This is a small port on the northern edge of Washington State, along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Logging is the main industry, fishing is the main sport. In the summer of 1950 we were sent there to provide training for the naval aviators. We had been assigned to play with the weekend flyboys out of the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station so they could learn what a submarine looked like. While we were steaming across the Pacific headed for Seattle the outbreak of "hostilities" in Korea almost changed our plans. We waited apprehensively anticipating the orders for us to turn around and return, until word was received to continue on course as scheduled. We spent two months up there, and did pull into Puget Sound and Seattle for one weekend. We also spent one weekend moored at Esquimalt, the Canadian naval base on Vancouver Island, and had liberty in the city of Victoria. Spent the evening at the Green Lantern Inn. If I can find the pictures I'll post them.
The spring of 1951 saw us entering the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo for overhaul and conversion to GUPPY. This effort consisted mainly of installing a snorkel and associated equipment. The teak topside decking was removed, the bow reshaped, and the deck leveled to prevent the effect of planing up during high speed cruising while submerged. As a result of this we no longer needed to maintain a down angle while submerged and snorkeling.
A proud boat with a facelift on shakedown in San Pablo Bay. Mare Island is in the background.
This was the main naval base at the south end of Tokyo Bay, just inside the strait. The town was 100% Japanese. I was not prepared for the culture shock. It was not so much from being in a foreign country where most of the natives didn't speak english, it was the poor living conditions that were considered "normal." Sewage ran in the open gutters. Most of the resturants were off-limits to servicemen for health reasons. Only those facilities inspected by the health authorities and permitted to exhibit the "A" sign were available.
The entrance gate to the naval base was called "U.S. FLEET ACTIVITIES". Notice the vintage cars and driving on the left side.
Just inside the base gate was a large billboard with a diagram of the base. The submarines were moored at the bottom of the diagram, in Yokosuka Bay near the "pole structure" which represents a ship building ways. When we arrived those ways were filled with mini suicide subs that had not been used. The entrance gate was at lower right corner.
One of the two-man suicide subs was mounted on display in front of the administration building. The "pilot" stood in the shark-like dorsal-fin and looked out through the porthole in the front. There was also a small periscope for use during the final attack. The front of the sub contained the one-ton warhead. Notice the shark-fin-like planes at the center of the craft. These were actuated by hand crank by the other occupant. Everything was hand powered except the propulsion motor. The front half contained lead-acid storage batteries. Once launched they were not permitted to return.
The Caiman was moored outboard of a fleet-type boat (unidentified) and inboard of the Blackfin. The floating crane had come alongside to load torpedoes into the Blackfin.
Notice the old stationary crane at left of picture. It was removed later.
Notice that the hull numbers have been painted out for the duration of the war patrol cruises. This makes it hard to identify the boats from different times in port.
The Caiman and Blackfin moored outboard of the ASR.
The mooring outboard of the ASR from the beach.
We spent several weeks working out of Buckner Bay. Transportation was by boat. We had several destroyers working with us, and they provided the launches we used for transportation between the subs.
A Blackfin officer came aboard for conference. The red hat is on Captain Aubry.
While on the Caiman I was able to get some TAD and be assigned to attend the advanced "Class B" electronics school on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. Actually I had blackmailed the skipper into getting the assignment. By this time I had made First Class and my enlistment time was coming up. I told Captain Aubry I would ship over IF I got the school. Well, my orders came through in three weeks. Goes to show you what they can do with a little incentive. He got credit for my reenlistment to his benefit. When he showed me the orders I followed through as promised and signed the re-up papers in his cabin. Afterwards he shook my hand and said, "You know you had me over a barrel with this." I replied "Yes, sir." He then said, with a threatening smile, "You'll never get me in that position again."
Treasure Island was the location of several Navy schools, including the Basic Electronics Class A, and the advanced Class B. The senior petty officers were put in charge of the barracks where the Class A students were bunked. Every evening the students would stand out front in formation by class to be issued their liberty cards.
Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay is a man-made island, a built-up former sand bar, connected to Yerba Buena Island, and was constructed to serve as a fair grounds for celebrating the opening of the San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge when it opened in 1938. The main administration building and several elaborate fountain structures still remained.
In San Diego the boats moored alongside the tenders which were moored in the center of the harbor and we were ferried to the fleet landing by water taxis.
