Caiman Sea Stories
Last Update: 1/8/2014
OK - get your feet up! If you have a story to tell this is the place to put it. Just click on any of the true stories listed below and have a good laugh. No bull#%*@ here. If you've got a good one to tell, please send it to me. Let the truth be told!
First Encounter With The Enemy - By John Haley
We left Pearl Harbor on our first War Patrol the 13th of November 1944 for the South China Seas. When we were out away's we dove to check equipment. I was on the helm and after a while the Captain ordered the boat to periscope depth. I was watching him scan the surface and all of sudden the blood drained from his face. He yelled dive, dive and said he saw a torpedo heading our way. We got down fast and the torpedo passed over the top of us. We played cat and mouse for awhile, then broke contact and went our merry way. That was our first contact with the enemy. After my watch I had to change my clothing.
Bombs and Depth Charges - As told by Jack Kidder and recalled by Greg Baer
Jack Kidder, one of her crew that made all of her war patrols, recalls on one occasion that they went deep to near 1000 feet to escape bombing and depth charges. They were down for 60 hours while leaving the area. What he remembers the most is the moaning sounds of the hull and the jets of water from leaking valves.
I Gave Her My Purple Heart - As told by Jack Kidder and recalled by Greg Baer
The night before the Commissioning of the Caiman the crew was doing a rehearsal for the commissioning party at Polly's Inn. All was going well as the beers flowed and the music played and the guys and gals enjoyed each others company. After a while some Army guys came in and that's when the trouble started. Forest (Tim) Milas was talking and dancing with a nice lookin' gal when the Army guys came up and told him to get lost. I guess she belonged to one of them. Anyway, Forest didn't want to get lost right then and one thing led to another and before you knew it was three against one with fists flying. It didn't take long for Milas to figure out he was out numbered so he split the scene with a few rewards to remember the night. He had a couple of big shiners and a fat lip.
The next day was June 13, 1944 and the Caiman was commissioned and Forest told his story some 66 times. After the ceremonies were over the crew assembled at Polly's Inn for pictures, cake cutting and a party. One of the big events at the party was the awarding of a big purple heart to Forest Milas for bravery beyond stupidity for taking on three pissed off Army guys. He proudly accepted and the band played on. Take a look at the pictures of the crew in the Gallery under Caiman Crew 40-50. Look for the guy in the dark glasses. You can't miss him.
On The Job Training - By John Cote
(This story was extracted from a personal letter written by John to Stan in 1995 by Greg Baer)
I saw your name, Stan, in the Feb 94 Polaris issue. Quite a nice surprise to finally have contact with a former Caiman shipmate. You played a big part in my Navy career. We put the boat in Commission, made all 4 patrols together, made Chief about the same time (June of 45 - right after the 3rd Patrol) and served together to the end of the war. I went on to ride the boats until I retired in 1960. I could tell a lot of stories but this is one that I will never forget.
It was sometime in 1945 when we left Pearl Harbor with our first load of MK-18 electric torpedoes. While on patrol, we discovered that one our new fish was bad. You (Stan Malikowski) went to work troubleshooting the problem and after a tearing the torpedo completely apart you found that the motor windings had a dead short. We put it back together and racked the fish out-board, upper rack, starboard side and you tagged it "For Base Repair - Beyond Ships Force ability and Facilities" I (John Cote) learned more in that one long day about electric circuits and torpedoes from you than I did from all the Navy schooling before that and after. Nothing beats on the job training.
The Great Jeep Caper - By Art Rawson
This story surfaced at the National Convention of WWII Submariners in 2008. I happened to overhear someone talking about a famous tale of a submarine that stole a Jeep from the base in Saipan and took it to Pearl Harbor. I jumped into the conversation because I was there when it happened. I was XO on the Caiman at the time and George Smith was the COB. This is a true story.
During a training cruise to the Western Pacific during late 1946 and early 1947 we visited many of the Islands formerly occupied by Japanese forces. Our last stop was the Island of Saipan in February 1947.
At the head of the pier where we were moored was a vehicle compound consisting of various types of vehicles, including Jeeps. Some of the crew suggested to Chief Smith that we engage in a midnight requisition of a Jeep and take it to Pearl with us to be used to run errands. Chief Smith sought my advice. I suggested that we approach the Captain, CDR Norman Gage. He agreed to look the other way and stated don't get caught.
Time was running out, so it was decided to do it in the afternoon before departing for Pearl. Two men went for the Jeep, one to drive and one to watch for any patrols that might be in the area. In the mean time, other crew members rigged the davit for hoisting the Jeep onboard while others were getting tools ready to disassemble the Jeep. The Jeep was hoisted on board and placed aft of the conning tower so it could not be seen from the roadway at the head of the pier.
