Saturday, January 18, 2014

Life for an American in the old Soviet Union

Caviar and Pickled Herring

сновым годом!



 Moscow, 1981: Left to right, Sam, Mark and John Coulbourn,
 and Cousin Ron Pomerleau, the “Builder from New Hampshire

                Visitors from New Hampshire.  Our cousins from New Hampshire, Nancy and Ron Pomerleau, and their two daughters came to visit us in Moscow for our first Christmas there.  It was 1981.          
            I introduced Cousin Ron to foreign officials as my friend, a “Builder from New Hampshire”.  In fact, Ron had built many houses, even whole developments, in New Hampshire He looked quite prosperous in a fine, dark suit. 
            General Hamm, my boss, invited Ron to ride with him in his limousine to a reception at the Bulgarian Embassy, and KGB watchers must have wondered who this “Builder from New Hampshire” really was. 
            The next day, the Chinese Defense Attaché paid a formal call on me. I invited Ron to join me as the Chinese General made his call.  The General came, as always, with a young Chinese officer who spoke Russian and English— the General spoke only Chinese— and we had a very pleasant visit.  At that time relations were strained between the Chinese and the Russians.
            We estimate that the Russian intelligence people assigned to listen to everything that went on in our living room were really straining to find out the “real story” of who was this “Builder”?


Caviar and pickled herring with the Builder from New Hampshire.  In between the steady stream of Christmastime parties we had one quiet night at our apartment.  Actually it wasn’t quiet, because our two sons and daughter had a gang of kids in the front of the apartment, sitting around exchanging thoughts. There was Ned, son John’s traveling buddy, and Anne and Sue, cousins from New Hampshire The boys had met other foreigners when they went to play a pickup game of basketball over at Moscow University.  There was a Swedish girl, a dedicated Communist, committed to spreading the gospel, even here in the American Embassy.  There was a pretty Finnish girl, daughter of the Finnish Military Attaché-- she was our son Mark’s girlfriend.  Also two Italian boys, a Yugoslav, an Australian girl, daughter of Australia’s Ambassador, and an Albanian and a Turk, I think. 

At the outdoor Russian market you could buy pickled
garlic, sold in trays that looked like bedpans.

            In the kitchen, cousin Ron and I sat at the kitchen table and drank vodka and feasted on caviar left over from the various parties we had hosted, and opened a bucket of pickled herring that we had bought down on the waterfront in Helsinki (Finland). We also had a bowl of pickled garlic, and some Russian black bread.  It was a typical Russian evening, with just two of us Americans enjoying it!  Our wives were visiting in another part of our large apartment.

Ron Pomerleau, The “Builder from New Hampshire

            Finally, after discussing most of the problems of the western world, and absorbing enough vodka, we retired for the night.  The ladies came to bed a bit later. When Marty entered our bedroom she said there was a “blue pall of garlic” in the air as she entered.

The Bulgarian National Day Reception.  We didn’t spend a lot of time with the Bulgarians, but all the attachés were invited to the various National Day celebrations at embassies.  We invited everyone to ours on the Fourth of July.

            We were interested in attending the Bulgarian National Day Reception, because we knew all the top Soviet military leaders would be there.  In those days of the Cold War, senior Soviets and Americans had relatively few chances to interact, both here and at social events in embassies around the world.  This was directed by President Carter, and later from President Reagan, to show American displeasure with Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

We really valued our visits to the communist celebrations like this, because it often gave us a chance to see and perhaps talk with these top officials.  

            I took cousin Ron Pomerleau, “The Builder from New Hampshire” to this large reception by the Bulgarians.
Admiral of the Red Fleet Sergei Gorshkov
(Time, Feb. 23, 1968)

            I saw Fleet Admiral Sergei Gorshkov, surrounded by lesser admirals, and I asked my boss, Brigadier General Charlie Hamm, if I could take him over and introduce him to the venerable father of the Soviet Navy.

            Charlie told Gorshkov that he had received his commission in the Air Force (upon graduation from West Point) the same year (1956) that Gorshkov had taken over command of the Soviet Navy.

