Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Whelmed With Information...

So I had an idea for a post, based on something I saw on a poster at work...

Like it says, USS Emory S. Land (AS-39) is a submarine tender, normally just referred to as a sub tender. (Why say the whole word when you can get away with saying just a piece of it?) At first glance, from a distance, I wondered why a cruise ship looking thing was on a poster of the ships of the United States Navy (2014 vintage for those who are curious). So I zoomed in (by walking closer to the poster, my eyes have no actual zoom feature, which would be kinda cool now that I think of it) and said, "Ah, it's a sub tender."

'Twas then that I realized that I'd never really thought much about sub tenders. In the entire United States Navy there are only two of 'em (used to be three in that class, but the Navy decommissioned one, the newest one, I have no idea why) to tend to 80 submarines (if you count the "boomers," no, not the baby boomers, the ballistic missile submarines and their sisters the guided missile submarines, which used to be ballistic missile submarines, but I digress, in 2014 we had 62 attack boats and 18 Ohio-class "boomers").

So I started digging.

For those of you wondering what a sub tender actually does, well, it's a depot ship that tends to submarines. (As opposed to destroyer tenders, and the like) -
A depot ship is an auxiliary ship used as a mobile or fixed base for submarines, destroyers, minesweepers, fast attack craft, landing craft, or other small ships with similarly limited space for maintenance equipment and crew dining, berthing and relaxation. Depot ships may be identified as tenders in American English. Depot ships may be specifically designed for their purpose or be converted from another purpose. (Source)
Here are the two extant examples in the U.S. Navy -

USS Emory S. Land (AS-39) and USS Frank Cable (AS-40), the U.S. Navy's only active submarine tenders, are moored in their homeport of Guam. USS Pasadena (SSN-752) is visible alongside of Emory S. Land. The ships provide maintenance, hotel services and logistical support to submarines and surface ships in the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet areas of operations.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Daniel Willoughby

So now you know about sub tenders, but while I was chasing that item, I learned that any small (ish) ship can have a tender. Minesweepers, patrol boats, older destroyers (newer ones are a lot bigger than their predecessors), and the like had tenders, BITD (which stands for Back In The Day, as in "back in olden times," and yes, that's on the Acronym Page).

The destroyer tender USS Klondike (AR-22) with a flotilla of Allen M. Sumner-class destroyers*, Subic Bay, Philippines, November 1963.

While chasing that I ran across an article on German Schnellboote (which the Germans called S-Boote**, literally "fast boats," while we called them E-Boats, short for "Enemy boats" - not real clever but at least it's accurate). Which of course led me to an article on the disaster at Slapton Sands, where a squadron of German S-Boote attacked a group of Allied LSTs*** (with a single escort) practicing for the D-Day invasion. Which was not the first tragedy to befall Exercise Tiger. (A friendly fire incident saw troops on the beach getting hit by naval gun fire because they hadn't been informed that the landing operation had been postponed by an hour.) You can read about that here.

A Canadian LST off-loads an M4 Sherman during the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943.
Deutsches Kriegsmarine S-Boot

Whilst in the midst of chasing Schnellboote I was sidetracked answering a question from juvat on his post the other day. It had to do with the F-4D Phantom currently gracing the masthead, which I reproduce below as the headers have been changing weekly. (So it won't be there in a week or so.) FWIW, chasing down Air Force tail codes can be a rather time-consuming task as I discovered.

The question was regarding the aircraft itself. Had juvat flown it? Had I ever worked on it? Because the squadron the aircraft belonged to in Vietnam (with the 8th TFW, the mighty Wolf Pack) was the same squadron which had been part of the Wolf Pack in Korea (juvat's and my old outfit) but not at Kunsan AB itself but over at Taegu AB. My answer was -
I tracked that tail number down to the 497th TFS (of the Wolf Pack) flying out of Ubon RTAFB. The tail code "FO" matches Ubon's according to a reference for a list of Vietnam-era USAF tail codes. As to the photo itself, according to the Air Force, the photo in the header was taken in 1972 over North Vietnam.
As far as I know, that particular bird didn't go to Korea but wound up in Spain (at Torrejon AB), at least according to Joe Baugher. So maybe he flew it, maybe I worked on it, in my defense, it was a long time ago. And guess what, I looked up that squadron just a moment ago and found this -

A U.S. Air Force McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II from the 497th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 51st Tactical Fighter Wing, banking to the left over South Korea during exercise "Team Spirit '86".

