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VD Shorts

Every day's a holiday and every meal's a banquet on the bitchin boats.

How To Become Famous

What's In a Name

Black Suits and Dark Glasses

E-3 Summit Meetings

Who Did It

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Contribute one of your short stories to be published on the VD web. There are loads of memorable quickies that your mates would enjoy remembering. There are undoubtedly some that we may not be so keen to remember.

Rules for "VD Shorts" story submission: Life is nothing without rules although it is hard to imagine a bunch of sewer pipe sailors agreeing to obide any set of rules, but none the less, I have rules. After reading some recent submissions, rather colorful ones I might say, it occurred to me that I should draw a line in the sand and tell you what I am not willing to put in print. I can remember some incidents that may still bring a smile but I guarantee you will not find them printed here. I will not print anything referring directly or indirectly to some human body parts (you know which ones). I will not print the "F" word in addition to some other unmentionables. I will not print pictures that may contribute to matrimonial discord, especially pictures of your former best buddy cavorting with a local bar girl (even if it was true love). Seeing as how we are a little older, some a lot, I imagine that we are all a little mellower, again, some a lot, so I imagine this should not be a big deal to most of you. If anyone has a real problem with this they can email me (which may be ignored at my discression) or elect someone else to manage this Internet site who may not have rules. Regards, the Webmaster.

Submit your short story with a picture if you have one to

Contributed by Royce Lewis

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How To Become Famous

I learned the hard way how to achieve instant shipboard fame. We had just finished a week of operations off San Diego. It was late Friday and we were headed for home (Point Loma). I was on the helm and we were cruising at full (flank) speed. Seas were calm and the helm was taking very little attention.

I have forgotten what ever was going on in the control room that had me standing with my back to the helm. What happened next though, I will never forget. Suddenly the boat healed way over to port. The OOD hollered over the MC "What the hell is going on down there." I jerked back to the wheel and to my horror the compass spinning like a top and the rudder was jammed against the right full stops. The rudder had a habit of creeping to the right if you made an adjustment and didn’t leave the wheel in exactly the correct neutral position. I had committed the sin of not paying attention to what I was doing. I was mortified (scared….. &%^$less) and would have dearly loved to find a hole to crawl into.

For me it was instant fame. After I got the boat back on course the OOD hollered, "Get that man off the helm." Of course the Skipper, XO, and COB all quickly appeared in the control room. Then and there I wished I was dead. I had potentially endangered the ship. More importantly, we never made it back to the speed we had before the incident which meant I had cost the crew some valuable minutes of liberty. Needless to say, I was the object of merciless ridicule and harassment for some time, but I did get over it. I was redeemed when eventually I was assigned as battle stations helmsman until I made 2nd and was moved from lookouts and planes to the more cushy electronics watches.

Another Royce Lewis contribution

What's In a Name

One of my best friends on the VD was Doug Uhl. Doug had quite a unique personality (something that could be said about most individuals in the crew). Despite being a good friend, Uhl continually harassed me about my name. "What kind of a name is Royce. Your parents must have been nuts to give you a name like that." It went on and on.

Uhl was married and one day he and his wife were visiting the boat. Doug was up to his usual harassment when his wife piped up and said to him, "You've got nothing to talk about with a name like yours." His face was immediately screwed up with alarm. He was trying to shut her up but too late to stop her from saying to me, "His real name is Walter Douglas Milo Uhl.

It was plain to see that this was something he did not want to become general knowledge. Of course that made it a sure bet that the whole crew would know within minutes, and they did. I spread the word just as fast and far as I could. Soon he was known to the crew as Milo and it wasn't long before his new handle appeared above his dungaree shirt pockets.

by Wally Gage, TMC-SS, USS Volador SS-490, 1956-59. This one is not so short but it is good so take a minute and give it a read.

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Black Suits and Dark Glasses

It was 1957 and the USS Volador was in the shipyard in Yokosuka Japan. We had just returned from an operation somewhere north after a flooding incident in the maneuvering room. It was a time for the boat to have a general upkeep and some well deserved liberty.

This is a No Sh***er about two of the crew and their quest for a memorable time ashore. The two were a First Class Cook named George Councilman and a Second or Third Class Quartermaster by the Name of Spike Frowler. The reason for some doubt about Spikes rank was that Spike went up and down the ranks frequently.

