Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Bubblehead's USS San Francisco Grounding Posts

Posted 2220 07 Jan 2006: The posts below, in the May archives of Ultraquiet No More, are a collection of posts I had put up over the last year at my home blog, The Stupid Shall Be Punished, on the subject of the grounding of USS San Francisco (SSN 711) a year ago today. In chronological order, you can read how one retired submarine officer reacted to the biggest public submarine story since the sinking of RNS Kursk, and how others reacted to it as well. Either in the title of the post, or in the first line, there should be a link to my original post. Many of the links within the posts are dead now; in some cases, I replaced them with new links, and in others, the dead links remain.

The main thing that I took away from this tragic story was a reaffirmation of the wonderful brotherhood that exists between shipmates on a submarine -- something non-submariners probably can't fully understand, but I hope they will a little better after reading these posts.

As always, my posts on the San Francisco grounding are written while holding firm to the memory of MM2(SS) Joseph "Cooter" Ashley -- beloved by his shipmates, and honored by submariners everywhere.

Thanks for reading,
Joel Kennedy -- "Bubblehead"

USS San Francisco Grounding

Originally posted 0629 08 Jan:

According to this report from CNN.com, the USS San Francisco (SSN 711) grounded during submerged operations south of Guam, and has now surfaced and is heading back into port. While we call this a "grounding", it actually means the submarine hit the ocean floor while operating submerged. The report also says many crewmen suffered head injuries, so it sounds like they must have smacked the bottom pretty hard. More later...

Update: Here's a BBC article that shows the approximate location of the grounding. From this better chart, it looks like they grounded near the Caroline Islands somewhere close to Yap. It looks like they had just returned from a short deployment in December, so this was probably their first underway since then...

My favorite tin-foil hatters at DU are blathering on about the grounding here...

Staying at PD...

More on San Francisco Grounding

Originally posted 1003 08 Jan:

Here's the official press release from PacFleet.

I found a good web site that has short synopses (synopsii? Whatever the plural of synopsis is...). A Navy Reserve Lieutenant has a website on Peacetime Submarine Accidents, which includes descriptions of the recent groundings off USS Hartford (a surfaced grounding) and HMS Trafalgar (a submerged grounding, like the San Francisco). Also included are less recent submerged groundings of USS Nathanael Greene and USS Ray.

The San Francisco had spent a few months last year in drydock in San Diego, so I got to know the crew pretty well. I'm kind of surprised they were so far south of their home base in Guam less than a month after returning from a short deployment, but I think they do things differently, as far as stand-down time after deployment, with the Guam-based boats.

Update: Here's a good update from Guam's Pacific Daily News. Apparently, the boat was on its way to a liberty visit in Brisbane, Australia. This would explain why they were so far south of their home port so soon after a deployment; Squadron 15 probably wanted them home for Christmas, but the crew also wanted a nice liberty call. I'm guessing that there were probably a few crew member's family members planning to meet them in Brisbane; this is a really bad way to miss out on a good liberty call.

Update 2: Every year all the officers and the enlisted navigation team on every submarine has to go through the collection of "lessons learned" from all the previous submarine collisions and groundings. I've been looking for any information on any of them, other than the ones listed above, that have made it onto the Internet, and so far I've only found one other. It's a listing of the USS Jefferson City (SSN 759) submerged grounding off San Diego in May 1994, on the NAVSEA Damage Control site.

Staying at PD...

USS San Francisco Information

Originally posted 2016 08 Jan:

It looks like the Navy hasn't released any new reports on the San Francisco grounding discussed below, so all that's floating around now is just idle speculation. I saw on some of the more "uninformed" bulletin boards some posters theorizing that the San Fran had maybe collided with a Chinese submarine, rather than with the bottom. This was based somewhat on the reports that the Chinese submarine that had intruded into Japanese waters (discussed in this blog here) had earlier been tracked by the U.S. Navy near Guam. I find this conjecture highly improbable, for the simple reason that we probably wouldn't have released the news of any damage to the San Francisco if it had happened due to a collision. As far as speculation that the San Fran might not have heard the Chinese sub -- well, any sub that a P-3 can track can definitely be detected by a submerged submarine.

Here is the official Commander Nav Base Marianas page on the San Francisco that has some decent background information.

Going deep...

Sailor, Rest Your Oar...

Originally posted 0837 09 Jan:

Word this morning from Guam is that one of the Sailors on USS San Francisco (SSN 711), the grounding of which is discussed below, has died. His identity has not been released pending notification of next of kin. Also, the story provides an update on the status of the injured personnel:

About 23 out of the submarine's 137-member crew suffered a range of injuries, including broken bones, lacerations, bruises and a back injury, according to a written statement from the Navy.

This PacFleet news release says that additional medical personnel have transferred onto the boat, and are treating the remaining injured personnel.

Navy medical personnel were surged overnight and came aboard the submarine at the first opportunity this morning, but the one Sailor’s injuries were extremely serious. The medical personnel, including a doctor, remain aboard and are treating 23 other crew members for a range of injuries including broken bones, lacerations, bruises and a back injury. The submarine remains on the surface and is continuing toward its homeport in Guam, escorted by the Coast Guard cutter Galveston Island and USNS Stockham. The submarine is expected to arrive in port Monday afternoon (Guam time). USNS Kiska and military aircraft are also continuing to assist as required.

Staying at PD...

Updated 1533 14 Jan: Here's a poignant report of the ship's memorial service for Petty Officer Ashley from the Pacific Daily News. No additional comments are necessary...

Updated 1936 14 Jan: Actually, I decided I did need to say more about this. My additional thoughts are here.

USS San Francisco Returns to Guam

Originally posted 0618 10 Jan:

This press release from U.S. Pacific Fleet describes the return of the San Fran to Guam, and announces that the name of the Sailor killed in the accident as MM2(SS) Joseph Ashley of Akron, Ohio. To my eye, it looks like the ship is riding down in the bow; that is, the front end of the ship looks like it isn't riding as high as normal. (Here's a picture of the USS Portsmouth, like the San Francisco a non-VLS Los Angeles Class submarine; notice the bow is riding much higher.) They could have damaged a vent valve on one of the forward ballast tanks, resulting in one of the three forward tanks possibly partially filling. Another possibility I've seen discussed is that the sonar dome may have flooded, but the boat really looks to be riding a lot lower forward that it would have if that happened. On the other hand, she might just have gone over a small wave; we'd need to see more than one picture to make sure this one isn't just anomolous.

Update: Here's another good update from Guam. The SubPac spokesman here comes fairly close to completely ruling out a collision with another sub, but leaves a little wiggle room (the boat struck "something topographical").

Staying at PD...

Submarine Brotherhood

Originally posted 0835 10 Jan:

Steve has started a new blog, Submarine Brotherhood, that has a nice tribute to MM2(SS) Ashley of the USS San Francisco. Bo is another sub-blogger you should check out, if you haven't already...

{Update 07 Jan 2006: Steve's blog has been inactive since May, but it's an invaluable resource for articles printed in The New London Day and New York Times that aren't available anymore. Check out his January archives for many of the articles I reference in the posts immediately below for the full versions of those articles.}

Possible Second Hand Report from San Francisco Grounding

Originally posted 1358 10 Jan:

I really hate to post anything from a bulletin board (especially Free Republic, which can be as bad in its own way as Democratic Underground), but this thread, down in the 900s, has what is claimed to be a relative of one of the San Francisco's Sailors giving a report of what they heard from their son. Part of the thread is as follows:

The incident was very touch and go. They were at depth and near flank speed.The the petty officer at the helm immediately did an emergency blow, (with a broken arm) to surface the ship. [Name's] compartment was filling with water, and while looking for the source was sprayed in the face when he became aware it was not sea water. There were no hull breaches and no high pressure steam leaks. Two of the ships three bow ballast tanks were compromised severly and a air pump rated only for intermittent service was employed for more than 30 hours to provide bouyancy in those tanks. There were two risky option to keep the boat afloat if there were a pump failure, thank goodness the pump held. The hull of the ship actually accordioned. I would like to thank the welders who put her together.
My son said that with the emergency blow, they surfaced very quickly. He also talked about the water leak and fortunatly, it was not sea water. The collision also knocked out the sonar. The sonar guys helped out with other duties and the injured also worked at getting the sub back home. He went up to the control room to help out and said there was a lot of blood around there. The medic and and jg with paramedical experience and a couple of guys with EMT training did a fantastic job on treating the injuries. When a medical doc finally came on board, he highly complimented the work, stitching, etc that this group did. We can be proud of the good work of the crew of the SSN San Francisco. My son said the charts showed open country for clear sailing. The senior people are really beating themselves up over what went wrong. And the crew is also concerned for the Captain, XO, Navigator,etc. He hopes everything will turn out good for them. Yes, the hull is pretty well wrinkled. Our tax dollars were well spent there to be able to withstand such a colliding force. My son said that nothing came apart or was damaged in the engine room. He said when he meets an engineer or designer of the reactor and engine room, he will buy them a beer.

