The Rickover Wrecking Ball

by Bob 'Dex' Armstrong

So the Rickovarians are popping the wrecking ball to the old Basic Enlisted Submarine School… Sort of ethnically cleansing us off the map. First, they changed the name from SubBase New London to SubBase Groton… Then they converted the raghat club into a beauty shop… Then they filled all the beautiful green open spaces with buildings… Make that, concrete structures uglier than Hyman himself. When their grand design was completed, they had taken a lovely tradition-rich setting, a campus-like location that complimented the U.S. Coast Guard Academy across the river, a national historic treasure and systematically converted it into a mass of sterile, look-alike industrial concrete boxes patterned after public housing projects… Or the company owned housing for a Harlan County coal mine. The place is so jammed with concrete boxes, before long to add additional boxes, they will have to Crisco the sonuvabitches and drive 'em in with a sledge hammer.

They scrapped the escape tower but forgot to remove the damn thing from the base insignia. Makes me wonder if the new guys go around pointing at that non-existent structure on their base insignia patch, scratch their heads and ask,

"Hey, watzzat… Huh chief? Waddizzit??"

"Damned if I know… Whatever in the hell it was, it's gone now… I heard it was something the Navy stuck up so drunk diesel boat sailors could find their way back to the base."

Whatever happened to the miniature Jap and German subs? I sure hope they don't give them away as door prizes at the annual moonbeam ball… Or chrome plate them for hood ornaments on SUBLANT staff vehicles.

What did they do with barracks 143? That's where we lived. 180 red-blooded American bluejackets in one big room… Two to a rack… For idiots who could not understand the concept of sleeping head to foot so you didn't breathe your germs into the guy racked out next to you, some genius had stenciled "HEAD" and "FOOT" on each metal rack. A logical extension of such brilliance should have called for stenciling "PARK YOUR WORTHLESS BUTT HERE" on all head seats.

Aluminum lockers separated the port and starboard sides of the barracks… Those standard navy lockers that would hold only what you carried in your seabag. I understand that today's 'Gentlemen Submarine People' have chests of drawers, curtains, desks with lamps, chairs, a community ironing board (what happened to the wool blanket on the concrete deck?), and something called a lounge.

"The lounge is available around the clock for academic work and review or recreational reading…"

Recreational reading? What in the hell is recreational reading? In my day, if they caught you recreationally reading your shoe size, shirt label or the printed words on your gahdam draft card, they ate you for lunch.

If you had to study, you put your name on the firewatches 'piss call' list and when he busted you out of the rack, you wandered up and met the other academically deficient idiots in your class, sitting in the shower, quizzing each other. When you reached a point where independent concentration was required, you camped out in a head stall until your feet fell asleep and all the nerve endings below your hip joint went on strike. Those were the 'No frills - We do it for pride, not pay - Hardcore - You blink, you're gone - We are training you to operate subs to sink ships and win wars' days.

Those were the days when giants roamed the earth… Meat-eaters… Nut-crushing boat sailors. The days before submarine leadership waded knee-deep in social polish, behavioral templating and social engineering (including bringing co-ed crews to combat in the boats)… The days when they made you work and sweat to earn Silver Dolphins… The days before they reduced the par value of Silver Dolphins to the level of a midshipman's Cracker Jack prize. Maybe they will find they can rat hole a few more so-called 'cold war dividend' bucks by making plastic dolphins with rhinestone eyes and glow in the dark fins… Not to mention turning the new 'kinder and gentler' SubBase Groton into an amusement park.

In the old days, we didn't have environmental control and zonal air conditioning. Our A/C had two settings… "OPEN WINDOW" and "CLOSE WINDOW"… Didn't take a Rickover toe dance to sort that out.

They are tearing down a magnificent piece of true Naval history. A shrine to the men who took iron ships under the sea and ate the heart and soul out of the Jap navy. A school whose graduates could fill bushel baskets with everything from the Congressional Medal of Honor to the Combat Patrol Pin.

And the gahdam shame of it all is, the sonuvabitches calling for the wrecking ball, the third generation of beady-eyed Hyman's Handmaidens of Submarine Sensitivity and Technology, these poor shortchanged, instant tradition bastards have no clue, that like so much of what predated sunbeam propulsion, that they are trashing what should have become a national treasure.

Who knows… In the not so distant future, we may award a demolition contract for Bancroft Hall at the Naval Academy and replace it with a giant lot of Winnebago campers and call it Rickover Hall.

If you rode petroleum-powered submersible iron, a little piece of you is going to be carried away with that wrecking ball… They turned our boats into razor blades and now our school will become bricks for Taco Bell.

Viva la tradition… Viva la moonbeam…

The United States Naval Submarine Force - A one hundred year history with a ten-minute memory.