By Christine Owens
“Skipper!” Sparks called from the Radio Shack as Captain Lee Crane entered the Control Room.
“Sir, Admiral Nelson called down while you were aft. He wants to see you in his cabin.”
After walking across the Control Room the Captain stopped at the plot table where Chip Morton, the Executive Officer, was working.
“Chip, what’s our current position?”
Pointing with a pencil Morton replied, “We’re right about here. We should be in port tomorrow morning.”
“That’s fine with me. Six weeks mapping the ocean bottom is enough. Those undersea quakes changed the whole bottom contour of ‘Alpha Sector’.”
“New sea charts for everyone,” Morton offered cheerfully.
“All right. I’m going up to see the Admiral. Take the conn again.”
Crane ascended the spiral staircase. After walking down the connecting corridor he came to the Admiral’s cabin and knocked.
Crane opened the door part way and stuck his head inside. “Is this a bad time? Sparks said you wanted to see me.”
“Come in Lee,” the Admiral smiled. “I have something to tell you.”
The Captain walked in and parked himself on the corner of the Admiral’s desk. Seeing the wide smile on the Admiral’s face Crane remarked, “Must be good news, whatever it is.”
“Well, I don’t know about good, but it could prove to be interesting. I received a scrambled wire from the Department of the Navy. They want us to test a new anti-detection device on Seaview.”
“Anti-detection?” Crane said as he glanced at the communiqué. “You mean like a ‘stealth’ submarine?”
“That’s the way they’re making it sound.”
The Captain shrugged. “Do you think that’s possible?”
“Maybe. The former Soviet Union experimented with a device about a decade ago. Unfortunately they had to sacrifice speed for stealth.”
“When does the Navy want us to sail?”
“As soon as the device is installed,” Nelson answered. “About a month on the outside.”
“A month? A device like that would take several months of refitting. How could we be ready in just one? Besides, we’ll just be getting home tomorrow. This was a long cruise for the crew. They could use some liberty.”
“I know about the crew, but I guess a week or so is better that nothing. As far as the refit is concerned, we’ll find out when the Navy briefs us.”
“This can’t be what you were smiling about.” Crane regarded the Admiral for a moment. “What’s the rest.”
“Oh, didn’t I mention it?” Nelson smiled again as he leaned back in his swivel chair. “The Admiral who’s over seeing the test is an old acquaintance of yours. One Vice Admiral Marcus J. Sullivan.”
“Oh, no” Crane whined as he suddenly blanched.
Nelson was grinning from ear to ear as he rocked in the chair, hands clasped behind his head. “Sullivan? Isn’t he the same Admiral you pushed over board from that Liberty Ship?”
“I didn’t push him!” Crane exclaimed as he practically jumped from the desk. “The deck was wet. I slipped and as I lost my balance I bumped into the Admiral and he . . .”
“Did a full gainer with a half twist?”
Crane looked at Nelson trying to keep his expression serious. “That almost got me thrown out the Academy.”
“I know,” the Admiral remembered as he chuckled, “I testified at your hearing.”
“If you’re through entertaining yourself at my expense,” Crane said with a raised eyebrow, “I have work to do in the Control Room.” Crane walked to the door, opened it, and started to leave.
“Maybe we should lay in a supply of lifejackets,” the Admiral called after him, “Just in case.”
Crane could hear the chortle from the Admiral as he closed the door behind him. Shaking his head, the Captain made his way back downstairs.
* * * * *
The Seaview and her crew had made its way back to port. Liberty was given to the crew and Officers. Though tired themselves, Admiral Nelson and Captain Crane made their way to the Naval Base at San Diego to be briefed about the device to be installed on Seaview. Nelson, Crane, and several technical officers were in a conference room waiting for senior personnel, including Admiral Sullivan, to arrive. A messenger entered the room and informed Captain Crane that he had a call from Santa Barbara. Excusing himself, the Captain left to take the call.