The engine was removed from the Jeep and stowed in the torpedo room. Tires were stowed in a line locker and the wheels were stowed in an unused ammunition magazine. The chassis was securely lashed down aft of the conning tower. We left for Pearl.
Upon arrival in Pearl Harbor, some men from the sheet metal shop noticed the Jeep. They had two pick-up trucks, and offered to trade a pick-up for the Jeep. We agreed, since a pick up truck was more practical for our use around the base.
So, that's the story. Caiman was the only sub that had a truck at the time. It came in very handy
George Smith Adds...
A few days before we were to leave for Pearl Harbor some of our crew 'borrowed' a jeep and drove it to the Beer Gardens about a mile away. The next day a Colonel shows up and starts to come across the brow and the topside watch commands him to halt telling him that no one comes aboard without the Captains permission. Captain Gage came topside to talk to the Colonel. The Colonel was upset that the topside watch wouldn't let him come aboard. Capt Gage told him he would have court martialed him if he did. The Colonel accused Caiman crew of stealing a Jeep. Captain Gage said prove it. Unable to show any proof the Colonel left in a huff. At quarters the next morning, Capt Gage mentioned that if someone were to steal a vehicle and get caught he wouldn't be able to help. It was later that day that the Great Jeep Caper took place.
How High's the Water Momma - by Roy Fink
I was a seaman, sonar striker on the Caiman in 1960 when we went out on a trim dive after a few days in port. I was sitting in the crew's mess leaning on the after bulkhead waiting for the noon meal. When the diving alarm rang, the COB got up and ran to the control room. In a few more seconds we went down almost vertical. I was pinned to the table and terrified listening to the emergency surface alarm and the screaming of the forward tanks. A large bowl of spaghetti took off and hit the forward bulkhead which was now on the deck. Prokopek struggled around out of the galley and put a record on our swivel mounted turntable - Johnny Cash singing "How High's the Water Momma?" I started laughing so hard I forgot how scared I was. When they compensated before we got underway, they forgot about 10 torpedoes in the forward room.
Tragedy Avoided - By Charlie Cloud
This is a story I can never forget. I was a radioman on Caiman in 1955. On this particular day we were having some problems with one of our antennas. While on the surface the communications officer sent me and another radioman topside to work in the superstructure in the sail to try and locate the problem. While we were working, one of the lookouts spotted something and the OD quickly sounded the diving alarm, cleared the deck and the boat started down leaving us trapped in the sail. The communications officer acted quickly and ordered the OD to surface the boat to get us out of the sail. He saved our lives. I owe my life to this man and sure would like to find him. If you know his name or anything about him, I sure would appreciate to hear from you. Here is his picture in the Gallery. Thanks, Charlie Cloud.
Nice Picture - By Kent Carroll
Caiman departed Pearl Harbor in 1952 enroute to Japan to join the Seventh Fleet. As we crossed the International Date Line we entered the 'Golden Dragon’s domain'. Caiman was ordered to make an interim stop at the island of Chichi-Jima in the Bonin Islands to provide supplies to the submarine detachment stationed on the island.
Chichi-Jima is located on a straight line between downtown Tokyo, Japan and Agana, Guam. The island is six hundred and twenty miles south of Tokyo and seven hundred miles north of Guam. It is a little over four miles long, two and a half miles wide and rises vertically out of the sea with steep cliffs on all sides, with the exception of Port Lloyd harbor, which has a white sandy beach. The island of Iwo Jima lays 140 miles to the south.
Message instructions cautioned that it was imperative the anchor be walked out and not dropped, as the bottom of Port Lloyd harbor was filled with unexploded ordnance.
Towering cliffs bristling with gun emplacements carved into solid rock surrounded the entrance into the harbor. Once through, we anchored in a sheltered cove. Lieutenant Commander John Kelsey, the officer in charge of the Navy’s submarine detachment on Chichi-Jima, arrived alongside in a motor whaleboat to greet us. He was bare chested, dressed only in a baseball cap, cut-off shorts and sandals. After arrangements were made to offload supplies, Kelsey invited Jack Bennett our commanding officer, Bob Stecker the XO, Dick Clark, Joe Skoog and me to accompany him back to the beach.
Arriving at the pier we were warmly greeted by a several enlisted submarine sailors and a dozen Caucasian civilians. The civilians spoke English with an unusual heavy 19th century New England accent.
Kelsey than took us on a tour of the island, which was laced with well dug-in tunnels and hidden gun emplacements. We visited a Japanese seaplane and torpedo boat squadron base on the shore of Futami Bay that still had several Japanese torpedoes with the warheads removed. We were told the warheads had been dumped in the harbor by the 3rd marines several years earlier. We now understood why we were not to drop the anchor. Our sailors obtained numerous souvenirs, the most prized of which was a Japanese torpedo’s gyro extricated by first class torpedoman George Day.
