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Memories of I. D. Williams '46 - '51

My full name is Irvin D. Williams, so I naturally became either "I.D." or "Willy". I came aboard sometime in earlier 1946 or late 1945.

This is me in Dress Whites and (later) as an MoMM3c.  Later, with the new rates introduced, I became an EN1.


I left shortly after we brought the boat to New London, and became an instructor at Submarine School in the very early 50's. The O-in-C of Sub School was none other than R. D. Steele, (Navy Bob to some) originally in charge of Engineering, Electrical for the Bergall in '46 and '47.

He had asked John Ott if he wouldn't like to come ashore and teach there, since Joseph John Ott ("Zero" to some) was an absolute fount of knowledge of EB boats. John refused, since he couldn't bear to leave his beloved Bergall, but I quickly volunteered. John was also my revered mentor as I tried to reach some level of maturation while working for him with Tracey Calame ("Punchy" to some) and Frank Vodopich - in charge of us Auxiliarymen. Here's me, J.J. Ott and Ridlon playing at being torpedomen.

Frank had a few nicknames also, but some are not meant to share with gentle souls. Suffice it to say he was a taskmaster, but he'd also pull your cahones out of trouble. I know Frank is deceased, and I will never forget him as my first CPO. I reported to Sub School Staff as an EN1. Was awarded my Dolphins and MoMM3 from R. D. Steele, with Thomas Kincaid Kimmel as CO, and W. F. Wahleen as Exec.

I mentioned Vodo coming to your aid, and I believe he got me off with a 30 day restriction after Doc Son, PH1, Ralph Groh, IC3, and my sorry derriere missed the ship one day in Pearl. W. F. Wahleen delivered the short, succinct penalty with words I'll never forget (even if I forget that little girl in the fourth grade). Said he, "thirty days hath September, Groh, Williams and Son. I was still shaking when I got to the after battery compartment.

Earl Bartman was Carl Lacey Lewis's kid in the engine rooms, and I was Frank Vodopich's kid in the auxiliary gang. They made it hard for both of us to qualify, by seeing who could make us draw the most systems. Carl was also known as a "lead piper." He'd go in the Chief's quarters and read some obscure crap, then come out around the chart desk and casually draw the conversation into that obscure area he had just researched. Once he got a bet on who was right, he'd say "I can prove it" and bring out the book. A lead-pipe cinch!

'Poncho' Santillian was not only Arlie Brood's running mate, he was quite a character in his own right.   Here is "Poncho" in front of our aft 5" with J.J. in the pointer's seat.   Check the fancy camouflage on the gun!

My favorite Santilian memory:

When he stood deck watches, his .45cal. sidearm was slung down around his knees. COOL! We periodically had to requalify with sidearms, and once in Pearl, Poncho drew from the hip on the range, fired off a few rounds from the hip, and the slide tore up his wrist! Poncho also put Tabasco sauce on ice cream, since his taste buds were so burned out he couldn't taste it otherwise. Here's Poncho (Santillian) and J.J. Ott at the aft 5"/25cal.

The first cook I remember was Soderstrom. He enraged Navy Bob Steele every time he hit the 1MC to announce chow down. He'd announce "bean rags wavin'." And then have to listen to a lecture on proper 1MC protocol.

Here's the way she looked when I was aboard in '50 after her overhaul in Pearl.   Note the cleaned up sail and the hatches where her deck guns were.   George Gambel was able to add some detail to the picture, "Sometime in the last half of '51 we were getting ready to anchor on the lee side of Block Island (Long Island Sound) for the night due to early operations and expected fog the next morning. I am the one with the black watchcap with my back to the camera. The other two are TMC(SS) Sigmon and TM1(SS) Bill Mills. On the bridge are QM3(SS) Gene Maxim and the CO, P. T. Glennon."

During my tour we were able to greet many ports.   How did we behave?   In the true Bergall fashion, of course...

Pearl Harbor -    We were Pearl of Heart
Guam -              Goldenly Good
Adak -               Angelical
Attu -                See Adak
Dutch Harbor -  Downright Heavenly
Seattle -             Saintly
San Diego -       See Seattle
Brisbane -          ......awww, what the hell.
Sasebo -            See Brisbane
Pearl again -       how many times I gotta tell ya?
Panama Canal -  Perfectly Celibate
Havana -            Heavenly
Santiago -          See Seattle

And don't ever get in an acey-mahoney game (especially for a Hatuey Cervesa) with a Bergall sailor.

