The history of the USS Irex:
Aquisition of a Northern Sail, July 1956–June 1958 Under Captain Gallemore

[ Captain Gallemore ] On 31 July 1956, CDR James Gilbert “Gil” Gallemore assumed command. He was originally from Honolulu and had previously been the Exec on the Becuna for two years after serving on the Bumper and Grouper. I'm not sure if the group of North Atlantic operations occurred before or after this change in command.

At some point the XO, Philip Pennington, was succeeded by J. L. Dickey. Dickey was a highly respected “mustang” officer up from the ranks.

Here are some of my own recollections of this period. Unfortunately, my memory is not as good as some of my shipmates.

Sometime in late 1956 or early 1957, the Irex went into dry dock in Newport News to have her hull de-gaussed. Time was also spent testing the new homing torpedoes (and loosing some of them).

In 1957 the Irex participated in fleet and group exercises and also served as a training boat for the Submarine School.

[ Irex on Thames ] In July of 1957 the Irex entered the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard where she was fitted out with a guppy-type passive sonar chin-mount array and a new type of sail, known as the “Northern Sail” made of fiberglass to replace the metal one. The fiberglass was lighter in weight, placed the bridge higher, and acted as a stabilizer under water.

It was here in the yards that the boat's entire lead ballast was stolen by truck one night. I don't know whether the perpetrators were ever caught. I also don't know how the yard managed to leave caustic solution in the water system, which made the coffee almost undrinkable for a week or two after we returned to sea.

Also I believe that it was during this overhaul in Philly that the sonar station was moved from the forward torpedo room, port side after bulkhead, into a newly created sonar shack in the Pump Room below the Control Room. This quiet nook offered a cozy world for those who enjoyed listening to sea life on the new passive sonar or to music on the tape equipment.

In retrospect we seemed a bizarre collection of odd personalities, although probably others saw us as perfectly normal. A little sense of these personalities is conveyed by Ken Caye STCM in an exchange of letters. Ken describes his first encounter with the new sail.

Dave Richards also recalls the experience of the Philadelphia yard and such personalities as Stan Wishnafsky, Stanley “Jack” Jackson and Chief Marshall. Also, Coley Joyce as well adds some interesting recollections.

“Dutch” Larch was the COB at the beginning of 1956. He was admired by everyone who served under him. It was a great loss to the Irex when he left to become COB on the new Nautilus. He passed away in early 2006. At some point, perhaps late 1956, “Dutch” Larch was suceeded as Chief of the Boat by Chief Torpedoman John “Dutch” VanDerHeiden.

Although such matters are naturally contested, it is said that the Irex was the finest of all boats. Besides pride in being an “E” boat, part of the reason was the great admiration the crew had for the COB, Dutch Larch, and Captains Gallemore and Snyder. And this is why, until the “seavy-shorey” program that started about this time, sailors would stick with the Irex for as long as they could.

Apparently in the first half of 1958 the Irex made a cruise to Bermuda. It also went to Halifax, where she tied up inboard of a British coastal submarine (on which we tried out the grog). These two cruises are mentioned in shipmates' recollections.

At one point, we managed to hit the bottom of Long Island Sound and knock off the sonar dome. There were no punitive repurcussions because it happened during a particularly tough emergency drill.

LCDR Smith relieved Captain Gallemore on 19 June 1958, and Captain Gallemore went on to become an instructor in the Operations Department of the Sub School.

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