Both sailors were exceptional at there jobs while they were at sea but had their problem when it came to liberties. Spike especially had a problem knowing when it was time to return to the boat.

This particular liberty was no exception. George was a day late in returning to the boat and Spike was about three or four days in returning. Needless to say that the next step in being that late in returning was a Captain Mast. I was a TM3 (SS) in the forward torpedo room which as you know is just forward of the forward battery and "Officers Country" The Officers Wardroom is just through the hatch from the forward torpedo room and if the watertight door is open or ajar the happenings in the wardroom can be heard if you listen hard enough. The Captains Mast was being held in the wardroom and the watertight door had been left ajar. This is what was heard in the forward torpedo room from the wardroom.

The first to attend the Captains Mast was George Councialman. First was the opening of the mast. ( Yata Yata Yata) Captain:

Councilman, what do you have to say for yourself in defense of you returning to the boat late.

Councialman: Well Captain, Frowler and I went ashore on Friday with intentions of taking pictures to send home to our families. (Neither George or Spike were married.) After stopping at the EM Club to get some film we decided to go to Tokyo for some picture taking there. The next train to Tokyo didn't leave for two hours so we decided to stop by the White Hat Bar and the Starlight Bar for a couple of drinks and wait for the train. As I remember it Captain, we missed the first train so we had a few more drinks while waiting for the next train. Finally we did catch the train to Tokyo and I think it was the same day. I don't really remember getting to Tokyo but I'm sure we didn't because Spike said we didn't.

The next thing I remember was coming back through the main gate in a cab and trying to get back aboard ship on time. I guess I must have been a little late. I really don't have much else to add except that it won't happen again Captain.

Captain: I'm going to take into account that you have had a clean record for over a year now and only give you a two weeks restriction. (Next Case)

It was Spike's turn.

The next to attend the Captains Mast was Spike Frowler.

Again, the opening of the mast. ( Yata Yata Yata)

Captain: Frowler, what do you have to say in defense of you returning to the boat late.

Frowler: Well, its was like this Captain! As you know, I a very devout family man. I felt it was my duty to get some pictures of the foreign countries that I visit so Councilman and I decided to go to Tokyo to get pictures for our families. (Keep in mind neither are married) We went ashore on Friday afternoon and stopped at the EM club to get film and train tickets to Tokyo. Not wanting to slight our shipmates that were at the White Hat Bar and Starlight bar we stopped in to have a quick drink with them. I was careful not to drink a lot so that we wouldn't miss our train. Unfortunately Councilman started to drink probably more than he should and caused us to miss the first train. I figured if I could just get him away from the bars and get us to Tokyo we could take the pictures for our families and maybe visit some temples while we were there. By the time that we were on the train Councilman was getting pretty drunk so I took him to the head to try to sober him up.

It was at this point that two men in black suits with dark glasses approached us and wanted to know if they could help. I declined and thanked them for the offer. After we returned to our seats back in our car the same two men came and sat next to us. They said that they noticed that we were wearing dolphins and wondered if we were stationed aboard a submarine. I told them yes we were and that we were on our way to Tokyo to take pictures for our family and to visit some temples. They said that they were civilians that worked at the sub base in Yokosuka and would be happy to show us around in Tokyo. They mentioned that they had spent a great deal of time there and knew the city quiet well. By this time George had passed out from drinking too much and probably doesn't remember any of this. I remembered that we shouldn't talk to anyone regarding our submarine duties so when they started asking questions about the submarine that we were on I became suspicious and told them they should leave. That's when they pulled a gun on us and told me to get my friend ready to get off at the next stop.

George was still asleep so one of them held a gun on me and the other one got George to his feet and we got off at gun point. I wasn't sure where we were. We were met by two other men that were also in black suits and dark glasses.

They put us into a big black car and blindfolded us. They drove for about thirty minutes and stopped. They got us out of the car and took us inside of a house. They took the blindfolds off of us and started asking us questions about our boats operations. Of course we said nothing and gave them no information at all. They decided to split us up. I noticed that they gave George something more to drink. I'm sure they were trying to loosen him up to get him to talk. About this time they brought in a girl. She was very good looking and she said that they were holding her captive also. They left us alone in the room and there were no windows and the door had been locked.

