Monday, July 22, 2019

Lucky Lady

Weekend before last, Mrs J had some travel agent certification hours to complete, so she and I went to Galveston Thursday through Sunday.  As Little J had attended Texas A&M Galveston his first year of college, we were familiar with the town as well as the conventional routing to get there.  As it was just Mrs J and I and we had no real hurry to get there, we decided to go the "back way"

Except for two unannounced single lane road repairs, it was a quite pleasant drive.  Google maps called it 5+56 going the scenic route vs 4+56 going the interstate, so not a show stopper.  When we got to Luling and crossed I-10, we realized we'd made a great decision.  A lane was closed due to an accident on the eastbound side and traffic was all but stopped.

So we went through Gonzales, home of the Texas version of "Come and Take it!" (Evidently, STxAR, that phrase was also used at Thermopylae.  Who knew we Texans had read history?).  Spotted the Spoetzle Brewery (makers of Shiner Beer) in Shiner (duh!) and saw a beautiful Russian Orthodox church, passed through Halletsville and Rosenberg, where I committed a grievous error.

I trusted the GPS rather than the map.

Off we went to the south west on Farm Roads and lesser "roads".  Discovered a lot of very quaint dwellings in some fairly untravelled swamplands before finally rejoining our planned route (Texas 6) in Alvin.  Back on track we proceeded southeasterly until we sighted the on-ramp to I-45 which had a stopped train in front of it.  Back tracked north west about 10 minutes later when my patience was outlasted by the train's determination not to move an inch.  Got on to 1-45 and proceeded southeasterly again. As we approached that previous on-ramp, I recognized the car pulling onto the highway beside me  as the oneI had been staring at the rear of while waiting for the train to move..

But my blood pressure was lower than his.  So I got that going for me.

Arrived at Moody Gardens Hotel, Spa and Schlitterban and checked in.  Arrival in Target Area complete.

I had some clearly defined objectives for this mission.  First and foremost, I wanted to visit the Lone Star Museum of Flight.  We had visited it while Little Juvat was in school, and liked it, but that was WAY back then when cell phones didn't have cameras.  So, I didn't have pictures of the B-58 and Spitfire (in flyable condition) and wanted to rectify that.

Friday morning dawns and Mrs J is off to her training.  I make my way down to the restaurant for breakfast.  Glanced through the menu and put it down immediately on seeing "Two Eggs with Corn Beef and Brisket Hash".
With Cholula of course!
Man were they good! I had also forgotten how good Community Coffee is.

Thoroughly nourished, I began the days events and proceeded to the front desk to determine if the Flight Museum was within walking distance.  (Moody Gardens shares an entrance with the local airport.)  The clerk looked at me a little funny and said,  I asked how to get there and she replied," get on I-45 and head back towards Houston."

Not wishing to do that in the middle of the morning rush hour, the Museum will have to wait for a future trip.  (It had been damaged in the recent hurricane and moved to Ellington Field.  Shortly after opening, it flooded in another hurricane.)

The hotel fee included tickets to Schlitterban, but much like PJ day at the elementary school, an unaccompanied, overweight, balding, slightly beyond middle aged, white male at a waterpark would be a little bit, shall we say, awkward.

What to do?

I determined I would drive around the town and see what's changed.  The first thing I thought to check out was the A&M campus and see what's what there.  It had grown quite a bit in the ensuing 17 years since Little Juvat was there (Feeling old are we, Son?).  I continued past the campus out to the point on Pelican Island and saw  a couple of interesting things.

Well, turns out it's now called Seawolf park, although I don't know why.  There is a conning tower of a sub there marked 639, but according to this article, that belonged to USS Tautog (SSN 639).

Parked and walked over to it, but for all intents and purposes, it's just a hunk of metal.  Nothing to do, nothing much to see.

However, nearby....

USS Cavalla
A WWII Gato class submarine that had 6 combat patrols and it was open to tour!

Veterans got in for $5 plus $6 for parking, so it's off to the races.

I figured the curators had heard about Murphy and Museum pieces, so they added some hefty preventative measures.  I was deterred.

These are the Aft torpedo tubes.  Not sure who "Al" is.

The Boat is 311' long and this shot kinda confirms it.  It's large.

At the base of the conning tower looking aft.

Got some "been there, done that" markings.  But I didn't realize at this point, exactly what they'd done.

Was pretty sure this was some form of detection equipment, but not sure exactly what.  I've got my suspicions and will discuss shortly.

OK, I'd always heard the saying "Down the hatch", but always assumed it meant something being drunk or swallowed.

Not in this case.  Very steep and deep.

