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My time on the "Old Boat"

Memories of Robert Segal

I was assigned to USS Bergall, SSN 667, from 1986 to 1990 as a reactor operator.   I have never met anyone from the crew of the "real" Bergall, but the 667 did get a hydraulic manifold frame notched with each of her (SS-320) kills (nice shooting, by the way) and a depth gauge from SS 320 as gifts from the Turkish navy (the 320's new owners). We had them on display in our wardroom.

That depth gauge caused no end of havoc when the regular radiation surveys on board picked up its radium glow-in-the-dark dial -- through several feet of lockers, piping, and electronic equipment, mind you! We had to replace the face of the dial with an engraved plastic copy.

I know a bit about the early boat: She entered the War late but still compiled a decent record.

I would have been much happier on a diesel boat, I think, than trapped as an over-educated janitor on it's nuke namesake. Times change, however.

I attended the de-commissioning of the 667 in 1996 because I was always fond of the ship itself, if not of the way her crew was treated. The 667 was born in '66 at GDEB, torn COMPLETELY apart and refueled and rebuilt at Mare Island, CA in an "18-month overhaul" lasting from 1984 to 1988 and made Norfolk-to-Norfolk runs for the next two years, with two trips under the North Atlantic/Arctic ice before I left in July '90.   We came back from the second run in November '89 and found out the Wall was coming down and the Cold War was over, etc. (Not much news got to us where we were.)   We looked at one another and asked, "So, can we go home now or do we have to stay on this damned boat?"   My understanding is the later crews had a much better time.   Frankly, the yards were unabated misery and particularly hard on the nukes and other engineering rates but I had a chance to walk underneath my boat in dry-dock, to crawl all the way up through the ballast tanks and into all the voids and free-floods, to snooze (shh!) atop a nuclear reactor, to walk the battery compartment without a battery in it, and so on.    The ship was always kind to me.   I close my eyes and know where every knob and pipe and cabinet was in AMR2UL.   Now she's melted down into resilient HY-80 beams for earthquake-proof office buildings.   Strange.

We made an effort to find the mystical fish which gave our boat (and yours) its name.   Ick!   Saw some at the aquarium, once.   The "Nasty-Little-Shit-Eating-Demented-Mung-Fish" someone dubbed it.   Good thing Rickover finally said, "Fish don't vote."   Got any good stories about the name?   I'd love to hear 'em!   Our best was the guy who asked where he could find the "Bur-'JZHAWL."   We said, "Y'mean the BUR-gall?"   "Oh," he replied, "I thought it was named after a French General."

I collected a bit of shipyard / Bergall memorobilia. I'll try to find any that would be of interest to you.

I look forward to corresponding with her crew.

(*"Beware the Bergall Bastards!" rather freely translated)

Robert Segal

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