Behind the seaplane base we were led up a large, deep ravine with numerous machine gun emplacements well concealed and encased in concrete. At the end of the ravine were two huge rock caves carved into the side of a hill, each protected by a massive steel door. The caves were copper-lined and shaped in the form of Quonset huts, with dehumidifiers installed in each.
Kelsey told us that during the later stages of World War II, Japanese leaders had planned that if U.S. forces invaded Japan proper and Chich-Jima escaped assault, the national archive treasures of Japan were to be shipped by submarine to the island. The archives would be stored in the copper-lined dehumidified caves.
We returned to Kelsey’s headquarters, which also served as his living quarters, for lunch. The white stucco building near the waterfront had been General Tachibana, Imperial Japanese Army, Island Commander’s headquarters during WW II. General Tachibana commanded the 17,000 man Chichi-Jima garrison.
John’s wife, Theodosia Kelsey, joined us. In the dining room was an oil painting of the well-endowed Mrs. Kelsey, who was bare from the waist up. She appeared not the slightest bit embarrassed. I am sure she was enjoying our reaction to her nude painting as much as we were enjoying the painting itself.
That evening I wrote a long letter to Betty, my wife, telling her about the fascinating events of the day.
Take'r Down - By Tom McCabe
Dependents cruises are usually a lot of fun and uneventful - except this one time in 1960...
One of the Chiefs on board (name withheld) was in charge of doing the compensation for the Dependents Cruise in the summer of 1960. Due to a math error in his calculations, (He slipped a decimal place.) We loaded 50,000 # of water into Forward Trim Tank, and WRT. We went out and after we crossed the 100 fathom curve we did our dive. Remember we were packed with dependents. Capt. Buchannan was in the Conn and told the Diving Officer (A newly Qualified Ensign) to "Take'r down to 100 feet smartly. Give them a good show."
They sounded the diving alarm and started down. Of course the bottom dropped out from under us. The Diving Officer standing with his right hand in the overhead wire way and his sweety attached to his left hip, gave the order for full dive on both planes. As the angle went off scale and the shallow depth gauge went below 160 feet, The Ensign kept telling the planesmen to "Take a little off the angle." He had obviously gone where no man had gone before. My wife, seven months pregnant, took it all in stride. I on the other hand was in near panic, as were all the qualified persons. From the Conn we heard Captain Buchannan shouting, "Blow everything, blow everything." I was standing next to the forward end of the "Blow Station" and started opening Blow valves from the forward end as the Aux of the Watch started from the After end. The boys in the Maneuvering Room put the Main Motors in Back Emergency without orders.
The ship began to shudder and gradually we felt the angle coming off. Someone cut in the Deep Depth Gauge and it was reading 450 feet, and moving upward. We came up fast and thank God we stayed on the surface. We re-compensated and after everything was cleaned up continued with the Dependents Cruise.
After it was all over I asked my wife why she wasn't afraid during the casualty. She Replied, "I wasn't scared at first. I thought it was all part of the show. But when that guy with all the gold on his hat turned green, I got a little afraid." (The Commodore) The Chief didn't get any disciplinary action against him, I guess everyone was just to glad to be alive.
The Dog's Name Was Steve - By Tom Pollgreen
The dog pictured in the Gallery 'Who's That Doggie On The Pier' is Steve. He had been mistreated by the Jar Heads at Pearl. They had, on one or more occasions, squirted a fire extinguisher at his private parts. All you had to do was pick up a fire extinguisher and/or say "nice doggie" and Steve was ready to fight. When the maneuvering watch was set, Steve was allowed on deck. He would stand in the bull nose as if to dare anyone to come on board.
One of the other boats had a dog on board, and if by chance the two boats were coming up the main ship channel, both dogs would talk back and forth. When we tied up, the dogs would meet at the dumpster at the head of the sail.
Just before I came on board they had another dog (Dachshund) named Snorkel. The story goes that the dog had been taught to do his business on newspapers. One day the steward was making up the captain's bunk. The sheet was laying on the floor. Snorkel thought it was a newspaper. When the boat tied up in Canada, Snorkel quickly became the property of a Canadian admiral.
And that's the Dog gone truth!
My Memories of Caiman in Singapore, 1959 - Diarmid French
My father, Lt Cdr C. A .J. French, was CO of HMS Aurochs in Singapore in 1959. I remember two US boats, USS Caiman and a Gato USS Bashaw being alongside at the time. I can remember, being an eight year old, how excited I was to be given a guided tour of both boats. Having been given copious quantities of Coke and iced tea I quickly became an expert in finding the heads!
I think your guys were drinking something a bit stronger in Aurochs!
Wonderful hospitality from both crews and fond memories. Best wishes to you all.