Top message was critical for the remainder of the visit.

This was the forward torpedo room as well as the dorm for 12 Sailors.

Very nice and cozy.  Lots of privacy, soft bunks and peace and quiet!

Or not.

Just as a reminder that this is a submarine and they go underwater, this is an escape hatch.

Forward torpedo tube.

Torpedo door controls.  As a reminder, you're on a submarine, you employ your weapons under water.  Getting these in the proper position for what you're about to do is somewhat critical and helps you avoid having to use the escape hatch.

Torpedo guidance controls.  Torpedoes at this time were not controlled after launch, so getting them set right was critical.

This stumped me until I researched it for this post.  Why 3-6?  What happened to "Fire 1, Fire 2".  Well, post war, the ship was retrofitted with equipment more suited to anti-submarine war and that equipment required removal of 2 forward tubes.
I think the object on the deck was part of the sonar based on this.  This device was located directly below, in my estimate, where that object was.  I could be wrong, and I'm sure someone will let me know if so.  Beans....No crowing about it, though!

Nice wide passage ways, plenty of head room.

The officer's mess...and dead reckoning table.  Spacious!

Spacious junior officer's quarters.  That, by the way, is the TOP bunk.

The Captain's suite!

OK, that fruit salad on the sail?

On her first cruise, she sited and sank the  Japanese carrier Shōkaku, of Pearl Harbor shame.  Needless to say, that annoyed the Japanese.  They expressed their annoyance by dropping 105 depth charges on USS Cavalla in a 3 hour period.

I loved their radio message about the attack (next to last paragraph above).


Gotta love it!
A submariner's version of flags on the fuselage.
Just in case Murph forgot or something.

We're now in the control room.  Unfortunately, the conning tower was closed for renovation.  The ladder to the left.

Very important to make sure all the Hull opening indicators are out when the Captain says "Dive".  Else...Escape Hatch.

Radio room.

Crew Mess.  54 enlisted men crewed the ship,  This is where they ALL ate.

Checklist, gotta have checklist.  Gotta do it right.  Else...Escape hatch.

Crew quarters (and aft battery compartment).  A spacious suite for you and 35 other of your closest friends.

Patrols could last as long as 75 days.  One might need the capability to make repairs.
Lest you think this machine room was "spacious".
It's part of the engine room

The gas pedal.

The other side of the engine room.  Yes, I had to go through there...sideways.
Submerged (Battery) controls.

And the aft dorm room torpedo room.  But that is a bunk at the top of the picture.

I found the tour fascinating, and I did learn a lot.  First, while the boat looked big from the outside, there really wasn't any wasted space on the inside.

Second, when they say, "Mind your head", they really meant it.  I hit mine on several protrusions, never serious enough to draw blood, but enough to get my attention...for a minute or two...then Bang!

Third.  it took me a while to figure out the best way to transit hatches.  For me that was backwards.  The first hatch I was pretty sure I was stuck and it was likely they would have to cut open the sub to get me out.  Fortunately, I was the only one in that area of the ship and I was able to extricate my self before losing all face and needing help.

Last,  submarines aren't built for overweight, 64 year old, 6' tall guys with arthritic knees.  I have an even greater respect for the folks that went (and go) to sea aboard them.

Great museum.  If you've got the time, I highly recommend it.  Next week, the other half...

Oh, why the title?

USS Cavalla was commissioned on February 29th 1944.  The only submarine commissioned on a leap day.  They thought it was a lucky omen.  This is a little schmaltzy, but I enjoyed it.


  1. Would have liked to seen the faces in Pearl receiving that message about the Shökaku sinking. On her third patrol Cavalla made a surface attack on two Japanese destroyers, sank one and the other made depth charge attacks which Cavalla evaded on the surface.......gads.....that must have been ....uh....riveting. Great photos juvat, got the claustrophobia acting up. Oh thanks for the reply yesterday RHT.

    1. That coupled with the reports of the Mariana's Turkey Shoot and Albacore's sinking of the Taiho, must have caused Admiral Nimitz's blood pressure to drop considerably. A great week for the good guys.


  2. That boat needs to be Murphyized! Too many open dials, switches, and levers! The man is devious when it comes to finding buttons that still work. I know, I was on a submarine with him in Fall River, MA. Ever had a dive alarm go off next to your ear? I have.

    Great post juvat, brought back memories of boats I've toured elsewhere. (Mobile Bay and Fall River spring to mind.)

    1. Thanks, Sarge. There was only two couples on board while I was, they were much further aft, so setting off the dive alarm would be difficult to deny. So...I was on my best behavior.