Admiral Sullivan arrived with two of his aides and a naval captain named George Hanson. Sullivan was a tall, husky man. His once brown hair was now streaked with silver and he had small dark eyes. He was a stern man in appearance and personality. Admiral Sullivan sat at the head of the table and addressed the assembled officers.
“Let’s get started, gentlemen. We have a lot to cover and very little time.”
“Excuse me, Admiral Sullivan,” Nelson interrupted, “But I think we should wait for Commander Crane to get back.”
“Crane, eh? Well, where is he? My instructions were explicit. This meeting was scheduled to begin at fourteen hundred sharp. Can’t Crane tell time?”
“Admiral Sullivan,” Nelson replied in a low growl, “Commander Crane left to take a call from the Institute. If you want the services of Seaview for this experiment, you’ll have to wait for Crane.”
The crackle of tension could be felt in the room. Nelson and Sullivan were well acquainted with each other. Their paths had crossed many times during their careers. The door to the conference room opened, and Lee Crane entered and took his chair next to Admiral Nelson.
“It everything all right, Lee?” Nelson asked as he turned his attention to Crane.
“Yes, sir. Nothing earth shattering. Maintenance found a small crack in one of the turbine blades. They’re replacing it.”
“Commander,” Admiral Sullivan directed his comment to Crane, “If I may have your attention, I’d like to begin.”
“Sorry, sir,” Crane responded as he squared his shoulders and held Sullivan’s gaze.
Admiral Sullivan rose from his chair then stood in front of a presentation easel and began the meeting.
“Submarine detection by hostile forces has always been a major concern to the Navy Department. Our engineers have been working on a new device to try to make subs as stealth as possible.” The Admiral pointed to the easel and a picture of a Los Angles Class submarine. “You’re all aware that the movement of a sub through the water disturbs the Earth’s magnetic field. Magnetic Anomaly Detectors, or MAD’s, pick up the disturbances, thus enabling surface ships to locate the sub.”
Admiral Sullivan stopped his presentation and waited for the group to register what he had said so far. Sullivan put another picture on the easel and then continued.
“The engineers have come up with a device that would ‘absorb’ the emanations of the MAD’s. If no disturbances are detected, then no sub can be detected.”
Nelson and Crane exchanged glances as Admiral Sullivan returned to his seat.
“Seaview will be fitted with the new device, called the S.A.M.A.D, or Submarine Anti-Magnetic Anomaly Detector.” Sullivan stopped speaking and pointed to the officer seated to his right. “Captain Hanson will be installed as temporary captain of the Seaview for the duration of this exercise.”
“Now wait one minute, Marcus!” Admiral Nelson bellowed as he slapped the table. “Seaview is captained by Commander Crane. I agreed to let the Navy test its device on Seaview. I never agreed to this!” Nelson gestured towards Captain Hanson.
“Admiral Nelson,” Captain Hanson spoke in an even tone, “No disrespect was meant towards Commander Crane. The Navy had planned on assigning the Commander to a surface ship for the duration of the exercise.”
“I’m a sub commander, Captain Hanson,” Crane retorted. “I haven’t pulled duty on a surface ship since I graduated from the Academy.”
“Don’t worry Commander,” Hanson assured Crane, “The Navy will make sure you’re assigned to a Destroyer instead of a Liberty Ship.”
A flush of color stained Crane’s cheeks. At that point Admiral Nelson had heard enough.
“That will do, Captain Hanson,” Nelson warned. “I want an explanation as to why Commander Crane is supposed to be replaced as captain- - -and it had better be a good one.”
“With the exception of yourself, Admiral Nelson,” Sullivan began, “Commander Crane knows the Seaview better than anyone. If Seaview can avoid detection by a convoy of surface ships, especially a convoy containing her own captain, then the tests can be considered a success. If Crane isn’t able to locate the Seaview, it’s a good bet no one else will be able to either.”
“And, uh, just where will you be during the exercise, Admiral?” Crane cautiously asked Sullivan.
“On the Destroyer administrating the exercise.”