She said that she was scared that they were going to kill us if we didn't tell them what they wanted to know. She wondered what it was that they wanted to know from me? I knew that she was probably just a plant so I didn't tell her anything either. Of course she tried to seduce me but being the good family man that I am I resisted her advances.

This went on for what seemed like two days. They keep George drunk so I'm sure that he didn't remember any of this. On the second day I think it was during a head break that they allowed, I was inadvertently put in the head at the same time that George was there. There was a window in the head so we got it open and I got George out of the window. As I was about to climb out they wanted to know what was going on in there. In order to give George time to make his escape I talked to them through the door. After a short time they got the door open and removed me back to my room. Needless to Say that

they were upset because George escaped. Two of the four men left to look for George. The remaining two men stayed with me and continued to pump me for information. Of course Captain, I told them nothing.

By the next day the supply of food that the men had was gone. One of them left to get supplies and that's when I made my move. I overpowered him in a massive struggle, tied him up and escaped. I managed to get to the train station to get back here to the boat. Of course the men who held us captive had taken our money so I had no money to buy a train ticket back to Yokosuka.

I knew that I needed to get back to the boat because I was late. So, I borrowed some money from the Train Master to buy a ticket back here to Yokosuka.

After all that I went through to avoid telling any military secrets and escaping from my captors I felt it was my duty to do whatever was necessary to get back to the boat as soon as possible. After all, the Train Master was gracious enough to lend me the money to buy the train ticket to get back. And I'm sure that you can appreciate the predicament that I was in. So I was wondering Captain, if when this Captain's Mast is over if you would give Special Liberty so I could go pay the Train Master back the money that he lent me to get back to the boat.

That's about all I have to say Captain.

Captain: Frowler, that's the best story and the biggest pile of Bulls ***t that I have ever heard and I think it deserves all the consideration that I can give. Two weeks restriction!

I have to agree with the Captain, that was the biggest pile of Bulls ***t and also one of the best Sea Stories that I ever heard.

Wally Gage Ex TMC (SS) USS Volador SS490 56-59

Contributed by Dusty Darnell

E-3 Summit Meetings

by Bob 'Dex' Armstrong

Remember your non-qual days? Back when the entire submarine force seemed hell bent on convincing you that you might be the dumbest sonuvabitch ever born in North America? In Squadron Six, being a non-qual was a lot like being a whore at a logging camp... You got used and abused, and everyone told you things would get better once you 'learned the ropes.'

There was one place where the non-qual union held their meetings... Our 'Union Hall'. It was a location that belonged exclusively to the non-quals... Our place... A place where you could go whine, moan, bitch about the old bastards, the lifers... The Chiefs... The qualified sonuvabitches whose soul entertainment in life seemed to be making our lives hell.

Our place was the dumpster area on the pier.We used to congregate there after evening chow. We stood around... Caught a smoke or two and exchanged notes. "Jeezus... What's it like on your boat? You guys have a bunch of old coots who sit around drinking coffee and talking about old decommissioned boats they used to ride? Brain dead bastards." "Yeah... We've got 'em. You guys got a lot of married guys?" "Hell yes... All they want is for you to get qualified so they can hit you up for a stand-by. They drive you nuts, showing you pictures of their kids." "When you volunteered for the boats, didja think it was gonna be like this?" "Hell no…thought it was gonna be an adventure."

"What? You mean like in the war movies? Up scope... Range... Mark... Angle... Mark... Down scope... Fire one... Fire two... Time to target? 45 seconds... Boom, boom and there goes the Fishhead Maru?

Hell Dex, that was 1945... This is 1960." "You ever see a gahdam recruiting poster showing a smiling bluejacket with a wirebrush and a chipping hammer? A dirty apron? Haulin' shitcans down the pier?" "Hell no... Always show some First Class Bosun' mate buyin' flowers for some good lookin' virgin in Greece or guys in whites riding a rickshaw in Hong Kong, grinning like idiots."