  3. You drove through my AO! I love the view out there and the green is amazing this year. In a perfect world, I'd own some acres out there. I even like Czech food. I did not know about Molon Lobe being the root of "Come and Take It!" And that canon was tiny by today's standards. Neat!

    That is a Collins R-390 in the radio room. Above and right of the mill. (mill: caps only typewriter) The penultimate receiver ever designed and built in the tube era. It could literally hear everything. And it was released in the 50's as I remember. So that beauty sub did have some lasting power. One of the longest serving of the WW2 generation of boats. When we went through there in the 90's, and I didn't know her history, either.

    My wife played around like a kid in there. That's probably why everything was marked or covered like that!!! I rang my bell on the headache stuff a few times. I'd have been a hunch back if I was ever on one for long.

    The Texas was fun, too. We got to sit on a gun mount and spin it around and aim it at tugs and such in the water. I will never forget it. We all had a lot of fun that day. Is Colonel Bubbies still around on the Strand?

    1. With all the rain this spring, everything along the route was bright green. Mrs J and I talked about living down there as we drove through. Decided the humidity and mosquitoes would be problematic for us.

      I haven't been to the Texas. Usually while transiting Houston, I'm either going somewhere or coming back and as it's still 5 hours home, I haven't wanted to add the time to effectively tour her. Need to rectify that though. I've heard she's not holding up real well.

      I spent a long time driving around the Strand on Sunday waiting for Mrs J to get off the cruise ship tour. I think I remember seeing the sign on 22nd St, but Google Maps says it's permanently closed. I know I saw a surplus center sign somewhere on the trip.

    2. Bubbies had enough uniforms to outfit movies. Name your army.. Want a real USN coffee cup, Ceramic, 4 lbs empty, no handle? 817,511+... take your pick. Smelled like Napoleon's gym socks... mildewed web gear, and sweaty pits, sorted by continent and branch of service. I had some German air force gloves I got there. High speed, low drag...F-104????!!?

  4. Very nice commentary, thanks. Reminded me of my recent visit to the USS Clamagore (SS-343). Definitely not designed for an overweight, 66 year old with mobility challenges- had to put on some bandaids after my tour. Much fun though. Zero wasted space. I was able to stop at multiple spots to try and imagine serving on her during a wartime cruise. Unable to do so. Tip of the hat to her crew!

    1. Thanks. The 75 day patrol part got to me. I couldn't imagine being cooped up with 60 people on that boat for that long. Then throw combat in to that mix. As I said, I gained a lot of respect for submariners during the visit.

  5. Being fairly short doesn't usually work to my advantage, but it's a wonderful asset on submarine tours.
    The creature comforts of modern nuclear boats are markedly lacking on diesel boats.

    Great photos and a great post. Thank you.

    1. Thanks, My pleasure.

      I visited a Nuke while at Armed Forces Staff College at Norfolk. You're right, they're much nicer.

  6. When people used. To to say to me, "it must be nice to be so tall," I'd say it was a 2-way street. Having the COB hand me a few band-aids when I came aboard was an indication that being tall was NOT going to be an asset on a sub. (I was 6'4" then - shrunk down to an inch shorter today - and being able to fit in fast cars and fast planes were also issues.). The sub in NYC, the Growler, has a hatch on the pier that people wanting to go aboard must pass through before they are allowed on board. Just like the baggage sizes ar airport gates - if you can't fit through, you can't go aboard. They had to post a 'guard' there since some folks who wouldn't fit would try to find ways around the hatch, and if they did, they would usually get stuck at some narrow point in the tour.

    1. It wasn't so much my size that was the problem, although I can see how a bigger person would have "issues". Rather, it was my knees acting up. Halfway through the first hatch I couldn't get my trailing leg to bend enough to clear the lower lip. Had to retreat, turn around and put a foot through backwards, the hold myself on the top lip of the hatch and bring my head through, then the trailing leg. I looked as graceful as a cow on ice. But it worked. Manning Battle Stations would have been "interesting" to see.

  7. Cholula makes many things better.
    I missed it the past four weeks.

    I’ve been on a few boats tied to the pier and decided that I probably could’ve been deployed on one.
    However, bear in mind, that to qualify as a submariner and wear the twin dolphins, all of the checklists have to be a part of memory in both the mind and the muscles, in other words, instinctive.
    Not that there isn’t a certain amount of the same thing in the surface Navy.
    Submarine sailors spend all of their free time training and retraining.
    I have a really healthy respect for those men.
    I I remember the adage, “the Navy only has two kinds of ships, submarines and targets.”