My father was Lt Cdr C. A .J. French ( Cassell) and was CO from 57 to 60. Aurochs was the last British submarine to be attacked from the air when sailing from Sydney to Singapore in 58 during the Indonesian uprising. Pilot believed to be an american working for Sukarno. My father always thought he was just bored. He missed anyway so no casualties. Ironically he was also the last CO to sink another submarine; in 55 HMS Sidon caught fire after a torpedo room explosion ( loading experimental hydrogen peroxide torpedoes) and was used for target practice. He said, during the war, he was only ever on the receiving end!
A Caiman Dive, 1952 - Robert Thornhill
A caiman is a vicious crocodile native to the Amazon. This essay is not about a diving crocodile but about a dive of a US Navy submarine named after the vicious Amazon crocodile. This essay was completed on Memorial Day 2011 in remembrance of the 80 Caimanites with whom I had the honor and privilege of serving. It is an imaginary scenario but it could have been real.
Imagine it is nearing dawn one morning in March, 1952. The Korean War is at a stalemate. The cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union is heating up. The US submarine, USS Caiman, SS-323, a diesel-electric snorkel boat, has a few hours earlier slipped quietly through the La Perouse Straits which separates the Japanese Island of Hokkaido from the Soviet island of Sakhalin. The Caiman is heading in a southwesterly direction through the dark and choppy waters of the Sea of Japan. In the east, a narrow orange sliver of sunrise is just visible, making the sea seem even darker, and the twin stripes of the wake of the Caiman even brighter.
It's a good story and a long one. Click here for the rest of the story.
The Caiman Invades Atami, 1952 - Robert Thornhill
History tells us that the only Americans to land on Japanese soil during WW H were American submariners. They were crewmen of the submarine USS Barb, SS-220, who went ashore in northern Hokkaido on 23 July 1945 to blow up a train. (For details of that exploit read Chapter 27, Hear That Train Blow, of the book, Thunder Below!, by Admiral Eugene B. Fluckey)
It was some years after WWII, during the war on the nearby Korean peninsula, that the people of Japan's famous hot-springs resort city of Atami discovered one morning that they were being invaded by creatures from the deep.
Japan was still recovering from the devastation of WWII. The nearby war in Korea was stimulating the Japanese economy as the United Nations used Japan as a staging area, source for purchase of war materials and the maintenance of war equipment. Japan itself was at peace with world. (As the Korean Ambassador to Vietnam, General "Tiger" Lee, told me and my boss, Bill Movers, one evening In Saigon in 1967, as Japan had gotten rich off the Korean War, it was Korea's intent to get rich off the Vietnam War.)
It was a peaceful morning in the city of Atami in early 1952. Families were up and about. Fathers were on their way to work. Mothers were just sending their children off to school. It was just another quiet day in the lovely resort city, even at that time. An invasion of any sort from any source was the farthest thing from the citizens' minds.
Click here for the rest of this intriguing mystery.
Caiman's Caimans - By Jim Bain and Jack Warden (taken from their emails in June 2004 by Greg Baer)
In June of 2004 there were some emails floating around talking about the real caimans that were brought aboard the Caiman as mascots. These emails had some newspaper articles attached which you can see in the Gallery. Here's what they said.
Jim Bain recalls...
The clipping is correct considering what the author knew at the time. But, this was the second Caiman. The first one was given to us in Vancouver, BC by their zoo and died a few months later. That's when Weis got the second one from the SD zoo. You can talk to Aiello, Cunningham, Marcom and anyone else who was on board in 1962. One good source to talk to would be CrocDoc first class Tony Ziner, Comsubpacs only living Submarine Veterinarian.
Jack Warden Recalls...
Well, it has been 42 years therefore, my memory may be a bit fuzzy regarding all of the elements surrounding the croc coming aboard for the first time. As I recall, when we got the first Caiman in BC it died within a few days. Prior to leaving they gave us another one that made it back to San Diego. I remember Capt. T. J. Bruck telling me when the port authority inspectors came aboard, that we were to say nothing about having a reptile aboard. I think Aiello hid him under the deck plates in the forward torp room. I remember we always kept him in the plexiglas aquarium on top of the sonar stacks. However, when we got back to SD there was an article in the paper about our Canadian friends getting another Caiman to us. I don't know if that is the article that you infoed me on from Whit, but the one from the San Diego Zoo may have been the third in the line of crocs. I remember Jack Newman was none to pleased about being the O in C of the Caiman. Jeff Kerr on occasion would have the croc bite down on envelopes he was mailing out so that it would have tooth marks embossed on the correspondence. Jim, if the number of crocs is inaccurate and we only got one in BC, chalk it up to my failing memory. If it is moderately accurate we can preserve it for the Caiman history books.
The Caiman Mission - As told to W. Paul Hansen by Mike Cox
Paul and Mike both served on HMCS Grilse SS71 and are members of the Submarine Association of Canada West.
