Former Crew Member Writes About Serving on the Kam in the 1960's

A little while back, I received an email from former crew member Randy Brown:


My name is Randy Brown and I was on the Pre-Commissioning crew and was the Commissioning crew Blue Weps Officer. Regarding the participation of Hawaii in the building of Kamehameha, I don't recall that they did a lot. Of course, being Weps, I didn't pay a lot of attention to chrome plating in the Reactor Compartment or other engineering spaces. Up forward, we were given a beautiful wooden (teak?) bust of Kamehameha which sat in a recessed enclosure just aft of the airlock door outside the CO/XO staterooms. I seem to recall that some teak was offered, but that it wasn't allowed aboard as being flammable (or at least, this is what my distant memory tells me). Some others in the Commissioning Ward Room might remember better (was the ward room table teak?).

When the Gold Crew took Kamehameha over to Hawaii, they were met by hundreds of small boats, but the Navy wouldn't allow the boat to put into the Honolulu commercial piers (because Polaris Missiles and Mk 45 Nuclear torpedoes were aboard). Instead, the boat went to the Naval Base where there was a greeting by the Governor, lots of dignitaries, and of course a host of hula dancers (but very limited visiting aboard). The original plan had been for Kamehameha to put into the downtown commercial piers with a parade culminating at the boat and an ensuing Luau. Instead, there was a ceremony at the palace a few days later in which each crew member was given a coffee cup with the Hawaiian seal on it. Kind of an anti climax, but being a strategic weapon system really isolated us from the rest of the world (at least back then).

Our building period and sea trials were fairly routine for that period. I recall that when the KOG (Kindly Old Gentleman, i.e., Rickover) rode us for Sea Trials, that the XO prepared a multipage rig-for-Rickover instruction in which there were various interesting assignments. For example, there was the wash khaki officer whose job it was to place a fresh set of wash khakis on Rickover's bunk every morning (Rickover occupied the XO's SR while he was aboard-- don't recall where Bobbie Bell bunked during those days). The used khakis never were returned-- guess Rickover had a large wardrobe of khakis at home. There was also the trophy officer whose job was to put a set of Kamehameha ship models and plaques on Rickover's desk every morning so that Rickover could visit various departments in the yard and present these as gifts (although there was a Rickover gram aboard every new construction boat strictly prohibiting just such acts). There was also the air lock door officer whose job it was to keep a watch manned on that door to keep it from slamming and disturbing Rickover when he was aboard. Finally, there was the hard-ball candy officer whose job it was to keep a bowl in Rickover's Stateroom filled with hardball candy during the day. Unfortunately, one day in the yard, some brave soul decided to filch the candy, and the XO sent the engineering officer, Dick Charles, through the ward room staterooms looking for candy wrappers in the foul weather jackets hanging therein. He found one in my jacket, though I was innocent of the snatching, and I think Bobbie Bell always believed I was the culprit. That's probably why he called me too his stateroom one day during our first patrol and presented me with a hand-full of candy. When I looked puzzled, he asked for his door back (it was Halloween, and some enterprising soul did the old Bob Newhart routine of stealing his door). I hadn't even noticed that it was missing when I reported to him, which probably convinced him that I was guilty as sin. But the worse part was that it was my old friend Dick Charles whose engineers had stolen the door, and they hid it in the Missile Control Computer console in the MCC--and of course Bobbie found it there. How I survived that tour is still a mystery to me.

The only other thing out of the ordinary that I can recall happening was as the Gold Crew was departing the building yard (MINSY) for the last time taking the boat to Bangor for the Missile load-out. Some of our Blue Crew sailors helped the Gold Crew in their underway preps, and one of my Missile Techs was helping in the lower level close-out just before getting underway. There was supposed to be a 2 man rule in effect where one person entered the tube to check it for water tightness, etc., and another person stood outside so that no one would shut the other person into the tube. I had always thought that excessive precaution, but found out that wasn't so. My MT, trying to get the lower level secure and get off the boat, didn't wait for the second person and was in the process of checking the inside of a tube by himself. Sure enough, someone came along and did shut the tube door, locking my MT inside. Of course he panicked, and went berserk inside the tube. In an attempt to attract attention, he starting hitting every thing in the tube, breaking a hydraulic line in the process. In the meantime, a ship yard worker retrieved his tools from the lower level and reported to the LCP watch in the middle level that he had heard strange noises in the lower level. About that time the watch got the moisture in the tube alarm (broken hydraulic line), and sent several shipmates down to look at the affected tube. When they opened the door, the MT sprang out, totally out of his mind, and had to be subdued by several men-- the doctor (we had doctors in the crew then) gave him a shot to put him to sleep so they could remove him form the boat.

Enough BS. You can just delete most of this as ramblings of an old

Kamehameha plank owner.

Randy Brown, Blue Weps, Kamehameha Dec 64 - Dec 66

Update... From Mike Bob Baldwin

Just a little correction to Mr. Brown's story about Bobbie Bell's door. I was the one who stole along with a partner in crime, whom I won't rat on. One night as sea I asked Capt. Leddick to divert Bobbie so we could steal his door. Capt. Leddick lured him to the wardroom to play bridge. When we took the door we carried it right through the control room without being see, or at least stopped. We found it fit perfectly in a console in the MCC. None of the operators saw us put it there since there backs were to us. Or maybe they saw and didn't want to squeal. Bobbie cried about the door for about a week. One day I went to his stateroom and suggested that if he offered three days basket leave, maybe the door would show up. He put the offer in the plan of the day. The next day we took the door back to his room and reinstalled it. He asked me who took it. I told him that wasn't part of the deal. All he gets is his door back. About a year or so later when I made LDO I stopped at the assignment desk in Washington and asked Bobbie if he ever found out who took his door. He said he had a real good idea.

That's the facts as well as I can remember them after 35 years.