Some of this you obviously have to take with a grain of salt... I doubt that the "Petty Officer at the helm" performed the Emergency Blow, unless the Chief of the Watch and Diving Officer of the Watch were both knocked out of their chairs; unlikely, since they are supposed to be wearing their seat belts if they're running at flank speed. On the other hand, the description of the ballast tanks being "severely compromised" does match with the bow down attitude the ship had. I'll be interested to see if when some more official information comes out, how well it matches with this report.

Update: A sailor from the San Francisco reports that the specifics described in the account above didn't happen on his boat. On the other hand, the descriptions of the damage and the use of the Low Pressure blower ("air pump") match the description from the CSP E-mail above pretty closely, accounting for "translation errors" caused by running it through a non-submariner family member.

Update: Here's a report from the MSNBC website that has similar information to the one above, but which I really can't call any more authoritative. One line in particular stands out as sounding like they got the information from an uninformed speculator than someone who has a clue:

Everyone standing on the bridge was violently thrown forward, NBC News was told.

As anyone who knows anything about submarines knows, the "bridge" is on the top of the sail, and is not manned when the sub is submerged. (It's a free-flood area, so whoever is on the bridge during submerged ops would get very, very wet, then very, very dead.) The space from which the sub is controlled/driven is called the control room. Also, why specify that only those in Control got thrown forward? Obviously everyone on the ship would have been thrown forward (we don't have an inertia-dampeners installed in the non-Control spaces of our submarines... yet...). Overall, I rate this story as "third-hand knowledge that may have come from an Internet bulletin board".

Staying at PD...

Official Information on San Francisco grounding

Originally posted 1937 10 Jan:

Here's a portion of what is purported of an unclassified message sent today by Commander, Submarine Forces Pacific.

At 10 January 1634 local (100134 EST) the USS SAN FRANCISCO returned safely to Apra Harbor, Guam. The ship moored with her own line handlers in a normal submarine configured mooring (AFT draft is 27'-10'' (normal AFT draft is 32') and FWD Draft is above the draft marks with the waterline at the point the towed array faring begins; 0.8 degree STBD list and 1 degree Down bubble indicating by naval architecture calculations that 1 A/B and 2A/B MBTs are most likely flooded). The severely injured Machinist Mate (Engineroom Upper Level Watch at time of grounding) was evacuated immediately and transferred by ambulance to Naval Hospital Guam where a fully staffed medical team was standing by. He is conscious and in stable condition. Approximately fifteen additional injured personnel requiring medical care subsequently departed the ship and were transported to the hospital after taking a moment to meet with family members.
Crewmembers from the USS CORPUS CHRISTI, HOUSTON and FRANK CABLE assisted in linehandling and various return to port evolutions such as propulsion plant shutdown, shorepower cables, and rig for surface. Standing by on the pier was a full complement of watchstanders from USS CITY OF CORPUS CHRISTI (and SAN FRANCISCO stay-behinds) to satisfy all watchstanding requirements for reactor plant shutdown with follow-on inport forward and aft watchsections.
Following the grounding on 8 January, the ship transited on the surface at 8kts with surface escort, USCGC GALVESTON ISLAND to Apra Harbor, Guam. Due to deteriorated weather conditions on the evening of 9 January, the Commanding Officer shifted bridge watchstations to control and shut bridge access hatches to maximize watertight integrity in light of reserve buoyancy concerns. The ship maintained stability throughout the surface transit with continuous operation of the Low Pressure Blower on the Forward Main Ballast Tanks. SAN FRANCISCO has experienced no reactor plant, propulsion train or electrical system degradations as a result of the grounding. The Commanding Officer shifted the Officer of the Deck's watch to the bridge on 10 January in preparation for piloting into Apra Harbor.
The ship's Main Ballast Tank damage and deformation has degraded maneuverability and mandated the use of two tugs to moor in Apra Harbor. A Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard/NAVSEA Material Assessment Team comprised of a structural engineer, MBT vent expert, air systems expert and naval architect arrived in Guam with special ship salvage and recovery equipment to stabilize the ship pierside as soon as possible. The team, led by Captain [Name], commenced a seaworthiness and repair assessment upon the ship's arrival. Once additional buoyancy measures are in place and testedsatisfactory, the Low Pressure Blower will be secured to allow divers to enter the water to conduct an inspection. While this grounding is a tragedy, with a through investigation led by [Name], we will find out all the facts and then ensure we learn from the mistakes. But, I too believe we have much to be thankful for today, and much to be confident in. An operational warship has returned to port on her own power with all but one of its crew after sustaining major hull damage. The survival of the ship after such an incredibly hard grounding (nearly instantaneous deacceleration from Flank Speed to 4 KTS) is a credit to the ship design engineers and our day-to-day engineering and watchstanding practices. The continuous operation of the propulsion plant, electrical systems and navigation demonstrates the reliability of our equipment and the operational readiness of our crews as a whole.

I can't guarantee that this is an actual message sent out by ComSubPac, (I'm not on the mailing list anymore) but it certainly is in the same tone as similar messages I've seen previously, and if it is a hoax, it's a darn good one, by someone who knows submarines. The description of two flooded forward main ballast tanks matches with the boats attitude as it was coming into the harbor. If true, this message confirms to me the professionalism, dedication, and incredible seamanship demonstrated by the crew in the aftermath of the casualty. I expect we won't hear much more about the specifics of this incident for a while, unless they do determine that there really was an uncharted seamount that the boat hit.

Going deep...

Seamounts near the Caroline Islands

Originally posted 0642 11 Jan:

Robert Hamilton, of the New London, CT, Day, and one of the most informed newpaper writer around on the subject of submarines, has a good article (annoying free registration required after two days) in which he talks to local retired submariners about the area where the San Francisco (SSN-711) ran aground. The article (limited to the blogosphere's requisite four paragraphs) states in part:

•••During the Cold War, the Navy focused on charting the Atlantic because of the threat the Soviet Union posed from that direction. Submariners said that until recently some of the Pacific Ocean charts carried warnings based on soundings made by Captain Cook in the 18th century, and even modern charts can be based on soundings taken 20 miles or more apart.
"Local submariners say the area where the sub was traveling is notorious for no-warning sea mounts; the water depth can change 1,000 fathoms in seconds.
“We know more about the backside of the moon than we do about the bottom of the ocean,” said retired Navy Capt. James Patton, president of Submarine Tactics and Technology in North Stonington.The area in which the San Francisco was traveling, through the Caroline Islands chain, is one of the worst, with dozens of islands rising out of the water and many more uncharted seamounts between them."

I remember transiting once from Perth, W. Australia, to Hobart, Tasmania; the charts for the area basically had only a narrow lanes of sounding data, and a lot of blank areas. The Pacific is a big ocean; there's lots of places we haven't been yet, and the San Francisco may have been in one of those places.

Petty Officer Ashley (SSN-711 Sailor) Info

Originally posted 2011 11 Jan:

Here's a story from an Ohio TV station website that has information, and a picture, of MM2(SS) Joseph Ashley, who was killed in the line of duty onboard USS San Francisco (SSN-711) this weekend. (Hat tip: Kurt) A more personal remembrance piece from the Akron Beacon Journal is here (free registration required). A sample:

``When he had his heart set on something, he would try his best to get it done,'' said his mother. ``I always told him to do what he wanted to do in life, but to be the best at it and to always try his hardest."One day he came home and shared his future plans.``He said, `Mom I passed the Navy test; I'm going to do what daddy did. He always excelled in what he did.'
''He made rank in minimal time and was named Junior Sailor of the Year for the entire Guam naval base.''

I had one shipmate pass away when I was on USS Connecticut (SSN 22). We were in new construction, and he died in an accident at home. He never went to sea on the boat; he earned his dolphins riding other boats while our ship was being built. His mother said his greatest goal was to take the Connecticut out to sea, so when we went out on our second underway, the ship's company committed his remains to the deep. MM3(SS) Richard Keen, was and remains to this day, my shipmate. In the same way I honor Petty Officer Keen, the officers and crew of the San Francisco will always remember and honor Joseph Ashley.

Going deep...