They had names of course; these would be perpetrators of late night skulduggery. But for the purposes of recounting the events of that long ago evening the focus is more on the duplicitous plot than on the hapless plotters themselves so we’ll just call them, say, Dan, and Duffy, and Mike.
It started with the rum, as most Canadian submarine skulduggery did in those days. A small group of mainly engineers and electricians sitting around the airlock on HMCS Grilse SS71 (formerly USS Burrfish SS/SSR 312), sipping (if that was the right term) their tots (the tradition of a daily ration of rum that, sadly, ended on March 30th, 1972) and hatching adventures that would at least give bragging rights and, who knows, might even become the stuff of legend.
These adventures usually involved the liberation of another boat’s trophies or mascot without incurring retaliation. The very best missions resulted in absconding with a trophy that another boat had already liberated from somewhere else, but no one was aware of any such options on this occasion. One of the group had heard that the USS Caiman, which did have its own history of skulduggery and was tied up fairly close by, had a mascot in a place of honour in their mess. That would have to do.
Now you might have images of a ‘Mission Impossible’ team putting together the plan and equipment necessary to achieve their nefarious objective, but you’d be wrong. The sophistication level of their plan only extended as far as a late night ‘Oh hell, we’re here anyway, so let’s just drop by and say hello’ visit with the Caiman’s topside watch keeper, who Dan was then supposed to keep distracted with witty stories of adventures past while Mike and Duffy slipped below ‘Just to use the head, you know’. And then to find and ‘liberate’ the mascot.
Well, it seems that only one of them knew that a caiman was an alligator and even that one assumed that such a mascot would be stuffed (after all, who would keep a live gator onboard a submarine?) Apparently the empty-handed return to the casing was expedited by the ‘ugly thing’ (as it was later so discourteously described) making enough noise to raise the dead or even awaken sleeping submariners.
It is only on reflection and on learning more detail about the origin of the mascot that one wonders if all of the “wild snapping and snarling” wasn’t just excitement over unexpectedly seeing fellow Canadians, possibly come to take him home. But, at the time, the topside watch keeper was hastily thanked for his hospitality and use of facilities and they beat a hurried retreat to check on whether a change of boxers was required.
Unable to accept defeat graciously they immediately launched into planning a second mission; even recruiting another team member who, for the sake of the story, we’ll call Tom. However, it too was a failure and we see no reason to risk repetition by recounting the details of its doomed execution. Suffice to say that this ignoble adventure did put an end to their trophy gathering; at least for a brief spell.
Composting, Caiman Style - By Jack Warden
About 1961 when I was an auxiliaryman on board the Caiman my division officer decided we should learn to use the Garbage Disposal Unit (GDU). (The GDU was like a small torpedo tube that was used to shoot garbage into the sea. The garbage was placed into weighted nylon bags.) Since we had no written procedure I wrote one up and submitted it to him for approval. Later while operating out of San Diego he decided to try to put it into use. We gathered trash from the galley and put it into the unit for flushing overboard. While filling the unit we were interrupted by the CO who told us to stop and continue at another time since it seemed to him that we were taking too much time. We later returned to port forgetting that the event was incomplete. About a month later we went to sea again and my division officer decided to try again. I opened the vent on the GDU prior to opening the breech door. Suddenly I remembered it was already loaded and partly filled with water. Suddenly the control room was filled with the most horrible odor from decaying food matter that had been marinating in sea water for the last month. We surfaced and ventilated the boat while we completed the venting, filling and flushing the GDU. While I was aboard Caiman we never tried to use the GDU again.
The Real Train Whistle Story - By Ken Fleming
On our way to Seattle, for the World's Fair in 1962, I was on the radar aiding in navigating and keeping watch for other contacts. As part of navigating, I kept referring to the charts for land marks. As we got off the Washington State coast, the charts showed railroad tracks along the coast. Being a steam locomotive engineer (before my Navy days) and still a fan of them, I knew actually what railroad it was and that they still operated steam locomotives. I remarked to the Quartermaster on watch, "wouldn't it be neat to have a locomotive whistle on the Caiman". The Conning Officer overheard the remark and said that the Captain (LCDR Tim Bruck) had also expressed this same interest. Sure enough on my next watch, the Captain came up to the "barrel" and asked me if I thought I could get him a whistle for Caiman. I said I knew where a possible source was and that I would try.
Well I won the anchor pool when we tied up in Seattle. This gave me the funds to rent a car and armed with two letters from Capt. Bruck, I set off on my mission. Of course I had to stop off at the Manhattan Club for a couple of "pops" before leaving for the coast. I drove to Port Angeles and spent the night. In the morning, I continued on to Hoquiam, where the Rayonier Company's logging railroad was head quartered. I was informed that the manager was out in the "woods" doing track repair. While waiting for the manager's return, I helped the hostler fill the tenders of five locomotives, under steam, one at a time we took them to a large wooden water tank. This was just the thing to do while wearing dress blues. I didn't care, it was like being in "train heaven".