"Life on these worn out, stinking things has to be the bottom of the tank... Man, I think they sold us a ticket to the bottom of the gahdam tank" "You ever see the inside of one of those nukes? Jeezus, those monsters have damn near everything. Hell, damn E-3s get their own racks." "No shit?" "No shit, Horsefly... Got little privacy curtains... Got head phones to listen to their multi-channel ships' entertainment system... And a built in reading light." "You're lying¦" "No shit. The damn things are clean... Smell like the inside of a high school girl's lingerie drawer... Everything is bright and new" "That beady eyed shrimp, Rickover gets anything he wants. The bastard must have a movie of Congress at a goat gang bang." "Did you ever consider going nuke?" "Nah... Too friggin' stupid. Besides, you don't see guys wearing combat patrol pins riding those big monsters." "Yeah, but they get their spare parts gift wrapped... They don't have to steal stuff off the tender and canibalize boats heading to the scrap yard to keep going."

"Screw'em... None of 'em ever sunk a damn thing that could shoot back." "Anyone going to D.C.? Looking for a sharing gas ride this weekend."

"Anyone showin' a decent movie tonight?" "Cubera's got Splendor in The Grass... Natalie Wood."

"Carp's got some shoot 'em up with Kirk Douglas."

"Geedunk truck should be around in thirty minutes."

"Hey Jack... Got a smoke?" "Jeezus Dan... You quit buyin' smokes and just go to bummin' off everyone?" "How bout a smoke without the sermon. I notice you don't seem to have a problem draining beer pitchers you never toss in for."

"Screw you." "Just gimmie a smoke... Got a match?"

"Good evening gentlemen." "Good evening, sir." "What's going on?" "Just talking treason... Plotting mutinies... Cussing our senior petty officers and swapping Bible stories." "Carry on"

"You know that guy?" "Naw, must be a nuke."

A year later we were all sitting around in our respective control rooms... Drinking
coffee and ragging the non-quals. "Hey kid... Did you ever get trim and drain signed off? Jeezus, you are one thick sonuvabitch... You'll never make it"

I had become my own worst nightmare... And I loved riding the old wornout boats.
We were all fat, dumb and happy and Hyman couldn't have sold us a nuke... Even if
he threw in six nekkit blondes and his pay grade.

Contributed by Gerald Drumm


I reported to the Volador in Nov. of 1956. I had just completed the Senior conversion program (1 Year) at Treasure Island converting from EN1(SS) to ET1(SS). I reported to the boat at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard where the Volador was just starting an overhaul.

The skipper was pleased to have a senior ET reporting aboard, then saw that I was a convertee. He started asking me about all this gear that I had never heard about, until he hit on the Loran "A". At least I knew one of them. BLR(no) SS radar (no).

When we left the shipyard, I was very surprised to find out that I would be standing Helm watches underway. The COB (Hoffman) felt this was appropriate, and we would alternate between the helm and radar. I kind of enjoyed the helmsman watch, and became the maneuvering watch helmsman. I got to be very proficient at it.

Along with some other jokesters, Spike Froehler (QM), Bob King (QM) and myself, we would make bets on what we could get away with while steaming at sea. It depended who the OD was on what we would do. If it was Lt. Mathis we wouldn't try, but if it were the junior officers, we would do complete 360 degree turn (never got caught).

Anyway, this leads to the BIG JOKE that was played on me with 4.0 perfection. I will set the stage-- Midwatch dark in the conning tower, I was at the helm. Every hour the QM of the watch would say to the helmsman "injection temperature" at which time the helmsman would call maneuvering and  ask for the injection temperature. To do this, the dial of the sound powered phone would have to be placed on 11 (Maneuvering). 12( Aft Torp Room) was as far as the dial would go, so in the dark you would twist the dial to the end, then back it off 1. You knew then that you had maneuvering and would turn the little handle(Magneto ringer)to call them.

Well well, wouldn't you know that the Captains phone was exactly 180 degrees from maneuverings on the dial. The Qm said "injection temperature." I went to 12 backed it off 1 and gave the handle a little twist- nothing. I gave the handle a couple of twists- nothing. Boy I took that handle and was revolving it with great speed when the Captain came on line and said "Captain, what the hell do you want."

I hung up in a hurry and then realized that I had heard the Captains phone all the way to the conning tower. The guys in the control room were laughing so hard that they were hysterical. I realized that I had been had, somebody (Edwards??) had removed the pin from the pointer on the phone dial and reversed the pointer 180 degrees. This was one of the best stunts that I have ever seen, and to this day, don't know who did it-WHO DID IT.

