Miscellaneous Short Stories

NAUTILUS Sea stories – 1968-71

Fall 1968 – Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

Filling the pot – What is this? Well, after the new core is put into place by a heavy crane, and the Top Hat with all the control rods is lowered and bolted down and all the electrical is made to the Rods, and after the primary was sealed up and a valve line completed, we could get town to filling the primary system with primary grade fresh pure water. Well is is more involved than that. There had to be a crew member and a yard bird at every valve and pump and watch station, an Officer from Ships forces in forward machinery where the charging pumps were plus the EOOW in Maneuvering and an Officer over on the Barge where the fresh water was with it’s own pump etc. The catch was, only ships force could operate ships machinery valves and only yard birds could operate their stuff, plus Westinghouse and Code 08 (Naval Reactors) wanted to watch all of us. Well we finally got started and I (Bruce Kinne) was stationed to control the charging pump locally from Forward Machinery when directed via the Sound powered phones from Maneuvering. The flow rate on the pump since it was designed for high Pressure charging was small, about 10 gpm. So we were looking at least three hours to fill the reactor and the piping to the Primary Loop TH & TC stop valves. The idea was that the stand pipe (show water level in the core) would tell us how much was in visually, while the two pumps flow meters would tell us the rate and the level indication on the barge would tell us how much we pumped.

After Three hours no water level and our readings indicated that we had pumped over 1000 gallons from the barge to the reactor vessel. Words gets past, “secure pumping hold on stations”. This of course means wait. And wait we did while Westinghouse called Bettis Pittsburg trying to figure out what was wrong or what to do next.

And we waited. Finally, the word came to pump in another 50 gallons by meter in Forward Machinery where I was. So the Yard bird opens the valve, notes the time, everyone agrees, I open the discharge valve and turn on the pump and put in 50 gallons by meter. No indication by the site glass, all hands secure from pumping, but stay on station. Another three hour call to Bettis, another 50 gallons and still nothing. It is probably appropriate to explain that we were monitoring the bilges levels in the lower level reactor compartment and there was no leakage. The Engineers were stumped. The Core configuration was new but we still had the same control rod configuration. So we should have seen water by now. After more waiting, the order came to continue filling until water was visible at the top of the stand pipe. After another 45 minutes we got the level and called the pot full.

We were never told why, but some civilian must have really screwed up on that one because ships force didn’t.

NAUTILUS Sea stories – Mid 60’s

Len Scherer

It was our 7 month yard period in the 60’s that turned out to be almost two years.

Tommy Robinson, Len Scherer, Ken Shelton and Richy Burke (The Bat Cave). Off loaded all possible equipment from the Radio Shack to a loft over the Bank, we did have a small area on the work barge. Well the bank loft was large with one phone,which was inconvienent because it seems we where always at the other end when it rang. Burke being Burke “Liberated” a phone and hooked it up in one of the cages omitting tapping the splices, one of which grounded to the cage. It wasn’t very long before base security visited us asking if we had phone problems. We being “innocent” picked up the old phone and informed him the line was dead, asking him what was the cause. He said that he did not know but that it was serious for the BANK (of which we where over) had lost their alarm system. As soon as he left Burke deep sixthed the phone he installed, checking the real phone, it worked and somehow the bank had their alarm back.

Short history of the bat cave. You all remember the Batman fad, well my son had a batman book with stickers of the bat signal. Prior to a scheduled “run” we put the stickers on our phone from the radio shack to the conn station. We would answer that phone with “Batcave, Robin”. So that is the story. One day we answered the phone in the usual manner “Batcave Robin”, the reply was “THIS IS BAT MAN”, who said Capt Metzel did not have a sence of humor ??


Tommy Robinson

Back in the early 1960s someone at COMNAVTELECOM decided that submarines should have their own Crypto Rooms. We Radiomen questioned the logic that lead to this decision for several reasons. The foremost reason being that our Radio Room (AKA, Bat Cave) was already designated a secure space and officers and Radiomen had been conducting Crypto operations for years in the sanctity of our Radio Room with no problems. Radiomen perform the majority of Crypto Operations but occasionally an “Officer Eyes Only” message requires an Officers attention, normally either the Communications or Operations Officer. But the orders came down from high and work commenced during the 1964/65 overhaul and eventually we Radiomen became proud owners of a Crypto Room.

