I dont know if Ray was the first black Chief of the Boat in our submarine force, and I really dont care too much. What I care about is that I was privileged to have served under him. COBs can make or break a crew, Ray made one. I know little of his predecessor but I understand he was not very good. The one that came after him had favorites. I first saw Ray in action when on the Requin, before going to the Carp. Another boat (maybe Cutlass) had changed 2 letters around on the Carps name board. Not hard to do, just sneak aboard at night and swap 2 letters by removing the screws and replacing them. This 'crime' had just been 'discovered' one morning after quarters by the Cutlass crew pointing and laughing. Ray was not happy, embarrassed more likely, by having his boat and crew held up to ridicule. It showed in his face and tone of voice, but not by yelling and cursing. His words were,
"Fix that right now." and "Was the topside watch asleep last night?"
He also knew that the guilty topside watch couldnt be found. Because no one would ever be sure which watch it had happened on, and a witch-hunt would only make things worse.
After my mercifully short tenure at Nuke Power School, I was disappointed not to return to Requin. But not disappointed enough to try real hard to get a swap back to her. Carp would be my new home and the crew seemed to be a good one. I reported aboard and after doing those things you do in that situation, found the COB to get my bunk assigned and so forth. Ray was sitting in the mess hall, I introduced myself and we chatted a moment about the things we both needed to know about each other. Then he said,
"You want to bunk in the After Battery?"
I said that I liked the after room better. He thought a second and said,
"OK, not too many enginemen back there right now."
This was not any sort of prejudice but knowing that you dont put all the same rates in one sleeping compartment in case of a casualty. Just one of the many things a COB has to keep in mind running a sub full of somewhat unruly bubbleheads.
The only other time I saw Ray truly disgusted is when he lectured the crew after someone made a thoroughly revolting remark in the mess hall about the food one day. Again, no yelling... He just let it be known that the line had been crossed on that one. I dont know what church he attended but he was a good God-fearing gentleman, and I think some of the language used aboard pained him. But he never tried to clean up the talk because he knew it wouldnt work. As when an XO tried to outlaw a certain word and promptly the word "hacksaw" (I kid you not) replaced it. Until the idea became a laughing stock with "hacksaw this" and "hacksaw that".
I am sure that because of his race, Ray had to walk a narrow line sometimes. But I never noticed anything but fairness from him; we were all Carp sailors and would be treated as such. No one ever saw him treat anyone unfairly or more harshly than needed.
Ray attended our first Carp reunion in '96 and was invited to be our guest speaker. His talk was pure Ray giving credit to us for making the Carp such a good boat. I dont think he realized until the reunion how much we loved and admired him for what he had done for us. Unfortunately, 3 months after the reunion, Ray passed away. He will be missed as long as one of his crew still lives.
The Navy says that you salute officers as a sign of respect and that you had to do it.
Well its been 33 years now and I dont "have" to salute anyone any more.
But to Raymond C. Bloomer EMCM (SS)... Hand Salute ................. To.