Shipmate Column
September 2021

Pres:  CAPT W. Spencer Johnson IV, USN (Ret.)
Sec'y: Michael H. Shelley
27 Cambridge DR, Brevard, NC 28712
h: 828-506-2201  e:
Web site:

For any classmate you can go to the Classmates Page and enter his name to read his current biography if available.

        In just the past month we have lost five members of the Class of 1963 family. Due to space limitations they receive brief mention below. I urge you to visit the Last Call section of our web site to see their full obituaries and other information about their lives. Also, view their Midshipman profiles in the virtual Lucky Bag in the Classmates section.

        Donald Terry Rogers passed away on 22 May. Terry's widow, Gloria, can be contacted at P.O. Box 606, Jackson, WY 83001.

        Jay N. Whiting died on 1 June. Jay's widow, Kathy, can be contacted at 519 McIndoe Street, Wausau, WI 54401.

        Peter A. Browne passed away on 3 June. Peter's widow, Jackie, can be contacted at 3432 Barger Drive, Falls Church, VA 22044.

        John S. McCabe died on 16 June. John's widow, Diane, can be contacted at 607 30th Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

        Betty Ann Fitzgerald, widow of our classmate William C. Fitzgerald, passed away on 22 June. She was the Ship's Sponsor of USS FITZGERALD (DDG 62), named to honor Bill for his heroism and ultimate sacrifice in action in Vietnam. Her obituary is on our site with the Last Call entry for Bill Fitzgerald. The ship posted a notice on its Facebook page reporting her death and noting her lasting dedication to the ship and its crew. This is an excerpt:
     An avid supporter of the ship and crew since commissioning, Betty will be sorely missed by the Fightin' FITZ family. Through her annual Christmas cards to every crew member, and meeting with each CO at her home in Vermont, Betty kept a vital connection with the crew of FITZ and her husband's legacy.

        Thanks to Dave Moore for sending an article about the recovery of an F-14A Tomcat and its AIM-54A Phoenix missile from 1,800 feet of water northwest of Scotland in 1976. The aircraft had been lost in an accident on the flight deck of USS JOHN F. KENNEDY that September. The loss of the Tomcat with its state-of-the-art electronics and the advanced Phoenix air-to-air missile sparked a race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, both of whom attempted to recover it.
        The article, published in the online magazine Historic Wings, describes the use of the Navy's then-Top Secret nuclear submarine NR-1 to effect the successful recovery. To see this fascinating story, click HERE .
Launching NR-1 in January 1969

The Navy's smallest nuclear submarine

        Displacing only 400 tons and with a length of 147 feet and a beam of 12 and a half feet, NR-1 was the smallest nuclear submarine ever put into operation. It was never commissioned. (A comment in says that Admiral Rickover wanted to avoid the oversight that a warship receives from various government bureaus.) The crew included three officers, eight enlisted men, and up to two scientists.
Mike McQuown '63

        The account in Historic Wings briefly mentions our classmate Mike McQuown, who was preparing to become OinC of NR-1 and was on board for the recovery operation. Upon completion of that assignment, NR-1 began a transit back to the United States. Because of her small size and limited speed, the submarine was being towed, as was customary, by USS SUNBIRD (ASR-15). An electrical failure led to the shutdown of the nuclear power plant. Once the electrical problem had been given a temporary fix, the reactor startup was delicate and risky but was done successfully. Later, in a major storm, the tow cable parted and became fouled in the submarine's screws. Mike's tough decisions and heroic actions resulted in the submarine's safe return home. I believe that very few of us were aware of NR-1's existence and fewer still knew of Mike's courage and leadership on that occasion.
        A book about NR-1, titled America's Secret Submarine; an Insider's Account of the Cold War's Undercover Nuclear Sub, can be viewed online. Click HERE to view Chapter 19, which tells of the recovery of the Phoenix missile and profiles Mike McQuown. Chapter 20 tells the story of the problem-plagued transit from Scotland to the United States. Earlier chapters tell of the loss and recovery of the Tomcat, as well as information about other deep submersible vessels, development of the NR-1 program, and some earlier operations. The book is a spellbinding read.
        Were any other '63 classmates associated with NR-1 by assigned duty or operationally? If you were and can talk about it today, please tell me about it and I'll share your story with our classmates.

        I was surprised to hear from Gregg Smith '83, who sent this note and a nice photo.
     Here is a picture of me and Mr. Albert Watkins Key, III, USNA '63. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Key in May at the wedding of his grand-daughter Elizabeth Anderton and my nephew Trent Bordenkircher. The wedding was in Mr. Key's hometown of Point Clear, AL. While he and I could not match the beauty of the bride nor the distinguished presence of the groom, we did our best to represent our respective classmates! "Quality -- 1963" and "1983 - A Class Act"!
Gregg Smith '83 and Al Key '63

        Being short on news this month, I'm including four photos from past issues to jog some memories. The first was taken at the funeral of our classmate Bill Howard in November 2009. Pictured in front are John McDermott, Frank Edrington, and Stuart Settle. Standing are Jerry Mulholland, John Kelly, Birney Pease, and Alex Daunis.
November 2009

        The second picture, submitted by Jim McClure, was published with this note in 2008.
Jim and Tom McClure

     In May I was in Scotland at my niece's wedding (much older brother Tom's daughter; he is class of 1960). So he wouldn't be alone he asked me to also wear a kilt. Since he was kind to me plebe year, I agreed. We wore the U.S. Navy Tartan -- very nice looking. This is a picture of the two of us; I'm the tall, good looking one.

        Our final photos were published in the June-July 2006 issue. The three 11th Company roommates shown in their Bancroft Hall room are (L-R) Bob Van Buren, John Fitzgerald, and Skip Wilkinson. The companion image was made at Skip's home in 2005.
Van Buren, Fitzgerald, and Wilkinson

Wilkinson, Van Buren, and Fitzgerald

        A repeat notice: From time to time, I am asked about the status of Shipmate subscriptions for widows of our classmates. If you are a Life Member of the Alumni Association (62 percent of us are), your subscription will continue after your death until the passing of your widow. If you are an annual subscriber, the remainder of your subscription can be transferred to your surviving spouse or another family member.

        That's all for now. My mail bag is empty, and I need your help. Please keep sending those letters, emails, and photos. We're depending on you.

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