New York Times Goes for the Sensational

Originally posted 1009 12 Jan:

The New York Times, in this article by Christopher Drew (annoying free registration required) tries to dredge up what they can to make the Navy seem uncooperative and secretive regarding the grounding of the USS San Francisco (SSN-711). Excerpts follow:

"The nuclear submarine that ran aground Saturday in the South Pacific hit so "incredibly hard" that about 60 of its 137 crew members were injured and the sailor who died was thrown 20 feet by the impact, according to internal Navy e-mail messages sent by a top admiral...
"The messages were written by Rear Adm. Paul F. Sullivan, the commander of submarines in the Pacific. They paint a more dire picture of the accident, which occurred 360 miles southeast of Guam, than had previously been disclosed. They also hint at the extensive efforts to steady the vessel and save the sailor who died...
"The e-mail also indicated that about 60 crew members had been injured. All the Navy had said publicly was that 23 crew members were treated for broken bones, cuts and bruises.
"The messages said those 23 were hurt seriously enough that they were unable to stand their watch duties as the submarine limped back to Guam. Mr. Ashley said the submarine's captain, Cmdr. Kevin Mooney, told him by phone on Monday that among the injured crew members, "there were a lot of broken fingers, broken arms and legs and one fractured back."

The tone of the article indicates that the Navy had something to hide in their initial reports, whereas I think the Submarine Force has been as forthcoming as possible, especially with information as hard as it was to come by when the boat was still transiting back to Guam. The main information in the article seems to come from a series of E-mails sent by RADM Sullivan, ComSubPac, that I discussed earlier here. The main issue seems to be that there were 60 Sailors injured, rather than the previously reported 23. The Navy had never said there were only 23 injuries; rather, there were 23 injured so badly that they couldn't resume watchstanding duties. It is reasonable to assume that submariners will stand watch with minor injuries when they know that others are hurt more badly; the ship still needs people to operate the ship, especially on the surface. They may not have even reported their more minor injuries until the ship was safely in port.

This article, although informative, disappoints me somewhat in that Christopher Drew, who spent a lot of time with submariners (not me!) in researching his book Blind Man's Bluff, should have known better. I'm sure he is under pressure to get the most sensational story he can, but in this case he should have focused more on the real story of this tragedy -- the total professionalism, dedication, and bravery shown by the officers and crew of the San Francisco.

Update 1311 12Jan: Here's another version of the article that might not require registration. Based on my good friend Bothenook's comment, I re-read the article, and decided that, overall, it's actually fairly well-written and balanced. I guess I fell victim to one of the classic blunders: Reading a wacky Democratic Underground post about the grounding that linked me to the NYT article; I was still in the mindframe of idiotarian mocking when I read the article.

Going deep...

Pictures of USS San Francisco Pierside

Originally posted 2128 12 Jan:

Donmac was kind enough to let me link to 4 pictures he obtained of the San Francisco pierside in Guam. The top two pictures show how low she's riding in the bow; the front end of the towed array fairing is essentially in the water. The frothing in the water is from air being forced into the forward ballast tanks to keep the water level in the ballast tank as low as possible. The air pressure is either coming from the ship's Low Pressure air blower, or, more likely, a temporary system they have hooked up being supplied from the pier. The capstan is up just aft of the forward hydophone; this isn't normal, but it could have been used in mooring, since the ship was riding so low forward, or it could have been damaged in the collision (I think the former is more likely).

Going deep...

This San Francisco Article Has The Right Focus

Originally posted 0956 13 Jan:

I wrote yesterday about the NYT article that I felt had the wrong "tone" -- trying to highlight the "Navy withheld information" part rather than the bravery and skill of the crew. An article today by Robert Hamilton of The New London Day (who I discussed earlier here) does, in my opinion, a much better job. This article (registration required) begins as follows:

"It is increasingly clear that the submarine that hit a seamount in the Pacific Ocean last week came close to being lost and that only the valiant efforts of its crew kept it afloat, Navy sources said Tuesday.
"With uncontrolled flooding in its forward ballast tanks, the USS San Francisco had to run a low-pressure air pump for 30 hours straight to maintain buoyancy on its trip home, Navy sources said. The pump is rated for only intermittent use.
"In addition, the submarine ran its diesel engines, channeling the exhaust into the forward ballast tanks in an effort to force out more of the water and make the ship lighter.
“Based on the information I've seen so far, they're very lucky this ship didn't sink,” said retired Navy Capt. John C. Markowicz. “Only through the heroic efforts of the crew did that ship survive.”

Thanks, Mr. Hamilton.

Staying at PD...

Update: Alexander, another submariner (there's no such thing as an ex-submariner) has a blog, and he provides some excellent comments on the grouding here.

First Hand Report from the San Francisco

Originally posted 0648 14 Jan:

An E-mail that was purported to be from a Chief Petty Officer on the USS San Francisco has been circulating around the submarine community the last couple of days, but I wasn't sure about its' authenticity, so I didn't link to it. However, it's now up at military.com, so I figure they've vetted it enough to give it a link. (Hey, I don't have too much in the way of standards, but when someone's name is on the thing, I'll try to err on the side of caution.) Here's an excerpt:

As it was, it happened while chow was going on and most people were either sitting and eating or on watch. I don't remember much of the collision. People describe it as like in the movie, "The Matrix," where everything slowed down and levitated and then went flying forward faster that the brain can process. My mind has blanked it out exactly what happened. Adrenaline kicked in and I have no real memory of how I got down to middle level or what I did immediately following. I helped carry several shipmates to the crew mess deck (adrenaline is a wonderful thing - my shoulder was wrecked and I had no idea until about 4 hours later). I sat with several of my junior guys that had bad head wounds and talked with them to keep them conscious until doc could see them. It seemed like an eternity but I'm sure [it] wasn't that long.

The teamwork and immediate response to a casualty that are the hallmarks of the submarine force were definitely in evidence aboard the good ship San Francisco.

Staying at PD...

Update: I just realized that this post has pushed all my non-San Francisco postings off the front page. There's more in the archives, including a couple of my "critiques" of the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner's science coverage here and here.

Roll Call Memorial

Originally posted 1908 14 Jan:

On Thursday, the crew of the USS San Francisco held a memorial service for MM2(SS) Joseph Ashley. This story in the Pacific Daily News, "Shipmates Honor Sailor", does a nice job of giving us the details of the service. The article calls the service a "last man roll call".

"During a last man roll call yesterday, all the sailors in the Auxiliary Division of the Engineering Department were present -- except Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Allen Ashley.
"The "brotherhood," as many submariners call it, gathered yesterday at a memorial service for Ashley, who died from injuries suffered when the nuclear-powered submarine USS San Francisco ran aground Jan. 8 about 350 nautical miles south of Guam."

This type of service has got to be, without a doubt, the most gut-wrenching, emotionally-charged type of service I have ever seen. For those who haven't see one... well, here's an example of how the Army Rangers do it (from rangerfamily.org):

"Once an Eagle" Ceremony
All Rangers (from any era) in attendance sit together for the ceremony. This may be conducted at the actual funeral, or at the gravesite service. If this is conducted during the actual funeral service, coordinate the placement of the "Once an Eagle Ceremony" during the service with the family and those conducting the actual funeral service. If this is conducted at the gravesite service, it should take place just before the rifle salute and Taps.
One Ranger, designated as the OIC, announces,
OIC: "Rangers, post".
Upon the detail posting, he then calls out:
OIC: "Report for Ranger Roll Call!"
He then reads a list of the names of all Rangers present at the service.
OIC: Ranger________
Ranger in formation replies: "Here"
After each name is read, the Ranger present replies with, "HERE" until a roll has been called for all Rangers in attendance.
The last name called, is that of the fallen Ranger.
OIC: Ranger_________(name of deceased Ranger)
pause for a reply.....when there is none
Ranger_________(name of deceased Ranger)
pause for a reply.....when there is none
Ranger_________(name of deceased Ranger)
After the third calling of his name, a Ranger standing in formation announces,
Ranger in formation: "Sir, Ranger ______(name of the deceased Ranger) who was "Once an Eagle" is now reporting as a US Army Ranger to a much higher authority. May God bless him.
OIC replies: "Yes, may God bless him. Rangers, you are dismissed."
And the ceremony is over.

