Part one of our story takes place on the day that the USS Helena was to depart Groton, CT for it’s new Home Port in Pearl Harbor, HI. We were supposed to leave early in the day and all of the watch stations were set in preparation while we waited on the final release from the Commander, Submarines, Atlantic (SUBLANT). We waited, and waited, and waited some more. I never did hear any reason, maybe he was enjoying a beverage at a just-off-base establishment and lost track of time, who knows. We got the call, and were off – happily.
Once upon a time, a long time ago, but not too long ago. There were 16 sonar men. Some were old, some were wise and a few were knubs. This is the story of their journey to the land of sunshine and palm trees as it was told to me.
And so the saga begins. Late as usual with everybody standing around with their thumbs up their asses. Waiting for sublant to wake up and smell the coffee and send Helena away from Groton once and for all. The boys were getting restless knowing that if we don’t get the word, they are going to have to stay in that communist state one more night. Then the word comes with five minutes to spare. It comes and so do we. As the last line goes over, we yell ALOHA! And everybody’s last look at Connecticut was short and grateful.
The maneuvering watch was uneventful. Leading the gang on this unbelievably futile adventure was the incredible admiral C.A. Poling. Being the Omni Present always diligent kind of a guy that he is, the admiral promptly falls asleep.
We traveled fast and shallow, then slow and deep (sometimes too deep) as the fathometer displayed RED SOUNDING. Not to worry though because Helena has a rubber coating so that it can bounce off the bottom easier.
It wasn’t long however before our little clan was surrounded by what seem like every fish and crustacean. The snapping shrimp, Whales of both gender and of course, those damned carpenter fish. Legend has it that the crews of all the enemy vessels detected over the years, when they die, their souls enter the carpenter fish so that the may torment the American sonar men – and its works.