned to Holy Loch in early January 1964 we received our mail, and old Time and Life Magazines which reported all about the killing of the President, and then the killing of his assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Kennedy’s funeral and the start of Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration.

                My “catching up” on the news now that I was back on dry land had to wait, though, because I took Marty to the Navy hospital to have a little girl.   That little girl is now all grown up, and has a family of her own.

[Note: Some parts of the above blog appeared in an earlier blog, issued TUESDAY, APRIL 26, 2011.]

Now, I’d like to offer some books I acquired from the library of Fred and Lucy Colony. [See my Blog of 10-26-12] The collection, from the 1880s, appeared nearly untouched since that time:

Abide With Me by Henry Francis Lyte, Designs by Miss L.B. Humphrey, Engraved by John Andrew & Son       1883.  Boston, MA: Lee and Shepard, Publishers. Popular 19th century poem beautifully presented in this slim volume. 34 pp.   15 x 18.8 cm.    Dark brown cloth on board with gilt design on cover, thick, gilt-edged pages. Inscription on ffep:"Fred from Addie, Dec. 25 1885". Slight edge wear, slight bubbling on back cover, very good. (8293) $19.00. Poetry


Conduct of Life, The by Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1861   Boston, MA: Ticknor and Fields. Emerson (1803-1882) took it upon himself to write this series of essays to answer the age-old question, "How Shall I Live?" and delivered them to  young merchant-class audiences across the midwest in the 1850s. He published this volume in 1860, just before the start of the Civil War. Contents include Fate, Power, Wealth, Culture, Behavior, Worship, Considerations by the Way, Beauty and Illusions. He ridicules the current urge to travel abroad. His essay on Worship is pungent: "What is called religion effeminates and demoralizes." He supports the slogan "Aliis lætus, sapiens sibi", or "Be merry and wise". Emerson's advice is lively and thought-provoking throughout. 288 pp. + 16 p. adv.  11 x 18.5 cm. Dark brown cloth on board with blindstamped design and gilt lettering on spine. Some biopredation on spine cover. Title page signature loose. Inscription on ffep: "Louise Grant, 1865". Fair. (8296) $23.00. Educational/Philosophical

Enigmas of Life by W.R. Greg Greg, William Rathbone 1873     Boston, MA: James R. Osgood and Company. Greg (1809-1881) offers in this book some suggested thoughts, based upon his outlook after having reached the age of 60. In his Preface he sets forth the framework for his thought: "..it becomes possible at once to believe in and worship God, without doing violence to our moral sense, or denying or distorting the sorrowful facts that surround our daily life." Greg takes on Malthus' discouraging theory of geometric progression of populations against arithmetic growth of sustenance, in "Malthus Notwithstanding". He takes on Darwin in "Non-Survival of the Fittest".  322 pp. 12.6 x 19.4 cm. Maroon cloth on board with Gilt titles, minor wear and blotches on cover. Inscription on front endpapers: "Louise Grant, 1873". Very good. (8297) $27.00. Educational/Philosophical

Looking Backward created quite a stir....

Looking Backward 2000-1887 by Edward Bellamy 1889 Boston, MA: Houghton, Mifflin and Company. Author Bellamy in this wildly popular (in 1887) looks a century into the future in his fictional account by a man, born in 1857, who goes to sleep and awakens 113 years later at the end of the 20th Century.  He describes radically new social and industrial institutions, in a very upbeat and optimistic look backward, yet into the future. There is a strong look of socialism in this "new world", one which Marxists quickly admired.  Includes a Postscript by the author responding to a review of his book in the Boston Transcript of March 30, 1888.            475 pp. 12.4 x 19 cm.    Dark green cloth on board with black lettering. Moderate wear. Bookplate and inscription on front free endpaper: "F.E. Porter".Very good.         (8298) $96.00. Fiction/Philosophy

Lucile by Owen Meredith, pen name for Edward Robert, first Earl of Lytton (1831-1891). Family Edition, illustrated by H.N. Cady 1888        New York, NY: Frederick A. Stokes and Brother.  Lucile by Owen Meredith, pen name for Edward Robert, first Earl of Lytton (1831-1891). Author dedicates this edition to his father, the noted novelist Lord Bulwer-Lytton. Romantic narrative poem about Lucile, beloved by two bitter rivals, English Lord Alfred Hargrave and French Duke of Luvois.  352 pp. 17 x 25 cm. Decorated brown cloth on board, moderate wear, including edge wear. Front and rear inside hinges cracked. Inscription on ffep: "Abbie E. Dewey, July 14, '88." Good.        (8300) $48.00. Poetry

My Old Kentucky Home, Written and Composed by Stephen Collins Foster, Illustrated by Mary Hallock Foote and Charles Copeland 1888 Boston, MA: Ticknor and Company. This attractive little volume was first published in 1853, before the end of slavery.  Foster is said to have written this song, which later became the state song of Kentucky, to capitalize on the popularity of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin.  Excellent engravings portray the sad life of African-Americans. Includes music for song. Abolitionist Frederick Douglass thought this song "stimulated sympathies for the slave."              32 pp. 16 x 20.7 cm. Elegantly decorated white paper on board with thick, gilt-edged pages. Inscription on ffep: "Henry G. Colony from Aunt Mame, Christmas 1887". Inner binding cracked, half-title page loose. Poor. (8294) $24.00. Poetry/Slavery

Myths of Greece and Rome, Narrated with special reference to Literature and Art by Hélène Adeline Guerber, Lecturer on Mythology. 1893     New York, NY: American Book Company. Guerber explains that Hebrew antiquity had its beginnings passed down in scripture from God, but the Greeks and Romans had to invent theirs.  She promises to tell myths as accurately as possible, while avoiding the more repulsive features of heathen mythology. Includes map showing location of myths. Author has inserted poetical writings, quotations and illustrations from all ages to show inspiration of ancient myths upon literature and art. Includes Juno, Apollo, Diana, Venus, Mercury, Vulcan, Neptune, Pluto, Bacchus, Æolus, Œdipus. the Trojan War, Ulysses, Æneas; more; Genealogical Table, Glossary and Index.      428 pp. 13 x 19 cm. Dark green buckram on board with gilt title on spine, moderate wear. On ffep is inscription: "Louise G. Colony, Jan. 11, 1899, Friends School." Very good. (8295) $22.00. Educational/Mythology

Treasure Island  by Stevenson, Robert Louis 1892 Boston, MA: Roberts Brothers. Very nice, clean copy of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic, copyright 1883. This American edition dedicated to S.L.O. by the author.        292 pp. + adv.   12.5 x 18.8 cm.       Decorated red cloth on board, slight wear to heel and toe of spine. Owner stamp "Philip C. Johnson, Wilton, N.H." in front and back pastedowns and ffep. Very good. (8299) $195.00.  Fiction/Children's

Contact me at scoulbourn1@verizon.net

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