Probably the most poignant example I remember reading of such a ceremony happened when I was stationed at U.S. Central Command Headquarters last year in Tampa. The St. Petersburg Times had a wonderful article on Army Sgt. Paul Smith, who laid down his life for his brothers outside Baghdad on April 4, 2003. (I believe that he, along with Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta, deserves the Medal of Honor.) Here's how the author of this story describes the "roll call" ceremony Sgt. Smith's squad held the day after his death, just behind the front lines:

At 8 the next morning at a spot a few miles from the courtyard, the B Company engineers held a memorial service. In front of them stood a rifle, stuck bayonet-first in a dirt pile. A helmet rested on the stock. 1st Sgt. Campbell called the roll of platoon sergeants.
"Sgt. Bergman."
"Here, first sergeant."
"Sgt. Roush."
"Here, first sergeant."
"Sgt. Brown."
"Here, first sergeant."
"Sgt. Smith."
"Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith."
"Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith."
The company stood at attention. The soldiers fired a 21-rifle salute. No one had taps on CD, so they went with what they had, a bagpipe version of Amazing Grace.

I have tears in my eyes as I type this story, thinking of the brave men and women who leave their homes to defend our freedoms, our way of life, even the future tenuous freedom of those they fight. Whether on land, in the air, or on or under the sea, these warriors deserve our special thanks. To Petty Officer Ashley, Sergeant Smith, Sergeant Peralta, and all who risk their lives for me, know that my family and I honor you, and will keep your sacrifices in our hearts.

Update 2345 14 Jan: bothenook has a some thoughts at his blog.

Satellite Picture Showed Possible Undersea Mountain... in 1999

Originally posted 2131 14 Jan:

Christopher Drew of the New York Times rebounds from a controversial (at least within the submarine community) earlier story on the San Francisco grounding with a useful and informative article on the possible shortcomings of the charts being used by the Submarine Force (annoying free registration to get the second page of the article). Here's the money shot:

"The submarine had crashed head-on into an undersea mountain that was not on the charts. One sailor was killed, and about 60 others were injured. Now, Defense Department officials say they have found a satellite image taken in 1999 that indicates an undersea mountain rising to perhaps within 100 feet below the surface there.
"But the older navigation charts provided to the Navy were never updated to show the obstruction, they acknowledge, in part because the agency that creates them has never had the resources to use the satellite data systematically.
"The officials said the main chart on the submarine, prepared in 1989 and never revised, did not show any potential obstacles within three miles of the crash. They said the incident happened in such a desolate area - 360 miles southeast of Guam - that updating their depiction of the undersea terrain was never considered a priority.
"The new information about the charting flaws also illustrates what many experts say is a broader danger not only to submarines but also to many surface ships. At the same time, it provides a glimpse into the arcane task of plotting an undersea world that in some areas is still more mysterious than the surfaces of Mars or Venus."

There are lots of areas left in the world where the charts will show only a few narrow tracks where sounding (water depths) have been taken, and a lot of blank space. What we're finding out here is that even if your chart seems to be full on information, there's a lot going on under the water that we don't know about....

Going deep...

Update 1651 15 Jan: Here's a website that gives a general view of mapping the seafloor by satellite.

Details on San Francisco Grounding Emerge

Originally posted 0926 15 Jan:

Robert Hamilton of The New London Day continues his series of articles revealing new light on the recent grounding of USS San Francisco (SSN-711). (Free registration required after one day.) An excerpt:

"In late morning, the ship was at periscope depth, checking to make sure it was on course. Everything checked out; the ship was just over 400 miles southeast of Guam, near the Caroline Islands ridge, but the charts showed that there was no water less than about 6,000 feet deep for at least seven miles around the boat, more than enough of a safety margin for submariners, who are known to be cautious.
"Some time about 11:30, after running through a safety checklist to make sure the boat was ready to submerge, the officer of the deck gave the order to dive. The San Francisco used the dive to pick up speed, and was soon running at flank speed, something in excess of 30 knots.
"Although its destination was to the southwest, it was headed in an easterly direction, probably because it had “cleared its baffles,” or changed direction to check to make sure there were no submarines trailing it in the spot directly behind the ship, where its normal sonar sensors cannot “hear.”
"At 11:42 a.m. Guam time, about four minutes after diving, the San Francisco crashed head-on into a nearly vertical wall of stone, a seamount that was not on the charts. In an instant, the submarine's speed dropped from almost 33 knots horizontal to 4 knots almost straight up as the bow whipped up and the ship tried to go over the obstacle — without success."

This article, while very informative, does have a few problems. Hamilton's use of the word "dive" in conjunction with the ship coming down from periscope depth (PD) is technically inaccurate; in submarine language, "dive" indicates a change in condition from surfaced operation to submerged operation, which is not what happened in this case -- the ship had been at a depth where it could stick its' antennae out of the water, and transitioned to a deeper depth. Also, his later discussion of "water space management" is inaccurate, but not enough to take away from the largely informative nature of the article. Read the whole thing...

Staying at PD...

San Francisco CO Reassigned

Originally posted 1048 20 Jan:

Three articles, one from KUAM Guam, this one from Pacific Daily News, and another from The Navy Times, say that CDR Kevin Mooney, CO San Francisco, has been reassigned to Submarine Squadron 15, with a CSS-15 Deputy Commander temporarily taking command of the San Fran. The Navy Times article also provides this update on the plans for the boat:

"...the Navy is planning to put the San Francisco into a floating drydock in Guam to enable technicians to make the most accurate assessment of damages. Still to be determined: if the drydock is nuclear-capable, something the Navy continues to check out. Davis said that’s expected to happen. If it does, the sub could be in drydock in about a week..."

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, and I really don't know all the facts, but I'm still disappointed that the Sub Force took this action. I guess I've been out long enough (3 1/2 months) to start looking at it emotionally, rather than strictly going by precedent...

Staying at PD...

Update 1205 20 Jan: Here's the official announcement from the Seventh Fleet website. There's also some discussion goin' on amongst the submariners over at Ron Martini's BBS.

Irresponsible Monday Morning Quarterbacking

Originally posted 1143 21 Jan:

Do journalists for semi-major web publications make unsubstantiated charges that further their political agenda? Is Lt. Raymond Perry, USN (Ret.), DefenseWatch Contributing Editor who publishes articles online at Soldiers for the Truth, a total asshat? These are the questions I intend to investigate in this hard-hitting blog entry that will see if the 29-year retired Lieutenant is simply following the orders of his high-ranking (retired) boss, or if he comes by this particular agenda on his own.Okay, not really... but I am quite pissed about some of the little snippets thrown into this article by the above-mentioned Raymond Perry currently on the front page of the Soldiers for the Truth website. In discussing the recent grounding of USS San Francisco (SSN-711) he throws out these little gems:

"Reliable sources indicate that a senior officer was embarked on San Francisco. Could her skipper have been showboating? Did his presence aboard the sub intimidate her skipper? This has been a pertinent issue in earlier submarine mishaps (See “Why are Navy COs Getting the Ax?” DefenseWatch, March 2, 2004). It is critical for the Navy to investigate the potential involvement of a senior officer in order to determine the full account of why the San Francisco accident occurred (also see “A Second Look at the Greeneville Collision,” DefenseWatch, Apr. 1, 2004)."

All in all, the article up to this point is, to be honest, about as factually accurate (if boring) as you might expect from someone who has no clue about the differences between submarine navigation and surface ship navigation. By bringing up these "questions" (read: accusations), we see that Lt. Raymond Perry, USN (Ret.) is really interested in continuing his quest to blame all submarine accidents on the presence of senior riders onboard. In his "A Second Look at the Greeneville Collision", he notes that the senior riders onboard the USS Oklahoma City (SSN-723) and USS Hartford (SSN-768) during their recent collision and grounding, respectively, were both relieved of their duties. The focus in this article is questioning why the senior officer aboard the Greeneville was not similarly relieved. (The fact that the senior officers aboard the Hartford and Oklahoma City were the direct operational commander, either deployed or normal, of the respective boat's COs, while the SubPac Chief of Staff on the Greeneville was not, apparently has no relevance in Lt. Perry's world.)

For those unfamiliar with attack submarine life, here's the "straight skinny": I can count on one hand the number of underways I had in which no one other than the ship's crew was on board. Subs almost always have riders aboard, frequently senior to the CO. While the recent accidents may have been on submarines in which a senior rider is present (and I have seen nothing to indicate that there was a senior rider aboard the San Francisco other than this article), I think we can conservately estimate that 99.9+% of underways with senior officers aboard do not "make the news".