Jerry Drumm Volador 1956-1958. LT USN Ret.

Contributed by Gerald Drumm The Allowable Radius by Bob ‘Dex’ Armstrong

We used to get liberty in increments of 48 and 72 hours. Each came with something called ‘the allowable radius’… This translated to the distance, that some goofy bastard somewhere who set navy policy, thought a bluejacket operating on a migratory grape-picker’s wages that Uncle Sam paid, could responsibly go and return from. We figured the sonuvabitch had never been nineteen and must have an anvil grafted to his leg.

An enterprising E-3 submarine sailor with proper planning, could go from Norfolk to the moon and back in 72 hours. We traveled light… You could toss enough gear in an A.W.O.L. bag to to survive an expedition to Mt. Everest. We could stretch a 72 to an operating radius that included multiple time zones. We put elasticity in an allowable radius that would have amazed the guy who wrote Around The World in Eighty Days.

Adrian Stuke could go from Norfolk to Quincy, Illinois and make morning quarters standing tall on a 72. He was the master… No one could expand the allowable radius like the ‘Stookeyman’… He could cover real estate faster than the Indianapolis 500.

It was a time when six lads would pile into a car that looked like it wouldn’t make it around the block and drive night and day… Driving in rotating shifts, eating rations packed by on board cooks in on the conspiracy to violate the allowable radius policy, time after time.

A lot of what went on at the bottom end of the submarine social scale was based on ‘us against the system’. Not because we had a smart-ass mindset… Not at all. We did it for the same reason the navy selected us in the first place. We were bright… We could work as a well-coordinated team to overcome obstacles and find ways to get the job done. We thought on our feet and looked at regulations as applying to the poor, dumb bastards who didn’t own Dolphins… The sheep who rode surface craft, wore the uniform of the day and spent their lives being herded around by doofus idiots called ‘Master at Arms’.

I am sure that there were competent MAAs, but in my short, bottle rocket naval career, I never met one. They were usually dull-witted oafs that had percolated up through the naval rate system and reached a point where longevity bounced up against the ability to do a decent job. Most of the dumb idiots couldn’t tie their shoes on a dark night, so the navy gave them a badge and made them shipboard cops.

The best entertainment a qualified E-3 ever had was the game of putting stuff over on the tender MAAs. We made monkeys out of them on a regular basis. They hated us… We stole them blind… Not for personal gain but to keep the old smokeboats going.

The reason I mention these dimwits in conjunction with stretching a 72 is because one of the pea-brains once caught us crossing the Orion, hauling ten cans of Spam in a couple of AWOL bags… They were intended to cover us for a two-day trip to a North Carolina beach.

This porked-up monster caught us at the lower brow and inspected our AWOL bags… Found ten cans of Spam in those green navy issue cans.

"What do we have here?"

He was licking his chops like Brer Fox… Make that Brer Bear.

"Spam, chief… You have trouble reading the big words on the cans?"

"And what in the hell are we doing with it tucked in our bags, gentlemen?"

"We’re hauling it over to the duty cook on the Redfin."

"In an AWOL bag?"

"Did you ever try to stuff ten cans of Spam in a couple of jumper pockets?"

"Well, gentlemen…"

(‘Gentlemen’ was a smart-ass term the goofy bastards used when they thought they had a boat sailor by the short curlies…)

"Well gentlemen, let’s take a little stroll over to the Redfin and see if they are expecting you."

Mr. Dick Tracy Chief Bosun’ Doofus walked us over to the Redfin where we unloaded the Spam and apologized for the delay in delivery. The topside watch went aft and called down to the cook, who came topside having figured out that a couple of idiots were tap-dancing in some kind of doo-doo.

"Well, it’s about gahdam time… Where have you two stupid bastards been?

How many cans are there?"


"Thassa ‘bout right… Who’s your ugly friend?"

"MAA off the Orion."

"What can we do for you, chief?"

"Nothing… You call for this Spam?"

"Does a hobby horse have a hickory dick?"

The whole squadron was our briar patch.

If you worked the system wearing Dolphins, it was like you were bulletproof and there was always somebody out there to throw you a life jacket and toss you a line. And with ten bucks, a tank of cheap gas and a 72, you could stretch an allowable radius like a fat girl’s garter belt.

And we did.

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