Irish Pennants

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   Irish Pennants are loose threads that need to be tied up or cut off.  For the purpose of  this web site, they represent miscellaneous threads of discussion and points of view by classmates and colleagues.  To submit [or respond] to Irish Pennants, just send an e-mail to webmaster@usna63.org;  without objection from the Class Secretary, they will be published on this site, invite rebuttal or response, and eventually get tied off.

Main threads:

1/C Year Weapons Exam
[initial thought by Chuck Adams, 27 March 2000:]

In the first semester of our first class year (1962-1963), our entire class endured a course entitled Anti-Submarine Warfare and Detection Systems.  It was the first time the Weapons Department had offered the course.  The syllabus included a heavy dose of material on underwater acoustics.  As the course progressed through the semester, it apparently became a worry to the Weapons Department faculty that their students were just "not getting it." and if they didn't do something, the failure rate for the course would be quite high.  The "something" was to make the final examination "open book."

The day of the examination, those of us in the Thirteenth Company arrived at our examination rooms with one book in our stack of references that our other classmates did not have - Thermodynamic Properties of Steam. At a prearranged time during examination, we all took out our copies of Thermodynamic Properties of Steam, removed and unfolded our Mollier diagrams and pretended to obtain a bit of information from the diagrams.  The Mollier diagram, of course, had little or nothing to do with underwater acoustics nor anything else in the course or the examination.  I took the examination in the large classroom on the top deck of Luce Hall.  There were about six other of my company mates scattered about the room.  As we consulted our diagrams, the look of pure panic on the faces of our other classmates was unforgettable!

Do you recall that infamous exam?

By the way, in preparation for the final, my company classmates also got together and made up exemplar answers to all the questions in all the tests that had been during the course as well as to all the study questions in the textbook and homework problems.  These exemplars were distributed to all firsties in the company.  I recall that I made a 3.9 on the exam and that many of my companymates earned similar marks.

Added by Watt Miles 3/2/09

I just discovered the Irish Pennants feature of the Web site, and am very thankful to Chuck Adams for documenting the 1/c Weapons Exam. It is a sea story I've told more than a couple of times because (a) I was one of those with the momentary stab of panic when those fellows shook out (more vigorously than needed, in retrospect ) their Mollier diagrams; and, (b) it represented to me a truly creative prank that captured the spirit among classmates; I don't think it possible that such an experience could be had at a civilian school. I do need to correct Chuck's account, however; some of the effect was caused by the fact that the text and Mollier diagram was in fact on the list of references prescribed for the open book exam. Since we hadn't used it during the course, we all wondered why we needed to bring it to the exam. The Thirteenth Co. perpetrators had great timing - they sprang the deal when almost everyone was near the end of the test and had concluded that the Mollier diagram was just a dirty trick played on us by the Weapons Dept. As I recall, the panic was pretty quickly defused when the tricksters couldn't resist laughing at our wide eyes.

Class of '63 Academic Overload Courses
[initial thought by John Morgan, 27 March 2000:]

I had wondered how many 63ers poured on the courseload to come up with a "major". (I had over 25 hours one semester.)   I wrote to the USNA Archivist, Gary LaValley and he provided me with the following info:

 The class of '63 was the first to have the advantage of the full four years of the majors program. From our class, 106 fulfilled those requirements. There were eight majors to choose from.  By 66-67 school year, there were 21 majors and 23 minors to choose from. The classes of '64, '65, '66 fulfilled  requirements for majors with 152, 209, and 412 respectively.
    The number of us folks who went Air Force was 60; 30 from the top half class, and 30 from the second half class. The top half's 30 were promised grad school.

Classmates on The Vietnam Memorial:  The Wall
[initial thought by Ed Howard, 29 July 1999:]
Recently, I cruised The Wall's website looking for a fellow Okie from the class of '62, Smokey Tolbert.   In reading about him, I found there was nothing posted in his personal remarks category.  I wrote a small paragraph and then had to sign off.  I haven't been back to see if anything has been written about our classmates.  Is this something we should do individually or as a class  -  short biography etc.?

Henri Berckenbosch
[submitted by Frank Hilton, 9/9/99:]
Like his roommate, Dick Danhof, Henri was among seven classmates who were re-assigned to the Third Company our First Class year, to fill-in a company which had been reduced by massive resignations our Second Class year. In the Lucky Bag, Henri is listed in the Fifth Battalion but his company of record is the Third Company, First Battalion. Henri did an awesome job of re-adjusting for about the third time: first a new country; then the shift of companies after Youngster Year; and finally, after 3 years of close relationships; leaving his company-mates for the final year.

