February of 2003, I received an email from Jonathan Miller, a United States
Marine who performed operations with the Kam in the Early 1990ís. I previously
had no idea that Marines worked with the Kam! The following is his spectacular
account of one particular operation.
a treat to stumble upon this page.
was stationed with Charlie Company, 1st Btn 3rd MarDiv out of KMCAS on Oahu.
In the early 90's a slimmed down version of our company reported for duty
on the USS Kamehameha, around 100 officers and men.
were an infantry company and specialized in zodiac operations.
The DOD wanted to take the means by which SEALS are launched from a sub
and make it a workable scenario for a company of infantry Marines.
is one piece of our story.
mission preparations required many hours of training, trying to create the
methodology by which we could most effectively deploy and recover around 100
marines from the boat.
recovery assumptions lead us to think that many of the zodiacs would be unable
to head back to sea under their own power and the sub would not want to surface
inside of 14 miles of land to minimize it's exposure to hostile engagement.
idea was that we would daisy chain the boats together with hopefully an equal
number on each side with a rope maybe 100 or so meters long holding the two
groups of boats together. the sub
would stay submerged with only it's periscope above the surface, sail between
the two groups of boats and catch the rope with it's periscope.
as the sub sailed on, we would be drug behind the boat and pulled out to
sea to a point of safety so we could load the men and boats back aboard the sub.
first attempt...we were all tied together and floating on generous seas with
calm air, the smell of outboard motor exhaust from the zodiac engines settling
in all around us for a period of over an hour.
The combination of the seas and the exhaust had made the majority of the
men very sick. I was the stick
leader of boat team 2, which was the inside boat on one side of the chain (e.g.
We had a series of boats tied behind us, the long 100+meter rope tied to our bow
and extended across the sea to the other group of boats) I had the XO in our
boat, who was as sick as they come, could hardly move and laid in his own vomit
for the duration (his egress out of our boat nearly cost him his life due to his
condition, but that is another story)
was a corporal and I was in charge of the boat, her occupants and the entire
chain of boats to my rear. Boat
team 2 and boat team 1 each had emergency levers we could pull to disengage the
two groups of boats being tied together, but due to the importance of the
mission one had better not pull the lever without exhausting all other options!
we see the periscope lined up and heading our direction and
finally realized we were in trouble when I looked into the ocean beneath our
craft and saw the bow of the sub passing underneath us... what a tremendous
site, 8,000 tons of machine under and heading right for us!
begin to signal the sub's periscope by waving our hands and moving them to our
right, thinking we were signaling them to steer to their port side and away from
us...they kept coming right at us. Automatically I began running calculations in
my head, trying to predict how our boat would react if hit, what direction would
it go, could it be pulled down, if we need to jump out what direction do we jump
so the sub doesn't hit us or we don't get caught in the propellers of other
zodiacs being pulled around...should I pull the emergency release...etc...I
decided to man my post...it was my duty and most likely the safest place to be,
given all the variables and possible outcomes...the guys in the boat did
beautify and followed my direction, though I would say everyone of them
questioned the outcome...they believed in me though and that's what made them
stay. At what seemed like 10 feet but was more than likely 10 meters, the sub
began to submerge quickly and we could see that the periscope was being
we were hit. The periscope hit the
port side of our zodiac, spun us around and hit the engine.
We were still all tied together so we snapped back quickly.
About 20% of our air chambers were ruptured and our engine was destroyed.
Several pieces of gear and 1 marine came out of the boat...we recovered
the marine and everyone was ok.
SSN-642 continued to pass and as our scout swimmer dove in to aid
eventually were towed out to the sub once she surfaced and we began our
extraction...another harrowing experience for boat team 2, the first every to
try this method and with a crippled craft under no power of our own.
back on board we went to our debriefing to figure out what went wrong. I can
still remember the periscope operator saying he thought we were waving hello to
them...I thought to myself...we've got all this going and you think I am going
to stop and wave hello....he obviously hadn't worked with many Marines...:-)
try and drum up some pictures and send them to you...they are limited because of
the nature of our mission. I do
have a copy of Marine Times though and I believe they put a few pictures of our
training in there.
hope you enjoyed this piece of our history...the boys of company C....Charlie
Back to the USS Kamehameha in the 1990s