Physical space, as you know, is severally limited in a submarine and the Radio Room is no exception. Our Radio Room, located on the starboard side of the Control Room, was a narrow passageway basically with transmitters and other equipment against the pressure hull and two Morse Code (CW) stations and the receivers were inboard. A few feet of space inside the Radio Room just forward of the entry door from Control, was designated Crypto and partitioned with a heavy metal vault door installed. The result was a metal closet roughly the size of a small toilet stall at Wal-Mart. As I recall our Crypto Room contained a small safe for Registered Publications, a chair and KLB-47 Crypto device for encrypting and decrypting messages. A skinny person could just manage to squeeze into the chair with his knees knocking against the KLB-47. The vault door had to be shut and locked from inside the Radio Room essentially trapping the operator.

Sea trials followed completion of the overhaul at NSY Portsmouth, NH and we were happy to be at sea. It was shortly after sea trials and during normal operations that we Radiomen discovered an anomaly. As Nautilus submerged beyond 200 feet depth and the pressure hull contracted our Crypto Room vault door would jam shut, not to be opened until the boat ascended shallower than 200 feet. Occasionally we “trapped” an unsuspecting officer in the vault for the duration of a deep dive. It wasn’t long before this flaw became general knowledge in the wardroom and our fun at their expense was over. The flaw, however, remained a Radio Room qualification question for years.

Tommy “Robby” Robinson, ’63 – ‘67


Vice Admiral Eugene P. “Dennis” Wilkinson (USN ret)
First Commanding Officer USS Nautilus

When a navy ship goes into commission, it is assigned a voice call. The voice call comes out of a book and cannot be a call that has already been assigned. My voice call on Volador was Pokeweed. We made Pokeweed a known name in the Western Pacific with the antisubmarine forces, but it wasn’t as grand as my voice call on Wahoo, which was Old Ace. When I got to Nautilus, the voice call assigned was Club Moss and I hated it. I didn’t want to keep referring to myself as Club Moss, so I decided what the hell, I would get it changed before we even went into commission.

My officers and I looked through the book at all the voice calls that weren’t assigned. Lieutenant Carr, whose wife’s name was Molly, really wanted me to put in for Molly Moe, but I didn’t do that. The call that I liked and that seemed best for Nautilus was Aggravate. I wrote a letter to the CNO, as voice calls were under his office, and requested that my voice call be changed from Club Moss to Aggravate. The letter went up the chain of command and struck a nerve when it reached the Commander in Chief Atlantic Fleet. I don’t know what his voice call was, but it obviously annoyed him because in his forwarding endorsement he wrote, “Forwarded, Recommended, and what’s more I don’t like my voice call either and I want it changed!”

So before Nautilus was built, we got our voice call changed, and over the years Aggravate proved to be a good call. We probably aggravated quite a few ships that we were in contact with while operating against the evaluation forces. At least we tried our hardest to.

NAUTILUS Sea stories – 1968

From ET1(SS) Jon Sutton:

It was sometime in 1968. The Nautilus was at sea playing Russian submarine for a group of Destroyers and the USS Haddo to practice anti-submarine tactics. An exercise was begun and the Nautilus was maneuvering to avoid the hunters. I was in sonar and Lt. Melville Lyman (now retired as a Captain) was in the Conn. Trying lose the hunters, Lt. Lyman called us in sonar and asked “Is there any open waters out there?” I didn’t see any so I told him “not really”. A short time later, I noted that the northwest was now clear of contacts. I called Lt. Lyman on the 27MC to let him know that. He said, “I guess I’ll let you drive awhile” and changed course to the northwest. The only thing we can figure is that when we made the course change, we past under a destroyer and emerged in her baffles and the hunters lost all contact with the Nautilus. Later in the exercise, we lost all contact with the destroyers. We had ended up about 20 miles away from the hunters. It was time to end the exercise, so we came to periscope depth and Lt. Lyman announced our presence on the radio with an announcement that all of us that have ever played hide and seek know and understand, “Olly, Olly, Home Free.”

NAUTILUS Sea stories – 1964

From Len Scherer:

It was 1964, and we were outboard of the Fulton. Richie Burke and I (Len Scherer) had been working on the URC-32 and needed a part. We figured we could “liberate” it from the electronics shop on the tender. So off we go Richie walks up the brow and gets on the tender. I’m right behind him and get a dressing down for my “Dirty,Dirty” shoes. I don’t know what possed me, I told the watch it was all because of the “ERG’s”. Richie looks at me, swollows and turns his head. I go on to explain that we had been near the reactor compartment and as usual I had stayed and talked to the R.O. The time spent there was enough to get many ERG’s, which accumulated in the leather of my shoe’s. I further explained that “ERG’s” always seek the lowest part of the body. HE BOUGHT IT, and let me pass. By this time Richie was around the bulkhead bent over with his hand covering his mouth. Oh, by the way we “FOUND” what we needed in the ET shop.