Saturday, March 26, 2011

Eternal Patrol: Ron Eggimann

Ronald F. Eggimann departed on his final patrol on March 23, 2011. Ron was born on September 7, 1933 and spent his entire life in Tacoma. Ron qualified in submarines in 1954, serving aboard the USS Raton (SS-270) during the Korean Conflict. He retired from Hooker/Occidental Chemical as a Process Supervisor after 39 years of service. His family always came first and were the most important things to him. He also enjoyed anything to do with the outdoors and nature.

He was a member of the USSVI South Sound Base and a dual member of the Seattle Base.

Ron is survived by his son Scott J. of Spanaway, daughters Carrie and son-in-law Rick Runge of Kennewick, WA, Marie W., and Julie A., former wife Helen L. Eggimann, and his mother Ella Jay, all of Tacoma; one sister, Darlene Brennan of Homewood, Illinois, as well as numerous nephews, a niece, and a grandson, all of whom he loved very much.

Visitation will be Sunday, March 27th, 1 to 4pm, and Monday, 10am to 2pm, at the Mountain View Funeral Home, 4100 Steilacoom Blvd. S.W. in Lakewood. At Ron's request, there will be no services.

You can leave memories and condolence messages on the Mountain View Funeral Home website or on

Sailor rest your oars.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Regulas: America's First Seaborne Nuclear Deterrent

Most of this post is from Edward Whitman's article in the Spring 2001 issue of Undersea Warfare.

As the Cold War intensified in the decade following World War II, and particularly with the Soviet Union’s success in matching the United States in developing atomic weapons, nuclear deterrence became a key element of global diplomacy. By the early 1950s, both superpowers had deployed large manned bomber forces capable of reaching each other’s homelands with either forward basing or aerial refueling, and additionally, the United States had begun to deploy atomic weapons on aircraft carriers.

Both sides were also quick to take advantage of captured German V-1 and V-2 technology from World War II to begin development of both guided and ballistic missiles for tactical and strategic use, with the U.S. Army initially taking the lead in the United States. Not to be out-done, the U.S. Navy converted two World War II fleet boats, USS Carbonero (SS-337) and USS Cusk (SS-348) to carry a U.S. variant of the German V-1 pulse-jet missile, known as the Loon, first launched at sea in February 1947. Loon’s nominal range under command guidance was approximately 50 nautical miles, but using a second submarine as a relay, it could be effective out to 135 nautical miles, with a reported Circular Error Probable (CEP) of 6,000 yards.
USS Cusk preparing to fire a Loon missile
By this time, the Navy had also let development contracts for two more ambitious bombardment missiles, the supersonic Grumman Rigel (SSM-N-6) and the subsonic Chance-Vought Regulus (SSM-N-8), each intended to carry a 3,000 pound warhead for 500 nautical miles. Although Rigel fell by the wayside in 1953, Regulus was successfully developed into America’s first sea-going nuclear deterrent and was first deployed on the heavy cruiser USS Los Angeles (CA-135) in 1955. Eventually, five submarines were fitted to carry and launch Regulus also, and they became the principal deterrent force.

The Regulus I missile itself was essentially a small turbojet aircraft, 42 feet long, with a wingspan of 21 feet. Gross launch weight was just under seven tons, including a ton of fuel, and its Allison J33-A-14 engine could propel the missile to Mach 0.91 (about 550 knots). Regulus was launched from an inclined ramp – later trainable – and it required two 3,300 pound-thrust Jet Assisted Take-Off (JATO) units to get up to speed. The weapon was command-guided, initially out to the radar horizon by superimposing steering commands onto the launch platform’s tracking radar waveform, and then by using a relay submarine nearer the target to track and steer the missile to the final aim point. Either a 40-50 kiloton nuclear warhead or a 1-2 megaton thermonuclear device could be carried.