Two sub tenders moored to buoys in San Diego harbor.
The fleet landing was a busy traffic place.
Launches coming into the fleet landing area.
The fleet landing today is a deserted derelict. The Navy presence in San Diego has disappeared. Even the boot camp has been closed. The huge Naval Supply Center building in the background is closed. Only the nuclear submarine base on the Point Loma peninsula is still in operation.
The fleet landing piers.
I was better prepared for what I was going to find there this trip. I actually traveled into Tokyo and spent a week's leave in a little back road hotel and toured the town. Military occupation was still in force, and military scrip was the official currency. Greenbacks were considered contraband. We had to surrender all our US currency when we arrived. We had to convert the scrip with which we were paid into Japanese ¥en to buy anything off the base. The Japanese were not permitted to have scrip in their possession, but a black market gave better conversion rates than the official bank did. The official rate was ¥360 to $1, but the black market gave ¥400 to $1. Every few months the military scrip was recalled and a new design scrip issued to keep the black market under control. No more than $100 could be exchanged by any one serviceman.
Of course we moored at the same pier as before.
The Stickleback (SS415) was there when we arrived but left for home the next week.
Here the Sterlet is moored outboard of the nest. Almost every sail had a different profile.
The "beach" was just across the quay.
The main drag for servicemen near the base was an alley with the overhead neon sign "SOUVENIR STREET". On this street were restaurants, shops for every variety of merchandise, and bars and nightclubs galore.
Other end of the Souvenir Street.
Artists would sketch you for a portrait or work from photographs.
There was practically one bar for each boat and ship in port. Each boat had its own favorite bar. The Sterlet crew hung out at the White Hat Club.
Mamasan ran a tight ship.
The "hostesses" kept the drinks flowing.
Sleep well tonight, your country's defense is in good hands.
Shoeshine services were available.
There was also the "hot bath" houses where we would try to sweat away some of the odor of the diesel fuel from the boat which permeated our pores. When you walked in anywhere the hostesses would greet you, "You submarine sailor, no?"
The water was kept hot enough to redden the skin. This was only a hot soak, after a scrub down with soap.
Somewhere out of town to the south was a famous large statue of Budda. It was a long pedicab ride but worth the effort to see. Budda is considered a prophet whose teachings constitute a serene method of life.
Shinto shrines were also plentiful. It was interesting to learn about how the various cultural aspects of religion were exercised. In Shinto it is the worship of the venerable ancestors. We should try to do as well. There were always crowds of visitors to these shrines.
Pedicabs were the only convenient means of transportation
When we left to return to Pearl the club owner rented a launch and the girls escorted us out of the harbor.
"Goodbye sailor boy" Then they turned back to greet the next boat to arrive.
Chi Chi Jima was a little island 200 miles south-east of Japan which the Japanese had been constructing as a last ditch stand for the emperor. The Sterlet anchored in the protected harbor and we spent the weekend on R&R. We explored the cave system that had been constructed. And there was a large dump of jumbled torpedo and mine body pieces rusting on the sandy beach.
The shore of the island rose steeply vertical out of the ocean on all sides except for one tight inlet of a harbor. The harbor was fortified with 5" guns trained on it from reinforced positions dug into the hills around the cove of the harbor. The gun emplacements were serviced from a series of tunnels dug from the rear side of the mountains. We were able to walk through the tunnels and climb into the gun positions. This picture was taken from the seaplane ramp at the only base. The US Navy was using the single building there as a weather station. Old salts would tell how the subs on war patrol would steam past at night on the surface and could hear the blasting being used to carve the tunnels. The subs would lob in a few shells from their deck gun and the blasting would stop while the shore batteries would fire off a return salvo into the night.
The Sterlet at anchor in the harbor at Chi Chi Jima.
A close-up of two of the reinforced gun implacements guarding the harbor.
The gun implacements as seen from the Sterlet, center of picture.
The Sterlet at anchor viewed from one of the gun implacements. The marines had demolished the gun and the barrel lay beside the mount.
Some of the large piles of rusting torpedo flasks and mines on the beaches.
The Sterlet crew busy at R&R, a beer-ball game. The beer came first, then they couldn't find the ball.
Buckner Bay was again the main operating and anchoring area. Here the Ronquil is seen anchored with several Canadian destroyers in the background.
