Forgot your password?

We just sent you an email, containing instructions for how to reset your password.

Sign in

  • We were in the Mediterranean somewhere near Crete. I know because the XO had us plot his chart on our sonar worktable. He had a leather flap that covered it so no one else could see where we were. Like that was going to stop anyone from looking. It was the most popular stop of people going on or off watch.

    Knowing that we were sailing where the waters had been contested by the Phoenicians and the Greeks of the past put me into a frame of mind easily tipped toward Greek mythology and all the ancient tales.

    So when I was standing sonar watch late one night, listening to the normal background noises of snapping shrimp and occasional commercial traffic, you can imagine my blood curdling terror at hearing flute music in my headset. My imagination went rampant with thoughts of Sirens on the Rocks tempting us to run aground. Or giant whirlpools sucking us down to our depths. Forget that last one – we were already in the depths.

    I quickly called the sonarman who was waiting to relieve me at the watch. He listened and was as amazed as I was. Suddenly, it stopped. I checked to make sure we had caught it on tape. We had. We were busy checking the chart for our exact location and playing back the tape, over and over when the door to sonar opened.

    There he stood with his “I’m so sweet sugar wouldn’t melt in my mouth” look. Innocent to the max. He was so obviously the guilty party. Even without the “smoking gun” flute in his hands, I would have known it. Garns had the nerve to grin from ear to ear and say, “What?” That he was accompanied by my boss, Ratman just added to the evidence.

    The two of them had gone to the forward torpedo room and Garns played his magic flute as close to the hydrophone array as was possible. Ratman, being a sonarman of course knew the best spot to get maximum effects. Another typical way of passing time on a monotonous cruise. And extra points for the annoyance factor. Just wait til we have to explain that tape at the Sonar Information Center debriefing!

    We continued on keeping the XO’s chart and one day noticed that there were several Russian warships coming into the Med through the straits from the Black Sea. At the same time three American Destroyers were headed for the same spot. We just happened to be occupying that spot so I called the XO and showed him my theory. He poo-poo’d it and said they wouldn’t come anywhere near us.

    By now we were somewhere off the coast of Alexandria and I was getting a little nervous. The Russian fleet had turned east and would miss us by a few miles, but the American’s were dead on course to intercept us. That morning I notified the Conn that I had three noise levels that sounded like warships heading right for us.

    Now a warship has a distinct sound. It has dual five bladed propellers that are slightly out of sync making a sound that is like a running horse or a chugging train…Chugga chugga chugga chugga, Chugga chugga chugga chugga. Sort of a sound with a sense of urgency. Whereas a tanker or oiler only has a single five bladed screw and makes a Chug chu chu chu chu, Chug chu chu chu chu sound. Labored and no sense of speed. It’s hard to duplicate a sound on paper! Stop laughing!

    Anyway, the Americans were soon atop us and since they had no way of knowing who we were dropped a rack of depth charges on us. If this sounds unfriendly, it is standard operating procedure and everyone is aware of it. We were not supposed to be found! “My bad” in today’s parlance. Between racks of charges, they would call down on the underwater telephone for identification. Of course we couldn’t answer them. We were supposed to be invisible. If we answered, we would have been duty bound to abort the patrol and all hell would have broken loose in the Navy Department.

    Eventually they got tired of playing with us and continued on their merry way. We continued our patrol pretending we were invisible and no damage was done. We found out later that the build-up of ships in the eastern Mediterranean was caused by the Six Day War. Of course it wasn’t called that until it was over in six days.

    Photo is the sonar room of the Calhoun. Dick Buelle at the wheel and Ray Lough sitting next to him.
    • Share

    Connected stories:


Collections let you gather your favorite stories into shareable groups.

To collect stories, please become a Citizen.

    Copy and paste this embed code into your web page:

    px wide
    px tall
    Send this story to a friend:
    Would you like to send another?

      To retell stories, please .

        Sprouting stories lets you respond with a story of your own — like telling stories ’round a campfire.

        To sprout stories, please .

            Better browser, please.

            To view Cowbird, please use the latest version of Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera, or Internet Explorer.