John Roat

 

 

Real Frogmen Stuff

 

My tour of duty with UDT-11 included, what I consider today, my most gratifying operation while in the Teams, UDT or SEAL.  Special Operations on the coast of Vietnam during 1967, operating of the USS Tunny APSS 282[1].  She was a diesel boat, commissioned September 1942.  The TUNNY had a proud history, from World War 11 tell we walked aboard  in 1967 and her crew was determined to keep it that way. 

 

The President of the United States presented the PRESIDENTIAL UNIT CITATION to TUNNY with the following remarks:

 

"For extraordinary heroism in action during her Second War Patrol in the Truk Island Area from March 18 to  April 23, 1943, and her Fifth War Patrol in the Pilau  Islands Area from February 27 to April 11, 1944. By  extensive and aggressive area coverage, the USS  TUNNY established contact on several valuable convoys  and combatant units and boldly penetrated heavy air  and surface screens to close her targets. Despite  severe enemy anti-submarine measures, she pressed  home her attacks with brilliantly executed torpedo  salvos, sinking four ships, including an I-class  submarine, for a total of nearly 21,000 tons, and  extensively damaging six ships, including a prize 42,000  ton MUSASHI class battleship, two aircraft carriers and  a destroyer, totaling 97,000 tons. A stout-hearted  fighting ship, superbly handled by her gallant officers  and men, the TUNNY dealt powerful and damaging  blows against the enemy at a time when be could ill  afford such loss. Her valiant combat record reflects the  highest credit upon herself, her ship's company and the  United States Naval Service."

 

In 1953, the Tunny was converted to a missile firing submarine. She made history while successfully launching the first  REGULUS missile fired from a submarine.  On its deck, aft of the Sail[2], was an oblong structure, the missile hanger.  Its sole purpose was to house the REGULUS Missiles.  To fire their missile, the Tunny would  have to surface, open the hanger and move the REGULUS to firing position.  Keep in mind that a submarine is most vulnerable when on the surface.

 

In her new capacity Tunny would add to its proud history; "TUNNY made ten Nuclear  Missile deterrent patrols and successfully launched one  hundred REGULUS exercise missiles, the only  submarine in history to accomplish such a record feat.  For meritorious services rendered during her deterrent  patrols TUNNY was awarded four Commander  Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet Unit Citations, and one  Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet Commendation"

 

When the Polaris Submarines became Operational in 1965, the Polaris could fire its missiles while submerged, all REGULUS missile submarines became obsolete.  For all of us involved in Special Warfare[3] this was a good day.  In 1966 the TUNNY'S missile hanger was converted into a troop berthing compartment, and she was designated a troop transport submarine  (APSS).  Army Special Forces, Recon Marines, Navy Underwater Demolition and SEAL Teams would safely pull repeated Special Operations with the TUNNY.

 

United States Navy submarines are crowded, tightly packed, with no wasted space.  They are designed to kill our enemies, not for pleasure cursing.  All  spaces are multi-purpose, such as the forward torpedo room,  which also is used for lock-out lock-in  procedures, storage, and birthing.  Yes some of the TUNNY'S crew slept on top of Torpedoes.  Everyone, submariner or special operators most know and follow the rules:  Were you can be, what you can and cannot touch, how much and when you can use water.  On the TUNNY, when underway, you showered with salt water.  Each man was allowed one small sink of fresh water per-day, enough to brush your teeth and wash your face.

 

Submarine sailors are a proud lot, and it's justifiable, those Dolphins they ware don't come easy.  The first step is attending school at New London, Groton Connecticut, for three months.  Once they complete that school they still don't rate pinning on their Dolphins.  Completing Sub School just earns a man, Enlisted or Officer, the chance to be assigned to a Submarine as a trainee.

 

All hands, from the cook to the Captain were required to qualify at every station on the boat. On the old diesel boats, that was around twenty stations. They had to learn to operate each station error free, for a predetermined amount of hours.   The trainee is then given an oral, and a written test on each station.  After achieving qualification on all stations , then and only then, are they eligible for  the real TEST.

 

On submarines in the United States Navy, the Chief of the Boat, known to all hands as the COB, is at the center of everything.  Everything coming down from on high, comes through the COB, everything going up, goes through the COB.   To finally qualify for their Dolphins the trainee takes a little walk through the sub with the COB.  The COB is going to ask some questions, let's say he asked the trainee a question about a cretin valve in the forward torpedo room. 

 

It's not good enough to just know the name of the valve, and what it does.  You had better be prepared to name every valve in that particular system, and what position each must be if the valve you named is open.  Before he gets his Dolphins a Submariner has to be able to do that with every system on the submarine.  When the world turns to Ka KA on a submarine running submerged, there is no time to look it up in some manual, or find an expert.  If the crew doesn't react fast and do it right the first time, that long metal tube may damn be their final resting place. 

 

The Tunny had a great crew, but so do most submarines.  What the Tunny had, that no other submarine I operated of off had, was a troop space.  The old REGULUS Hanger was fitted out for bunking and gear storage.  Most of you would have taken one look at the accommodations and felt ill.  Down the center of the hanger ran three sets of six bunks high, since this was an oval, the center line was the highest part of the room.  There was about fifteen or sixteen inches between bunks.  Not enough space to turn over in, without lifting the guy above.  All our personal, and some our operational gear was heaped in piles on the floor, or hung off the bunks and bulkheads.  The single largest piece of equipment  we had was our Inflatable Rubber Boat Small. I believe we had five of them. Those were stowed in a locker between the inner and outer hull of the Submarine.

