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She Lost Her Perisope... Twice!
The USS Bergall
(SS 320) lost her periscope two times. Once to an American
fishing boat in the Pacific (late '49) and once to an American
Destroyer during exercises in the Atlantic, Oct. 31. 1954.
(Her nuclear namesake, USS BERGALL, SSN 667, must have needed to carry on the tradition... it's been reported that she came up under an iceburg and stripped her upper structure also.)
"The closest we ever came to losing the boat while I was aboard was a time at Pearl Harbor where we were diving in a marked Naval restricted area off of Barbers Point. I was on the radar console in the conning tower. As we were about to surface, the old man said " Up scope for a look-around" which was SOP. He then hollered "Down scope", and all hell broke loose.....The conning tower flooded and we all dove down to the control room......It turned out that we had surfaced right under a Van Camp tuna boat, which was laying to, apparently skinning fish, so it never showed up on the sonar...We managed to surface and made it back to the sub base with ambulances standing by , and lots of brass....We had bent #1 scope over into an inverted U, and sheared off the SV radar mast.
The skipper at the
time was a guy they called "Slick" Johnson for some of
the things he had pulled while at the Naval Academy..He was
married to Admiral Radford's daughter, and the whole incident
blew over...........The tuna boat was not supposed to be in that
area, but I suppose that's where the fish were so they took a
chance...We heard that it cost Van Camps $250,000.........."
"We lost our periscope on an exercise in '54. It was called LANTFLEX and we were in the aggressor fleet. We just come off of an extended upkeep after a "cruise" off of Murmansk and the Barents sea.
The Bergall was part of the Aggressor fleet and we were supposed to engage the force in tactical maneuvers testing the ASW capability of the HUNTER KILLER groups assigned to protect the fleet. It was a Large exercise covering the North Atlantic south to the Caribbean. The Flag ship for the defending fleet was the Valley Forge or Iowa. The fleet had all types of ships in the Navy's inventory at the time.
On 30 OCT., we somehow found ourselves with an opportunity to penetrate a HUK Screen and make an attack on the Iowa and stuck our bow out of the water at the Valley Forge as a "Gotcha" (indicating that we had detroyed her!). This pissed off the "good guys" and the Flag ship Commander must have had an ass chewing conference with the Destroyer drivers and the ASW Zoomies on the Valley Forge.
That pretty much sets the scene for the events of the next day, 31 OCT, when we got rammed. Now there was a LOT of Destroyers in the vicinity and they were still pissed off.
I was standing a "cold iron 4x12 watch in the After Engine room as the Oiler. We were underway Snorkeling on 2 engines, No I and 2, preparing to put a 3rd on line to charge the Battery when the excitement started. Radar picked up some contacts. The OD called the Skipper who went up to the Conning Tower. We were not called to Battle Stations because I was Battle Stations Stern planesman and would have been on the planes when rammed. We were just about to light off the 3rd engine when the Collision Alarm sounded and we heard the Skipper, who was on the periscope, yell on the 7MC words to the effect of, Oh My GOD, Take her down; 90 Feet; Flood Negative.
A few seconds later we were hit and rolled over 68 Deg to starboard. Too this day I can't get over how the crew reacted. Every body on watch did exactly what they were supposed to do, just like a drill with no Panic. I secured the engine air induction and went forward to close the bulkhead flappers and the hatch to the forward engine room. My good buddy Norm Davis beat me to the hatch. It slammed shut in our faces without knowing if or where any flooding was taking place. We stared at each other through the peep hole and then realized, Oh shit, What next?.
All compartments reported that they were secured and not flooding. By this time we were at 360 feet and still going down when the Skipper gave the order, " Surface, Surface, Surface." and 3 blasts on the Klaxon made one scared shit crew happy to be able to bitch and moan again.
The physical damage was in the Sail - The periscope shears, radar mast and snorkel masts were bent but not broken. The Norris had a wide gash in her bottom from our chain looker aft to the Chiefs Quarters and she was down by the bow. They asked us if WE needed help!
We had 2
Tony Parazzo, the Bow planesman, was drenched by water from a falling pitcher that was in the CT hatch combing when we were hit. Tony thought the sea was flooding in and he was going to die. He was a mental wreck for a long time. Tony, Norm Davis and I were best friends . Tony wanted off the Boats. Norm and I got him to eventually change his mind.
Our other casualty was Ed "SKI' Majchrzak (Marshak). He was one of our cooks and was making Donuts at the time and was burned by the spilling hot oil. We got on his ass for not having donuts ready for Breakfast. Such is life on the Boats.
To the credit of us well trained Diesel Rats we reacted just as sharp and smart as in a drill to show off to some big brass. I have never been afraid or panicked since. The section on watch at the time gave depositions and they read like we were coached which we weren't. Kenny Johnson was the QM striker on watch at the time and saved the Skipper's ass (Captain Grosetta) and put the DD skipper in deep sh** at the Hearings down in Norfolk later.
Now for a little of the eerie stuff. During WWII, the USS ANGLER came to her rescue and escorted her home to Australia after the second patrol when she took the 8" shell from the heavy destroyer IJN USHIO. The USS ANGLER came to our aid in this incident also and escorted us back to Philly.
"cruises" were not spoken of or documented. We should
have been given credit for a War Patrol as our hull # was painted
over and Escape Buoys were welded to the deck.. I think the Navy
couldn't offer war patrol recognition as it was probably
considered a BLACK OPERATION. The depth charge sleeves and
hatches were installed in the After Battery. I don't remember if
we did the same in the After Engine Room. We were also entitled
to have our bow painted Blue, for crossing the Arctic
USS Bergall after collision with DDE Norris
USS Bergall after initial repair
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