“Maybe we should look into that supply of lifejackets,” Crane muttered to Nelson.
“Easy, Lee. Gentlemen, let’s take a break,” Nelson said as he checked his watch. “Suppose we meet back here in, say, one hour.” As he rose from his chair, the Admiral spoke to Crane. “Come on, I’ll by you a cup of coffee. That will give us a chance to talk.”
Before Crane could reply, Admiral Sullivan was standing next to Nelson. “Admiral Nelson, I’d like a word with you.”
“All right, Marcus,” Nelson said. “Excuse us, Lee. I’ll meet you outside.” Crane nodded and left the conference room with the rest of the officers. “Now, what did you want to see me about?”
“I take it you called this break for Crane’s sake. I hope you don’t need his permission to agree to the exercise?”
“Permission?” Nelson said with a quizzical look on his face. “No. I don’t need his permission. I would, however, like to be sure he understands why his command and ship are being taken away.”
“He’s a subordinate! He doesn’t need to understand. He just needs to follow orders!”
“Commander Crane is a first rate sub captain,” Nelson proclaimed. “He is also a man of duty, and immense pride. His understanding may not be important to you, but it is to me. “I’ll see you in an hour,” Nelson finished as he pushed past Sullivan.
Admiral Nelson watched as Lee Crane played with the spoon in his coffee cup. The set of Crane’s jaw was familiar to Nelson.
“I know this will be difficult for you, Lee, but Naval Command actually has a point. If you can’t find Seaview, then nobody can.”
“Admiral, I’ll go along with this ‘exercise’ because I have no choice,” Crane responded as he looked Nelson in the eyes. “But I don’t have to like it.”
“No. No you don’t.” Nelson pushed his coffee cup away and started to stand. “Let’s go, Captain. We’ll let Admiral Sullivan finish his meeting and then we can go home.”
Admiral Sullivan completed the conference with instructions to Nelson and Crane that the refit of the Seaview would begin in two weeks. Sullivan would proceed to Santa Barbara along with Captain Hanson and a group of technicians. The device would be installed and then the exercise would begin with Seaview being given a head start on the rest of the fleet.
The trip home in the flying sub was a quiet one. Captain Crane was in no mood for conversation and the Admiral knew his friend well enough to just let him be. Upon arriving in Santa Barbara, Nelson berthed the FS-1 under Seaview and made sure everything was secured before disembarking.
“Do you want me to drop you off at your place?” Nelson asked after coming up the hatch into the Control Room.
Crane started to walk past the Admiral on the way to his cabin. Nelson caught Crane by the arm, pulled him back gently, and turned him around. The Admiral noticed how tired Crane looked and how the normally bright hazel eyes were clouded with concern.
“Lee, you’ve barely said two words since we left San Diego,” Nelson commented as he released Crane’s arm. “Do you want to tell me what this is all about or am I supposed to guess?”
Crane removed his jacket, laid it on the plot table, and stood silently for a moment with his palm’s face down on the tabletop. “Fine. I’ll tell you,” Crane finally spoke as he faced Nelson. “You didn’t put up much of a fight when Admiral Sullivan announced he was installing Hanson as captain of Seaview. You just acquiesced to the explanation.” Crane turned from Nelson and walked over to the Nose windows. “Any Navy captain worth his salt could conduct the search for Seaview. My presence in the convoy isn’t necessary.”
Nelson pushed both hands into his pants pockets and strolled slowly over to where Crane was standing. “Lee, I know how important command is to a man such as yourself. But the situation is only temporary and in no way reflects on your command abilities.”
‘Command abilities,’ Crane repeated to himself in a whisper. “I’ve commanded other ships, Admiral, but Seaview and her crew are special. It will be hard to see someone else stand at her helm.”
“I once told you that Seaview would be yours to command for as long as you wanted her. You’ve known me for a very long time, Lee. Do you really think that I’m the type of man who would go back on his word- - -especially to you of all people?” Nelson put an arm around his friend’s shoulder. “Why don’t we grab some dinner and then I’ll take you home.” Nelson walked to the table and picked up Crane’s jacket.