            Gorshkov nodded and asked an aide to fill up his glass because this was an occasion for a toast.    Russians love toasts.

            We toasted the New Year, and we toasted Soviet-American Friendship. Then I talked a bit with Gorshkov, mentioning the Incidents at Sea Agreement which had recently been completed between our two navies. At this, the stout little Admiral reached up and tapped me vigorously on the ribbons on my uniform blouse, saying it was up to you [The U.S. Navy] to uphold this Agreement.

            That Agreement called for swift communication between our navies whenever there was an incident on the high seas which looked like it might escalate to something bad. That agreement probably saved our countries from a shooting war over the years.

            I remember several times on destroyers and submarines in the Mediterranean and Black Seas when we had encounters with the Soviet Navy that came close to becoming international incidents and perhaps more.

            It was a rare pleasure to meet and visit with Admiral Gorshkov.  See his biography, below.


Admiral Gorshkov’s Biography:  Admiral of the fleet of the Soviet Union and commander in chief of the Red Navy while also serving as deputy minister of defense (1956–1985). Born in Kamenets-Pedolsky, Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire, on 26 February 1910, Sergey Gorshkov was commissioned in the Red Navy on his graduation in 1931 from the Frunze Higher Naval School. He then held a series of posts in the Black Sea and Pacific Fleets. He advanced rapidly in rank and responsibility, in part due to the openings at the top levels created by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s purges of the Soviet military.

Gorshkov developed a strong combat record in the Black Sea Fleet during World War II, leading naval and amphibious operations against German forces and commanding the Danube Flotilla in 1944 during Soviet advances into Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary. He was promoted to rear admiral in October 1941

Under Leonid Brezhnev in the 1970s Gorshkov argued for a more balanced navy. The political leadership agreed and a massive building program was put in place to provide not only a large submarine force but the logistical support fleet needed to sustain it. Gorshkov also saw the need for an expansion of the surface fleet to allow the extension of Soviet conventional power. He felt the Soviet Navy should be able to conduct strategic operations, anti-submarine warfare, transport amphibious troops and be supported by a growing number of aircraft and helicopters.

This new and much expanded navy was able to project Soviet power to the Third World and challenge NATO in areas where it had previously had free rein.

When he retired in 1985  he had, by and large, obtained the ships he needed and the navy he wanted – the Soviet Union was a major nautical power. He died in Moscow three years later.


The Personal Navigator offers these books and papers:

 Map of Africa from American Brig Commerce Journal, 1818

American Brig Commerce: Journal Comprising An Account of the Loss of the Brig Commerce, of Hartford, (Con.) James Riley, Master, Upon the Coast of Africa, August 28th, 1815; Seventh Edition  by Archibald Robbins, 1818. Hartford, CT: Silas Andrus.  Very popular account of author's ordeal as slave of Wandering Arabs of the Sahara; .   Includes many Arabic words and meanings. Catching and eating locusts. . 275 pp. 11 x 17 cm.  Calf on board, very scuffed and worn, text block detached; Only part of map of author's travels, showing western Africa, remains. Poor condition. (4820)  $60.00 Nautical/Travel/History
Gun and Torpedo Drills for the United States Navy, prepared under the direction of the Bureau of Navigation, Navy Department by Lieutenant Edward W. Eberle, U.S.N. 1901 Annapolis, MD: U.S. Naval Institute. Author Eberle (1864-1929) graduated from the Naval Academy in 1885, and wrote this book, the first of its kind, after service as turret officer aboard USS Oregon  in the Spanish-American War. Later, in 1923, he became Chief of Naval Operations. Drill of 3, 4, 5 and 6-inch rapid-fire guns for five or six men per gun: Captain, Plugman, Loader, 2 or 3 Shellmen. Drills for 5, 6, 7 and 8-inch quick-fire guns with seven or eight men per gun.  Includes detailed instructions and commands for loading, unloading. Drill of a pair of 8-inch B.L.R. mounted in turret, with an ammunition-lift for each gun, 10 men, five for each gun. Drill for pair of 10, 12 or 13-inch B.L.R. mounted in turret. Secondary gun drills, including 1-pdr. Maxim Automatic Gun. Detailed notes for Turret Mounts. Smith and Wesson Navy Revolver. Krag-Jorgensen Rifle (.30 inch). Torpedo Drills for Whitehead Torpedo. Details on Whitehead Torpedo.  Tables for Schedule of Exercises, Regulations for Target Practice, tables for Subcaliber Practice. For Torpedo firing, Range Table. 222 pp.           10 x 14.6 cm. Leather cover with gilt lettering and Naval Institute seal, with cover flap. Text on high-quality fine paper. Inside front hinge cracked. This copy issued to Commanding Officer USS Monadnock. Leather flap has 6 cm of biopredation along fold.  Fair. (7976) $130.00. Naval/History