"Showboating"? "Intimidated"? These words do not in any way describe the CDR Mooney that I am honored to have known, and do a great disservice to his dedication and service to our country. And, by the way, Lt. Raymond Perry, USN (Ret.), if a submariner were to "showboat" for a visiting dignitary, there are better ways to do it than run at a flank bell to make up ground after a field day. (Maybe that's how skimmers did it in the little less than 29 years it took you to make Lieutenant; subs are a little more exciting.) And, I fail to see how someone could be "intimidated" into not having the fathometer manned properly, as seems to be the thrust of the earlier, more boring part of your screed. Maybe you could also investigate how many suicides of Chief of Naval Operations happened prior to meeting your employer.

OK, I'm calmed down a little now. In all fairness, a review of some of the articles Perry has written about other subjects seems to show that he is generally fair, if a little naive. As far as Col. Hackworth is concerned... he does seem genuinely interested in improving the military and getting better equipment for the troops, and if he doesn't like flag officers too much, well, some of them piss me off as well. For example, I pretty much agree with the points he makes in this article. But, it does seem that you frequently see him being trotted out on the various news programs if someone is needed support a more defeatist agenda from a military point of view. All in all, I think the "questions" raised in the article do little to advance the cause of determining why the San Francisco ran aground, and unfairly impugn the character of CDR Mooney.

Bell-ringer 1558 21 Jan: CDR Salamander weighs in with an earlier discussion on the political ties of Col. Hackworth, who runs the DefenseWatch organization for which Perry works. Although I didn't answer the "asshat" question I rhetorically posed above, the good Commander provides his vote in the comments.

Update 1208 26 Jan: Now that sftt.org has linked to me, I guess there's a chance that Lt. Raymond Perry, USN (Ret.) himself might read my little snit-fit above. If so, I'd like to offer him a chance to respond on this page; I'll post whatever you send me, Ray. Just know, though, that my "frequently intoxicated sources" are saying something different than your "reliable sources" about who may or may not have been on the boat during the grounding, so be prepared to defend yours.

Origin of the "Discolored Water"

Originally posted 0817 22 Jan:

Much has been made about the notation on the chart that USS San Francisco was using during her grounding last week that had been marked "discolored water". This area was apparently charted 3 miles south of where the San Francisco collided with the undersea mountain. This article on the Navy Times website shows the actual satellite photograph that, in retrospect, may have shown the seamount, and could have been used to update the chart. An important thing to remember is that the "discolored water" notation was not based on the satellite evidence; it was based on a single report from the Japanese from the 1960s or earlier. The potential misplotting of the discolored water is probably therefore not due to incompetence, as the Navy Times article seems to be trying to imply. Rather, it is probably more likely due to navigational accuracies available in the 1960s, before GPS. Probably some Japanese surface ship had noted discolored water, and conscientiously reported it to their authorities along with their best estimate of their position when they saw it. Hopefully the San Francisco grounding will act as a spur for the cognizant authorities to investigate these reported anomalies that litter the charts and determine once and for all if they're accurate.

Going deep...

Update 2144 22 Jan: Here's the New York Times' take on the same story. (Will probably require registration soon.) Excerpt:

"David Sandwell, a geophysics professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, said it was also possible that the danger zone - an oval area described as containing "discolored water" - was a mistaken and poorly located reference to the undersea mountain."Defense Department officials have said that the notation dated to the early 1960's, and that it probably came from a surface ship that had spotted murky water. The discoloration could have been a temporary problem, like an oil slick, or a hazy indication of an undersea structure...
"The exact location of the crash remains classified. But the undersea mountain shows up on the satellite images at 7 degrees, 45.1 minutes north latitude and 147 degrees, 12.6 minutes east longitude...
"Besides relying on charts, submarines also receive fixes from navigation satellites and take soundings of water depths. According to officials, the San Francisco's officers have said they took a sounding just four minutes before the crash, and it indicated that the vessel was still in 6,000 feet of water."

This one piece of new information, that the ship took a sounding four minutes before the collision, will be very important in possibly exonerating the Captain and crew of any dereliction, if the sounding was properly evaluated (i.e. verified to match the expected water depth shown on the chart).

Update 0727 25 Jan: Here's another copy of the story above, from The Seattle Times, that probably doesn't require registration.

San Francisco Drydocked

Originally posted 1126 26 Jan:

According to this report from KUAM, USS San Francisco (SSN-711) entered drydock in Guam today for an inspection. They had to do a one-time certification for the drydock to handle submarines, probably one of the ones mentioned at the bottom of this article. I doubt the Navy will be eager to release pictures of the damage when she is in drydock, but may do so if deemed expedient from a public relations perspective.

Speaking of pictures, one that I discussed in my entry here is also available for download on the NavSource Online San Francisco page. Other pics of the boat are also available there, including an interesting one that may be of the GRP sonar dome that was removed from the boat (although it looks like it might be a little small, diameter-wise, to be that).

Staying at PD...

Update: From Ron Martini's Submarine BBS, here's a link to a picture of the drydock the San Fran is apparently in.

Update 0122 27 Jan: This report from KUAM Guam says the Navy has released a video of the San Francisco in drydock, showing the damage to the bow. I haven't found a link to the video yet, but I'll post it when I find it.

Bell-ringer 0811 27 Jan: From the comments -- link to video: kuam.com, click on webstreaming, click on 27 january news, and watch the newscast. The video is well into the newscast, about the 3 or 4th story.

Picture of San Francisco in Drydock

Originally posted 1317 27 Jan:

Here at last is the officially released picture of the San Francisco in drydock. I'll need to take a closer look at this later to see what I can figure out, but for now, all I can say is "Wow"... it's an even more impressive indication of the professional seamanship demonstrated by the San Francisco Captain and crew in getting her back home.

Update 1701 27 Jan: Some of my thoughts on the damage are in the comments. Here's another picture from the official Navy site; this one shows the view from the drydock floor. Click on the "Download HiRes" option for an even closer view.

Update 2245 27 Jan: Here's some more coverage of the release of the photos from CNN and the New York Times (registration will likely be required soon). The NYT article has one piece of information that I hadn't seen before:

"Also yesterday, Kent D. Lee, the chief executive of East View Cartographic Inc., a map company based in Minneapolis, said Russian Navy charts indicate more hazards in that part of the ocean than were on the American charts, though they also fail to show the undersea mountain.
"Mr. Lee said the Russian charts have been available for five years. He said one of the Russian charts noted that the area where the crash occurred had been "insufficiently surveyed." It also warned: "Cautionary measures should be taken when sailing."

Going deep...

SubManDave on the San Francisco Grounding

Originally posted 2240 02 Feb:

Submandave provides his take on the USS San Francisco grounding in the form of a Q and A that you should check out. I realize that I should have done that a while ago; I forget that some of my readers might not be submariners. While you're over there, check out the rest of submandave's blog.

In other submarine news, here's an amusing little story from a local Australian paper about a sub surfacing off their coast (probably near Warrnambool, in Victoria) to do a perstrans (personnel transfer). Not sure which sub it is, but it's an Australian Collins-class boat, like HMAS Collins, shown here.

Update 1554 03 Feb: The Herald Sun article confirms that the sub sighted off Victoria was Australian. I'm not sure there was much doubt to start that this was the case, but I guess it's nice to have it confirmed.

Coming attraction: This post by Ninme got me thinking about all that Poland has done for us in the Global War on Terror. I worked very closely with the Poles and their contingent in Iraq when I was stationed at the Coalition Coordination Center at US CENTCOM, and I'm frustrated that more people aren't aware of how they've really gone the extra mile as our allies, and how I think we could do more to show our appreciation. Expect an entry in the next few days.

Edited to remove a stupid update about how I thought my blog was broken because my cat walked across the keyboard when I was making an entry; she actually just changed the font size setting on my browser. I know, I'm an idiot... On the other hand, I did figure out how to get a blogroll started; I'll work on that probably tomorrow. While I'm here, I suppose I should thank all the visitors that tonight took me over 20,000 total page views since I started the blog. Thanks!

Update 2346 02 Feb: Checking E-mail just before hitting the rack, I found my weekly missive from Military.com. Included was a link to an article by Joe Buff containing his thoughts on possible lessons learned from the San Francisco grounding. I didn't read it too closely, except to see a suggestion that sub crews should possibly be provided with crash helmets to wear during high-speed runs. My initial reaction was not positive, but I figured I'd leave it to the overnight crew to see if there was maybe something good in the article. The comments are open...

Damn, This Guy Won't Quit!

Originally posted 0724 06 Feb:

Lt. Raymond Perry, USN (Ret.) of Soldiers For The Truth is at it again. Earlier, I discussed the quality of his reporting on the USS San Francisco grounding, and not only found it to be wanting, but determined that Perry was approaching asshattedness. (Asshat: someone who wears their own ass as a hat.)