“Thanks,” Crane said as he took the jacket. “And to show there’s no hard feelings, I’ll let you pick up the tab.”
“Fair enough, Captain,” Nelson laughed as he headed up the staircase.
* * * * *
“You’re off your rocker, kid!” Chief Sharkey yelled at Seaman Kowalski.
“I’m telling you what I heard, Chief. The Skipper’s being replace by some Navy regular, a captain named Hanson.”
“No way! No way the Admiral would replace the Skipper. You must have heard wrong.”
The Chief and Kowalski entered the Control Room together and marched over to the Captain, who was checking off items on a clipboard.
“Excuse me, sir,” Sharkey addressed the Captain.
“Yes, Chief. What is it?”
“Sir, the scuttlebutt on board says that you’re. . .”
“I’m what, Chief?” Crane asked as he put down the clipboard.
“That you’re being replaced as captain.”
Crane involuntary flinched at the word ‘replaced’. Sharkey and Ski, exchanging glances, noticed the movement.
“Captain Hanson will be in command of Seaview for the next cruise.”
“You’re going to turn the ship over to some Navy sub jockey? I can’t believe it, sir. Why?”
“The crew will be briefed by the Admiral later. He’ll tell you everything you need to know.”
“Excuse me, sir,” Kowalski said, “But where will you be when this Hanson guy takes over?”
“The Navy’s assigned me to a Destroyer.”
“A surface ship?!” the crewmen exclaimed in unison.
Rubbing his forehead and sighing heavily, Crane tried to be patient. “Gentlemen. As I stated, the Admiral will explain everything. Why don’t you just wait until then?”
“Aye, sir.” Sharkey turned to Kowalski. “Come on, Ski, let’s finish checking on those turbines.”
Within the hour the submarine was buzzing with the news of the Skipper’s replacement. Word finally made its way to the Admiral, who figured that it was time to explain things to the worried crew of the Seaview. Piping his message over the intercom, Nelson told the crew of the upcoming change in command and that it had something to do with the top secret cruise Seaview would be undertaking.
The crew got their first look at Captain Hanson when he arrived a few days later. Admiral Sullivan also boarded Seaview along with the technical team. After the usual preliminary introductions the visitors were escorted below to begin the installation of the SAMAD.
“The SAMAD will be installed in the Reactor Room,” Admiral Sullivan instructed the Executive Staff of the Seaview as they gathered in the Ward Room for the briefing. “Leads will then be attached down the length of the Seaview to the exterior bulkheads. The SAMAD should create a sort of ‘force field’ around the sub. This field will absorb the detection pings from the surface ships.”
“Excuse me, sir,” Mr. O’Brien raised a hand to ask a question. “But what about the noise from the propellers?”
“The field should muffler the noise produced by the propellers.” Captain Hanson replied. “The field will radiate from the sub at a distance of approximately 50 feet. That should take care of the propeller noise.”
The skeptical officers of the Seaview shifted in their chairs as one or two cleared their throats and shook their heads.
“We should be ready to sail by the end of the month,” Admiral Sullivan resumed addressing the officers. “I will expect the full cooperation of all officers and crewmen alike. Captain Hanson will supervise the installation. All work details will be scheduled through him. Mr. Morton?”
“You will work with Captain Hanson,” Sullivan said in clipped words. “You can provide the necessary background of the crew.”
Chip Morton was in the unenviable position of being between a rock and a hard place. Morton looked over to Lee Crane who appeared ready to explode.
“Admiral Sullivan,” Nelson fumed. “Captain Crane is still in command of this ship. Naval protocol dictates that you should consult with him for scheduling and personnel.”
“May I remind you, Admiral Nelson,” Sullivan retorted, “That Captain Crane will not be in command during the exercise. Since both captain’s have a different command style it would benefit Mr. Morton to become familiar with Captain Hanson before sailing.”