 

When our platoon came aboard the TUNNY in Subic Bay Philippines there were twenty-one of us.  Without that troop space, every hand on the submarine would have been Hot Bunking[4].  For me operating off a submarine, is one of those bedrock frogman things, something no amount of discomfort could spoil. As far as I was concerned, that hanger made the TUNNY the most comfortable submarine I ever operated off of.  

 

Before we operated with the TUNNY'S crew, we already knew they could stand toe to toe with the Out to Lunch Bunch[5], on Liberty.  In 1967, Subic Bay Philippines Naval Station was homeport to both the TUNNY and the forward deployed Underwater Demolition Team[6].  Subic Bay was in the running for the wildest liberty port on earth.  Most of the Out to Lunch Bunch had done a little hard core young guy partying with the TUNNY crew, in Subic Bay.  Nothing like a little party hardy young guy craziness, before going on operation in The Nam, to bond us together for a little old guy craziness, WAR.

 

Subic Bay, known far and wide as Pubic Bay, was the Military Reservation  leased to the United States as a Naval Base, by the Government of the Philippines.  Olongapo City was actually part of that Military Reservation.  There was a fence and a gate, between the base and Olongapo, but that was just to keep work and play separate.  I will not bore you with details, but Olongapo had more bars and whores per square inch then any place I had ever been.  They were everywhere side by side, upstairs, downstairs, around back, and across the street.  Most of us sailors and marines stationed there, made no pretense at tourism.  It was nothing more or less then barroom fighting…knee wobbling...gutter crawling . . . drunken lust.  For young men raised in the good old U.S.A. of the fifties, truly culture shock.

 

As in all things Team, our Chief was the key.  Chief Joe L. Smith, was a tall man six foot two or three, with a very calm demeanor.  I worked for him in the Parachute Loft, and he was an all around good guy.  Not that you couldn't get Chief Smith pissed off, I had managed to do that just after I arrived at UDT-11.  He was giving me a little guidance as to my military  career, when my big mouth had placed me in a special place on the Chiefs forever Ka Ka list.  He had been looking at my Service Record[7], and noticed that I had not taken the test for  advancement in Rank, the last two times I had been eligible.  Chief Smith had done all the right things.  Taken me aside, and privately explained the importance of advancement to my military career and my young family.  When I told him I still didn't feel like taking the test, he asked me why?

 

In the United States Navy the first rank with any power attached is E-4 or Third Class Petty Officer, my rank at the time.  My Chief was an E-7, his full title was Chief Petty Officer.  My answer to Chief Petty Officer Joe Smith just proves how young and dumb I was; " Chief, have you ever looked up the word Petty ? It means small and insignificant, who cares about being to a small and insignificant officer?"  As soon as the words escaped my lips, I knew I had Ka Kaed, big time. Of course my Chief, not a small and insignificant officer, by any stretch of the definition, handled my verbal desecration of the last twenty years of his life with Chiefly cool.  He gave me a long quite look, shook his head, and walked off.   From that day on Chief Smith still did his best for me in all things, including making sure I was on every nasty detail[8] that came along.

 

 

As always in the Teams there was a heavy workload.  Platoons would be on deployments, training (both giving and taking), maintaining equipment, and of course swimming and PTing our young green frogmen asses off.  One of the best training courses I took while in the Teams, was at Subic Bay,  a 3/12 day course known as JEST, or Jungle Environmental Survival Training.  You might think there's not much you can learn about the jungle in three and half days, which was exactly my thought before taking the course.

 

The course was run by Negrito's, the earliest known inhabitance of the Philippine Islands.  For the most part they lived as nomadic stone age tribes, in the jungle, and rejected about 90% of all other forms of civilization.  In the area of Subic Bay Naval Station, there were two tribes.  In the 60s, besides running the JEST Training, both tribes were contracted to guard the perimeters of the base that ran through the jungle. They knew more about the jungle then anyone I ever met.  They not only lived in it, got all their food from it, but they believed their forefathers inhabited the animals, and trees that made it up.  What they got for performing there duties, was dump rights.  The Negrito's thought our culture was nuts;  as they saw it, we throw away more then anyone needed to live.  So as long as they guarded the base fence and ran the school , they could remove anything from the Subic Bay dump they wanted.

 

The Negrito's had come to my attention in 1960, as a seventeen year old on one of my first liberties.  I had come across two children over a hundred feet up in a tree near the Subic Bay Naval Exchange[9].  Hell I had been one of those children that climbed tall trees, but these little kids were scaring the crap out of me.  As it turned out they weren't children, they were very small men. When they came down from the tree, I had gone over to see what it was the had wrapped in their loin clothes.  It was bird eggs, they had been gathering dinner.  These guys were naked except for a small loin cloth, and maybe four foot tall. They were well muscled, dark brown and moved with confident grace.  Each had a spear taller then me, six foot one, and a knife that hung to there knees.  One thing struck me right off the bat, these people didn't feel out of place.  Believe me they had my attention, I spent some of my precious liberty time finding out about the Negrito people.