In his latest article posted at sftt.org, titled "The 'Navigator's Paradox' "Raymond Perry, USN (Ret.) has not only crossed that line, but tripped over it and fallen flat on his face. Here are some excerpts:

"An article by Christopher Drew in The New York Times last week contained one intriguing piece of information: An attached chart depicted the probable location of the submarine farther west than the optimum track of a fast transit from its home port in Guam to its planned destination in Brisbane, Australia.
"If confirmed, another question arises: Was this position determined by the presence of a senior officer onboard for some reason? Was he to be disembarked on one of the islands of the Federated States of Micronesia for a return flight to his home base, while the San Francisco then continued on toward its planned liberty port of Brisbane?
"Who was this officer? A close review of the numerous Navy press releases and other communications concerning the San Francisco revealed the names of many officers who would be reasonably associated with the San Francisco, but the presence of one officer has gone completely unmentioned: Commander, Submarine Group Seven.
"More questions emerge: Why the silence? Was he on board? Did he drive the thinking of the San Francisco’s skipper and navigator? Did they cut a few corners in order to deliver him to a planned flight home? Did these dedicated officers unwittingly attribute to their charts an inappropriate accuracy that allowed them to deliver on a tight schedule?"

The officer Lt. Raymond Perry, USN (Ret.) is accusing of being on board, with no real evidence, is RADM David Gove, Commander, Submarine Group SEVEN. (On the CSG7 webpage, click on "The Admiral" for Rear Admiral Gove's biography.) Perry continues to intimate that a "senior officer" may have been on board, although he no longer attributes this to "reliable sources". As I stated earlier, my "frequently drunken sources" say that this was not the case. Perry really is a one-trick pony-- he's convinced himself that submarines only have problems because there are senior officers on board. Maybe the reason that RADM Gove is not making a lot of noise in the press is that he is the first Flag Officer in the San Francisco's chain of command, and as such will likely be the Court Martial convening authority. Maybe he's just trying to maintain some public perception of impartiality. Do you think that might be a more reasonable explanation?

Here's the next piece of proof that Perry's sphincter muscle is wrapped tightly around his forehead; the new article claims that the position of the submarine is "west of the optimum track for a fast transit to Brisbane". It wonders if this senior officer was to be disembarked on one of the Micronesian islands to return home (hopefully one with an airport). Well, Lt. Raymond Perry, USN (Ret.), I think you're kind of reaching there. Why not get the free trip to Australia while you're on the boat? I won't go too much into it, but submarines do travel on a track given to them by a higher authority; it's part of something called "waterspace management". This seems to be Perry's train of thought: San Francisco was further west than they should have been! They'd be wasting fuel! Well, Lt. Perry, unlike the ships you're familiar with, submarines don't need to refuel but once every 20 years or so, and San Fran's got a pretty full tank. Maybe for Lt. Perry's next article, he'll find out that Sub Group 7 is the waterspace management authority for the Western Pacific (they are) and figure that the track assigned to San Francisco was approved by people working for RADM Gove (it was). This will be more proof of a great Govian conspiracy! He was probably in the pay of the Chinese! The San Francisco grounding was a plot to distract the people from problems in Iraq!

I'll probably edit this later with more hyperlinks and examples of Perry's fuzzy thinking. When I do, though, I doubt that it will change my final assessment: Lt. Raymond Perry, USN (Ret.), you, sir, are an asshat when it comes to writing about submarines.

Update: WillyShake at Unconsidered Trifles has a suggestion to help me avoid the "bad word" controversy brewing in the comments. (To ensure there's no confusion: SubBasket is my wife, and her comment was meant to be humorous - except for the new basket part. I'm just glad she didn't see what I had to say about the Democratic Underground DUmmies in this post.)

Update 2136 06 Feb: Edited to correct misspelling, punctuation, add a sentence to the update above to make it funnier, and amend one sentence to make my point clearer. I was just about to amend the portion on waterspace management issues to more clearly dismantle Perry's mistaken assumptions, but realized that I might be approaching the bounds of security classification issues if I did. (Since Perry seems to operate in the world of make-believe, he doesn't have this concern.) Also, I figured out something else that bothered me about the article. In the earlier, more sleep-inducing part of the article that discussed navigation techniques (which reached conclusions that were, in my opinion, just plain wrong), Perry's whole tone seems to be along the lines of, "They aren't doing navigation the exact same way I learned to do it 20+ years ago! Because I learned to do it a certain way, any other way is wrong, despite any technological advances." So, in addition to being an asshat, he seems to be something of a Luddite. I'm surprised he didn't complain that the San Francisco crew didn't know how to use a sextant.

Anyway, since sftt.org still has a link to me, I figure he may see this (and I'm also thinking about writing him). I renew my invitation to Perry to provide me with any additional information he has to back up his conclusions, including any additional information he has on the supposed presence of RADM Gove on board the San Francisco, and I'll publish it without editing. I'll still rip the hell out of anything that smells foolish, though. Remember, Lt. Raymond Perry, USN (Ret.), sometimes good people, like the Captain and crew of the San Francisco, can follow all the rules and still have bad things happen to them. It's called "life", and it's not some grand conspiracy (theological implications notwithstanding)...

My E-mail to Lt. Raymond Perry, USN (Ret.)

Originally posted 0929 07 Feb:

In my entry below, I discuss my continuing displeasure with the articles on the USS San Francisco (SSN-711) grounding by Raymond Perry. Eagle1 had pointed out that Perry may simply be a victim of "simple stupidity coupled by with an overwrought imagination", but an E-mail I got from a San Francisco crew member strengthened my resolve, and encouraged me to try to get Perry's fallacies retracted. Armed with additional information sent in by people who know the truth, I decided to E-mail Perry and invite him to respond to my criticisms. Here's what I wrote:

Mr. Perry,
I just wanted to drop you a line and let you know that while I generally enjoy your writing on non-submarine topics, I've been very disappointed in your writing on the USS San Francisco grounding. Your apparent need to tie the root cause back into the recent accidents where there was a senior rider onboard the subs has caused you to lose whatever credibility you might have with me on this subject. Although you mention that "reliable sources" indicate that there was a senior rider on board, going so far as to postulate that RADM Gove may have been that rider, you should have received enough feedback by now to know that this is just plain untrue.
As a professional journalist, you're probably used to getting E-mail from disgruntled readers about your articles, and may just put them in the circular file. However, I write a little submarine-themed blog titled "The Stupid Shall Be Punished" at http://bubbleheads.blogspot.com/ that your web site, sftt.org, has actually linked to. I've been getting about 250-300 hits a day since the San Francisco grounding, and those numbers surprisingly aren't going down that much, so I may have a little bit of a continuing readership. Some of my commenters have indicated that they are displeased with your articles, and you may have received E-mail from some of them. In my blog, I have made a couple of entries dissecting your articles, and have offered you the chance to respond. I wouldn't expect that a journalist of your stature would normally stoop to respond to a lowly blogger, but I felt I needed to make the offer. I also wanted to let you know that I am very confident in my sources who say there was no senior rider onboard, and if you continue to print that there was, I will continue to ridicule your assumptions in my little blog. However, if you would like to withdraw your accusation (yes, I know it's phrased as a seemingly innocent "what if" question, but I think we all know where you're going with it) and try to put out the actual truth, which is that we should honor the professionalism and camaraderie of the San Francisco crew in getting their damaged ship back to port, I'll withdraw the juvenile name-calling I've engaged in. There may in fact be lessons learned that the Submarine Force can apply from this grounding regarding operational restrictions in poorly-charted areas. If you are truly interested in the truth, I urge you to focus on these areas, rather than the non-existent link to phantom senior riders.
Joel Kennedy -- "Bubblehead"
Also a retired mustang officer, but with no need to put my rank in my signature line.

Okay, so some of the sentences run on quite a bit, but I've always said I'm not an English major; hopefully my point comes through. We'll see if he responds. I'll keep you updated.

Staying at PD...

The Last Word on San Francisco Conspiracy Theories

Originally posted 1335 07 Feb:

This post at Ron Martini's Submarine BBS, from a person I happen to know is a crewman on the San Francisco, should put to rest any further questions on whether or not the San Fran hit another submarine, or if there was an officer senior to the CO on board. As you see from this excerpt, the answers are "no" and "no".

"We did not hit another submerged unit, it was not steel or hull tile we pulled out of our superstructure, it was ROCK, not even coral. We did not have a more senior officer to our Captain onboard, no matter what else you have read on other sites with writers trying to make names for themselves..."