German Naval officers and sailors in Albanian Swamp, 1913

In Fjord und Mittelmeer Fahrten eines Kleinen Kreuzers [In German] von Richard v. Stosch (author of "Vom Seekadetten zum Seeoffizier") 1914 Berlin, Germany: Ernst Siegfried Mittler und Sohn, Königliche hofbuchhandlung, Hochstraße 68-71.  Author, Richard von Stosch, Kapitänleutnant, writes his "Vorwort" from Konstantinopel (now Istanbul) in September 1913. Story of cruise of  German cruiser Breslau in the Baltic and North Sea, including Norwegian Fjords, then into the Mediterranean Sea. Photos of sailors and ship at Swinemünde (now in Poland), then in Valetta, Malta and Port Said, photos of Beirut and Baalbek, Bucht von Smyrna, photo of Der Scheich der tanzenden Derwische, (Sheikh of the Whirling Dervishes); expedition to Skutari, Albania and photo of Serbische Maschinengewehre and ruins at Skutari, photo of earnest looking sailors and officers in very tall grass (In den Sümpfen der Bojana) in wilderness between Montenegro and Albania.  This account, all in German, may give some clues to the hazy history of combat in this area at the end of the Ottoman Empire, when Austro-Hungarians and Germans supposedly fought the Serbs at Skutari. 162 pp. 11.8 x 19.6 cm. Decorated paper on board, worn, paper on spine is gone. Inscription on dedication page is dated "Kiel, 15 Februar 1914." Good. (1832) $50.00. Naval/History

Jane's Fighting Ships, 1942 [Issued June 1943] Founded in 1897 by Fred T. Jane, 46th Year of Issue 1943McMurtrie, Francis E., A.I.N.A., Editor. New York, NY: The MacMillan Co.  Forward to this book notes the tremendous difficulty of preparing this edition, with secrecy on part of combatants and neutrals, efforts to obscure or propagandize, and ships being sunk daily. Frontispiece photo of HMS Exeter, Royal Navy cruiser that bore the brunt of action with the German "pocket battleship" Admiral Graf Spee at the Battle of the Plate on December 13, 1939. Text notes that, while the Graf Spee was scuttled, Exeter was completely refitted and returned to combat. She was sunk by Japanese air attack at the Battle of the Java Sea in 1942. This fascinating real-timre record of naval action in World War II shows the ships that survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (Dec. 7th, 1941), even noting changes to them as result of repairs after the attack. Also with 62 pages of advertising for everything you need to outfit a warship. 582 pp. + 62 pp. adv. 31 x 20 cm. Light blue cloth on board with gilt lettering. Edges worn, tiny white paint spots on cover, good. (6985) $90.00.  Naval/World War II