 

I was told one scary rumor that has always stuck in my mind, and whether true or not, was wildly believed among base personal.   It seemed that jet parts were disappearing from a hanger on the Naval Air Station.  When Base Security couldn't  figure out who was doing the steeling, so the Negrito's came under suspicion.  Now the Tribes were not responsible for any security, other then the base fences that ran through the jungles surrounding at least half the base.  Well when they came under suspicion, the Negrito's took matters into their own hands.  They quickly caught two Phillipino civilian employees of the base steeling parts.  The thieves where hung, half dead, from the top of the 12 foot  fence near the base main gate.  The scariest part of the story was;  the tribes had surrounded the area, fully armed and would not let anyone take the two down until they had died.  They had hung there for a day and half, in full view of the inhabitants of Olongapo City.

 

I was also told, that they had resisted all attempts to change their culture, by force when necessary.  The Negrito's  had been successful at this, because they knew the jungle better then anyone.  It boiled down to this: Come after us in our jungle and die.   The Japanese, had learned the lesson the hard way, during W W-2.  Even after winning the Philippine Islands from us, they could not subdue the Negrito people, many Japanese died trying.  One thing that I observed having to do with the Negrito's and the Japanese is the Negrito's have long memories.  Even though the War had ended in 1945, in the 60s when Japanese ships came into Subic Bay, if one of them left their ship, they would be followed by two fully armed Negrito's, every where they went. 

 

The two tribes around the base had free access on and off Subic Bay Naval Reservation.  I don't know what most people thought of the Stone Age tribesmen, but I never saw anyone show a Negrito anything but respect. I had been in Subic Bay when General  of the Army Douglas Mac Arthur had returned to the Philippines for the last time.  The people of the Philippines couldn't have been more excited if Jesus had returned.  The whole island had turned out to see their hero and Tribes of Negrito's had come from all over the islands. 

 

During the festivities  set up around General Mac Arthur's visit was an Open House[10] for the public.  At the time I was stationed aboard the USS Thetis Bay, a helicopter carrier.  My job during the open house was to run the elevator  up and down.  Normally it was used to bring helicopters from the hanger bay to the flight deck, that day it transported the visitors.  The Negro’s loved that elevator, all day I had groups of them, riding up and down, time after time.  The thing that struck me most, was the space everyone gave these little people.  It may have had to do with the fact that they were all armed, big knife, long spear, some with bows. No one else, except the Military Police, were allowed to carry weapons.

 

The first half day of the course was spent in and around the classroom.  It  was perched on top of a hill, over looking the base and harbor at Subic Bay.  That is till you turned you back to the bay, from that angle, the classroom set on the very edge of the jungle.  When the half day of classroom was complete, we would walk a few feet from the classroom and be surrounded by that jungle for the next three days.  Each man would be carrying a bag of salt, and a Bolo[11] knife.  The two Negrito tribesmen that would lead our jungle trek, assured us we would not go hungry in the jungle.

 

It was an amazing three day walk through a Negrito Super Store.  The only thing not on the shelf, a sharp knife and salt, those we carried.  Our little stroll through the jungle was a none stop hands on learning process.  We were shown what plants to eat and how to prepare them. How to recognize what plants were poisonous and which had medicinal value.   The best way to move through the jungle, and how to prepare safe sleeping areas.  It was hands on learning, the most effective way for me to learn.  The most important thing our Stone Age teachers taught us was;  to be conformable in the jungle.  In the not to distant future, many of us would find ourselves doing the bad business of war in that environment.

 

Just prior to our departure for The Nam,  aboard the Tunny, I had a particularly heavy work load.  We had returned from deployment aboard the USS Weiss, and had just five days to pull a little liberty before our departure on the Tunny.  Well guess what, while we were deployed on the Weiss,  the XO,  and his office friends had jumped all the parachute we had.  Ever parachute had been packed when we departed on the Weiss.  Since there was no other team Parachute Rigger in Subic Bay, other then Chief,  it was up to me to get thirty something Parachutes packed in two days.  The XO had scheduled another jump for all hand.  Jump day wasn't even a brake, Chief Smith was training me as a Jump Master[12]. So not only did I jump that day, but I carried out the duties of Jump Master under the direct supervision of my Chief.  Now to top that off, I had to have all the parachutes re-packed, before I departed on the Tunny.  Chief Smith was not about to do anything but smile at my little dilemma, well hell "That's No Hill For A Climber."

 

The XO of UDT-11, was Lt. George Worthington, and he wasn't finished screwing up my liberty yet. I had been pretty damn proud of myself, for getting the job done single handed, while my Teammates partied hardy.  Old George would turn that pride into anger, while we were in The Nam.  I of course would not be able to let it go, I had to have my revenge, but more on that later.

 

When we and all our equipment moved aboard the TUNNY, I may have been the only guy onboard without a hangover.   The rest of my platoon, and the crew of the TUNNY, had spent every night in Subic Bay doing the party hardy thing.  Now it was go to war time, for most of us, our first time.  The odd thing was, I don't remember anyone making a big deal out of it.  All of us had practiced for this time and again, thank God for that. 

 

I had figured out the must important thing about sleeping in that 6 high stack of bunks, TOP BUNK.  The only drawback was also an advantage, climbing up and down.  If I slept on top, no one was sticking their feet in my small living space, I was doing the sticking.  Plus, if one of my Teammates became seasick, it wouldn't come spewing down on me.  The guys in the bottom bunks suffered the added indignity for having their teammates park their green frogman butts on the edge of their bunk.