Read the whole post, and remember that this whole episode should be about remembering the sacrifice of MM2(SS) Joseph Ashley, honoring the bravery and professionalism of the Captain and crew, and letting the Submarine Force determine if there are lessons learned that can prevent a recurrence of this tragedy. I'll continue trying to correct anyone on the Internet who says otherwise, but will try to avoid making any further suppositions on the causes or potential outcomes of the investigation on my own (which I admit I have done in the past).

Going deep...

Argghhh! Discusses the San Fran Grounding

Originally posted 2209 08 Feb:

Over at the excellent mil-blog Arrgghhh! they have a post up summarizing their thoughts on the San Francisco grounding and subsequent fallout.

Update 1515 08 Feb: As part of my continuing effort to learn about manipulating my blog, I've hidden the comments for this post, for no apparent reason.

Update 1821 08 Feb: In order to answer Ninme's concerns of a vast government cover-up, I've restored the comments. Nothing's been changed... really... you can trust me... ignore those three deleted comments... just typos and such. Actually, if you're really concerned, you can E-mail me and I'll tell you what happened, or you can go to the revised entry at Arrgghhh! and probably figure it out for yourself...

San Francisco CO Permanently Relieved of Command

Originally posted 2250 11 Feb:

According to this press release from Commander Seventh Fleet, CDR Kevin Mooney, CO San Francisco during her recent grounding, has been officially relieved of command and issued a Letter of Reprimand following non-judicial punishment ("Admiral's Mast") on Saturday, Feb. 12 at Seventh Fleet HQ in Yokosuka, Japan. The report goes on to say:

"Following the submarine striking an underwater seamount Jan. 8, (commander of U.S. Seventh Fleet, Vice Adm. Jonathan W.) Greenert reassigned Mooney to the staff of Commander, Submarine Squadron 15, based in Guam. During the conduct of the investigation into this incident, it became clear to Greenert that several critical navigational and voyage planning procedures were not being implemented aboard San Francisco. By not ensuring these standard procedures were followed, Mooney hazarded his vessel. "

The statement "hazarded his vessel" seems to imply that CDR Mooney was charged with violation of Article 110(b) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Improper (Negligent) Hazarding of Vessel. By disposing of the matter at Non-judicial Punishment, the Navy has decided not to court-martial Captain Mooney. Another report of this action, with updated information on the San Francisco herself, can be found on the Navy Times website. This article explains:

"The Navy also announced Saturday that while no decision has been made about whether to repair or decommission the 23-year-old Los Angeles-class submarine, the damage is so extensive that officials have decided to temporarily repair it and sail the sub off the island to a nuclear-capable shipyard in the United States, where a more detailed assessment can be made.
"The temporary repairs will take about three months and will allow the sub, now resting in a Guam drydock, to transit the ocean, said Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Davis, spokesman for the Pacific Fleet Submarine Force in Hawaii. The trip will likely take place this summer, he said.The crew, meanwhile, will remain in limbo on Guam until officials decide the submarine’s fate, Davis said."

While this action was not unexpected, and while I haven't seen the official investigation report (and I'm not likely to), I will be very disappointed if it turns out that CDR Mooney was relieved for taking actions that are common throughout the fast attack fleet. (The crowd over at Ron Martini's BBS is also discussing their feelings about this news.) "Drawing the short straw", or coming up on the wrong side of the odds when operating under the "big ocean, little ship" theory that's common among submarine COs seems to me to be the wrong reason to end an officer's career. It remains to be seen how this action will change the operating habits of the submarine force as a whole. In the early days of WWII, many of the peacetime submarine commanders were too timid to take the fight to the enemy. The result, according to this excellent article from Undersea Warfare, was as follows:

"Our relatively poor submarine performance early in the war was due to a number of factors. First – as in the opening phase of any conflict – gaining combat experience, shedding peacetime attitudes, and winnowing out “less-aggressive” and tactically-inept commanding officers took months of actual fighting."

I only hope that in taking this action against CDR Mooney, the Submarine Force leadership isn't encouraging excessive caution in peacetime that could not easily be cast aside in the event of war. I was always taught that the submarine force should "train like it fights". While I welcome any changes to operating procedures that would reduce the chance of another tragedy like that on the San Francisco, we must recognize that it is impossible to remove all elements of danger from submarining, and I hope we don't lose combat effectiveness by trying to do so.

Staying at PD...

Update 1027 12 Feb: Thoughts on this from some of the other sub-bloggers can be found here and here.

This CBS News report, written before the Admiral's Mast, contains one obvious fallacy, which makes me less likely to believe one potential piece of new information contained in the article.

First, the fallacy: "Normally, a sub relies on its sonar to detect underwater obstacles, sending out pulses of sound and listening for an echo. But the sonar is useless at high speeds because all other sounds are drowned out by the noise the sub makes..."

The truth is that only in very rare situations, such as transiting the Bering Straits to get to the Arctic Ocean, will a submarine use active sonar as a topographical tool. The rest of the time submarines rely on charted water depths and the fathometer (which I guess is a form of active sonar, but not useless at high speeds).

The potentially new piece of information, which contradicts what I've heard elsewhere, is this:

"... before the San Francisco began its high speed run, the crew took depth soundings, which revealed the water was shallower than shown on the chart — another warning sign the captain apparently failed to heed."

I had heard from various "frequently drunken sources" that the sounding taken just minutes before the collision had agreed with the charted water depth; perhaps the investigating team decided to apply a stricter standard to what constitutes a sounding that "checks with charted" than is normally used. Since I would be surprised if anything other than an unclassified executive summary of the accident investigation will ever be released, it's possible that those of us who are limited to printing unclassified information may never be able to determine what really caused the grounding. What I can determine, though, is that Captain Mooney and the crew of the San Francisco represented the Submarine Force with honor, and that their bravery and skill in dealing with the collision and its aftermath should never be doubted.

Robert Hamilton of the New London Day has an article on the CDR Mooney firing (will require free registration after one day) that has this statement that I believe everyone needs to keep in mind:

"The news stunned several Navy sources who have been following the accident investigation, particularly because Mooney's actions after the accident were characterized as heroic by everyone familiar with the situation. Despite extensive damage to the ship, he and his crew got it to the surface and kept it floating long enough to limp back to its homeport of Apra Harbor, Guam."

Whether CDR Mooney and his crew really did make mistakes in navigation planning and risk assessment, or if this is just a case of punishing the Captain just because tradition requires that he be punished, is still to be determined IMHO.

Personal Thoughts on the SF Situation

Originally posted 2151 12 Feb:

Here's a link to a Navy Times article on the NJP for Captain Mooney that doesn't have any new information, but captures what has been in the other articles I've linked (including stuff in the article from The Day that will require registration starting tomorrow). It does have one mistake, though: It's description of a "moving haven" as "an underwater passageway thought to be free and clear of obstacles" is not accurate; however, a quick Google search for submarine "moving haven" didn't show anything that had a good unclassified description, so I guess I can't correct them here. If you'd like to see the messages from Admiral Sullivan referred to in the story, click here.

Personally, I've thought a lot today about the Navy's decision to punish CDR Mooney. The investigating team clearly went through all the boats procedures and records with a fine tooth comb, and apparently found some inconsistencies and practices not exactly in accordance with approved procedures. My unsolicited advice to the Submarine Force brass is to ask themselves: What percentage of the boats in the fleet, if subjected to a similar inspection, would have had similar deficiencies? I would suggest that if the number is greater than a few, they should reconsider whether or not they want to punish more of the crew (as was done in most recent accidents, including the Greeneville and Oklahoma City collisions and Hartford grounding*), or if they should concentrate more on solving a potentially force-wide problem. Of course, if they did that, they may have to admit that the current inspection teams, which work for the senior commanders, maybe hadn't been looking for the right things.

* I couldn't find a convenient link directly to the Hartford grounding NJP story, so I reproduce a portion of it from this link below (full story about 3/4 of the way down):

Skipper, Squadron Commander Relieved; Six Others Disciplined In Sub Grounding In The Mediterranean
By Robert A. Hamilton, New London Day 11/10/2003 (Used with permission)
The captain of the Groton-based USS Hartford and the squadron commander who was aboard the submarine when it grounded off Sardinia last month have been removed from duty after the admiral in charge of submarines in the Mediterranean "lost confidence in their ability to command," a Navy spokeswoman said. Six other Hartford crewmen were charged with dereliction of duty and punished over the weekend, including one officer and one enlisted man who were relieved of their duties and ordered back to Submarine Squadron Four at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton.
Cmdr. Christopher R. Van Metre, captain of the Hartford, and Capt. Greg Parker, commodore of Submarine Squadron 22, will also return to the United States, said Cmdr. Cate Mueller, a spokeswoman for the Sixth Fleet in Gaeta, Italy. "There is the possibility of follow-on actions involving both officers," Mueller said. They were relieved from command before any formal proceedings because the Group 8 commander, Rear Adm. P. Stephen Stanley, "no longer had confidence in their ability to command."

