The Deep Dive

This summer I received the following narrative from Michael N. Arterburn, a Missile Tech who served on the Kamehameha in the late 1960's. It's a pretty good account of life on a boomer.

Hi Shipmate,

I reported aboard the Kamehameha Gold Crew around April of 1968.  I had just left the USS Grant where I was a member of the commissioning crew and had completed 6 patrols with the Gold Crew.  To tell the truth, I wasn't exactly happy about going to the Kam.  I had heard that the boat was a "show" boat and had lots of problems with systems that didn't work.   I had just proposed marriage to my girlfriend Judy and planned to marry her on the next R&R (actually did marry her on August 3, 1968 - same day shipmate Craig Sylvester got married). So, I wasn't eager to go to sea on the 642.

Anyhow, I reported aboard as an MT2(SS) and found the boat to be in excellent shape.   I remember all the shiny CRES on the bulkheads and wiping it down with some type of oil on a rag to keep it looking good.   The boat had all the extra's for show as I remember.

The one thing I remember the most is the "Deep Dive" test that was conducted in the Marianas Trench at the end of my first patrol.   I remember that the patrol we were on was just about over and we were all eager to return to Hawaii and start our 3 month R&R period.    The Captain (who I believe was Capt Dickieson) came over the 1MC and announced that we would be making this "Deep Dive" test.   Well, I knew that the boat had been built with the new "Sub-Safe" designs and that meant we would be going pretty darn deep!   I insisted to the Weps Officer that I be in charge of the Missile Compartment valves, etc., during the dive.  I remember that we tied a string about two foot high across the Middle Level of the Missile Compartment before we started the dive.   Everyone was on station with sound powered phones when the dive began.  They would go down 100 feet at a time and then cycle different valves and check for leaks.   Well, let me tell you - - - the Missile Tubes (16) each have a muzzle hatch ram that goes through the hull on the Upper Level Missile Compartment.   The diameter of each ram was probably 18 inches or so.   Each ram had a big grease box with a fitting.    At each 100 foot level, we would find water seeping down some of the muzzle hatch rams.  We were running back and forth from tube to tube pumping grease into those grease boxes with a couple of foot pump grease guns.   Even as an experienced submariner, I can tell you that I was as wide awake and alert as I have ever been in my life.   I don't think I was scared as much as anxious about the rest of the boat and all the rumors I had heard about the boat's problems.  

 When we passed 1000 feet, you would have sworn that I had drank about 60 cups of caffeine - I was moving my butt up and down the missile compartment looking for anything that wasn't right.   The string in the Middle Level was sagging close to the deck.  The creaks and groans as the boat went down each 100 feet were creepy.   The depth gauge at the Launcher Control Panel told the story.

When we reached the test depth, a shipmate in the torpedo room could have heard  an engineer fart in Maneuvering.   And then it was over.   A cheer went up and the depth gauge began to take us to the surface - I am pretty sure we did an emergency blow test as well, because I remember broaching the surface.  

The entire crew did an outstanding job and the boat performed impeccably.  At that moment, I think the entire gold crew felt like we had been to the edge and done the job.   It probably made us all closer as a crew and definitely gave us confidence in the systems we were so well trained to operate and care for.

For me personally, any doubts I had about the Kamehameha were history.   I made two more patrols on the Kam Gold until August of 1969 when I completed my hitch.   

Now, at 58 years of age, I look back at all the things I have accomplished in my life and I have to say that my proudest moments and greatest memories were serving as a submarine sailor in the United States Navy with some of the finest men I have ever known.

Michael N. Arterburn  MT2(SS)
Claremont, CA 91711


Back to the USS Kamehameha in the 1960s