 

Underway, unless you're part of the crew, the only thing you had to do was be ready, and stay out of the way.  On the trip from Subic Bay to Vietnam, many of us would start getting qualified as watch standers at several different stations.  During our tour with the Tunny, I became  qualified as a watch stander at four stations: Forward Look-out, After Look-out, Bow-Planes, and After-Planes.  Hell, your gear can only be so ready,  you can only sleep so many hours, play so many games of cards, or read so many books. You might as well learn something on the long ride to war. 

 

Our Mission in The Nam, wasn't combat, it was gathering information in a combat zone.  If we ended up in a firefight we had done our job wrong.  On a personal level, worse  we would be in a world of SHIT!  You might say we were the most lightly armed fighting men in Vietnam.  Each of us would be carrying a standard issue knife, with one man carrying an M-3 Grease-gun.  In a nut shell, we were to go in, get the information, and get back without being seen.  All our operations from the Tunny, were done under the cover of dark, the darker the better.  Ideal conditions would be; cloudy with no moon or stars, rain, low wind and flat seas.  Of course we couldn't wait around for those conditions.

 

In truth the job could have been done much faster and easier, in the daylight.  With say, a Company of Marines guarding the back shore area, to keep our green Frogman posteriors from being shot off. Just one problem with the easy way,  Every VC on God's earth would have known what beaches the Navy wanted to use for landing troops.  It's this simple, getting the troops on the beach before they get there asses shot off is always best.  The Navy wanted Hydrographic Surveys done on all possible landing sights from the DMZ[13] south, and they didn't want the enemy knowing which beaches had been done.

 

Hydrographic  Survey, sounds like some big scientific endeavor, hears what it boils down to for Frogmen. You are gathering information that will allow the Landing Craft bringing in the marines, to get to the beach without sinking on submerged obstacles.  Plus, back shore information, such as:  What weight will the beach bear[14], what are the exit points[15], and are there enemy emplacement or activity.   The tools to do the job are very basic;  One Platoon of Frogmen, one weighted line each, one plastic swimmer slate each, one compass, and a set of Range Polls.

 

It's important for the Navy to have the information a Hydrographic Survey provides, even for landings where no one is trying to sink your ships and kill our Troops.  The currents, the gradient of the bottom, and obstacles hidden just under the water, are all things that a man in the water can find best.   To bring large to medium size ships, and large boats barring troops close to the beach, they have to know what might rip the bottom from our vessels.   Well here is how that information was gathered,  under-fire or not.

 

Up on the beach being surveyed, the Beach Party[16], would take compass bearing, and set up range poles that could be seen by the swimmers in the water.  One man in the Beach Party would taking care of back shore security, finding beach exits, sand samples, enemy emplacements etc.  The swimmers would line up on the range poles, about 25 feet apart perpendicular to the beach.  As the Range Poles were moved down the beach, 25 feet at a time, on compass bearings, the swimmers stayed in line with the poles, and took soundings on each station.  Now this may sound like a fairly easy thing to do, not so.   Each man must cover the area between himself and the next swimmer in line.  So your swimming  along the beach, staying in line with the other swimmers, taking soundings, skinning down and checking out anything that isn't smooth and flat, while writing everything down in proper order on a small plastic slate.

 

All this information would be compiled by the Platoon Cartographer[17] and placed on a Chart.   Any landing would be planed by Admirals and Captains,  using our information off that Chart.  If there were any obstacles, man made or natural, that would impede a safe landing we would remove them with explosives, just prior to any landing.  During landings, it was our job to make sure our troops didn't drown.  Many times, the landing craft will bottom before they're close enough to drop their ramp on dry sand.  Those ramps can come down in two to three feet of water, a couple hundred feet from dry sand.   If a Soldier or Marine trips or falls before he gets to dry sand, they can quickly drown.  With fifty to eighty pounds of gear and weapons strapped on their back, it's easy for them to be held face down, sucking sandy water into their lungs.

 

The TUNNY would run all day submerged, in the early afternoon it would settle on the bottom, two to five miles off the beach we would survey that night.  The crew would have run the sub in slow and easy, taking compass fixes, through the Periscope on our beach for the night.  When she hit bottom, the TUNNY would have approximately forty feet of water over her main deck.  Enough water to hide the submarine, but shallow enough for to lock out and free-assent[18] to the surface.  This all may have been done before we woke up from the previous nights operation.

 

Once we had arrived of the coast of Vietnam, their had been little down time for either the TUNNY crew, or us.  We had a Hydrographic Survey secluded for most every night.  Since we were doing free accents, from the TUNNY, there would be two divers in SCUBA gear out there while we did our lock outs. Those divers would be part of the TUNNY crew.   The only breaks would be for bad weather, meaning heavy seas, that we couldn't operate our Inflatable Boats Small in, or a long run for the Tunny between our assigned survey beaches.

 

Each operation would start with a Warning Order!  Basically a Warning Order will consist of a general heads up, and lets you know; type of operation and when the full briefing will be held.  Specific assignments, and all other explicit details of  the operation would be given at the Operational Briefing an hour or two prior to locking out of the TUNNY.  Who would do what:  what equipment each would carry, what order each would lock out of the TUNNY, which of the four inflatable boats each man was assigned to, challenge and replies both visual and verbal,   how far off the beach to anchor the boats, each mans survey assignment, rendezvous points and what to do if the whole world turned to Ka Ka.  We had all done this time and again, what was new for most of us that first night off the TUNNY in Vietnam?   There where people out there that would happily kill us.

 

There are just four operations, done off the TUNNY that deployment, that stick out in my mind.  Our first , two that are just flat ass funny, and one around the end of our deployment, were I felt closer to dying then I ever have.  As you'll see, that one even ended with a good laugh.