When the manager returned, I introduced myself and gave him the letters from Capt. Bruck. He told me that they had recently scrapped engine #11 and he had the bell and whistle from it. He said that the bell was on his mantle, but a whistle wouldn't do much on a mantle. He gave me the whistle for the Caiman. I beat feet back to Seattle and returned to the boat.
I was just in time to catch the Captain before he left for a party. The whistle, still in a burlap bag, was placed on his bunk. When he returned and opened the bag it was like a kid getting his first bike. Later, the A-gang used the ship's air connection back in the engine room to blow the whistle for its first time on Caiman. As they say, "the rest is history". Forty-two years later and I am still looking for a whistle like that one.
Ray deYarmin Adds...
Last time I saw the Caiman whistle was in the Submarine Museum in Pearl
Harbor. It should have become a part of the new museum near the Arizona
Memorial. The whistle was donated to the museum when Caiman was
decommissioned. It was mounted on a wooden stand with an appropriate
identifying plaque. I was always proud to exhibit the whistle and it became
the subject of many interesting inquiries.
That's the rest of the story. - Ray
Train Whistle Saves Caiman - By Capt Tim Bruck as told by his son Timo Bruck
This was one of my Dad's favorite stories about his time on the USS Caiman.
It was a foggy and dark night somewhere on Puget Sound when the Caiman was creeping along very slowly sounding it's horn and bell as a warning to other vessels ahead. All of a sudden, Caiman saw a tug boat on a collision course. Capt. Bruck knowing that there was a drawbridge nearby with train tracks on it, got the idea to blow the Caiman's train whistle. This did the trick as the tug boat immediately turned and stopped dead in the water so the Caiman could continue on without incident.
Mobile Canteen Truck By Another Name - By Jack Warden
While serving as a MM1(SS) on USS Caiman SS-323 in 1961 on the way to westpac, we made a stop at the Submarine Base, Pearl. While tied up to the pier the topside watch announced "The Geedunk Truck is on the pier". A recently qualified junior officer went topside and berated the topside watch for not using proper terminology. "I want you to announce the Navy Exchange Mobile Canteen is on the pier in the future" he said. Shortly after the topside watch was relieved and passed the instructions to a more seasoned watch stander who replied "That's a bunch of crock".
Later while watching the movie the crew roared when the 1MC announced "The Roach Coach is on the approach."
USS Caiman Meets The USS Samuel N. Moore - By Jack Warden
In the fall of 1961 while conducting ASW exercises in the western pacific near Okinawa, USS Samuel N. Moore DD 747 was acting as a screen for the USS Yorktown CVS-10. USS Caiman SS 323 was attempting to penetrate the destroyer screen and gain a firing position on the Yorktown. Aboard Caiman the pinging of Moore’s active sonar could be heard, but the pings were far apart indicating she was on a long range search.
Moore was also directly astern of Caiman and Caiman’s own propeller noise made it difficult to accurately judge her range. When the Moore shifted to short range pinging it became apparent she was much closer to Caiman than suspected. To compound the problem, all ships were running in a darken ship condition, without lights.
Caiman was at periscope depth and started to head for a deeper depth, but before she was able to gain sufficient depth, the rudder of the Moore struck the aft position of Caiman’s sail, causing severe damage to several masts and antenna’s.
Lost in the collision was the snorkel head valve; (an air operated valve which allows air into the boat while snorkeling, but prevents entry of water) and several radio antenna’s. After the collision USS Moore went to Sasebo for repairs and the USS Caiman went to Yokosuka for her repairs.
1969 Super Bowl - By Jim O'toole
The date was the day after the 1969 Super Bowl and, as you can imagine, there were a few dollars in friendly wagers on the game between the Jets and the Colts. We were out on a patrol in WesPac and were receiving our news once a day by radio and the radiomen would make a couple of copies of the decoded messages for the crew to read in a makeshift newspaper.
Most of us were interested in the Super Bowl score but when the score came through, 16-7 Jets, no one believed it as all we got was the score with no game details. The guys who bet on the Jets were demanding payment from the Colts fans but the Colts fans would not pay off as we all knew that there was no way an AFL team with a loudmouth quarterback could beat the Colts. It was another day before we got the details of the game and we found out that Joe Namath had "guaranteed" a Jets win and pulled it off.
The Caiman may have been the last place on earth where NFL fans learned the full story about the upset.