One of several things I will always remember about Henri is our discussions about his first class term paper. Henri wrote about the injustice of apartheid in South Africa.  Now, this is the fall/winter of 1962, long before the U.S. public consciousness is raised on this issue, and either just before or only soon after Nelson Mandela is arrested and imprisoned. Until those discussions with Henri I wasn't even aware of the term "apartheid."

Henri also had strong opinions about canned fruits and vegetables and processed bread in the United States. Having lived in Europe in the intervening years, I can now understand where Henri was coming from.

Recurring nightmares inspired by USNA
       [initial thought by Will Settle, 11 May 1999:]
            Are you going to have a chat room on our web site?  I think it would be a super idea. Instead of those weird sites where people talk about coming out of the closet and discovering that they really do enjoy the idea of having sex with smallfurry rodents, we could talk to each other about the anxieties we experiencedgoing into the true/false skinny final second class year.  Also (could I be theonly one of our classmates to have this experience), for a good 15 years or so after graduation I had a recurring dream about going into a steam or skinny finalbeing completely unprepared and not knowing my ass from a hole-in-the-ground,while everyone around me was confidently punching his steam table and working hisslide rule at a high rate of knots.

  [response by J.J. Calande, 7 July 1999]
I think the idea of a chat capability is great. It would be even better if we started a cyber chapter of the alumni with Internet relay chat using MIRC or a like chat client.  MIRC is available at http://www.mirc.com

Rasputniks & Come-Arounds
 [initial thought by Bill Kennedy, December 1999]
I'm amused that there's no recollection of rasputniks.  Our white shirts used a stud in the back and another in the front to moor the collar.  Shirts and collars were laundered separately and heavily starched collars were returned with wooden studs, known as rasputniks, in the button holes closing the front.  They were apparently used as chips in poker games by upper classmen.  My recollection is that payment in rasputniks for a lost bet with a 2/c was preferable to a come around with my dented atlas.
[response by Steve Coester, 30 December 1999]
Come Around?  What's a come around?  Remember that I went through plebe year with only 15 demerits and ended up a three striper.  Anal was my middle name.  At the 35th, I was introduced to Vern Browne's wife (a Hallmark heir) and she said, "Oh I've heard your name.  You were the pure one."  Well I was just 17, if you know what that means....and I guess I was an innocent, or at least kept my foibles to myself.

Just kidding about come arounds.  I guess in the Color Company (plebe year 13th)  we weren't able to buy our way out of come arounds with wampum. I was looking through my plebe calender looking for a cartoon of drunk midns (lots of luck!) and on every page was "Come Around, 0530 Rm 3354" or some such.

I certainly remember the starched collars, but that segment of LONG term memory recording rasputniks is dead..  And now that you've made me recall it, I've had to stuff that bit of useless knowledge into a slot that held the next great scientific breakthrough (which now I can't remember).

Speaking of Color Company, did you know that some Second Class ex gyrene made all of us plebes completely strip the finish off the whole company's M-1s and revarnish them.  It took a whole weekend of really hard work.  You should have seen the 13th at the next p-rade.  The rifles gleamed in comparison to the other 23 companies.  Also was probably a real team building exercise.

Drag Houses

Assault on the Liberty
 [initial thought by Mike Blackledge, June 1999:]
Thx for the site Bibliography, and the info re the USS Liberty incident.  I checked out LCdr Ennes' book from my Albuquerque library system and am in the process of reading it now.  I find it well written and I find the story [and times in 1967]  fascinating.   How soon we [I guess some of us] forget.
  Thanks for your section on the Liberty.  I didn't even hear about this incident until 15 years after its occurence, which is interesting considering all the media attention to a similar ship in the Pacific in '69.  I'm especially interested in Adm Buckley's involvement in this affair. Any sea stories out there?  -  Gary Hosey.
[Irish Pennants update:  11 Sept 1999:  our site now links to the survivor site for USS Liberty, through the deceased data in the Electronic Lucky Bag for Classmate Steve Toth page 548.]

Loss of the USS Scorpion

[response by Bill Kennedy]
 My concern over the Scorpion material was partially being nervous about not knowing what's still classified and what isn't, but I also wanted to save someone thinking about the cover story.  It's covered in some detail in Blind Man's Bluff, a largely authentic book about post-WW II use of submarines to gather intelligence.  I'll illustrate the cock & bull story by relying on your knowledge of submarine weapons.  Nothing classified here, it's loosely paraphrased from Discovery Channel and Blind Man's Bluff accounts.