 

Our first combat lock-outs off the TUNNY, everything was moving like clock work.  The TUNNY'S  safety divers had locked out first,  set up breathing stations[19] on the deck.  Then removed the four IBS's[20] from there storage locker between the inner and outer hulls, inflated them and secured the boats to the Periscope.  Now it was our turn, the real frogman stuff.  Three of us at as time, with all personal gear and whatever other equipment  had been assigned, would climb into the escape trunk in the Foreword Torpedo Room.   Three at a time in that trunk, can only be described as "up close and personal."   We could have done it two at a time, but that would have increased the time to get the platoon out of the sub by 1/3.  Since we had to get out of the sub, get the survey completed, back to the Tunny and be fifteen miles off shore before daylight, comfort was not an issue.

 

I locked-out in the second group of three that night.  We had all locked out of subs many times, so there was no problem getting a seal on the bottom door, flooding the trunk above the side door, or leaving the trunk.  As each man left the side door of the escape trunk, we were met by one of the TUNNYs two safety divers and guided to the emergency air supplies on the outer hull deck.  I was the second guy out, and as soon as I left the trunk, something just didn't seem right.  The side door of the escape trunk, opened between the inner and outer hull and it just seemed to damn bright.  There were no underwater lights being used but everything seemed so bright.  As I lay on the outer-hull, breathing off the emergency air, I could see the bottoms of the IBS's, floating forty feet above, all of the TUNNY'S Sail, and the rope that we were to follow from the deck to the boats above.  Then as I lay there it got even brighter, almost like a bolt of lightning, except it stayed that way.

 

As we were ascending the guide rope, the intensity of the light dropped off to just bright.  I couldn't imagine what in the hell was going on.  Well I found out as soon as our heads broke the surface.  The seas were flat, not a ripple, the moon was full with no clouds in the sky, not a good night to be sneaky.  I could clearly see the coast line, three miles away, and hear a helicopter off in the distance.  As the three of us started to crawl into our boats, again the sky lit up. I had been half in the boat, when it got bright again, I was quickly back in the water. You might say I had felt like I was on stage, under very bright lights, and was experiencing a little stage fright.

 

That damn helicopter had dropped several parachute flares[21], which seemed to make the already bright night, like day.  Admittedly nobody could see us from three miles away, but think of it this way.  We were about to sneak into the enemies backyard, and all of us but one were armed with a six inch knife.  There is an old Team saying that when said the nice way goes "BETTER YOU THEN ME!"  Well that night I was in the swimmer line, and that's how I felt about the beach party.  Being up on a sandy beach, under a bright moon with parachute flares falling, just didn't sound to sneaky to me.

 

The only problem with my "Better You then Me" thought, was our tradition of never leaving a Teammate.  If the whole world had turned to shit, for the beach party,  we Hairy Assed Frogmen with our six inch knifes, would have tried to do something!  It was one of those, "Oh Well, Ware the Name, Play the Game", times.  I mean a crazy man running out of the water, with a knife in his teeth can look pretty imposing, if not effective.  Thank god the whole operation went smooth as silk that night.

 

One night I was on the Beach Party, moving one of the Range Poles down the beach.  It was a perfect Sneak and Peak night, heavy clouds, a light rain and low wind.  All of us up on the beach, had our fins hanging from our knife belt.  If things went bad, we were to get in the water, and swim the hell out of there.   Leonard B. Scott was our back shore security, so he was carrying the Platoons one serious weapon, an M-3 Grease gun.  His job that night was to move through and behind the sand dunes, making sure the Beach Party didn't get surprised.  Ideally, if anyone was behind us, Leonard  would find them without being seen, sneak back to us, and we would all happily swim away. 

 

We had completed half that nights Hydrographic Survey.  As I moved the back Range Pole, I saw Leonard come staggering over the top of the sand dunes.  It looked to me, like he just crumpled to the sand.  I hauled ass, about twenty yards over to Leonard, to see what was going on.  He sat there holding his heart with one hand, and his Grease Gun with the other.  He was breathing like he had just run ten miles, and kept repeating  over and over, "It's OK, It's OK".  When he got his breath back, and told me what had happened.  We both laid there in the rain and wet sand trying not to make to much noise laughing.

 

Leonard had been slowly moving around low profile, sneaking and peaking from shadow to shadow, looking for any VC[22].   On the back side of the sand dunes, he had walked down into a depression to check it out.  As he stepped on a large rock in the bottom of the depression, the damn thing had gotten up.  That rock, had turned out to be a very large and pissed off Water Buffalo.

 

On another night we had a strange encounter, with a large segment of the Vietnamese fishing fleet, while returning to the TUNNY.  Along the coast the Vietnamese's main fishing vessel was what we called a Basket Boat, and that's just what it was.  The damn thing was round, about six feet in circumference, with two feet of free board.  In appearance, it looked like a ball cut in half.  Hell, I could never figure out how come they didn't fall out of the boat, I mean it didn't even have a flat bottom.  Each Basket Boat carried one to two fisherman, their nets, and a Kerosene Lantern so they didn't get run over by a ship.  Somehow the Vietnamese fishermen would net fish with these things miles out in the ocean. 