The Kamikaze Fish Attack

I'll have to take a few minutes and describe the flying fish that attacked our Captain Thomas Kincaid Kimmel!   But WE got the enemy!

There we were at periscope depth when the SS radar operator reported many objects, at speed, flying toward us. The skipper had the con, and decided to go up and take a look. We surfaced, and “lookouts to the bridge.” They were no more in the shears when they reported being fired at! Just as the order to “clear the bridge” was about to be given, the port lookout took a direct hit in the face. But he quickly reported that something was fishy, since it only stung a little, and his face was unbloody, but he had bowed. And when he bowed he saw the object which had tried to assault him was……..A FISH!! The skipper and topside men exited the bridge via the after cigarette deck ladder and retrieved the missile, which was then photographed to provide evidence supporting the awarding of the purple hurt to the bruised lookout.  And now no one will ever believe anything I claim to remember of Bergall's episodes!   Unless of course they too (at least temporarily) remove their built-in bullshit filters.

Incidentally, Mike, I believe it was the SS radar antenna used at periscope depth, and not the Sugar Victor (SV)

(In actuality I believe the poor aerial pisce was just out for a short stint of aerobatics and bulls-eyed the conning tower fairwater, but Mike asked for a sea story and I couldn't resist.)

Ever wonder how we got on another boat? Here's a Breeches Buoy drill. I think that's J.J. Ott taking the ride over to the USS Blower.

Wanna know what LOAD is?  Stand near the 5" deck gun when she lets go. Here we are shelling Pagan Island, a Japanese weather station.  

Here we are on a run north of Guam on a joint AF/Navy exercise.

After Guam, we went to Truk Island and the Marines there gave each of us a Japanese rifle.   Somewhere around Nov/Dec, 1946 John Ott and I capped the stern end of a couple of Japanese rifle barrels, drilled and tapped a hole in that end.   We machined the Jap gun barrels while on the overhaul barge in Pearl and fitted them with the CO2 capsule firing device from a couple of life vests, and using welding rods as projectiles were able to hit Ford Island from the barge we were living on for the overhaul. We were experimenting with them to build spear guns for Oahu underwater fishing.   Maybe someone remembers the year we were in overhaul, and someone slammed the reefer door on the barge on the cat, Bullets, and broke its back. The idea was to make that the meanest sumbitchin' cat that ever crapped in a sailors bunk, so we could sic it on Sugie, the Besugo's dog.   Sure didn't work out as planned!

While still in overhaul, there was a very large war surplus area (I believe located at or near Hickam) that we had access to. Some of us, Ott and I included, got gun cameras from the wings of fighter planes and converted them to battery pack use.   We got all manner of war junk from that place.

Are you aware that many on the Bergall very well have been a member of the Royal Cat-pipers Society? I was, as were many dieselers. Got the scars to prove it, too!
We actually had memberships.
To bagpipe a cat:
Pick up cat with all four feet pointed skyward, and maintain a firm grip on those feet. Put cats' body so your forearm is over the rib cage. Insert cats' tail in your mouth. Bite on tail while regulating sound of the caterwauling with the pressure from your forearm. DON'T LET THOSE FEET GET LOOSE!

On the old boats... EVERYONE'S socks stunk. The most debilitating disease, rampant (!) on the boats was athletes foot. Take off your socks, put one toe on each side of the bunk chain, and scrape up and down. Doc Son would then have you put your RAW toesies into a basin of methiolate and watch your face to see where your pain threshold ended.

In the late sixties I was the director of a major computer manufacturer's training facility in Arlington, VA.    I saw in the Sunday paper an article about the boat basin at Annapolis commanded by Capt. R. D. Steele.    I called there and he invited me to lunch with my teenaged son. There is no doubt that visit was one of the reasons my son went into the Navy's nuclear program out of Georgia Tech.   I wonder if Navy Bob is still built like the wrestler he was at the academy?

Here's my wife, Mary, and I having a fun time on a recent outing. We flew from Anchorage to the Yentna River to fish for Coho salmon last July during a trip to tour Alaska. She wasn't thrilled to see the planes we were to fly in, but after about ten minutes in the air, above that beautiful country, she relaxed and hated to see it end. She caught three, and I only got one. We were lucky enough to watch Bald Eagles catching salmon from the surface and that was a special treat. If you ever get the chance,...Seward's folly is gorgeous!

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