Sea Stories

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My first boat was the USS WILLIAM H. BATES (SSN 680) back in the seventies.

We spent so much time going north and south we began to think our home port was at sea.

We were getting underway for a four-month northern run out of Groton. We set the maneuvering watch, and as normal, the Diesel Operator assumed his responsibilities. Then he went to all A-gang spaces to make the last trash run, gathering the garbage and hauling it to the pier. He never came back.

Apparently, his wife had called him just before they set the maneuvering watch and said, "If you do not come home now,  she and the family wouldn't be there." He had to make a choice between being a submariner or being married and the father to their three children.

Quite the dilemma. So he made his decision and left the boat. We didn't notice until after the first watch was set, and no one could find him.

That was almost funny, searching the whole boat, each compartment, each level, and being unable to find him. He had been there and now he was not.

Later we would find out that he had hidden behind the dumpster until we pulled away from the pier. He walked to the gedunk, changed into his civilian clothes, and went home to his wife and family. He would turn  himself in the next day.

We in A Division were port and starboard and really pissed.

When we got back to port he explained why he did what he did. Of course we understood and had a big laugh.

The XO told him that he should have come to talk to him and he would have taken time to help him even tho he had just set the maneuverings watch and was busy as all hell.

As you might imagine, we were rolling on the deck laughing with that statement. Those were the years of not enough boats to do the missions yet the missions had to be done.

So being with your family was a great luxury when it happened.

I salute my fellow submariner brothers whose marriages survived these times. Many of my brothers were divorced because they were never home in the old days.

I truly hope it is better now!

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U.S. Naval Institute News

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