I’ve thought about this article for a month. I’ve researched every aspect of the submarine. I can’t write that article. That article is just a “nuts-n-bolts” article, the way history teachers teach history, dates, places, and names. But this ship was more than that to me. To me she was my first shipmate just as much as if she were another member of the crew. She was one hell of a shipmate too, let me tell you. It was the first ship and best ship I ever served on. I could tell you that some of the best men to ever serve the submarine service have numbered among her crew, but many men say that about their submarines. Her first four commanding officers all became admirals including a four-star admiral. Some of the officers who served aboard her still have many years left to serve and no doubt some of them will become admirals as well.
In the 33 years she served this country we her crew continued to take her in harm’s way, and every single time she took us back home. Without fail – through hurricanes and emergencies, training missions and classified missions she always brought us back. We took care of her and she took care of us. As you read this she sits at Pier D in Puget Sound Naval Shipyard waiting to be dismantled. Other submarines of her class are joining her but it is easy to spot the USS City of Corpus Christi. Her sister ships show their age, as Tom said they look like they’ve been beat with a hammer, but the Corpus Christi still looks like she did the day we commissioned her more than three decades ago.
Some of the men I served with are now “still on patrol” but through all those years the Corpus Christi was part of this nation’s first line of defense. One by one her first crew left, but each time a new face appeared to replace us and still she continued on. Through war and peace the USS City of Corpus Christi was there ready to do what was necessary to keep the country safe. Through the years I would think about the old girl. I would wonder where she was and if I even knew any of the men serving on her. It gave me a sense of safety I did not even recognize I felt. Some how it was comforting to know that no matter where I was, no matter what I was doing, the USS City of Corpus Christi was on patrol. It was like an old shipmates telling me “you go do what you have to do, I’ve got your back brother.”
It is just steel and wires with cork insulation right? But when I think back to the ship I remember the crew and our time on her. I remember a captain asking for a second helping of the worst shrimp I’ve ever had. In crews mess we were all complaining and throwing it out. But Captain Bowman saved that cook’s butt by somehow choking down as second helping. Hey the captain liked it, right? So his chief couldn’t bust him for it. I remember the executive officer’s door mysteriously disappearing during the mid night movie one time and then reappearing moments later when the executive officer announced all hands field day. Which he ended as soon as his door was replaced. I remember a senior chief that gave our sonar shack a parting gift during the first Indian Ocean patrol. The chairs in sonar all upholstered in bright purple. I also remember an emergency surface about two in the morning from our maximum depth. I remember going on sonar watch every Halloween wearing a wolf mask and the executive officer coming into sonar to tell me to get a hair cut and then leaving. I remember those men. Some of them are no longer with us, as we say in the submarine service they are “still on patrol.” But others are still here. Our executive officer doesn’t answer to XO any more, now it’s Mike. I still call Walter Hughes COB, somehow he will always be the Chief Of the Boat saving my bacon.
Maybe that submarine hull number 705 is just another ship, steel, wires, pipes, wood, tile, and fake wood paneling. But to me that ship is one of my brothers one of my shipmates. For the first time in more than three decades she is not part of our first line of defense, she is waiting to be cut up.
Today I’m a little sad. But from this day forward she is “still on patrol” and our shipmates who have gone on before us are manning her again.
Fair winds and followings seas old girl. Rest your oars sailor, job well done.
USS City of Corpus Christi SSN-705
January 8, 1983 ~ May 30, 2016