The Ronquil anchored in Buckner Bay with Canadian destroyers anchored in background.
The surface ships provided us with transportation to the beach. I had shore patrol duty one day, and was taken to the local army base for lunch. The army mess expected you to bring your own field mess kit, which I didn't have. And no trays were available either. But, one of the army guys there recognized me. We had been in high school together. Small world. He was kind enough to rinse out his mess kit, a small aluminim bucket, and let me borrow it.
Loading for the ferry to the beach
And away they go.
The local garbage disposal service. They would sort through our garbage cans for edibles to take home.
One weekend we moored alongside a seaplane tender moored to a pier. Canadian destroyers were moored on the other side of the pier.
The pier at Buckner Bay.
The Sterlet outboard of seaplane tender.
Canadian escort destroyers.
We were not aware that the tender had hoisted a seaplane aboard during the night. When we got underway the next morning, as we were backing down alongside the tender, our raised periscope was high enough to snag the tip of the plane's wing which extended out over the side of the tender, carving off the tip which fell onto our deck. Can you imagine the damage report: seaplane attacked by submarine.
The island was still called Formosa at this time. The Republic of China had declared itself independent of "mainland China" but the rulers of The People's Republic of China weren't agreeable. So we were there as a US presence to support the Republic of China. Even today that still is a contention.
Keelung is a natural protected harbor on the north-east side of the island, facing directly out to the ocean. We pulled in for one weekend and then headed south for Kaoshung. I had the duty and didn't get ashore. Since we were moored outboard of a destroyer and the Ronquil not too many of our crew got ashore.
Our captain greeting a Chinese admiral
Kaoshung is a natural protected harbor on the south-west tip of the island. We spent two weeks moored there for a bit of upkeep and preventative maintenance. The recreation officer arranged several touristy trips for the crew. One was a beer ballgame on the black-sand beach along the Formosan Strait facing China. We had to dodge half-tracks that had been positioned along the beach for the purpose of repelling any invasion from the mainland. Knowing the population ratio, I don't think those trucks were the deterent to the invasion that never came.
In the harbor, we were always being approached by these kids on bamboo rafts. They would beg for money to be tossed to them. If a quarter was flipped into the air in their direction they would dive into the water before the coin hit and grab it before it sank. I was taken by the apparent age of the fourth one from front, probably around eight and learning a trade.
The larger boats at the rear were "bum boats" who would ask for our garbage cans after each meal and sort through them for food scraps to take home.
The ever present Ronquil moored outboard of the Sterlet. The bull-nose on the bow is the clue.
There were no security fences along the pier. Ox carts and pedestrians streamed past.
Hong Kong is a city on the island of Victoria which is (was) a British Crown Colony. It faces north across the harbor toward mainland China. There are other British settlements on the island, on the other (southern) side. The ramparts of the mountain overlooking Hong Kong is a high rent district off limits to servicemen. Across the harbor strait is the city of Kowloon on the mainland, and it was part of the Crown Colony.
Hong Kong harbor
The harbor which is the narrow strait between the island and the mainland is teeming with ocean vessels and ferries. We anchored out in the harbor and used the local water taxis to get to shore.
Looking across the harbor towards Kowloon and the New Territories. The mountains are in mainland China.
Looking south-east towards the residential section of Hong Kong. The harbor was busy with junk traffic.
Looking south-west at the financial and business section of Hong Kong. There was a cable-car tram going up the mountain to the residences there.
British destroyers were anchored in the harbor.
A lot of the residents lived on the water and used it for transportation.
The Hong Kong - Kowloon ferry.
The Tiger Balm Gardens
The Tiger Balm Gardens was a fanciful park-like structure built by the old Chinese merchant who had made his fortune selling "Tiger Balm." Supposedly the balm contained the essence of tigers and was considered magical in the curative processes. (Remember how Joe Montana once did a commercial for Tiger Balm?) The various images fashioned from concrete represented characters in Chinese mythology. The old merchant wanted to give something back to the people. I understood there was a similar construction in Macao.
The upper front of the gardens. The upper edge of the entrance walk can be seen at the bottom.
The entrance walk to the gardens.
The entrance driveway. Note the old car. The residence house where he lived is at the left.
The monkey wall was also along the entrance walk.
Mermaids of a sort.
Two warriors battling while standing on posts over knife blades.