White Rat - By Greg Baer
While on the Caiman in 1971 I built and installed a white rat, a small battery powered microphone and preamp, behind the BQS4 repeater in the conning tower. I ran its output through some unused wires from the UQC control unit down to the UQC transceiver in the control room and then through some unused wire from there to the sonar shack. One time while submerged off of San Diego, I was on the stack and Lt Logan Chance was in the Conn looking through the periscope. I heard him say, "hmmm... there's a small sail boat over there, let's see if sonar is on the ball...Sonar, Conn do you hold anything around 120?...Sonar, eye - wait.........I called back....Conn Sonar, yes, it sounds like it might be a bait tank....Logan says in the Conn..Damm those guys are really good!! I used it a few more times with great results until I was shook out of my rack one day and asked to go see LCDR Jack Roudebush right away. I crawled out of my bunk and went forward to find Jack holding my white rat by its tail..er..I mean wire, and he said "Is this yours?...I said, I cannot tell a lie, I put that white rat there. He laughed and said don't do it again. Whew - that was close!
Navigating The Torres Straits By Brail - By Greg Baer
In May of 1971 the Caiman departed Darwin Australia with its crew full of Fosters Lager and headed to Brisbane. We had to go through the Torres Straits which is a narrow stretch between Australia and New Guinea with hazardous reefs and currents and some 70 islands. We picked up a very British sounding old salt of a Pilot all dressed in whites smoking a pipe. I swear I thought we were in some kind of movie. He sat up on the bridge almost the entire time he was on board. There were no nav lights on any of the islands and we didn't have loran or any other electronic means to navigate. The radar was land locked. So, it was the Pilot who as we moved east called the shots. I remember being up on the bridge several times watching this amazing process. Thank god the skies were clear and full of stars because that's how he did it. As we moved he kept a eye on the horizon and watched the stars disappear behind the islands and then he would give rudder commands. Sure glad he had good eyesight. Well we made it but the story's not over.
We made it to the rendezvous point to off load the Pilot but the boat never showed. After waiting for several hours we proceeded to go to Port Morseby New Guinea to off load the Pilot. We were unable to raise anyone on the radio so we were entering the port unannounced. As we entered the port we saw a boat coming toward us at high speed. As it loomed closer and closer in our binoculars we soon saw it was a gun ship with crew on deck with guns at the ready. It pulled along side and the Pilot started talking to them in their native tongue (it wasn't english) and the situation calmed right down. He made his way down and onto the fast boat and we turned around and headed to Brisbane. I remember taking pictures of all this as it unfolded but discovered a few days later that the film in my camera wasn't advancing - Damm.
Surprise from Above - By Greg Baer
The Caiman operated with the USS Ranger (CV-61) task force in the Indian Ocean for a few days in May 1971. We were mostly playing hide and seek with the airedales. After a few days of this we broke from the exercises one evening and planned to spend the night charging our batteries and resting the crew. Our radar was secured as were almost all of the electronics in the boat because our air conditioning systems were TU. We still stood watch though, just in case. On this night I made a 4 cup coffee run up to the bridge to take in some fresh air and smoke one of my favorite cigars.
It was a pitch black sky and there was a slight warm breeze blowing from the north. You could hear the diesels running in the background. There were two lookouts, the OD and myself. It was a quiet night at about 0200. All of a sudden the sky lit up and an S-3 from the south passed right over the bridge at what seemed like about 50 feet altitude. The sound from the plane was deafening along with our four synchronized screams. I lost my cigar and the coffee became a warm spray in the breeze and wind from the passing plane. After we all got back up and checked our shorts, we let out a tirade of profanities aimed at the now disappearing S-3. The only light that the plane showed was it's powerful spot light which had been on for only a few seconds as it passed over the Caiman. They were undoubtedly laughing at us while they pulled this little stunt. What they really did, was show us that they really could find us after all - after a day of no luck when we were submerged. We made a run on the Ranger the next day and 'sunk' their asses.
Up The River Without A ... - By Dick Meaux
Portland was one of the last ports of call for Caiman before it was decommissioned. We sailed up the Columbia River and stayed a few days and departed. I'll never forget the day we left Portland. I had been there before in ARCHERFISH and on that visit our river transits were enjoyable and pretty as well as unremarkable. In CAIMAN's visit, things were considerably different.
We were moored outboard another sub, HARDER perhaps, and just upriver from a bridge. There was another bridge a little further upriver that limited our maneuverability. When we got underway, the river current was very strong and we had to push our way upriver to turn around and head downstream. It was quite an adrenaline moment for me as we had a maximum twist on, and a tug to push then pull, but despite all that it we were being forcefully swept down river toward the lower bridge. Needless to say, I breathed a sigh of relief as we got straight and headed down river just as the bow got to the lower bridge and we were able to shoot through the gap literally at the very last minute. The fact that our whip antenna scraped the bottom of that bridge as we shot through only added drama to the event.
Later, after dodging, logs all the way down, we came to the mouth of the river and got the anchor detail secured and below just in time to have the deck completely swept by crashing waves as we went through a tremendous line of breakers brought about by the outgoing tide meeting the open ocean.
It was a departure that I remember well to say the least.