Examination of the wreckage suggests that Scorpion broke in half doing a violent turning maneuver.  There was a known problem with the battery in the MK-37 torpedo (there was, they were prone to catch fire).  Making a prompt 180 degree turn would engage the anit-circular run sensor and disarm the weapon (also true if the gyros were spun up and the weapon had been armed). The torpedo warhead exploded in the room, the tubes were empty (the tubes were, indeed, empty, SOP for transit home).

Now apply all of your post-USNA torpedo training and explain to me how the gyros spun up and the weapon swam far enough to arm while it was strapped in its storage rack?  I'll augment your training just a bit by explaining that the test set umbilical could be attached to spin up the gyros in the room, but the arming sequence is initiated by exiting the firing tube.

I will not dispute two elements of the official story.  I agree, based on the lie of the parts of the hull, that she was enaged in a violent turning maneuver when she died.  I also agree that an exploding torpedo warhead was what ruptured her pressure hull.

Now that you have sufficient submarine weapons knowledge, I'll put forth a theory that makes just as much sense as the official account.  Let's accept the US and USSR claims that no Soviet vessels were within 700NM of Scorpion, she's headed home to Norfolk.  The CO decides to load a warshot into a tube and fires it.  The weapon arms but the anti-circular run sensor malfunctions.  The rudder control gyro malfunctions causing it to reverse course and attack Scorpion.  Sonar didn't hear it until the range was too short for the evasive turn to succeed.

My scenario, you'll agree, is clearly poppycock, but no moreso than what the Navy claims and it relies on assumptions no less likely than theirs.  Mine, at least, accounts for how the weapon got powered up and armed...

I bored you with that so you would understand my strong feelings in the matter.  The USN account insults my intelligence even if I had no other knowledge, you may now feel that it insults your intelligence too.  Surely someone could have thought up something more imaginative than this!

Blind Man's Bluff  has some spellbinding accounts of Cold War submarining including how they tapped the Soviets' underwater telephone cables.  Two elements of their Scorpion account are accurate and presumably unclassified.  The wreck was located using SOSUS (used to be classified secret to utter the word) data, i.e. they _heard_ her crush.  Although we knew where she was, the water was so deep that they had to dispatch Trieste (deep diving research vessel) to conduct the investigation.

To the Navy's credit, they didn't fail to extract value from the Thresher and Scorpion tragedies.  Thresher taught them to abandon the 1944 damage control mentality and to build safe submarines starting with the keel.  Scorpion made check reports (scheduled periodic "I'm OK" messages) mandatory and taken very seriously by all afloat and ashore.  Had anyone attached any weight to the missed Scorpion check reports they could have prevented the heart breaking assembly of the families on the pier to greet her.

[response by Jim Ring, Feb 2000]

I noticed Bill Kennedy discussed the information about SCORPION from Blind Man's Bluff.  One of our classmates observed the wreckage. Dave Brynes was on TRIESTE when it found the wreckage.  A number of years age,he told me that he was not free to discuss what he found, but maybe he can now.  I certainly would be interested, since my plebe summer roommate and a great guy, Jack Burke was on it when it sunk.

Classmates as Expert References on the Web Site

[suggestion by Pete Deutermann,  June 1999]
I'm still very damn impressed.  On the password bit -- probably the best thing to do is to design the
site so that it can be protected if the need arises. (I'm also pretty ignorant about the tech side of working websites.)
    A further suggestion, and hopefully I didn't miss it in my tour of the site:  there must be a vast pool of expertise in our class, ranging from A to Z.  Would it be possible to query (over time, of course) the members to ask them to list three things that they're pretty knowledgeable about, and then to create an 'expert reference' page, where, for example, if I wanted to know antique car restoration, I could hit the page and see if any of our guys were experts? Based on what I heard at the 35th reunion, some of our classmates went pretty far afield. Just a thought.

'63 Speakers Bureau
[suggestion by Alex Daunis, December 1999]
        [continuing from above], these "experts" might be interested in becoming part of a "63 Speakers Bureau."  Many of the organizations that I have worked with over the years have needed speakers on all sorts of topics. This could become an interesting way for us to share our wealth of experience, and an opportunity to develop an interesting second career.  Might be an interesting way to travel and get paid for it.  I would be happy to try to line up some opportunities for classmates if I could match their expertise with the needs of an audience.  Perhaps, a classmate would be interested in organizing and booking USNA63 speakers.

