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Memories of Russell R. McKechnie '50 - '53

I had prior duty on a submarine as an enlisted man (RM3 SS) before going to the US Naval Academy. I was attached to the USS O - 8 (SS 69) from January 1942 to September 1943 and there was a lot of manual work. When I was a SN, my battle station was the trim manifold. I also taught officers how to use the manifold when we were a school boat.

She was an old boat (built in 1918!) and required 'more than normal' muscle ability. But she was a good boat and served us well. 

The O - 8 operated out of New London, CT and Portland, ME during my tour on board. Out of Portland we cruised the North Atlantic shipping lanes searching for U boats. No luck. Out of New London we were a School boat for officers. Skipper was LT Jack McCain, later ADM and CINCPAC. He was father to current Senator McCain.

There's a nice web page with interior shots of the old girl... it takes a while to load but it's worth the wait...

Then I was assigned to the Naval Academy Preparatory School at Bainbridge, MD. At the school I competed with 1200 sailors and marines for 200 SECNAV appointments to the Academy.  I was noted for being the first ensign assigned to a Pacific Fleet submarine after conclusion of WW II and the first ensign to qualify on submarines after the conclusion of WW II.

Ensigns and S/M Qualification:

Ensigns were normally not assigned to submarines after WW II concluded. Ensigns had to serve on surface ships for two years and be a qualified OOD underway before they could be considered for submarine school. I was on a PACFLT DD for my first assignment after graduating from USNA.. My CO was a submariner who had already had a submarine command.. I told him that I had been a qualified submariner as an enlisted man and I wanted to return to submarines. So he wrote the letter to BUPERS requesting a waiver of the two year requirement and nominated me after I had been on board seven months. I was selected for sub school and left the DD after being on board only ten months. When I reported to Bergall in Pearl Harbor in Jan., 1950, no one could understand how an Ensign could report to a submarine in PACFLT. The two year surface ship requirement was changed to one year after I graduated from submarine school.

The USS BERGALL was my first submarine as an officer and my first skipper on BERGALL was Phil Glennon, CDR USN. We went through the Panama Canal in July / August 1950 enroute to New London, CT. In New London, BERGALL was mostly a school boat for officers and for enlisted men during this time.

Pete Braly. Pete was a LTJG when I reported on board and was promoted to LT before he was reassigned. Where is Pete now? Pete was a super officer. I enjoyed being with him. Another officer I remember is Mase Wells. Mase was a class 1947 USNA graduate. Mase reported aboard after me and was still there when I departed. Mase was also a super officer.

I was an usher at Mase's wedding. I never saw Mase or Pete after I left Bergall.

When I arrived on Bergall, she had just returned from Australia doing bottom mapping. Those bottom mapping routes were called gravity measurements. The ship dove to four hundred feet and would stay there for about four hours then surface, run fifty miles then repeat the process. Bergall did that from Pearl Harbor to Panama while I was on board.

The Bergall's test depth was 412 feet. If we went deeper we were honor bound to report it to BuShips (now NAVSEA). Once the ship goes below test depth the pressure hull and water tight bulkheads begin to assume permanent sets (distortion). That is bad, elasticity of the WT hull and strength bulkheads can go only so far.. The result of permanent distortion is that water tight doors and hatches will not seat properly. That is not good on a submarine. Crush depth was 700 feet.

I remember being in Port au Prince. I went with Phil Glennon to the US Naval Attaché's house for the weekend to play golf, etc. The attache was a classmate of Phil Glennon. Speaking of golf. J.J. Ott was quite a golfer. I remember we were in Havana and OTT was topside aft of the sail hitting golf balls with a driver off the steel plate that covered the old gun platform. Ott was trying to hit windows on top of the United Fruit warehouse at the next pier. I sure remember J.J. Ott. I think he was MM 1/C or MoMM 1/C when I was on board BERGALL and was a thoroughly outstanding man.

The COB, was Chief Vodopich, I remember him well. He helped me a lot. I do not recall that he ever smiled. He was very serious. I also recall ET1 Weisenberger. He also was very helpful to me in my qualification process. When we were on liberty in Balboa prior to going through the canal, Weisenberger saw me in town and insisted on buying me a drink at a local bar. I told him that I did not drink alcohol. He insisted. What will you have?, he asked. The only thing I could think of was, "Scotch and Water". His response, "Excellent Choice, You will never get a hangover from scotch and water."
To this day my favorite beverage is Scotch and water. .

I received dispatch orders to depart BERGALL in April 1953. At that time I was Engineer of Bergall. I was later CO of the USS Sea Owl (SS 405).   I retired as a Captain.

Here's Russell at the Sea Owl reunion in 2000


Russell passed away on February 28, 2002.   He was 78 and leaves his wife and two daughters.



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