Seasnake's Aviation Page
Sailors see things much differently than the majority. My time at sea was not extensive, but it did make up years. You get exposed to so much, sometimes, it all becomes a visual carnival. The experienced 'squids' pass it off, but there are times that are so spectacular that even they are awe-struck.
We left Yokosuka Naval Base under
strict orders to sail at top speed. The
recall sounded -- sailors from all over
the ship scrambled to make USS KIRK ready for sea while other men searched the
nearby bars of the Honj, (the local barrio that built up next to the centuries-old
Navy Base) for any sailors sober enough to join us. Constructed in the last century just within
the enormous bay of the Tokio Wan,
call came through, and our fast Frigate slipped her moorings and dashed into
the open Pacific. No word on why yet --
didn't matter, we had a place to be. No
us, on the Asian Mainland not too many miles across the bathtub of the
base had everything the Soviet's went to sea in, except Ballistic Missile
submarines, which resided in the icy north near
Well, off we went, charging into the night. The ship climbed the surging waves, leaping from one foamy roller to the next. Each 35 mile-per-hour impact slammed against our ship as she searched the darkness. I stood on the blacked-out bridge wing in a howling spray of stinging saltwater. The sea was cooperating to make this an exciting night!
After an hour, the rumor mill started to
respond to the questions of all 200 sailors, and we found out that the Commies
had sent a large fleet to sea. They had
run right past
is bad. Our job in
We got ready in a big hurry -- the Spies, Spooks, and the Snoopy Team (photo hounds) all prepared to get up close and personal with 'Ivan'.
over a month, the Novorosiisk (the Aircraft Carrier, named after a steel town
last military exercise this Battle Group conducted was a simulated attack on
the Submarine Base at
For the final day of our approach, dozens of Soviet jet bombers made streaking overhead passes, angrily swarming the imagined foe. Everything finished with a grand finale, with lots of Soviet guns being fired in unison.
An event followed that I will never forget.
The spooks on board passed a typically cryptic message that we were going into a period of dense sunspot activity. Millions of miles away, solar flares on the surface of the sun would cause our communications gear to fuzz temporarily.
This region is well enough North for a lot of magnetic problems, so we expected everything would temporarily be affected. Luckily, it all occurs according to physics, so we could plan the time of the event, and turn off delicate equipment that the electrical pulse might harm.
For miles around us, indeed all over the globe, people were preparing for the solar storm. Our convoy of warships waited for the 'event horizon' and when it came, all radio gear began to turn into blind static.
The evening was only a few minutes away, and the electrical interference would last hours, so I stepped out onto the flight deck to catch a cold.
Beside us, the KRIVAK frigate of the Soviet Border Forces (yes, the KGB has its own Navy, for patrolling the frontier areas) was quite close, and I saw the sky over us start to pulse with visible waves. The raging magnetic storm sent streamers and cascading waterfalls of fluorescent color, a brilliant Aurora Borealis that rained down almost to the horizon. My mouth hung gaping, as the waves passed high over us.
Turning in place, I was amazed at the scope of the lightshow. For as far north as I could see, the waves rippled and danced, throbbing with blues, violets, and bright yellows and reds. At onset, the crystal calm of the polar sky -- unearthly quiet, normally -- carried the whispers of the electron shriek in the highest reaches of the atmosphere... a wail, or a siren's call...muted into transistor radio static, 400,000 feet over our heads.
sound faded, leaving the lightshow to continue without lyrics. Four hours later, bone chilled and
awe-struck, I realized the night was gleaming cold and the
of angling down to pass under the Japanese islands of Honshu and
call these islands by that name -- the Soviets call them Kurilski Ostrovka, and
to the Japanese, they are stolen property.
As the long string of Warships (including us) approached the stark and frozen peaks of these rocky islands, we started to wonder what the Soviets intended. By going North of Japan, they had eluded further harassment by the Japanese and US Navies, but they also had forced themselves to cross the island barrier while the sea-ice was still solid between the islands. The analogy of a fence got even stronger.
the exposed command bridge, I swept binoculars across the tortured coast of
After a short while of idling around the edge of the floe-ice, several of the Soviet ships came alongside of us. Just looking us over, like Horatio Hornblower looking at a French sloop. Calmly, we waited for .... something?
Radar is nearly useless in seas choked with icebergs, but we could make out more company coming. From the far side of the pack ice, something large was coming inexorably closer. Goddamn! -- its the “RODINA”, or some other huge Icebreaker ship! Nuclear powered and just incredibly well built, the mighty icebreaker drove itself up onto the ice, to crack and smash its way through. In its wake, a straight line channel, as wide as a ship, was forming.
watched it perform what no American ship could, and in a short time, a channel
wide enough for the Aircraft Carrier to navigate had been cut, connecting the
One by one, the Soviet ships lined up, in order of their Captain's rank. With a surprised start, we were asked over the radio if we intended to follow. Our Skipper replied and spoke briefly with the Russians, and we were told to fall in line third from the end(!). Protocol demanded that our Skipper, and us by extension, were given that spot because he outranked other Commanders within the Soviet fleet. I'm sure it was mostly a method of catching us, but it worked quite smoothly.
One by one, the twelve ships began to enter the channel. The hard island, under its heavy mantle of snow, was so close to our starboard side, we could make out details of the small houses. It looked like a white hell to me; no trees, just frozen rock.
What? Why are we stopping??- the trap was sprung.
Ahead of us, the Novorosiisk followed the nuclear icebreaker into clear water. The five missile cruisers obediently steamed off in trail. But, the ships directly in front and behind us had stopped!
Oh, what a juvenile prank to fall for!
The radio complained, "You have violated the waters of the Supreme Soviet! The island is only 2 miles away and you have no legal reason to be here!"
So, for several hours, (as the trail of the Novorosiisk got progressively colder) we sat and watched the pack ice reform around us. After that pause, the Soviet ships suddenly made steam and moved off, apparently confident that we could not catch up to their heavy warships. In minutes, we were left in the company of a single Red frigate.
find a map, and look North of Japan. See
that large lake-looking place, called the
we left the islands behind, we tried to set up a fuel stop. It had been a week since we had met up with
an ocean-going oiler, and it seemed unlikely we would find a friend in the
The Soviets knew nothing of this, so their racy looking Frigate, called a KRIVAK came alongside us for the voyage. For several days, the Krivak was never more than a few hundred yards away from us. For a thousand nautical miles, the green-flagged ship poked along at our snails pace wondering why we chose to go so slow. Truth was, a single sprint would have emptied our tanks completely. Periodically, this particular ship would come alongside, and tear off at top speed, to show off its quickness and gas-turbine propulsion. As an old steam-boiler ship, the KIRK was outpaced easily.
the eighth day of our Southern transit, we passed the port entrance to
Just a couple of ships, passing in the night. Another page in the Cold War Diary.
Gordon Permann 96
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Last Modified: Tuesday March 10, 2009