        My interest in history, biography, writing, leadership development, education, communication and performance have all come together in an interesting framework.  A member of the Screen Actors Guild since 1994, I have worked on close to forty feature films as a Background Actor or Stand-In.  For the past two years, preparation for my acting class has become an important part of my weekly schedule.
        Once I redefined myself as "an actor with a day job," after my auto accident, the rest of my life seemed to fall into place.  I am currently working with a group of actors to perform a staged reading of a group of plays written by a friend who was a destroyer officer during the Viet Nam era.  I am also researching Rhode Island historical sources, looking for local military and governmental figures that had national and/or international impact. I plan to create a one man show that traces important themes of leadership, perseverance and courage.  With period costumes, I think that this project could be an effective way to teach schools and youth groups about our nation's heritage.
        If any classmates have stories that they want to tell, and are looking for ways to start to develop them, give me a jingle and maybe we can come up with some ideas on how you can get started on a project in your own area.
        Best wishes to you for the next millennium.     Alex Daunis.         Quality '63!

[suggestion by Will Settle,  July 1999]
    How about a link to the Patrick O'Brian web site with all the Jack Aubry novels about the Royal Navy during the Napoleanic wars.  If you want to read about the life of a midshipman in the days when they served a real function and weren't just proud, pampered pets of Uncle Sam, I recommend Master and Commander, Post Captain and the other seventeen books in the series to you.

[response by Bill Kennedy]
     As an incurable Hornblower devotee I eagerly embarked on Aubrey/Maturin.  I sort of fizzled after the first couple because there was so much more talk than action.  The action was spellbinding but there was too little to suit me.  Did they ever fight the duel?  That's how early I vacated the series.  I was reading Books on Tape rather than paper (I did C.S. Forester and W.E.B. Griffin on both) so I may not have given it a fair audience.  The reading experience is quite different and the levels of concentration and absorption are totally different.  Tape is m>

Transfer interrupted!

sp; I was running back and forth between Texas and the San Francisco Bay Area and the audio books made the drive bearable.  I should probably revisit the series on paper.  They're my kind of yarns, I just wasn't entertained enough by the audio versions.

Movie Reviews
[summitted by Ken Sanger, Nov 1999]
I have never shilled for a movie but I'll make an exception for "Return With Honor."

It is a wonderfully well done documentary on the POW experience in Viet Nam.  While it is poignant and moving, it is also a testament to the spirit and resilience of man and shows how a belief in something larger than self, including ones fellow man, can support the individual against unfathomable hardship. It shows that even when stripped to the bare necessities of life and in the face of the cruelest torture, man can devise ways to not only survive, but laugh and grow.

It should be required watching in schools.

[other reviews on this movie:  A Movie Parable - Return with Honor; Vietnam Film captures Ugliness of POW Reality]; also, see the review by Rob Black '63 that appeared in the September 1999 issue of Shipmate magazine.]
For other Movie Reviews, see Bibilography Room #2.

What are we doing in Kosovo ?

"Now let's see if I understand this correctly.

President Clinton has ordered our forces to engage an entrenched, politically motivated enemy, backed by the Russians, on their home ground, in a foreign civil war, in difficult terrain, with limited military objectives, with bombing restrictions, boundary and operational restrictions, queasy allies, far across an ocean, with uncertain goals, without prior consultation with Congress, having the potential for escalation, while limiting the forces at his disposal, and while the majority of Americans are opposed to, or are at best uncertain about, the value of the action being worth American lives.

So, what was it that Clinton was opposed to during Vietnam?"

          & nbsp;             -  Lt.Gen. Tom Griffin USA (ret.)

The military is overpaid
[summitted by Chris Munger, Aug 2000]

On 12 Jan, Ms Cindy Williams wrote a piece for the Washington Times denouncing the pay raise(s) coming service members way this year, citing that the stated 13% wage gap was bogus. A young airman from Hill AFB responds to her article below. He ought to get a bonus for this.

Ms. Williams:

I just had the pleasure of reading your column of 12 Jan 00, "Our GIs Earn Enough," and I am a bit confused. Frankly, I'm wondering where this vaunted overpayment is going, because as far as I can tell, it disappears every month between DFAS (The Defense Finance and Accounting Service) and my bank account. Checking my latest leave and earnings statement (LES), I see that I make $1,117.80, before taxes. After taxes, I take home $874.20. When I run that through Windows Calculator, I come up with an annual salary of $13,413.60 before taxes, and $10,490.40 after.

I work in the Air Force Network Control Center (AFNCC), where I am part of the team responsible for the administration of a 25,000 host computer network. I am involved with infrastructure segment, specifically with Cisco Systems equipment. A quick check of http://www.monster.com under jobs for Network Technicians in the Washington, D.C. area reveals a position in my career field, requiring three years experience with my job. Amazingly, this job does NOT pay $13,413.60 a year, nor does it pay less than this. No, this job is being offered at $70,000 to $80,000 per annum. I'm sure you can draw the obvious conclusions.