 

That night we had left the TUNNY about three miles off shore, it was overcast with calm seas, not a Basket Boat insight.  The whole operation went without a hitch, that is until we tried to go home after work.   As we swam back out to our IBS's,  it looked like a city had appeared at sea.   We took our compass bearing and starting paddling our boats back toward the TUNNY.  It was quickly apparent that our submarine was somewhere under all those Basket Boats.  To put it mildly, this was going to make it very difficult for us to get to our submerged home.

 

On every other night the sonarman could guide us straight home.  We would hang several saltwater activated pingers[23] of the bow of our lead boat.  The TUNNY's sonarman would listen to the strength of the pinger sounds and vector us with clicks over the radio.  In the Teams, voice communication was kept to a minimum, if we were on course we would get one click, come starboard two clicks etc.  We also had an inferred scope, when we were close they would run an inferred light through the periscope.  Through the inferred scope we could see the light, paddle to the periscope and attach our towing bridle.  When we signaled, the TUNNY would slowly raise just off the bottom and tow us fifteen miles to sea. They would then surface, and recover their tired frogmen.  Well that's how it worked every other time.

 

Normally ,once we were a half mile or so to sea, we could sit up and paddle hard for home, not that night.  We had to lay on the tubes of our IBS's, taking short quite strokes, as we sneaked and peaked our way through the fishing fleet. This paddling position made less for the fisherman to see, but slowed our progress. For a mile before we reached the TUNNY, there were Vietnamese fishermen, in their kerosene lit Basket Boats, happily fishing the night away.  Well we made it through the  maze of fishermen without being seen.  Finally we had our boats attached to the periscope, gave the Tunny the signal, and got comfortable for the tow.  That's when the real fun began. 

 

Ballastesting a submarine is a precise science, that if not done correctly can lead to bad things.  In the worse case, lose of the submarine and all hands onboard.   At the best, the submarine will make some startling movements. I don't know how many of you ever saw the television show "Victory at Sea", but at the start of each episode they would show the bow of a submarine come shooting out of the water.  Well that's what the TUNNY did that night.  The sequence of events went something like this:  there was a large rumbling boil of water,   followed quickly by the voices of excited Vietnamese fishermen, then the bow came popping about fifteen feet out of the water.  Hell the Vietnamese weren't the only ones excited.

 

The Vietnamese fishermen, were hollering back and forth, pulling in their nets, and trying to paddle their Basket Boats away from the monster that had just popped above the surface. We were having to make some quick decisions, so radio silence had been broken.  The TUNNY wanted to know if we were OK, our boats still up right with our tow bridle attached.  We just wanted to know if we were going to have a home to go to.

 

All that hard work Submariners go through, to earn there Dolphins, isn't for when things are good, it's for bad times.  Well, we were having one of those right then, and the TUNNY crew quickly overcame the KA KA.  Within minutes the sub was again submerged ballast properly and starting to tow us to sea.  There was just one problem, the TUNNY was towing five boats, not four.  One very upset Vietnamese fisherman was also being towed along just behind us, his fishing net was fouled on the TUNNY.

 

I must admit it was funny, but this guy had a life threatening problem, Basket Boats were not ment for towing.  His boat was being pulled down on the side where his net was attached to the boat, water was coming over the gunwale[24].  He had only one option to save himself and his boat, cut away from the net that fed his family.  Now I couldn't understand a thing he was screaming, but as he hacked away at the net, I had the feeling this guy thought he was in the grasp of some Sea Monster.  Well he got his net cut, so what could have been a tragedy ended on a good note.  Knowing humans as I do, I'm sure there were some strange tails told when those fisherman reached their villages.

 

The last little TUNNY adventure I'm going to share with you, would leave UDT-11 with a top of the line reply for anything.  There was an Operation going on along the coast of South Vietnam called Market Time.  It's main objective was to interdict weapons that North Vietnam were trying smuggle into the South.  Mainly they used a boat called a Swift.  Now to my mind this the Swift Boat is proof positive of that old saying, "NEVER JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER".  It didn't look fast, it just was, it didn't look bad, it just was.  On this particular night a bunch of frogmen would become educated as to just how effective a weapon it was.

 

The winds and seas that night were heavy.  That alone would have made it a ruff paddle.  What made it worse is, that within minutes of leaving the TUNNY we could hear two Swift Boats.  Since what we were up to was Secret, the Swifts had no idea we were supposed to be there.  Since we knew they had a new high tec. radar, we were again forced to paddle from the low profile, laying on the inflation tubes of our boats. If it hadn't been for the heavy seas and us laying down, they would have nailed us from the get-go.  With them and us bouncing  all over the place, us laying on the tubes, they were having a hard time keeping us on their radar scope.

 

We could tell when they had a good read on us, their big ------engines would rev-up and we could hear them barring down on us.   When they lost us on their radar screen, they would idle down, and wait for another good radar hit.  Their problem that night was false hits.  Sometimes they would move in the wrong direction, having picked up wave action that they thought was us.  Our little cat and mouse game went on for more then two hours.  Toward the end, we figured they had given up, as we had heard no throbbing engine sounds for awhile.