    1. Checklists are the same in Fighters. I would, from rote memory, perform the procedures, then if time allowed, open the checklist and ensure I hadn't forgotten anything. As far as I recall, I never did. I can still recite the Bold Face procedures for every airplane that I flew.

      F-15s had a similar saying...Eagles and targets.

    2. Amazing that the Cavallo could sink a destroyer from the surface, then evade the second destroyer.
      I can only think the Japanese crews were really inept.

    3. That was my thought also. I wonder what they were actually depth charging.

    4. Depending on the weather conditions, evading at night could be quite easy. Hit one of the famous Pacific blinding rainstorms and you can surface drive yourself away from anything up to really good radar equipped. Same if there is enough smoke or obscuring agent.

      The Japanese DD crews had a very good reputation for hounding our subs. Thus, I think there must have been more to that story, such as weather or smoke.

    5. I think you're probably right Beans about getting away. I'm still curious why the DD was expending Depth Charges though. He must have seen/heard something to make him think there was a target there.

    6. Standard surface torpedo attack pattern calls for locate, torpedo, DIVE and evade. So, visibility conditions probably being sucky, Jap skipper sees ship get torpedoed, assumes sub either is on surface diving or, more probably, already submerged, and attacks via standard pattern. You attack subs with depth charges, right?

      And it actually isn't that bad of an idea. A column of water going upwards will break the spine of a ship. Not to mention rattling the crew. And every DC explosion is more sound bouncing to pick up via acoustic methods.

      Just, in this case, assumptions lost to reality.

    7. I remember reading in one of my Military Book Cult books, that a US congressman (asinus crassus) told a newspaper that USN subs could go lower than the Japanese were aware and they routinely went deeper than the ash cans were set off, and escaped at will. That soon changed after his interview was published. Grrrr... etc.

    8. Published in a Chicago paper as I recall!

    9. If'n I remember correctly, there was and still is controversy over whether he did it purposely or just because he was a complete dumb-butt.

      Much speculation as to the control Soviet agents had in our government during WWII. Some of them even backed up by KGB files. Would not put it past the Soviets trying to make the Pacific harder than it already was.

    10. Did not know about that. Interesting.

  8. That thing on the deck is a JP passive search hydrophone. Used to listen for are a noises, and power plant noises, while submerged. A passive sonar, if you will.

    1. Thank you, Sir! My first thought was it might be a radar, but you'd want that as high up as possible to maximize range.

  9. Contrary to what it seems, I don't know everything.

    Our sea wolves really roamed all over the Pacific, doing all sorts of work. Think that sub was crowded? They did some sub-launched Marine Raider raids from subs. Full war-crew plus Marine Raiders and all their equipment. And then there are the rescue subs picking up aviators who were no longer aviating.

    As you found going to Japan, the Pacific is a big empty place with little dots of somethings too far apart and too small to be really comforting. Add to that the little dots of somethings too far apart and too small and very dangerous cause they're shooting at you and teeny weeny 311' long submarine was a beautiful sight, to us, as long as it was one of our subs, that is.

    Now, to really bake your noodle. Imagine that sub with boxes of food and supplies stacked 1-2' high on the deck with boards over top all throughout the boat. That's how they would start a patrol. Not the clean, empty open spaces you saw...

    1. Yeah, I'd noticed that lack of provisions there. I think one of the books I read on WWII subs talked about the crew actually sharing bunk space with food and other supplies.

      I'd read that the first President Bush had been shot down, rescued by a sub and subsequently endured a depth charging. That must have been pretty stressful. "Lord? Do you really want me that bad? I get shot down, float in a dinghy for a few days in "shark infested" ocean (added for humor value) and NOW you want to depth charge me? "

    2. Oh, and the "Don't know everything" thing? You know I've got to spread the love around. Sarge docks my pay every time I use "Sargento de la Fuerza Aérea muy viejo" as a descriptor.

    3. Mrs. Andrew, when she is tired of my verbal fewmets, calls me "Mr. Wizard" since I seem to know something about everything. But then she hates it when I say "I don't know." So I am stuck between the Scylla of being a know-it-all and the Charybdis of not knowing.

      In other words, I'm married :)

    4. Watched "Operation Petticoat" with a WWII submariner. The first thing he started complaining about was the lack of boxes of food on the floor.

    5. Beans (the second, as Sarge would say), aren't we all, Brother!

    6. The deck on the sub was covered with what looked like the lids on the hard panel boxes with latches on them. At the time, I thought those were put in to even out the floor for easier/safer footing. I'm wondering if those weren't storage areas. They caught my eye in the forward torpedo room as I couldn't figure out how the torpedo was loaded into the lower tubes. That made me think they were installed later as flooring.