Which of course made me say, "Huh?" Which no doubt makes you ask, "Why Sarge, why would that make you say 'Huh?'"

Well you see, it's the same squadron which was at Taegu AB. That "GU" tail code really caught my eye, according to an issue of Air Force Magazine (May 1989, pdf here) -

Code Aircraft   Unit, location, and command
GU    F-4E        497th TFS, Taegu AB, Korea (PACAF)

So the 497th was reassigned from the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing to the 51st Tactical Fighter Wing (which was a Composite Wing when I was in Korea, tail code "OS" for those who wonder about such things), which is based at Osan AB, the squadron itself staying at Taegu AB. I had always assumed (yes, I get it) that when the 8th transitioned to the Lawn Dart, er, I mean Viper (the F-16, officially the Fighting Falcon, yeah, no one calls it that) the 497th had as well. Nope, they remained in situ but were reassigned and reequipped. In fact the 497th was inactivated in January of 1989. They became something else after that. (They are now the 497th Combat Training Flight assigned to Singapore, of all places.)

So I had tons of information I was looking at while searching for something to post about. A whelm of information, if you will.
verb: whelm; 3rd person present: whelms; past tense: whelmed; past participle: whelmed; gerund or present participle: whelming
engulf, submerge, or bury (someone or something).
"a swimmer whelmed in a raging storm"
flow or heap up abundantly.
"the brook whelmed up from its source"
noun: whelm; plural noun: whelms
an act or instance of flowing or heaping up abundantly; a surge.
"the whelm of the tide" (Source)
Yes, I didn't know that before I decide to get cute and title the post "Whelmed With Information...," only to discover that "whelm" is actually a word. As is "gruntle," but I'll let you chase that one yourselves. Feel free to post what you discover in the comments.

As for me, I have a few more items of information to chase down.

Rather than, you know, write a "real" post.

* Specifically USS Taussig (DD-746), USS John A. Bole (DD-755), USS Lofberg (DD-759), and USS USS John W. Thomason (DD-760) (Source).
** Boote is the plural for the German word for boat, i.e. Boot.
*** LST = Landing Ship, Tank.


  1. Are sub tenders anything like chicken tenders?

  2. My first reserve unit was designed to support the USS Emory S. Land (AS-39) and for the ten years I was in the unit we'd spend one weekend a quarter on her, and we'd spend our annual two weeks on her.
    The average was less than that because she wasn't always in Norfolk and a couple of the ACDUTRAs (Active Duty for Training)I went to some schooling.
    Depending on the needs of the service, I worked either on Land's 38 shop, which meant repair jobs on subs, or in the engineroom of the Land.
    Highlights of the time included riding the ship across the Atlantic when it deployed, and that trip ended with three days of liberty in Lisbon, Portugal in '87.
    I remember going onboard the USS Vulcan (AR-5) in Norfolk when I was on my first can, USS Hawkins (DD-873) and thinking that the Vulcan was very old. That's because she was built in 1939 and commissioned in 1941.
    When I was on the USS William R. Rush (DD-714) we went to Bayonne, New Jersey for an upkeep period with the USS Yosemite (AD-19). The "Yosemite Sam" was another Old Lady as she'd been commissioned in 1944.

    Thank you for a good memory sparking post.

    1. That's pretty cool John. Glad I could take you down memory lane today. 😁

  3. Tenders of all types are very useful to have because you can put them wherever you want them and they can "tend" to the needs of their specialties, be they subs, DDG's or LCS's. They are the Swiss army knives of ships. They're aren't sexy and you're not going to make admiral after having commanded one, absent other qualifications. However, having a two-ocean navy suggests that we should have more of these mother ships. But that's not the direction that the US Navy is headed, and it's a shame.

    1. I have no idea in what direction the Navy is heading. I don't think they really know either. It's sad.


      One to add to your daily reading. This is "THE" blog for what is going on, or not going on, in the Navy.