Staying at PD...

Update 0202 13 Feb: Here's the report on the Admiral's Mast from KUAM, a local Guam television station. This report includes some discussion of the on-going repair work, including this bit:

"...the Navy is planning to make temporary repairs to the bow of the San Francisco so she has adequate structural integrity and proper buoyancy for transit under her own power to a shipyard, which is yet to be determined, with comprehensive repair capabilities. These temporary repairs will be engineered to ensure a successful transit. As part of having on-hand materials for potential use in these temporary repairs, a large steel dome about 20' high and 20' in diameter will be arriving on Guam in the next few days."

I'm assuming this "large steel dome" is a metal sonar dome, of the type submarines used to use before they came up with the glass-reinforced plastic replacements. (If this link is bad, go to this page; the picture of the San Fran's shredded sonar dome is currently the 13th picture down.

Note: While looking for a better link to a GRP sonar dome than the link above, I stumbled across this USNI web page on Los Angeles Class submarines. It has a nice interactive display of a submarine, where if you roll your mouse over various parts of the boat, it shows you what's inside. A good resource for the non-submariner.

Update 2332 13 Feb: Fellow submariner Rob posts his thoughts on the San Francisco.

Parents of San Francisco Sailors Speak Up

Originally posted 2334 13 Feb:

A San Francisco crewman's parent wrote to tell me that their son has expressed continued faith in Captain Mooney and his abilities. This, more than anything else, tells me how highly the crew thought of their Captain -- that even after he's been relieved, the crew is willing to stand by him.Over at Ron Martini's Submarine BBS, the father of fallen submariner Joseph Ashley shares a letter he and his wife wrote to CDR Mooney. Please take the time to read it, and if you haven't already, please leave your thoughts for Mr. and Mrs. Ashley at the Akron Beacon-Journal website.

Going deep...

SFTT Writer E-mail Response Watch -- Day 7

Originally posted 0904 14 Feb:

Seeing that my previous E-mail to Lt. Raymond Perry, USN (Ret.) has gone unanswered for seven days, I today sent a follow-up, as follows:

Mr. Perry,
I had written you last Monday with some questions about your coverage of the San Francisco grounding, particularly your assertion that some mythical "senior officer" rider had changed the ship's normal operational routine. My earlier E-mail is attached, with the body copied below. I understand you are busy, but some of my commenters have mentioned that you have found time to write short replies to their E-mails to you. I just wanted to make sure that you had gotten my E-mail. If you are too busy to reply due to working on a follow-up article about CDR Mooney's NJP, and would just like to withdraw your baseless and unfair accusations that CDR Mooney was "intimidated" by or was "showboating" for this non-existent rider, simply so state in your follow-up article, and I will consider this a satisfactory reply.
Joel Kennedy, also a retired Navy Officer

My discussions on Perry's previous articles are located here and here.

Staying at PD...

Mooney Supporters Race to His Defense

Originally posted 0842 15 Feb:

This is the title of an article by Robert Hamilton in The New London Day (annoying free registration required after 1 day; a more long-lasting non-registration version can be found here, 2nd story down). In addition to being interesting because it quotes many of the active posters on Ron Martini's Submarine BBS, it has the following information from MM2(SS) Joseph Ashley's father, and provides an indication that the backlash against the Submarine Force's decision may be growing:

“How could I in my right mind hold him responsible? No one has showed me yet that he did anything wrong,” said Daniel Ashley, the parent of Machinist Mate 2nd Class Joseph Ashley. “I'm just having a difficult time justifying in my mind that he is to blame here.”
"Ashley said he is upset that satellite images of the area taken in 1999 show the seamount, but that information was never incorporated into Navy charts. He said the Pentagon needs a process to get the most updated information into Navy charts.
“The crew jumped through all the hoops, they took all the soundings, they did everything they should have done,” Ashley said. “The captain tried to apologize when we went out to Guam last month and I told him he had nothing to apologize for.”
"That same sentiment has been expressed by many in the submarine community, and is spreading quickly on computer bulletin boards and e-mails."

Staying at PD...

Chapomatic is Back...

Originally posted 1914 15 Feb:

...and blogging up a storm. I count 13 separate posts in a 15 minute period; I think he's been saving up. All of the posts are interesting, and well worth your time (especially his Link Dump), but the two that I think most apply to submarines (because they mention me) are Chap's take on the firing of CDR Mooney of the San Francisco, and his well-written post on Soldiers For The Truth, which unlike my critiques, does not stoop to calling SFTT writers "asshats".

San Francisco Temporary Repairs

Originally posted 2232 16 Feb:

An article in Stars and Stripes has some information on the ongoing repairs to USS San Francisco. It appears that a temporary dome will be welded to the pressure hull in the bow; this dome, which will be watertight and filled with air, will provide the necessary buoyancy for the sub to make a surfaced transit across the Pacific. Excerpt:

"Repair teams will attach the dome, repair the ballast tanks “and do all the things necessary to make it safe to navigate on the surface,” Davis said.
"Though no decisions have been made about when the sub will depart Guam or where it will go, Davis said, “we think the temporary repairs will take three months.” The transit probably will occur this summer, he estimated."

This makes sense, as long as by "repair the ballast tanks" they mean they will cut away any portions that would interfere with the installation of the dome; I think repairing the forward port ballast tanks will be a little too much for the Guam shipyard to handle...

60 Minutes and USS San Francisco

Originally posted 2229 02 March:

From Ron Martini's Submarine BBS, a post from the father of the Sailor who died on the USS San Francisco says that 60 Minutes may be preparing a story on the grounding. It'll be interesting to see how this evolves, and if they'll focus on the skill of the crew, or go for the sensational. I know which direction I'm leaning...

Going deep...

[Here's my post about the story that eventually ran on 60 Minutes.]

Copyright Law and Brave Men

Originally posted 0934 09 March:

Over on Ron Martini's BBS, we find a story that looks like another case of the media vs. the little guy, but in this case, the "little guy" is just about the toughest A-ganger I know, and he's not taking it lying down:

"Aight, I do not like to post this, but I am being hunted by a reporter from the above said organization [Navy Times]. It seems a letter I posted on Goatlocker.org, a private BBS for Chiefs, was leaked to blogs, and now this reporter wants to use all of the online letters from US, PROUD submariners, to sell papers in a future navytimes paper about the San Fran.
"Fellas, that really gets my goad, and I don't like it. I already have friends checking on the legality of it. The letter I wrote was just days after the grounding and very emotional in nature, and I do not want it published on paper for somebody to market or make money on. I need you shipmates to help me and email the editor at navytimes and stop this BS. I posted that letter to my shipmates to let them understand what and how bad a severe casualty could do to even the highest trained people on the submarine.
"I might lose this fight, and my letter be published, but I will not support it. What I need is the support of other people to email them and let them know that we won't put up with it.
"The leaked letter? Hahaha, here it is, a uncut version that was explained by an ex submariner. Click the link, and you will see my thoughts."
San Fran Diving Officer

"Hagar" is the nom de plume of the submariner who was the Diving Officer of the Watch on USS San Francisco (SSN 711) during her recent collision. I'll write more on this later, but for now, please write the Navy Times by clicking here and leaving feedback.

Update 1314 09 March: As I was researching the applicable copyrights laws that Hagar might be able to use in an effort to prevent publication, I found this piece over at Legal Database. (As I checked back at Martini's BBS, someone else had also found it, so I could have saved myself some Googling.) The relevent portion:

"Works put on the Internet are considered “published” and therefore qualify for copyright protection. A work put on the Internet is not considered public domain simply because it was posted on the Internet and free for anyone to download and copy. You need permission from the site owner to publish any materials, including photographs, music, and artwork from the site.
"The best way to enforce Internet copyright is through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 is designed primarily to limit the liability of Internet service providers for acts of copyright infringement by customers who are using the providers' systems or networks..."

So, it would seem that Hagar's work is protected by copyright. This wouldn't protect him from having The Navy Times print a "fair use" portion of it if they attributed it to him, but I think it could keep them from printing the whole thing. I'd be interested to hear what any law-bloggers might have to say about this. Eagle1, how copy?

Staying at PD...