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  • I know I’ve written about my hearing before, but this time I would like to tell about when I had the best ears in the Navy…Really! Not only did I have phenomenal hearing, but I had the ability to visualize what I was hearing in my mind. My uncanny ability to combine real-time spacial concepts with a little mental trigonometry gave us the exact speed, range and angle on the bow of any target ship we came across. It’s not bragging folks if you can actually do it!

    We were on an off cycle from the Calhoun and we had to report to the Submarine Training Center on Charleston’s Naval Base. Our Fire Control Team was to compete with several other boat’s teams in a new simulator.

    Now Fire Control has nothing to do with putting out fires. It is the team responsible for delivering our weapons on target. That kind of fire control…the hit what you aim at kind. It consisted of the weapons personnel and the control room personnel and last but not least sonar. The idea of this new simulator was anybody can sink a ship you can see. But how about one you can only hear?

    So, we were isolated into two rooms. One for sonar and the other for the control room and weapons personnel. The rooms were fairly accurate mockups of the actual areas aboard the boats. Let the games begin. I would first have to find the target on my sonar gear. I would call its position, speed, range and angle on the bow to the Conn. They would plot a firing solution and sink the target, all while being carefully monitored for later critique. Sounds simple, right?

    At first it was a slow moving tanker, but we soon progressed to a convoy of ships and I had to pick the most laden targets to sink. And sink them we did. It wasn’t long before I would see people peeking through the curtained window to watch what I was doing. They didn’t see much. I would be slowly turning the wheel back and forth across the target’s bearing with my eyes closed. Every now and then I would pause, open my eyes and use a circular slide rule to triangulate a range and call my guestimate into the conn. The figures I plugged into the slide rule I would guess at using my hearing.

    We did so good the testers thought we were cheating. They thought that we had somehow gotten advanced info on the test. So they came up with a completely new tape to put into the simulator. A never before played tape. It had destroyers riding herd on a convoy of warships. The piece de resistance was a Carrier near the center. The convoy was zigging all over the ocean and we were asked to sink the Carrier.

    Now this was no easy task. We had to guess where they were and when they were going to zig back and be in the right spot to take our shot. I can’t take credit for all the plotting and planning. I just gave the best angles on the bow, speeds and ranges for the entire exercise. We got the Carrier and one destroyer before we were detected and sunk ourselves.

    During that last run I had observers watching everything I did and taking notes. Guys with stopwatches and clipboards. They never said a word to me the whole time. We won the competition and they officially apologized to the skipper for thinking his crew was cheating. The old man told them he had the best crew in the service and the best ears in the Navy.

    I know this because afterwards the XO slapped me on the back and congratulated me for “driving those Bozo’s crazy”. He was laughing and told me that every time I called in a range and angle on the bow, the testers would check their clipboards and get red in the face. That’s when he knew I had nailed it. After a while he just used my figures as if he was looking through the periscope.

    I thanked him and told him I really enjoyed the challenge and when can we do it again. He laughed again and said,” You don’t understand. I don’t think they will ever ask us back. They were too embarrassed. They were supposed to be training us and we ended up training them.”

    And they didn’t!

    It’s important to note that no actual ships were sunk during the telling of this story…no sailors lost their lives. Gotcha!
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