USS Tunny (SSG-282) was the first submarine to carry Regulus. Originally a World War II fleet submarine of the Gato class, Tunny was launched in June 1942, completed nine war patrols, and earned nine battle stars in the Pacific war. Decommissioned in December 1945, she was briefly recommissioned in reserve for the Korean War, decommissioned again, but then brought out in early 1953 for conversion to a guided missile submarine (SSG). This consisted of deck-mounting a large, pressurized, cylindrical hangar, some 15 feet in diameter, just abaft the sail, with a collapsible ramp extending aft. The hangar could accommodate two Regulus I missiles in a rotating ring arrangement. The weapons could be checked out while the submarine was still submerged by entering the hangar through an access trunk, but actual launching required the submarine to surface and manhandle the weapon onto the rails before it could be fired. Then, the boat would have to remain at least at periscope depth to guide the missile to the radar horizon.
USS Tunny with a Regulas I missile
Tunny’s conversion moved quickly by today’s standards, and she fired her first Regulus at sea in July 1953. For the next several years, Tunny operated out of Point Mugu, California, primarily as a Regulus test platform. In October 1955, USS Barbero, originally SS-317 and also a World War II fleet boat, was commissioned as the Navy’s second SSG, having been brought out of mothballs and provided by the Mare Island Naval Shipyard with a cylindrical hangar identical to Tunny’s. After work-ups off the coast of California, Barbero transited the Panama Canal in April 1956 and joined the Atlantic Fleet.
USS Barbero firing a Regulas I missile
By this time, Regulus was also at sea on four heavy cruisers: In addition to Los Angeles, already mentioned, Helena (CA-75), Toledo (CA-133), and Macon (CA-132) were all fitted with fantail launching rails and commenced regular operational deployments, the first three in the Pacific, and Macon in the Atlantic. Even ten aircraft carriers were equipped to launch the missile, depending on an escorting aircraft to provide mid-course guidance, but although at least one Pacific deployment occurred, the resulting onboard mix of missiles and manned aircraft was never popular with the aviation community.

In mid-1956, it became Navy policy to keep one SSG in each ocean, and Tunny shifted her base of operations to Pearl Harbor in 1957. Meanwhile, the Navy had laid down two large diesel-electric submarines specifically to carry Regulus, launching USS Grayback (SSG-574) in March 1958 and USS Growler (SSG-577) in August of that same year. Each of these two near-sister ships – displacing approximately 3,600 tons submerged – could accommodate a total of four Regulus I missiles in a pair of cylindrical hangars set into the large, bulbous bow. These hangars opened aft through a set of doors by which the weapons could be moved onto a trainable launch ramp set into a well forward of the sail. The ramp was rotated athwartships for launching.
USS Grayback preparing to fire a missile
After the Soviet Union and then the United States successfully tested their first intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in 1957, the nuclear arms race moved into a more dangerous phase. In late 1958, with four SSGs and four Regulus cruisers in commission, the Navy responded by moving all of the submarines and three of the cruisers to the Pacific to maintain regular deterrent patrols threatening the Soviet Far East. In particular, Submarine Squadron ONE was formed of the four SSGs at Pearl Harbor and adopted a readiness posture that put at least four missiles on station in the Western Pacific at all times, to complement existing carrier-based aircraft armed with nuclear weapons. (This required deploying either the two converted fleet boats together or one of the two Graybacks.) Tunny departed on the first of these regularly scheduled deterrent patrols in October 1959, whereas Grayback’s and Growler’s first patrols commenced in early 1960.

Some years earlier, though, the Navy had already directed Chance Vought to start developing a second-generation, supersonic Regulus II missile, capable or reaching 1,200 nautical miles at Mach 2. Nearly twice as large as Regulus I, the new weapon demanded a somewhat larger submarine to carry it. Several alternative platform designs were studied, including one capable of carrying four Regulus II or eight Regulus I missiles in a large hangar forward. Ultimately, funding for building a new SSG was included in the FY 1956 budget. Moreover, by late 1955, Navy long-range planners were anticipating that as many as 23 Regulus II submarines would eventually be required. Earlier that same year, however, the Navy’s nuclear propulsion program had come to fruition with USS Nautilus (SSN-571) “underway on nuclear power.” Consequently, the first planned Regulus II SSG was reordered as a nuclear-powered submarine, laid down at Mare Island in April 1957, and commissioned as USS Halibut (SSGN-587) in January 1960.
A Regulas II missile being launched from USS Grayback
Halibut, 350 feet long overall and displacing nearly 4,900 tons submerged, was fitted with what was then the standard attack submarine power plant, driving two screws. Her enormous single missile hangar was set deep into the outer hull forward, and sloped upward and aft to penetrate the deck, where a large, vertically-opening door gave access to a turntable launcher forward of the sail. The hangar space could hold four Regulus II or five Regulus I missiles and also doubled as a forward torpedo room. This large, single-door hangar – potentially open to the sea during the launching evolution – constituted a serious vulnerability. If it flooded, the ship might easily sink.
Regulas launch viewed from the periscope of USS Halibut
Halibut entered active service with the Pacific Fleet in November 1960 and made her first formal patrol early the next year, joining the four SSGs in the rotation necessary to keep four strategic missiles continually on station. By then, the heavy cruisers had been withdrawn from the Regulus mission – with Los Angeles the last to go in 1961 – leaving the submarines to carry on alone. Somewhat ironically, even though Regulus II proved successful in final testing, budgetary pressures prevented any subsequent procurement, and it was never deployed. Thus, for the entire era of these first sea-borne deterrent patrols, the subsonic Regulus I remained the weapon of choice.

