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Hunting a Russian Submarine - My Excellent Christmas Adventure

Updated on December 20, 2013

USS Wasp (CVS 18) My Home Away From Home

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A Cold War Tale - The Christmas that almost didn't happen

During the Cold War the United States Navy, among its other chores, hunted for Russian Submarines. The Russian Navy, among its other chores, hunted for us. From a crew member's point of view, it was all in good fun. Nobody wanted to get hurt; we just wanted to spy on each other. It was a job, ours and theirs.

I was assigned to the Navigation Department of the USS Wasp (CVS-18). It was my job to take electronic positions every half hour. The Wasp was an Essex Class aircraft carrier, a sister ship to the USS Intrepid in New York Harbor. She was the flagship of Atlantic ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare). We were accompanied by two destroyer escorts. It was in December of 1968 and we had just left Oslo, Norway and were headed across the ocean to our homeport at Quonset Point Rhode Island. Ask any sailor who has been at sea for a lengthy deployment and he will tell you that steaming for home is a great feeling.

The Grinch that Almost Stole Christmas

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Surprise - We Found a Russian Submarine (or He Found Us)

Serving the plotting watch in C.O. Plot (commanding officer's plotting room), I was one of the first to realize that something was up. The officer of the deck called me on the squawk box and said to take a plot every five minutes rather than every half hour. "Uh Oh", I thought, "we found a Russian." Finding a Russian submarine was just fine by me; hey it was our job. But every crewmember on the Wasp had the same thought in mind: "We're going home for Christmas." Not so fast. My plots looked like a pen and ink drawing by someone on LSD. The sub would zig this way and so would we. He'd then zag and we followed suit. My main thought was that this was no way to get across the Atlantic in time for Christmas.

We had this Russian, or he had us. We were gathering useful data on the behavior of the sub, and he was getting the scoops on an American aircraft carrier. The sea turned rough, but that didn't stop the captain from launching aircraft. Our planes and helicopters would circle an area where they thought the submarine was and drop sonabuoys into the water to pick up the sounds of the sub. It was cold, it was rough, and I was happy that I wasn't a pilot. Landing on a pitching flight deck is no airman's idea of a good time. Even though an aircraft carrier is a large ship, that doesn't mean that it doesn't rock and roll in rough seas, especially when it is constantly making turns. Unlike a modern cruise ship, a World War II vintage carrier didn't have stabilizers to dampen the motion. Fortunately, I never get seasick, but a lot of my fellow crew members spent the time hugging the porcelain.

USS Wasp - The Video

A Happy Ending

After a few days zigging and zagging around the ocean, suddenly the game was over. To this day I don't know if the Russian gave up or we did, and my security clearance didn't give me the right to know. I resumed taking plots every half hour, and my seasick shipmates' green faces started to return to normal.

It was a long time ago, but I still remember those storm tossed days. The best memory of the adventure was this: we made it home for Christmas.

Copyright ©2012 by Russell F. Moran

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      Russ Moran 2 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Tom. thanks for your comment shipmate. it seems like so long ago. Well I guess it was. I remember standing on the catwalk next to the bridge and watch you guys do you scary stuff. All the best, my friend.

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      Tom Poehlman 2 years ago

      I was in V2 Division on the Wasp 1963-1966. I enjoyed your short story as I remember well the zigging & zagging when we encountered subs. I worked in Pri-Fly as an arresting gear controller at that time and enjoyed my time aboard the Wasp.

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      D. Cavanaugh 2 years ago

      I remember some of that happening back then. I do not recall the food being that good. I was ether on a bridge watch or a lifeboat watch. Didn't they tell us to keep quiet about the Russian subs lol.

      D. Cavanaugh SN. 4th div Liberty boat driver, or coxswain.

    • rfmoran profile image
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      Russ Moran 4 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Small world Richard! Yes, the food was good. In the incident about which I wrote there was no ice, but it was cold as ice.

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      Richard Butwell 4 years ago

      Russ,

      Hey, I remember that, I was in FOX Division at the time. Gun Director 31 (forward, starboard,) ... I thought we lost that Russian sub because she went under the ice ?? Maybe that was another one. I do clearly remember the GREAT food on CVS-18 !!

      R. BUTWELL FTG3

      1967-1970

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      Mazlan 4 years ago from Malaysia

      Enjoyed reading this hub. Sounds like a thriller movie 'The Hunt for Red October' which is also a novel!

      Also like the way you describe seasick as 'hugging the porcelain' ! Awesome writing. Keep it up.