Under The Bridge - By Dick Meaux
The home leg of Caiman's last cruise brought us to San Francisco. It was to be the ship's last call in that beautiful city (turns out we did go back once more before decommissioning). To mark that last visit I got the idea to transit the Golden Gate submerged.
I checked the charts closely to see if the channel was deep and clear, which it was, further I was happy to see that, fortunately, it was a rare clear and crisp day in San Francisco and there was no ship traffic in and around the bridge. We started rigging for dive when we got underway, as usual, but other people started suspecting that I had some scheme in mind when I did not head directly out of the harbor. Instead we took a little tour of the Bay, laying off Fisherman's Wharf and sounding the train whistle.
Once rigged for dive we headed out and there was a general sense of what l had in mind. Neal Henson was the Engineer and he came up and asked if he could make the dive, which he did. It was a short dive just to go under the bridge and then back up on the surface, probably ten to fifteen minutes. It created a little bit of a buzz but it was a safe and uneventful excursion under the bridge.
Caiman Meets The Pier - By Don Walbaum
It was sometime in 1972 when the soon to be Turkish captain of the Dumlupinar/Caiman, LCDR Akyuz, had his first attempt in landing the boat at the pier in San Diego. It wasn't what you call a two bell landing. I was in the engine room at the time when all of a sudden there was a good jolt. It turned out that he had hit the pier pretty hard and dented Caiman's bull nose. The one thing I remember about it was that the Turkish sailors were not very happy with their captain.
Later that same day the Turkish sailors found a live goat and tied it up to the bow jack staff. We had no idea what was going to happen. I didn't see it but the next night they slaughtered it right where it stood and prepared it for a grand feast to celebrate taking over the Caiman. I guess it must be a standard ritual when taking over a submarine?
The bull nose was replaced a day or two later. I happened to be in the right place at the right time and managed to salvage the old one. I've still got it too. If you get anywhere near Lakeside, California stop on in and take a look.
The Day My Heart Sank - By Sait Kucuk
It was the morning of August 31st, 1976 when the Dumlupinar (formerly the USS Caiman (SS-323), the Muratrees (formerly the USS Razorback (SS-394) and the Hizirreis (formerly USS Mero (SS-378) departed the Golcuk Naval base, Turkey, headed to the Aegean Sea for exercises. The next day I took the watch in the maneuvering room at 0400. We were running ahead full on both engines in the Marmarian Sea, ten mile from the Dardanelles. Fifteen minutes into the watch, I received an order for all ahead flank. Knowing that flank speed can only be achieved on the battery, I started to call the bridge when all of a sudden the collision alarm sounded. I immediately shut down the engines and then a few seconds later WHAM, something hit us. The boat leaned to port and then came back and listed hard to starboard. The 1MC blared"collision in the after battery compartment". I tripped the after battery circuit breaker. Chatter on the sound powered phones told me that the after battery was flooded and there were 13 men in the compartment. About a minute and half later on the sound powered phones the word was passed "All hands, abandon ship". We went aft and got out through the after torpedo room hatch. Some crew members had already jumped into the water. I couldn't believe the sight before me. There was a very large ship with its bow embedded into the side of the Dumlupinar. The bow had torn through the fuel ballast tank and safety tank and collapsed the pressure hull at the after battery just aft of the door into the crew's mess. It all happened so fast.
The ship that rammed us was the Fizik Vavilov, an ice breaker. Vavilov put boats in the water right after the collision to help with the rescue of our crew. The Captain, Engineer, me and three more chiefs refused to leave the boat. I went to the after battery hatch and opened it. With my flash light I looked down into the compartment and could see the water and faces looking up at me. They started climbing out and all 13 made it out ok.
The Muratreis stayed with the Vavilov, so they couldn't leave the scene. Meanwhile, the Hizirreis threw us a line so they could tow us to shallow water where we hoped to ground the Dumlupinar to prevent her from sinking. The Hizirreis could not get close enough to shore. A nearby mine sweeper came to our rescue and towed us to the shallows. A salvage ship arrived the next morning to begin salvage operations. After six days the boat was down at the stern. The after torpedo room hatch was three feet under. The boat was flooded from the control room to the after torpedo room. On the seventh day we towed the boat to the shipyard for repair.
It took two years of a lot of hard work, but we finished the overhaul in 1978. The Dumlupinar returned to service. I left the ship in 1980 to go to Submarine School as an instructor. The Dumlupinar was decommissioned on February 6, 1983. Later that year in December she was re-commissioned as a battery charging boat and operated for another three years. On September 15, 1986 the Dumlupinar (USS Caiman) was decommissioned for the final time. Shortly after she was sold for scrap.
If you ask me, is there any peace on earth for Caiman? Yes, I will keep her love forever in my heart to eternity. Love to all Submariners who worked on Caiman. - Sait Kucuk