“You have a point, Admiral,” Nelson conceded grudgingly. “I would prefer, however, that Captain Crane be included in the installation process to some extent.”
“As you wish, Admiral Nelson. Now, if there are no other questions Captain Hanson, Commander Morton, and you too, Captain Crane, can get started on coordinating the work details.”
The assembled officers filed out of the Ward Room and headed to their various duty stations. Admiral Nelson waited behind along with Captain Crane. After everyone had left, Crane turned to Nelson.
“Don’t I have some vacation time coming?”
Nelson slapped Crane on the back. “Go keep an eye on Hanson. This device may be his baby, but the Seaview is mine.
* * * * *
The crew of the Seaview spent the next several weeks assisting the technicians with the installation of the SAMAD. The crew was visibly unhappy with their soon-to-be commanding officer, George Hanson. Captain Lee Crane had been in command of Seaview for several years. Crane was strict when necessary, but he was also a caring commander who put the welfare of the crew above his own. In the interest of peace, Captains’ Crane and Hanson had struck up an unspoken truce and worked along with Mr. Morton to coordinate the work details.
The work was finally completed and Captain Crane was in his cabin packing to leave for the Destroyer. He stopped long enough to answer the knock on his cabin door.
“Are you just about ready, Lee?” Admiral Nelson asked as he entered the cabin. “I’ll get a crewman up here to take your bag.”
“That’s not necessary, I can take it,” Crane answered as he returned to his bunk to close the suitcase. “Seems like a waste of a trip to me,” he said as he turned to face Nelson. “I don’t think this exercise will take long.”
“You’re pretty confident you can find us, aren’t you Captain?” Nelson smiled at his friend. “You don’t think this device will work.”
“Nope. And for the same reason I already explained to you.” Crane sat on the bunk and gave the Admiral a knowing smile. “I just can’t believe Hanson or Admiral Sullivan didn’t consider the possibility.”
“Do you want to tell them now and save us all the trouble of going through with this?”
“Not on your life, sir. I want the pleasure of personally throwing Hanson’s as-, that is Hanson’s stripes off my ship when this is over.”
“But Captain, that would constitute an assault on a fellow officer.”
“Technically once the exercise is over I become a civilian again. Therefore, I can’t be tried by a military court.”
“I, uh, see you’ve given this some thought.”
“Well,” Crane said as he checked his watch, “I’d better get going.” He picked up his suitcase and started topside with Nelson by his side.
The submarine seemed deserted as they walked through the corridors on the way to the Control Room.
“Where the devil is everyone?” Crane asked as he noticed the Control Room was also unmanned.
Nelson headed up the ladder to the Bridge and reached down to take the suitcase from Crane as he also climbed up the ladder. When Crane exited the Bridge hatch he was greeted with the sight of 125 crewmembers lining the deck of the submarine.
“Captain on deck!” announced Commander Morton.
Crewmen and officers alike snapped to attention and saluted in unison as their captain watched in disbelief. The Captain took a moment to get hold of his emotions, then returned the salute to the assembled crew. Crane looked to Nelson who was smiling and rocking gently on his heels.
“Skipper,” Seaman Patterson said as he crowded around his captain along with Sharkey, Kowalski, and the rest of the crew.
“We know that this change of command is only temporary. So after you’ve located Seaview we’ll be ready to help escort Captain Hanson off the ship.”
The company of crew parted and Crane could see that a plank had been set up off the port bow section of the sub. Crane tried to maintain his veneer of command while biting a lip to keep from smiling.
“You gentlemen do realize that walking the plank was outlawed by the U.S. Navy. Don’t you?”
“Sir, there’s no such regulation in this Navy manual,” Kowalski corrected.
“Ski, there are 10 pages missing,” Crane noticed as he leafed through the manual.
Nelson had been standing to Crane’s left and enjoying the entire scene as it unfolded before him. “Captain Crane, your ride is waiting,” the Admiral informed him. “Time to go.”
Captain Crane picked up his suitcase and hurried off the deck and across the gangway to the waiting car.
