The USS BOSTON Shipmates proudly and happily supported the active duty crew of the SSN703 from our first contact with them in 1987. Over the years, we had many successes—and some failures—in trying to do things for our sub crew. We donated money to the crew recreation fund. We donated prizes for ship's parties, and contributed money to help finance ship's parties. We gave U.S. Savings Bonds to Sailors of the Quarter and Junior Sailors of the Quarter. We provided free hotel rooms and meals for the weekend at our reunions for the Sailors of the Year and their wives—and in one case, to the wife and father of the Sailor of the Year, when that Sailor of the Year was away on deployment.
For one particular reunion in Providence, ComSubLant promised me that he'd bring the BOSTON into Newport for our reunion. We had area BOSTON Shipmates lined up to sponsor and host crewmen from the 703 for the weekend. That plan fell through when, in a situation that became all too familiar, another boat had a breakdown and the BOSTON had to deploy in its place. Admiral Emory later took the opportunity to apologize to me in person for having to redirect the BOSTON for "a job up north that needed to be done."
We bought silver spoons for new BOSTON babies. We had pizza and soda delivered to the duty crew on multiple occasions when they were tied to the pier at the lower base. We brought them cases of USS BOSTON ball caps, playing cards, chocolates and other gedunk. On one occasion, when we couldn't get past the gate with stuff we were bringing to distribute to the crew, the boat sent their duty pickup truck. As my son and I were loading cases of stuff into the bed of the pickup, the Yeoman driver, in the most diplomatic way he could find, said, "Uh, we're only going out for three days, you know."
We met with C.O.s and X.O.s to try to find more things we could do for our crew. In most cases we were successful.
We tried to find something substantial that we could provide aboard the boat, but learned that they already had ice cream makers, exercise machines, stereos, VCRs and TVs, and there wasn't room for much of anything else. On our visits to the boat we had to agree with that.
We did all this for a number of reasons. In a personal way, as Sailors we could relate to guys being at sea, and we wanted to give them more than we got thirty to fifty-plus years ago. As American citizens who've been there we're deeply appreciative of what all our men in uniform are doing for us, and we wanted to show that appreciation.
As diehard BOSTON Sailors we wanted them to know that we saw them as extensions of the first men to pushed off from shore in the BOSTONs of 1776, and also as extensions of ourselves. If we were pressed, we'd probably have to admit that we saw ourselves in them—seen through the eyes of our selective memory, the eyes of nineteen and twenty year olds who could do anything and were going to live forever.
The first time I brought the Sailor of the Year to the podium at the reunion and interviewed him, that 20 year old was bowled over when four hundred Shipmates spontaneously rose as one to give him a standing ovation. He looked toward me, maybe for a hint as to what to do. I couldn't help him, because my own eyes had filled up. That standing ovation embodied the feeling all Shipmates had for our submarine BOSTON Sailors.
Our committee members rode the boat on VIP cruises out of Portsmouth and Groton, and four of us rode her on her last trip from Groton to Fort Lauderdale. On every visit in port, and on every underway opportunity, we came away with the highest admiration and deepest appreciation for the vitality, the talent, the professionalism, the knowledge, and the dedication of the crew of the BOSTON. This was OUR crew; OUR guys.
If our relationship with the crew waxed and waned over the years, because of our mutual interest in supporting the BOSTON crew, our relationship with Mom and Pop Kaye grew steadily. In February of 1999, as the BOSTON cast off all lines, departing Port Everglades for the last time, Pop threw his arm over my shoulder and in his gravelly voice said, "I feel like we're brothers."
Our own feelings toward the crew have obvious reasons that are mostly subjective and deeply personal. But in the hard light of day, and cold objective facts, the BOSTON crew still comes out on top in two distinct categories: as one of the finest crews ever to earn dolphins and man a submarine, and as one of the top-shelf crews to ever go to sea on a BOSTON. And in a span of 225 years, that's saying a lot.
It would take too long here tonight for me to list the many awards garnered by our SSN703 crew. We proudly show them to the world on our web site, which is tapped over six hundred times a day by Internet surfers on every continent on the globe.
Over the years of our relationship with the SSN703 we saw repeated evidence of the confidence that the squadron, the group, the SubLant fleet, the Submarine Force, and the Navy had in BOSTON. That confidence never wavered, never diminished—it only grew. Only unfathomable politics stopped that growth.
For the SSN703 Plankowners out there tonight, this is what you built, what you started. For all of you here who manned the BOSTON in the years between 1979 and 1999, you continued the history of patriotism and the tradition of excellence that sent all BOSTONs to sea with dedication, that drove all BOSTONs to complete their missions with distinction, and that brought all BOSTONs home with honor for two hundred and twenty five years. Give yourselves a hand. You deserve it.
Because life is never simple, we have multiple projects on the fire. Besides planning this reunion, we've been planning the July reunion in Baton Rouge. And, trying to get our USS BOSTON Memorial off point zero aboard the USS SALEM up in Quincy, Massachusetts. But the most immediate and time-critical efforts went into discussions with the Drydock Superintendent at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington.
The BOSTON is lying in Drydock 5, and the scrappers' torches have begun dismantling her.
This week we were successful in putting a hold on the scrapping of the sail and rudder. The first battle was to convince the Navy that we're serious and we're capable. We won that battle. The next step was to convince them that we have a viable plan, which includes transportation and an appropriate home for these two pieces. One of our Shipmates, Dan Schiebel (who was a MM2 aboard the CAG1 in 1965), knows the President of North American Van Lines; he took on the task of arranging transportation. Another Shipmate, Bruce McCausland (who was an ET2(SS) and an SSN703 Plankowner), knows the Director of Serviceman's Park in Buffalo New York. We then got into a loop. I can't commit to transport it until I know how big it is; and I can't commit to accept it until I know that you can get it; and I can't commit to give it to you until I know that it will have an appropriate home.
I think the logjam broke when another 703 Plankowner, Shipmate Tom Plante (who was a LT) and who works at EB, came up with the dimensions:
Not Greater Than 50 Tons. Well, that's a relief. I thought it would be really big and heavy.
Literally on top of this, we can't have the pieces until the Navy removes the classified coating that's on all submarines. It has to be burned off, and the residue blasted off. Turns out, they'll do that free—and paint everything black, also free. They'll also cut the rudder and sail into manageable pieces, also free.
The Director of the USSVI Base in Buffalo came down here this weekend to talk with us.
As promising as all this sounds, there's the reality that it won't all be free. We'll probably need to go to the members—look in the mirror—for donations to fund this project. And, we'll need volunteers to refurbish the pieces once they're in place in Buffalo, as well as meeting a continuing commitment to periodically refresh the sail and rudder in the years to come.
But, as it stands right now, we have saved a major artifact of the USS BOSTON SSN703.