 

Just after anchoring our boats, a couple hundred yards, off the beach to be surveyed, we heard a Swift.  It sounded like the damn thing was headed right for us.  Our platoon officer decided it was time to give the Visual Challenge, and proceeded to do just that.  Now here is were things started to get real dicey.  In all of our Briefings, each man is told what the Challenge and Reply is for the area we would be working in, both oral and visual.  These are vary important, particularly to us, as we worked in areas with other Americans units that didn't know we were there.  That night the Visual Challenge, was a horizontal figure eight, and the reply was to be a vertical line, both to be done with a red light.  While the rest of lay in as low as possible, Ltjg Woodard set up and started making horizontal figure eight's. There was no reply.  I'll say one thing for us, when push came to shove, we followed orders.  None of us went for the water, the safest place for any Hairy-assed frogman.  That damn Swift sounded like it was going to run right over us.  In fact after it had shut down and  thrown it in reverse, the boat ended up sitting over us about 10 feet away.  Then came the sickening sound of Twin 50s being racked back, and those damn things were pointed at us. 

 

Laying on the inflation tube of our IBS, I could see the Swift and its crew silhouetted above me.  There where at least four crew members pointing M-16s.  Each of us knew that if one of those sailors pulled the trigger, they all would.   Hell, I mean not only were we out gunned, four M-16s and two fifty caliberty machines guns, against fourteen six inch knifes and one M-3 Grease Gun, but we knew who they were, there was no way we would shoot.  Now a voice from the Swift, called out " What State are you From?" To tell you the truth, I can't remember what we thought the Verbal Challenge was for that night, but " What State are you From?" wasn't it.

 

None of us said a thing.  The second time the question was ask, there was a lot more tension in the voice.  Still none of us said a thing.  The third time the voice ask the question, there was so much tension I could all most feel the triggers pulling. "I DON'T KNOW ABOUT YOUALL, BUT I'M FROM TEXAS!" God Bless Jackie Lee, with his accent there was know doubt we were Americans.  In my life there have been other times when people have pointed guns and even fired them at me, I have never felt closer to dying then that night.  As soon as Jackie Lee's made his declaration of Texas-hood, we were all laughing with relief. 

 

We had a very productive deployment aboard the USS TUNNY, all assigned task completed, none of us injured.   It was a nice relaxed cruise back to Subic Bay, and what I assumed would be some well deserved Liberty.  Well as my wife is fond of telling me, never assume, it just makes an Ass out of U and Me.

 

Again, UDT-11s XO, Lt. George Worthington had struck, he and his office friends had made several jumps while we were in The Nam. They had not washed, or hung to dry the parachutes they had used for a water jump.  Ever parachute had been jumped, and to top it all off, they had used newly packed reserves chutes for their water jump.  Reserve Parachutes were required to be repacked every ninety days.  You didn't use newly packed reserves for water jumps, it just made extra work.  To add a little punctuation to my return, King George had scheduled another jump for all hands, four days after the TUNNY's return, with a Sneak and Peak on the base that same night.  You might say, I was not a Happy Frogman.  This time my Chief took a little pity on me, and forgave me my big mouth, you remember "the small and insignificant officer thing".  The two of us busted ass and had everything ready to go in two days.  Thanks to the Chief, I was able to do a little steaming in Pubic Bay, and plan a little revenge on our XO.

 

 Jim Redline, Rat Miller, Smoky Stover, Ltjg. John Roberts and myself were drinking Mojo[25] a well known mind alerting substance, in the Magic Glow, a favorite Team hangout .  As we slugged back our individual pictures of Mojo, the main topic of conversation, other then women, seemed to be the XO.  I must admit most of it was just normal sailor whining.  That is except mine, I wanted revenge.  And to answer your question "Yes" Team members whine, the difference is they know it's whining.   Smokey and myself would be leaving Subic in less then a week.  There were six of us from UDT-11 going back to the States to join SEAL Team 1.  I was trying to come up with a special little kiss good by for our XO, without ending up in the brig.  God Bless him,  Ltjg. John Roberts, would make Mojo induced scheme come true.

 

Lt. Worthington had a special place in his heart for those of us in the "Out to Lunch Bunch".  Any time he suspected we had been pushing the limits of our endurance on liberty, King George would give us a little endurance test of his own.  I'll give you a fine example, a swim the XO held right after Monday Morning Quarters[26].   Most of the Out to Lunch Bunch, had managed to sneak out early for liberty on Friday.  So for the better part of three days we had been testing ourselves against all the attractions of Olongapo City.

 

Needless to say on Monday morning we were hoping for a nice quite day, with a  normal work load.  Our Chief Master at Arms, Harry Tindell put an end to that hope.  He held a quick muster, and told all hands to be back in twenty minutes, ready for a swim.  To a Team guy, this ment something different then a normal human.  We weren't going to the pool or beach and have a nice time, we were going on a frogman kick, stroke and glide.  From the get-go I knew the XO had some evil plan, he just seemed to damn happy.

 

At the time Lt. George Worthington was the second fastest swimmer in the Team, Jim Redline was fastest, and I was usually number three.  Redline was a different stroke, even for the Teams.  First off  he looked like he was out of shape, never believe body fat means someone is out of shape.  Jim was a natural leader, who most usually, just didn't give a crap.  I don't mean he did a bad job, he didn't.  What he did do, was get away with almost anything.  To top it all off, he left them smiling no matter what he did.

 

I had never beaten Lt. Worthington.  I had beaten Redline, he only won when he gave a crap.  All Team swims were done as Swim Buddies, two guys with closely matched times swam together.   So two of you were racing against the other Swim Buddies.  Any racing done between Swim Buddies was done in last hundred or so yards of a swim.  For our special little swims in Subic Bay, King George had modified the Buddy system.   There was one swim threesome, Worthington, Redline and me.   He was going to make sure we pushed it every inch of the way.   This particular Monday morning in question, King George had a little extra Ka Ka to throw in the game.