“I hope the level of discipline will improve once we’re underway, Admiral,” Captain Hanson commented as Nelson returned below.
“Captain Hanson, the level of discipline on Seaview has never been an issue before. Perhaps it’s the level of command that has now become the issue.” Admiral Nelson turned away from a stunned Hanson and left the Control Room.
* * * * *
Commander Lee Crane saluted the Officer of the Deck of the U.S.S. Montana and was escorted on board to meet with her captain. Commander Stephen MacGregor was seeing to last minute details when Crane entered the Bridge.
“Lee!” Captain MacGregor shook Crane’s hand. “It’s been a long time. How are you?”
“Fine Mac, just fine.” Crane looked out of the Bridge onto the forward deck of the Montana. “It’s been a long time since I served on a surface ship. I hope we don’t encounter any heavy weather.”
“Well if we do please remember to lean over the rail on the leeward side.”
Crane and MacGregor had attended the Academy at the same time. Crane had, of course, finished at the head of the class, but MacGregor had been a good student himself and had proven to be a fine commanding officer.
“Let’s get you settled in first,” Mac said as he lead Crane off the Bridge and down to officer’s country. “Then we can finish coordinating the convoy. The old man arrived about an hour ago. Try and keep away from him on deck, OK Lee?” Mac teased his friend. “Open sea rescues can be difficult.”
“Great. First Admiral Nelson and now you. I slipped. It was an accident.”
Captain MacGregor stopped in front of a cabin and opened the door for Crane to go inside.
“Not exactly the Ritz but you should be comfortable. How is Admiral Nelson these days?”
“You know the Admiral. A bundle of energy and ideas. He sends his regards.”
There was a knock on the cabin door. A crewman had brought Commander Crane’s bag up from the dock.
“Get squared away and then meet me on the Bridge.” Mac stopped in the doorway and turned to Crane. “Glad to have you with us, Lee.”
* * * * *
The convoy was assembled. Sailing time was set for zero-seven hundred hours the following day. Seaview had already left Santa Barbara and was on her way to the engagement area. A 500 square mile area of the Pacific Ocean was designated for the exercise.
The convoy cast off lines at the assigned sailing time and five ships, lead by the Montana, headed for the open sea. Fortunately for Commander Crane the seas were relatively calm. Three days later the convoy reached the engagement area and fanned out into a search formation.
“Captain MacGregor,” Admiral Sullivan barked, “Have the helmsman change course. Come to course 128.”
“Belay that,” counter Commander Crane.
“Are you countermanding my direct order, Crane?!” Sullivan roared.
Crane was reading over a set of sea charts that was spread on the Bridge’s command table. Crane looked over to MacGregor who was shaking his head.
“Yes, sir,” he answered nonchalantly. “Admiral Sullivan,” Crane tried to explain, “The area you’re heading us for has several undersea mountain ranges. These ranges create ravines and canyons, most of which are either too narrow or to short in length for the Seaview to safely maneuver.”
“Those areas are large enough for the average Navy sub to get through, Crane,” Sullivan argued.
“We’re not tracking the average Navy sub, sir. We’re tracking the Seaview,” Crane reminded the Admiral. “She’s the biggest ship afloat. Almost twice the size of a Los Angles Class sub and even bigger than a Soviet Typhoon Class sub; almost 600 feet in length and 35,000 tons. Now, would you try to squeeze her into those ravines?”
Admiral Sullivan suddenly became flushed with anger as he tried to think of a comeback for Crane’s comments. Unable to argue with the logic of this experienced submarine commander, Sullivan finally regained enough composure to speak.
“Where do you thinks she’s headed then, Commander?”
“Well, if we eliminate the sectors that Seaview is too big to maneuver through,” Crane pointed with a pencil to the sea charts, “then she can head either South or West. I say we head south. Captain MacGregor. Request permission to alter our course to 185 degrees.”
“Very well, Commander,” an astonished Mac complied. “May I ask why you chose to go south?”