    7. Could very well be. Not being Murph, I opted not to try and open one (or more). Maybe when he comes back he can swing by, check it out and report.

    8. Battery access, access to other machinery, storage for extra pipes and pieces of metal and parts to the engines and and and.

      Imagine if you had to store a week's worth of replacement parts for an F-4 in an F-4. Behind every body panel would be something.

  10. "This is a little schmaltzy, but I enjoyed it."

    Funny. My dad, the old B-17 pilot, used that word to describe the movie 'Memphis Belle'. IIRC, the 8th Air Force and the Silent Service had the highest casualty/loss rates among the U.S branches.

    1. Doesn't surprise me. Both were in circumstances where having your weapon system damaged was quite frequently fatal.

    2. Both were instances where the margin between wounded and dead was minimum. Much more distance between wounded and dead as an infantryman.

    3. Not sure I'd want to be an infantryman. Too slow in the getting out of Dodge department. Didn't want to be a bomber driver, big, slow, not very maneuverable target. (Plus...SAC!) Subs, nah! My George H.W.Bush scenario above is actually me projecting. Ships? Nah, hours of boredom offset with minutes of panic. Helicopters, too many moving parts although that was the last aircraft I actually flew. So, as Popeye would say, "I yam what I yam!"

  11. Yep, you didn't get a PUC lightly back in the day. My cousin was on Pindato for two patrols, then volunteered for UDT, figuring it was safer. He was a machinist mate, and we toured Cavalla back in 73, I think. Interesting to hear his comments, and although an older boat than his, he knew where everything was. He said the engines ran in the key of G, and he couldn't stand music in that key! He also hated the Japanese for what they did on Okinawa, as he was apparently involved, but never would talk about it. I've been aboard a number of different classes of subs over the years for work/testing, and NONE of them are truly roomy... Just sayin... And now I'm too damn old to climb those vertical ladders anymore. IF you ever get to San Diego, do see the Dolphin, she is 'interesting'... :-) And yes, that is a passive sonar head. basically a drum head that reverberates and you listen for 'noises'... :-D

    1. Fortunately, Cavalla only had one down and one up. Would have like to see the conning tower, but it was an Aleve and cold pack night as it was. The nuke I visited at Norfolk was "bigger", but you're right not my definition of roomy. I've read a lot of things about Okinawa and, of course, lived there for a tour. Even the Okinawans weren't overly enamored with the Japanese.

  12. Very glad I wasn't smart enough to go Nuke. I think that CO's stateroom is smaller than the cockpit of an S-3B Viking.

    1. Yeah, I'm not sure I could lay out flat on that bunk. People skills must have been a prerequisite for sub duty. A personality conflict would be difficult.

  13. Lots of very nice photos. I have been aboard a few subs and, as I am more than a few inches under six feet tall, moving about was not the challenge for me that it was for you. Also, it was several decades ago. Never had any desire to be a sailor in the U.S. Navy. My hat is off to them, but I never wanted to be one.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

  14. I've toured the USS Drum at the Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, Al. Yep, not a lot of room for reality- and aged- shaped humans. Also got to get up close to the beautiful F-84G (well, beautiful in my eyes.)

    Going on a long weekend to Mobile and playing in that park is something you ought to do now you're all retired. Pick up Murphy once he's back from Mexico escorting starry-eyed young women into that nest of adders, vipers and gangs.

    1. Much like the USS Texas, I've driven by there several times but always still a long ways from my destination, so never stopped. Might have to add that to our list. Along with the Naval Air Museum in Pensacola. HMMMM, sounds like a plan!

  15. betweem them - Taiho, Shokaku, Shinano, Yorktown, Wasp, Ark Royal, Courageous - show clearly that carriers main threat was - and remains to this day the submarine
    this puts the axing of the S-3 squadrons squarely into territory of criminal stupidity
    one PLAN sub already surfaced into middle of a CVBG
    in a wartime she would be probably able to sink CVN with total loss

    1. Unfortunately the U.S. Navy seems to have stocked up upon, and swallowed a large quantity of stupid pills of late.


    2. Pawel, That whole "strategy" (and I use that word loosely), started with the peace dividend during the clinton reign of terror. The Defense Department couldn't shed money fast enough to satisfy them. A lot of good, necessary programs were shut down or cut drastically to fund globally significant programs. Like say, the Spotted Owl. I've got nothing good to say about those people, except I hope that finally they get their just reward.

    3. Paul,
      They're not alone. Since DOD has gone away from focusing on fighting wars, instead focusingon "diversity" BS and has been recruiting folks along those lines, it's not going to change anytime soon.


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Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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