 

He gave each swim pair a number, and told us we would leave the boat in that order.  The swim would end in front of the Subic Bay Administration Offices. The boat coxswain was instructed to position the boat about three quarters of a mile in front of the Subic Bay Administration Offices, and head for Grandie Island.  The Island was part of the Military Reservation, about three miles out in the bay.  At about one mile out, our XO signaled the first pair to leave the boat.   Since we had the last number, even my hung-over brain could figure out; King George was going to do his best to make Redline and me suffer. 

 

He had been kicking swim pairs off at a fairly even rate, every hundred yards or so.  When it was down to just us three, George seemed to have forgotten the interval.  Just before we hit the water,  I looked at my Swim Buddies.  The XO had a big shit-eating grin.  Redline looked kicked back, like he  didn't have a care in the world.  If I could have seen myself, I'm sure I would have looked as sick as I felt.  We left the boat somewhere around two miles out.  The only thing I could think of, that made me feel just a little better was; HE HAD TO DO IT WITH US, AND WE WEREN'T GOING TO MAKE IT EASY!

 

The lead swapped back and forth, between Worthington and Redline.  One or the other, would be about a half of body length ahead, with me generally half a body length behind the guy that was number two.   I have to give it to Redline, he edged the XO out in the last hundred yards.  Both were pulling away from me, I just had nothing left.

 

As I drank my Mojo, and whined to the guys about George, a plan with just one small flaw came to mind.  I'm going to TRASH the XO's room at the B.O.Q.[27]!  The flaw, how the hell to get the key to his room.  Ltjg John Roberts, a man after my own heart, made it easy.  "Hell Roat, that's no problem".  With that, John commenced to tell us, the guy on the desk doesn't know who lives in what room.  I'll just ask him for the extra key to my room.  He'll ask me my room number, I'll give him Worthington's,  he'll hand me the key to George's room.  In fact that's just what happened.  With John's willing assistance, Smoky Stover and I would have a great last sneak and peak at UDT-11.

 

All the guys going to SEAL Team -1, were assigned land based targets.  In other words, our insertion points, targets, and extraction points were all on dry land.  Sneaking and Peaking around the base at Subic Bay was nothing new.  All of us had done it many times for military training.  Many of us would frequently do it for our own prepossess.  You might call it self-motivated extra training or, if you cared be to more accurate, illegal  liberty.  Our self-motivated extra training or illegal liberty, generally took place due the frequent suspending of off-base liberty.  UDT-11s Out to Lunch Bunch, had a bad attitude about not being allowed off base.  It was easily curried, climb the base fence, and swim the Olongapo River, without being seen, ergo, self-motivated extra training.

 

We had no problem getting into B.O.Q., on to the second floor, and with the key into King George's quarters.   When we arrived in Lt. Worthington room, it was neat and squared away.  George was a Naval Academe Graduate and his quarters reflected it.  When we left, everything in the was in complete disorder.  To start, we put sand in everything; His bed, shoes, shorts, shirts, uniforms, civilian close, every draw and shelf.  We wrote "HOO YEA SEAL Team 1" on a sheet, and tacked it to the wall.

 

Now I have to hand it to our XO, he maintained his cool.  King George had to have a damn good Idea who had TRASHED his room ,  but not a word out of him.  If he had wanted to play his trump card, the one every team member would fold on, he had known the culprits would confess.  All he had to do was; say he would make the whole Team suffer.  We both would have spit it out a confession, in less then a heart beat.  One of the main things Instructors screen for in training, is guys that will let their classmates suffer for their actions.  To this day I wonder, who cleaned his room?

 

On to SEAL Team

 

NSWA home

 

 

 



[1] USS TUNNY history curiosity  http://www.usstunny.com

[2] Tower like structure that sticks up from most submarine decks.

[3] Special Warfare or Spec War

[4] Hot Bunking: The term used when you took turns sleeping in the same bunk.

[5] A group of UDT-11 guys that pushed all partying to the extreme, the ring leaders were two enlisted men from our platoon; Jim Redline and Rat Miller (Mom, they made me do it)

[6] UDT-12 and 11 would relieve each other on a six month rotation.

[7] The files kept on each person during their time in the Military.

[8] In the Navy, details usually ment, move heavy things, clean dirty things or straighten up some mess, generally other then your normal duties.

[9] Navy Store

[10] The public is allowed to tour the base and the ships in port.

[11] Big sharp knife about 18" long

[12] Jump Masters check each jumpers equipment on the ground, select the exit point from the aircraft and give the jump command.

[13] De-Militarized-Zone, an agreed buffer between north and south Vietnam Ha Ha

[14] What weight vehicle will not become bogged down on the beach.

[15] Once landed, how do the troops and their vehicles get off the beach.

[16] Those concerned with gathering information on the beach, and back the shore area.

[17] The map maker.

[18] No air supply, just what is in your lungs when you leave the bottom .

[19] To breath off, between leaving the trunk and before you left the deck for the surface.

[20] Inflatable Boats Small.

[21] Magnesium flares under a small parachute, they could be dropped from a aircraft or fired from artillery.

[22] Vietnamese Communist 

[23] They put out a sound that is easily picked up by sonar.

[24] The upper edge of a boats side.

[25] A concoction of several alcohol's and fruit punch, that went down easy and kicked hard. 

[26] First Muster of the day.

[27] Bachelor Officer Quarters