“It’s warmer,” Crane said as he walked towards the hatch and headed onto the deck.
The Montana and the rest of the convoy changed course and were now heading south. A half-hour later Mac joined Crane on the deck of the Destroyer. Mac lit a cigarette and offered one to Crane, who declined with the shake of his head.
“Lee. Could you explain why Seaview would head south just because it’s warmer? Why would that matter to a sub?”
“It wouldn’t,” Crane chuckled. “I figured I could catch some rays while I’m here, and it would drive the old man crazy trying to figure it out because, unlike you, he wouldn’t ask me.”
“You’re a genius. No wonder Nelson stole you for the Institute.”
Crane smiled and started to head back to the bridge. “Come on, Captain. Let’s see if we can find us an unfriendly.”
The convoy sailed south through the night in their search formation. At daybreak, the convoy’s heading was changed by several degrees so that they were now heading in a more westerly direction.
After breakfast was over Commander Crane made his way to the sonar station. Crane watched over the technician’s shoulder.
“I want you to look for something specific,” Crane instructed the sailor manning the station. “Then I’ll ask Captain MacGregor’s permission for you to instruct the other ships. Here’s what I want you to watch for. . .”
Crane detailed the pattern he was hoping to see on the sonar screen. When he was sure the sailor understood, he made his way to the bridge and obtained Mac’s permission to communicate with the other vessels.
* * * * *
Life aboard Seaview was vastly different under the command of Captain Hanson. The crew was restricted to quarters or the crew’s mess when not on duty. Officers were required to have collars buttoned at all times and ties were a necessity. Admiral Nelson heard the grumble from everyone on board. The Admiral made his way down to the crew’s section of the ship and entered to talk to his men.
“Please,” the Admiral motioned, “As you were.”
The men took their seats and made room for the Admiral to sit with them.
“I understand that you gentlemen are less than thrilled with Captain Hanson, but try to dig in and get through this. Captain Crane will be back soon.”
“We were thinking about keel-hauling him instead of making him walk the plank,” Kowalski notified the Admiral. “We can’t find any regulations against that in the manual either.”
Nelson chuckled as he flipped through the pages of the Navy manual.
“I’ll have a talk with Hanson. If that doesn’t do any good, then I’ll help you rig up the lines for the keel-hauling.”
The Admiral left the crew’s quarters and headed to Sick Bay. Aspirins were definitely called for at this time. Nelson couldn’t wait for Crane to return.
* * * * *
“Commander Crane,” came the call over the ship’s intercom. “Could you report to the sonar station, please?”
Crane jogged up the stairs and stopped behind the technician.
“Is this the pattern you’re looking for, sir?”
Crane took the spare set of headphones and listened as he watched the sonar screen.
“That’s it. See this patch here?” Crane asked the sailor. “That’s Seaview.”
“How can you be so sure?” the voice asked from beside Crane. Admiral Sullivan and Captain MacGregor were watching him. Crane handed Sullivan the headphones. “No sound, sir, just ask you expected. What you didn’t expect was this.” Crane pointed to the sonar screen.
“And just what is ‘this’, Commander?”
“A dead spot, sir, a black hole. You see sonar is able to locate objects by the bounce of the sound waves. Pings we call them. The SAMAD absorbs the pings, just as you predicted. The problem with that is it creates a dead spot on the screen.” Crane stopped as Admiral Sullivan began to understand the meaning of his lesson. “No bounce is this case is just as revealing as the regular sonar ping.”
Commander Crane walked away from the Admiral and addressed Captain MacGregor. “You’re the captain. If you give the order we could load the depth charges and bring Seaview up in no time.”
“Let’s go!” Mac slapped Crane on the arm and headed for the Bridge.
The U.S.S. Montana and the other ships were stocked with depth charges that had been altered for the war games. The charges would explode, but with only a fraction of their regular power. It would be enough for Seaview to know she was under attack. The convoy was given the coordinates of their prey and the charges were loaded and readied for firing.