    3. Yup, read it every day. (It's linked on the sidebar as well.)

    4. We used to have a sub tender in one of the Scottish Lochs. Stupid defense draw-down.

    5. Incredibly stupid draw-down. Idiotic "peace dividend."

    6. Beans. I'm willing to bet that a bit of stats checking for that time and that location would show a more than average number of US navy sailors with Scots wives. That was considered to be a great duty station.

    7. Believe the sub tender in Scotland was USS Canopus.

  4. The scrapping of the rest of the submarine and destroyer tenders was an unmitigated tragedy. They allowed for supporing ships and subs from remote locations without being subjected to the whims and security risks of repair facilities in foreign ports.

    1. Roger that. A tragedy and probably a crime as well.

    2. "No, it is FAR worse than a crime, it is a mistake!"

      ----Talleyrand, French diplomat & Napoleons Foreign Minister.

    3. One of the few times I'll agree with Talleyrand!

  5. I was traught with anticipation for your mitigatedly good blog post.

    Though it did kind of jump around from location to location.

    Did you ever answer your question about whether you worked on the plane or not?

    1. Heh, I see what you did there. Very nice.

      As it was sent to Torrejon, I don't think so. But you never know and it was a long, long time ago.

    2. Rasimus told a great story (most, if not all, of his were great stories) of being the victim of a perfect interception by a Spanish Mirage while flying a training exercise during his tour at Torrejon. Maybe the legendary Ras flew 497? regards, Alemaster

    3. Naw, pretty sure Ras fle at Torrejon before i got to Holloman in ‘’83. He went from Holloman to ALO in Colorado to retirement.

    4. I think you're right. Ras was in the 613th TFS from what I gathered over at his old blog.

  6. Cool.
    Oh, and the F-4 from Taegu?
    Even cooler.
    I was in Korea for Team Spirit '86 too.
    A good bit closer to the ground, and also closer to the DMZ.
    Even got to go to North Korea.

    1. Awesome, my last Team Spirit was 1981.

      On an airbase, working jets.

  7. Just and old Fossil here. My only F-4 experience limited to F-4Cs @ 390th TFS/366TFW @ Danang 67-68 straight to F-4Ds @RAF Woodbridge 78thTFS/81stTFW Suffolk, UK 69-71.

    1. I worked both Cs and Ds at Kadena. I'll bet you and I have sat in the same cockpit at some point. You flying, me checking the radar. Cuppla years apart, I didn't get to Kadena until '76.

  8. I always wonder about the exhaust nozzles on Air Force F-4's. There are short ones and long ones. I was once told that the short ones came standard on the -15 motors along with the "smokey" combustion cans. When the motors were upgraded to the non-smoking combustion cans they also got long nozzles. Does that sound right?

    I worked with a female navy doc who was stationed on the Land. Somewhere along the line I gained the impression that all sub tenders were old WWII era rustbuckets. So I was "looking down" on the Land from my lofty perch on the roof of a nearly brand-new nuclear carrier, only to find out years later from John in Philly that she was years younger than my scruffy old boat! You can always tell airdales. You just can't tell 'em much.

    Great post!

    1. Thanks Shaun.

      As to the engines on the F-4, I'll leave that to juvat, I worked on the pointy end of the aircraft.

      Yeah, I always thought tenders weren't seaworthy, barely a step up from a tramp steamer. I was wrong! Very useful they are, like most things, we don't have enough. (Two?!?!)

    2. The only, and I could be wrong, less smoky motors I recall were on Navy F-4S models. Flew against them at Cope Thunder, better...not smokeless though.

    3. Thanks juvat.

      I'm sure you cleaned the Navy's clocks. No doubt my sons-in-law would see that differently.

  9. Sarge, the reason the Navy might decommission the youngest ship in the class has to do with what maintenance has been done on it, her sister ships, and how much it would cost for the next round of maintenance. Chances are, Emory S. Land and Frank Cable had been through a long yard period before their little sister- USS McKee did, so it was cheaper to let the newest ship go. It was in San Diego too, which has enough support for the LA Class Subs here anyway. We were planning that for Stennis before Congress forced us to send that ship to nuke overhaul (later funding it).

    1. I figured it had something to do with that. Thanks Tuna.


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