In fact, the synergy of two new military technologies – compact nuclear warheads, and large solid-fuel rocket motors – spelled a quick end to the Regulus era. Together, they made possible the design of relatively small solid-fuel missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads over intercontinental distances – and thus established the feasibility of the submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). Accordingly, the Navy’s Special Projects Office was established in November 1955 and, under RADM William F. Raborn, moved rapidly to develop the Polaris SLBM and a class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines to carry it. Only five years later, just as Halibut was joining the Pacific Fleet in November 1960, the first of the new class, USS George Washington (SSBN-598), departed on her maiden Polaris patrol in the Atlantic.

In one stroke, the SSBN/Polaris combination eliminated all the disadvantages of the Regulus system: surface launch, liquid fuel, dependence on active tracking and guidance, limited range, small hangar capacity, and a host of other drawbacks. With submerged launch, virtually unlimited endurance, and near invulnerability, the new strategic deterrent quickly supplanted Regulus and the SSG/SSGN. It was not until December 1964, however, that USS Daniel Boone (SSBN-629) conducted the first Polaris patrol in the Pacific, departing Guam that month. Thus, Regulus deterrence was maintained in the western Pacific until May 1964, when Halibut conducted the final patrol of the series. By that time, the five Regulus boats had conducted a total of 40 WESTPAC deterrent patrols since October 1959 – and in so doing had pioneered one of the central strategic paradigms of the Cold War. Two generations of SSBNs followed.

In addition to her deterrent patrols, Barbero also earned the distinction (and undying fame among philatelists) of launching the only delivery of Missile Mail.
Missile Mail from USS Barbero

The submarines... Where are they now? Of the two former fleet boats, Barbero was the first to be decommissioned and stricken from the Navy list in June 1964. Tunny reverted back to SS-282 in May 1965, but her large Regulus hangar made possible her conversion to a troop-carrying submarine, newly designated APSS-282, in October 1966. In this role during 1967, she participated in a number of special operations off the coast of Vietnam. Subsequently, Tunny was decommissioned for the final time in June 1969 and sunk as a target just a year later.

Similarly, with her Regulus installation removed, Grayback served as an amphibious transport (LPSS-574) from May 1969 to mid-1980. The ship was later stricken from the Navy list in January 1984 and sunk as a missile target in 1986. With her missile handling and guidance equipment removed, Halibut was converted to a test platform circa 1965 and used ostensibly in developing the Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle (DSRV) – but actually for more highly classified projects – until she was decommissioned in June 1976.

The happiest fate was reserved for Growler, which was decommissioned and placed in reserve in May 1964. Stricken from the Navy list in August 1980, Growler is now preserved in virtually original condition as part of the USS Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York City, along with an example of the Regulus I missile.
USS Growler in New York City
The following Seattle Base members served on Regulas submarines: John Bush (Growler), Gary Flynn (Halibut), Richard Glaza (Barbero), Mike Hein (Growler), C Angus McDonald (Barbero), John McHugh (Halibut – after conversion to SSN), Bob Morris (Halibut), Dale Ness (Barbero), Gary Ness (Grayback), Richard Templer (Tunny)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Binnacle List Updates

During the March meeting we received news about some new additions to the Binnacle List.

Ted Taylor - Ted's cancer has spread further and the physicians have said there is little more they can do for him.
Ted Taylor at the Holiday Luncheon
Larry Abbott - Larry slipped on the grass while golfing and broke his left ankle. Larry had surgery with a plate and screws attached and is missing attending the Base meeting. Let's hope his ankle mends as fast as possible.
Larry Abbott getting his Holland Club certificate
Carol Ulmer - Don Ulmer's wife Carol underwent surgery for repair of her hip replacement on Monday March 14th. The surgery was successful and she is resting at home.
Don and Carol Ulmer
June Schmidt - Ervin Schmidt' wife June is resting at home after suffering a collapse. We wish June a speedy recovery.
June and Ervin Schmidt
We also got updates for other base members that are still on the Binnacle List.