Also, you tout increases to Basic Allowance for Housing and Basic Allowance for Sustenance (housing and food allowances, respectively) as being a further boon to an already-overcompensated force. Again, I'm curious as to where this money has gone, as BAH and BAS were both slashed 15% in the Hill AFB area effective in January 00.

Given the tenor of your column, I would assume that you have never had the pleasure of serving your country in her armed forces. Before you take it upon yourself to once more castigate congressional and DOD leadership for attempting to get the families in the military's lowest pay brackets off AFDC, WIC, and food stamps, I suggest that you join a group of deploying soldiers headed for Saudi. I leave the choice of service branch up to you. Whatever choice you make, though, opt for the six-month rotation: It will guarantee you the longest possible time away from your family and friends, thus give you the full "deployment experience." As your group prepares to board the plane, make sure to note the spouses and children who are saying goodbye to their loved ones. Also take care to note that several families are still unsure of how they'll be able to make ends meet while the primary breadwinner is gone. Obviously, they've been squandering the vast piles of cash the DOD has been giving them.

Try to deploy over a major holiday; Christmas and Thanksgiving are perennial favorites. And when you're actually over there, sitting in a DFP (Defensive Fire Position, the modern-day foxhole), shivering against the cold desert night, and the flight sergeant tells you that there aren't enough people on shift to relieve you for chow, remember this: Trade whatever MRE you manage to get for the tuna noodle casserole or cheese tortellini, and add Tabasco to everything. Talk to your loved ones as often as you are permitted; it won't nearly be long enough or often enough, but take what you can get and be thankful for it.

You may have picked up on the fact that I disagree with most of the points you present in your op-ed piece.

But, to borrow from Voltaire, I will defend to the death your right to say it. You see, I am an American fighting man, a guarantor of your First Amendment rights and every other right you cherish. On a daily basis, my brother and sister soldiers worldwide ensure that you and people like you can thumb your collective nose at us, all on a salary that is nothing short of pitiful and under conditions that would make most people cringe.

We hemorrhage our best and brightest into the private sector because we can't offer the stability and pay of civilian companies. And you, Ms. Williams, have the gall to say that we make more than we deserve? Rubbish.

A1C Michael Bragg

One last note, let us do the math (remember these math questions)

If Airman Bragg makes $10, 490.00 per year (after taxes); working 50 of the 52 weeks each year, working an average 5 day work week, each day working 12 hours per shift, how many pennies does Airman Bragg earn per hour ?

Answer: Based upon Ms. Williams' view point, an "over paid" 300 pennies (a whole $3.00 per hour).

What is happening in Korea?

US ship in Korean waters (23 June 1999):   The guided-missile cruiser USS Vincennes sailed into South Korean waters today,  two days after a naval clash in the Yellow Sea in which South Korea sank a North Korean gunboat. Officials believe about 30 North Korean sailors died in the clash. The Vincennes is to be joined tomorrow by the guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay. The two ships were dispatched to "contribute to peace in the region" and will stay in the area until tensions are reduced. The nuclear-powered submarines USS Kamehameha and USS Buffalo also arrived at South Korea's main naval base of Chinhae late yesterday, but a 7th Fleet spokesman said that was a routine port call not related to the clash.

    [submit your thought here -  e-mail to webmaster@usna63.org]

  High-tech gifts to China:  A [~9 June 1999] Investor's Business Daily article uses metaphor to make its primary point: "If satellite technology were a present, the degree of gift-giving among the three presidents can be compared like this: Reagan provided the box. Bush provided the paper. Clinton put the technology in the box, wrapped it up, tied a bow and shipped it FedEx to Beijing."

    [subject of your choice:  submit to webmaster@usna63.org]

Nongrad Reflections
[initial thought by Jim Kenney, 2 March 2004:]

Just got a copy of my DD214 and I was reminded of my dates of entry into our Navy, swearing in as a Midshiman 4th. Class and Honorable discharge as an AE3 in September, 1960. Key events at the Academy in that one year are as sharp in my mind as any other dates in my life. I have drifted in and out of the USNAAA at National and local levels and tried to give back by starting the monthly luncheon here in Orange County, California, telling the Navy and Academy story to likely youngsters( even female prospects!) and getting semi-hysterical around Army-Navy game time.

Once upon a time I was refused membership in a local Alumni group because I was a non-grad which made Steve Coesters "Welcome back to '63" even more meaningful.

Jim Kenney, 16th Company (Original 7th),

" Any man in this century who may be asked what he did to make his life worthwhile can respond--I served in the United States Navy."

John F. Kennedy

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Irish Pennants updated:
 March 2, 2004
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