“Lay down a pattern, Chief. Set charges for 300 feet,” Captain MacGregor ordered over the intercom. “Ready?” The raised arms of the crew chiefs indicated all was set. “Fire!”
The depth charges rose in the air, then headed downward and disappeared beneath the surface of the water.
* * * * *
“Captain! Captain! Depth charges,” Patterson called from sonar.
Before Hanson could respond the sub was rocked by the concussions of the charges.
“Looks like the Skipper found us,” Mr. Morton commented as he held onto the sonar console.
“Impossible!” Hanson cried. “Someone must have tipped them off.”
“Captain Crane realized there was a flaw in your SAMAD before he left for the Montana, Captain Hanson,” the Admiral commented as he made his way from the stairs to the plot table.
Another salvo of charges found their way down to Seaview, and the sub was again rocked from side to side by the concussions.
“Reduced charges or not, there’s no sense in subjecting Seaview to anymore punishment.” Nelson turned to Hanson. “Contact the Montana, Captain. Let them know we’re surfacing.”
The Seaview surfaced in the middle of a circle created by the convoy. The deck hatch was cracked, and Admiral Nelson emerged from below along with a very subdued Captain Hanson. A launch left the Montana with Admiral Sullivan, Commander Crane and Captain MacGregor on board.
“Request permission to come aboard, Admiral,” Crane called from the launch.
The launch was secured by the sea detail and the three officers were helped onto the deck.
“Welcome home, Lee,” Nelson greeted Crane. “Good to see you, Mac,” Nelson said to Captain MacGregor. “Marcus,” Nelson now turned to Admiral Sullivan. “Sorry your test didn’t turn out as you expected. Lee recognized the flaw before he even left the Seaview.”
“Yes, he told me,” Sullivan replied. “Admiral, with your permission I would like to conduct one more brief exercise. I’d like to show Captain Hanson the flaw in the SAMAD.”
“All right, Marcus. But no depth charges this time,” Nelson joked.
Admiral Sullivan turned to face Crane. “Commander, I would appreciate your returning to the Montana with us. I’d like you to instruct Captain Hanson on the sonar readings.” After a brief pause, Sullivan added, “Please.”
“Aye, sir,” Crane nodded.
* * * * *
The exchange of commanders was completed with Captain Hanson boarding the Montana and Lee Crane returning to the Seaview. Before leaving the Montana, Crane briefed Admiral Sullivan and Captain Hanson of his recommendations to try to rework the SAMAD. The device would be uninstalled from Seaview after they returned to Santa Barbara.
The evening air was warm and calm. Admiral Nelson climbed the ladder to the Bridge to join Captain Crane who was already there.
“Well, Lee, any thoughts of returning to ship board duty with the Navy?”
“And give up the opportunity to breathe all that re-circulated air? I don’t think so, sir.”
Nelson chuckled then said, “I just got off the phone with Marcus Sullivan. He wanted to know if he could borrow you at a later date to do a follow up on the SAMAD after it had been re-worked.”
“What did you tell him?”
“I told him it was up to you,” Nelson answered as he looked at Crane. “Marcus can actually be reasonable- - - when he’s dry that is.”
“Admiral. . .” Crane said with a warning edge to his voice, “If you’d like I can demonstrate how to push a commanding officer overboard on purpose.”
“No, no. That won’t be necessary,” Nelson laughed. “I’m going below. Are you coming?”
“In a minute. I want to take a navigation reading first to check our position. Send Mr. O’Brien up the sexton, will you?”
“All right, but don’t be too long. There’s a chess game with your name on it.”
Lee Crane watched the Admiral disappear into the submarine and smiled to himself. Commanding Officer, notwithstanding, Harriman Nelson was Crane’s closest friend. After serving with the Admiral for the past several years, Crane knew he could never go back to the regimentation of active duty with the Navy.
“Here you go, Skipper,” Mr. O’Brien said as he arrived with the sexton.
“You mark, I’ll verify, Bob.”
Crane was glad to be home.
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