A Message from the Commodor

By Captain T.B. Brittain, Jr. USN, 1950

It was in 1950, when I was a newly qualified officer on the USS Irex (SS-482), that we made an unusual landing at S/M Base NLON pier. It was a late Friday afternoon return from sea, and we were given a pier opposite Squadron 8 Headquarters, where Commodor Triebel ruled as our boss. When the bow was approximately halfway up the pier, an all back two-third bell was ordered but misunderstood and all ahead two-thirds was answered. The OOD did not catch this error until the ship—which already had considerable headway, picked up even more speed. I had the anchor detail, but there was little we could do at this point but to look on helplessly. A last minute back emergency bell was too late, and Irex's fleet bow plowed into the concrete at the end of the pier with a resounding crash!

It seemed that every window in Squadron Headquarters opened as heads appeared to identify the culprit. After another ten minutes the ship was secured, the brow put over, and the Skipper went over to the pier to look at the damage to the bow. As he stood looking at the good sized hole in the bow buoyancy tank, a sailor came dashing down from Squadron Headquarters. He rushed up to the Captain and handed him an envelope. A message from the Commodore, Sir. The Skipper gingerly tore open the envelope, opened the sheet of paper therein and read the following message:


My note:

Crashing into the pier was apparently a regular occurence. Usually, however, it was the wooden pier itself that was hit, and the sharp bow could slice far into it without serious damage. One time, however, the Irex did hit the concrete at the end, although this time far less dramatically than described by Captain Brittain above. However, in the first parking spot at the head of the pier was the luxurious car of one of the crew, perhaps that of Stan Wishnafsky, [this identification has been challenged] who took the style of his off-duty life very seriously. I don't know if memory is playing me false, but I recall that the fleet type bow that projected forward just managed to touch and break the car's windshield. I've always chucked when thinking of the insurance claim that suggested the windshield had been broken by a submarine!

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