By Ken Caye STCM(SS), 1958

Ken and I had an exchange of correspondence, and he gave permission for me to cull out some material of general interest.

It has been years since last we talked as I left Irex heading for Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, ME. It was in Oct 1958. I had chosen new construction for my re-enlistment “incentive”.

I went to the USS Barbel (SS 580) fondly known as the “Queen of the Diesel Fleet”.

I do have a couple of recollections that may add to the list of good times had by all on a great boat.


When I came on board from the USS Bergall (SS320), I was still an NQP. LCDR John L. Dickey III, one of the finest gentleman I met in my 20 year & 1-day naval career, was the XO. He took one look in my record & said, “Had a conflict of personalities with your division officer?” I acknowledged that he was correct. You guys did a great job helping me get qualified.

Seems like every time my head would hit the pillow or I'd be getting into a system for a signature, the Navy's worst SONAR ever would crash. You do remember the AN/BQS-2! It was designed by the Navy & built by Bendix. My motto then was that Bendix makes great washing machines—it's just too bad that they tried to make it into a SONAR system.

When they put the new sail on, our duty section was the first to dive with it. It was great. Then we surfaced for a while. When we dove again, I was the first man down. And, boy did I go down. The salt water on the nice stainless steel rails didn't allow any control in speed. When I hit, I thought I was like one of the cartoon characters with a little body sticking up above the feet. I couldn't breath in or out. Got down to the Control Room & couldn't even straighten up. COW was yelling at me to rig out the planes, but I couldn't even lift my arms. Finally got to where I could breath & all returned to normal. Was pretty fortunate that I never had any back problem from it.

That was when they put the sticky stuff on the rails. At least we could control our speed after that.

Do you remember the time I came up to relieve you on the helm & I asked you when we had changed course. You said we hadn't. I told you we were about 65 degrees off course then. You were on the course we had been on the day before.

You asked me what the course was. Like a fish (mullet), I told you the correct course. You quickly yelled up the upper CT hatch to the OOD, Mr. “Tony” Hastogolos (spelling is probably incorrect) the course & speed I had just given you & stated, “Caye has the helm”.

You scampered down out of the CT like a rabbit being chased by a hound. There I was, 65 degrees off course. Mr. Lumsden wasn't due to get a fix for a while so I figured I could coax us back on course. When I was almost on the correct course, one of the lookouts woke up & saw our wake was curving.

Helmsman to the bridge! I explained the circumstances. Mr. H called you back up to the bridge & we had a little pow-wow of sorts. I told him that I wouldn't tell anyone if he didn't, that we had run off course for so long. I proposed that we run the other side of our track to make up for it. He agreed to the conditions & two beady-eyed white hats had survived another mishap.

When Mr. Lumsden took his fix & plotted in, we were right on track, but just a little behind. He congratulated Mr. H. on the good job of staying on track & all was well.

It was a good tour on Irex. I don't remember where in ND Stan was from, but I know that he & I (also a son of ND Norwegians) shared a lot of good memories & jokes about the state.

I'm really looking forward to the Bergall SS320 reunion. The SSN 667 gathering doesn't mean anything except it carried on the good name. I owe my “submarine mentality” to the chief auxillaryman we had—John Ott. When I came on Bergall, I was still in the surface craft mode of thinking. He was duty chief & overheard me tell the section leader, “That's not my circuit”, when he wanted me to do something—don't remember what that was.

He got me in the corner of the control room over by the trim & drain manifold where we had a little one on one. I then knew what one needed to have to succeed on submarines. Made it easy after that.

The rest of the story on my being transfered to the Irex was as I stated—there was a great personality conflict with my division officer. He was a former torpedoman that made LDO. Among other things, I had told him that he should have stayed a torpedoman because he wasn't going to cut is as an electronics officer. I was rather subtle if you remember.

Well, one day Mr. Dickey called me in to his state room to tell me that we were going to be taking that very person with us to sea for his officer at sea qualifications. Before the end of the week, Mr. Dickey took me aside & said, “You're right. This guy is in way over his head. In fact, he is dumb”. Vindicated again. It felt good.

Oh yeh, I was on the USS Seawolf & we had a great chief aux guy by the name of Swede Larson. The very same one we had on Irex. The “Old Munger” himself.

Do you remember the time some one woke you up & that we were setting the maneuvering watch. You got dressed, foul weather jacket & all & started up the AB hatch. You stayed up there instead of coming back down until Stan came & got you. When he asked what you were doing up there you told him that you were meditating. That was a great answer.

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