U.S. Navy Regulations, 1865; Regulations for the Government of the United States Navy. [Book belonged to Ens. James H. Bunting, recognized for his action in helping to destroy a Confederate salt work in 1864.] 1865 Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.  Naval Regulations book belonged to  "James. H. Bunting, U.S. Frigate Potomac", who is recognized in history of Civil War for his work in leading a naval party from USS Ethan Allen to destroy a South Carolina salt work. Navy Regulations include Regulation Circular No. 1 signed by Gideon Welles, Civil War Secretary of the Navy, August 1, 1865; Regulation Circular No. 4, by Welles, dated Aug. 22, 1866, detailing books to be carried aboard a cruising vessel by midshipmen. 345 pp. 12.5 x 19 cm. Blue cloth on board, quite worn, front and back outer spine cracked, 1 cm sword, etc. puncture in book penetrates first 120 pages. Poor. (3761) $150.00. Naval/Civil War/History
[Boat crews from U.S.S. Ethan Allan, Acting Master Isaac A. Pennell, landed at Cane Patch, near Murrell's Inlet, South Carolina, and destroyed a salt work which Pennell, who led the expedi-tion himself, described as "much more extensive than I expected After mixing most of the 2,000 bushels of salt into the sand of the beach, the Union sailors fired the four salt works as well as some 30 buildings in the surrounding area. The next day, off Wither's Swash, Pennell sent Acting Master William H. Winslow and Acting Ensign James H. Bunting ashore with two boat crews to destroy a smaller salt work.]

Popular Mechanics Magazine, written so you can understand it, 50th Anniversary Year, February 1952, Vol. 97 No. 2 Chicago, IL: Popular Mechanics Company. Cover shows U.S. Navy Landing Ship Dock USS Lindenwald, LSD-6 with stern doors open and flooded down to receive landing craft.  Accompanies article, "Mother of the Minesweepers" by Richard F. Dempewolff. Story about sweeping mines in Wonsan Harbor, Korea, in October, 1950. New use for World War II amphibious ships and boats. "Detroit Listening Post" by Siler Freeman. "1952 may go down as the year of the small car"--Nash's Rambler, Kaiser-Frazer's Henry J, and Willys-Overland's first passenger car since World War II days, and soon, a smaller Hudson "Rust Meets its Worst Enemy"by Eric Bennett. "In Battle, There's Always One More River to Cross" by Michael Day. Story about U.S. Army Engineers building "packaged" bridges in Korea. 50th Anniversary Feature: "Revolution on the Farm, 1902-1952" by Wheeler McMillen. 17 x 24 cm. Magazine, very good. (7039) $21.00. Naval/Scientific/Technology

Coaster's and Fisherman's Guide, and Master's and Mate's Manual: Laws of the Sea. Including the Passenger Laws of 1819, '47, '48 and '49 by Butts, Isaac Ridler 1849 Boston, MA: I.R. Butts, No. 2 School Street. Butts (1795-1882) published a whole mass of guide books  for Sailors, Seamen and Fishermen. This Seaman's Assistant provides guidance for Rights of Merchant Seamen, including hiring, when they may desert, right to salvage, wages (including tables) and punishment. "...a master might be excused for knocking a seaman down, under the influence of sudden passion, from provocation by language of gross insolence.....(further) kicking and beating the fallen seaman ...would not be justified."  "The master is not justified in stripping a seaman naked, and inflicting  a severe punishment with a cat; at least not for ordinary violation of the ship's discipline." Also included are Coaster's Guide, Fisherman's Guide, including Bounty in Cod Fisheries, Mackerel Fishery, Pickled Fish; Shipmaster's Manual, Passenger Vessels (Act of 1847); In Appendix is Navy Ration for victualling, which stipulates 4 lbs. of beef per week per man, 3 lbs. pork, 1 lb. flour, 1/2 lb. raisins or dried fruit, and 1 3/4 pints of spirits.  Also guidance for Common Carriers, Marine Insurance and Book-keeping.. 120 pp. 11 x 18 cm. Paper on board with cloth tape spine, parts of cloth tape on spine missing, inside back hinge cracked, pencil inscriptions on back pastedown and back endpaper. Fair. (4742) $190.00. Nautical

