Skipjack Moment, Type II, Mod 3

by Steve Gentry


Though my mind is a little fuzzy on the dates, it seems it was in later '67 or early '68 when we had the big FleetEx on the East Coast. Hell, seems that everything that could float was ordered out of port to participate in this one.

Skipjack was assigned the roll of the bad guy... Let the fleet leave Norfolk, give 'em a few days to get lost in the big ocean, and then head southeast to see if we can score a hit on the carrier America's battlegroup (see picture). We sat there in Norfolk... Shit, we must have been the only boat left in port! Bell's bar was like a ghost town and Thelma just wouldn't keep her hands off me!! It's tough to be left at home when the fleet is out!

Several days pass, and finally its time for us to get underway. We cast off and head out of the Chesapeake Bay looking for blue water... We've got some catching up to do so we put it in overdrive and go deep.

A few days later, we stumble across some walking wounded surface ships... They must've had some mechanical problems and were bringing up the rear... Probably awaiting approval to RTB (return to base) Norfolk. We brushed them aside and continued our search for the Big Kahuna... Somewhere out there is some major tonage with our name on it. This was real science... Lots of dice shakin' and lady luck gamesmanship in order to actually rack up a victory (a kill). The rules were plainly spelled out in the FleetEx brouchure.

A few days later, we came upon a target of opportunity... Some big Oiler. Hell, we quickly disposed of her with a simulated torpedo launch, broadcast on Gertrude, fired our flares, and rolled the dice. Bingo... We sunk that mother! Now, off for bigger game! We had a succession of contacts and kills... An occasional unlucky roll of the dice and the target escaped... BUT, we were doing remarkably well and confidence is high!

We finally make contact with the battle group... America is our #1 objective and a strategy is developed to get us inside the screen of destroyers and cruisers which protect her. We patiently await our opportunity.

We are at Battle Stations and we are plotting all the ships in the group. We quietly penetrate the outer screen of ships and are now inside of her defenses... We maneuver into position and simulate the launch of torpedos! We broadcast on Gertrude and fire our flares! One roll of the dice and she is ours!! We await the result of their roll of the dice.... .... .... ... ... ... America confirms the kill! Yes!!! We have done it!!!

The next day, the Admirals Barge comes alongside and our Captain is invited to attend lunch and a debrief on America, with the Admiral. We are HOT!!! Damn, we are GOOD!

Just another day in the life of a Skipjack sailor.