Uncle Sam's Navy, Historical Fine Art Series, Vol. IV No. 3, April 19, 1898 Philadelphia, PA: Historical Publishing Co. This series has been prepared for the public, eagerly devouring whatever news is published about our Navy.   Photos of funeral of victims of the Maine disaster,  Capt. Sigsbee, former captain of USS Maine; Court of Inquiry in session; Gen. Fitzhugh Lee, consul General of Cuba. Photo of Gen. Blanco y Arenas, Spanish leader in Cuba.  Photos of officers and crew in Maine. 16 pp. 35 x 28 cm. Paper booklet, crease on cover page,  good. (5779) $30.00. Navy/Nautical

Uncle Sam's Navy, Historical Fine Art Series, Vol. IV No. 3, April 26, 1898 Philadelphia, PA: Historical Publishing Co. This series has been prepared for the public, eagerly devouring whatever news is published about our Navy.   Photos of Spanish battleship Pelayo, Spanish cruisers Almirante Oquendo and Viscaya. Photos of crew of cruiser New York, deck crew of Yorktown, ship's company of Maine, and photo of a Minstrel show aboard USS Maine. Photos of gun crews drilling with heavy ordnance, machine and Gatling guns. 16 pp. 35 x 28 cm. Paper booklet, 10 cm. closed tear on cover page,  good. (5780) $30.00. Navy/Nautical.

United States Navy, The ,  pictures by E. Muller, Jr. with a foreword by Rear-Admiral Bradley A. Fiske ©1917 Chicago, IL: Rand McNally & Company. Photos of super dreadnoughts Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada, Oklahoma, New York, Texas; crew scenes; Marines; swim call; holystoning; Guantanamo drilling; coaling operation; Armored Cruisers Pittsburgh, Pueblo, North Carolina, Montana, San Diego; submarines. 31 x 23 cm. Red cloth on board with tape spine, lettered for library use; Discarded from Concord Free Library, small closed tears on bottom of many pages, with tape repairs. Thus, poor. (4464) $30.00. Navy/Nautical

U.S. Naval Academy Lucky Bag for 1946: A chronicle of the activities and achievements of the Class of 1946 Iselin, Donald Grote, Editor-in-Chief. 1945 Annapolis, MD: United States Naval Academy. This large, handsome book features an eagle with talons extended, flying over a fleet in an embossed, blue and gilt cover design. This class spent only three years at the Academy, graduating in 1945, in time to join the Fleet in World War II. This book features photo of Franklin D. Roosevelt as Commander in Chief, and also Harry Truman as President, since FDR died before this class graduated. Illinois Gov. Daniel Walker was member of this class, as were Rear Admiral Chuck Grojean. Endpapers feature The Laws of the Navy. 599 pp. 28 x 36 cm. Cloth on board with embossed design in blue and gilt; spine gilt faded, very good. Book weighs about 8 lbs. (8070) $80.00. Navy/World War II

Ship's Business Log of Brig SS Russia and Barque Archimedes  ca. 1846-1869, for Samuel Sweetser, Managing Owner; E.D. Lane, Master    1846 Yarmouth, ME: S. Sweetser, Owner. 81 pp. 20.8 x 32 cm. Detailed record of expenses of merchant ships owned by Samuel Sweetser-- first, Brig Russia, operating between Yarmouth and Portland, ME; New York; Newport, RI; New Orleans; Norfolk, VA;  Matanzas, Cuba; Montego Bay, Jamaica; Baltimore, MD;  Vera Cruz, Mexico; New Castle, England; Elsinor, Denmark; Sligo and Galway, Ireland and St. Petersburg, Russia.  Ships carried mostly freight, but sometimes passengers, but there are no passenger lists.  Accounts include loading potatoes, turnips, milk, eggs, pork and beef for crew, duck for sail repairs, pilot fees, port charges, customs charges, blacksmith charges, watchman fees, laborers, pay to crew, more.  Gives an interesting glimpse into the business of two ships, one barque and one brig, plus one page on the Bark Lucy Ellen, all apparently with E.D. Lane as Master.   Quarter leather ledger with marbled paper cover. Eighty intact pages contain records in elegant calligraphy, but there are several places where owners must have cut out parts of pages. Very good. (8333) $240.00.  Nautical/ Ephemera     

   [ This Blog is modified from one published Jan. 2, 2012]       

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