Both Andrea Geisler and Robbie Robertson were at the March meeting and stated that their conditions are improving.

Bob Opple's treatment is going well and he has said that he hopes to be back for the start of the parade season.

Bruce Fisher and Schell Harmon have also reported improvements

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Notes from the March Meeting

Here are some items of interest from our March meeting.

Upcoming Events
Base Commander Keith Watson brought us up to date on new and upcoming events:
  • Christmas Luncheon - We have confirmed our reservations for the 2011 luncheon for Saturday, December 17. We know the holiday season can be busy, so be sure to mark this one down on your calendar.
  • Bremerton Armed Forces Day Parade - The parade is Saturday, May 21 and we have submitted all our paperwork for the parade. The parade starts at 10 AM and we will be meet around 9 AM. We are also expecting some members from the Silent Service Motorcycle Club to join us at the parade. We will pass along more information as we get closer to the date.
  • Smokey Point Rest Stop Event - This event is set for June 10 - 13 (Friday to Monday) and Steve Shelton is looking for people to sign up for shifts at the coffee booth. If you would like to sign up for a 2 hour, 4 hour, or longer shift, contact Steve. Even if you can't put in time at the booth, you can help out by donating cookies (or money to buy cookies) for the booth.

New Book From Don Ulmer
Base member Don Ulmer dropped off copies of his new book, The Cold War Beneath, at the meeting. You can get a copy from Base Storekeeper Bill Giese for $20.
The Cold War Beneath tells the story of an event at sea off the New England coast during the post World War II years. Two submarines play a dangerous underwater game of hide and seek in this action thriller as U.S. Navy forces try to find out the Russian's true intentions for being in American waters.
You can also get copies of Don's other books, Silent Battleground and Shadows of Heroes, from Bill.

Happy Birthday Seattle Base
March 23 is the 12th birthday for our base. We had cake on hand to celebrate the birthday. 
Happy Birthday Seattle Base
March Program
Our March program was a presentation on the King County Veterans And Human Services Levy by King County Councilmember Bob Ferguson and a discussion of King County Veterans programs by Regional Veterans Service Manager Joel Estey.
Councilmember Bob Ferguson (left) and Joel Estey (right)
Councilmember Ferguson covered the history of the King County Veterans And Human Services Levy and highlighted the impact it has had on the veterans community. Since its voter approval in 2005 the levy has expanded and enhanced veterans services such as: legal aid, job retraining, PTSD treatment services for veterans and their families, housing assistance, emergency financial assistance, and working with incarcerated veterans to break the cycle of involvement in the justice system. The program also serves as a model for other states and Washington counties. You can read more about the program and its accomplishments on the King County website.

The levy will sunset this year unless it is approved for the ballot by the King County Council and renewed by voters. The proposed measure will ask voters to renew the levy with:
  • No new taxes - the proposed rate is the same as the current rate (5 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value).
  • Same distribution of fund - 50% for veteran and 50% for human services (note that veterans are eligible for the human services programs).
  • Same time frame - the renewed levy would last for 6 years, after which it could be renewed or sunset based on Council and voter actions.
The King County Council must act by mid-2011 to put the levy renewal on the ballot. If you would like to support placing the levy on the ballot, you should contact your councilmember. You can find contact information for your councilmember at Metropolitan King County Council website.

Following Councilmember Ferguson's presentation was Regional Veterans Service Manager Joel Estey. Joel is part of the King County Veterans Program that provides assistance to honorably discharged veterans and their dependents residing in King County, although Joel is happy to help find information for veterans from other counties and states. Joel let us know that there is actually a Washington state law that all counties provide veterans assistance program and he gave us some information about different programs available in King County. Joel provided us with contact information. He also suggested dialing 211 for help if you (or someone you know) need veterans assistance information, but you aren't sure who to contact.

Special thanks to Dick Gonzales for arranging the presentations.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

March Meeting Announcement


Our next meeting is set for Wednesday March 16th at the Lake Washington VFW Post #2995 located at 4330 148th Ave. NE Redmond, WA 98052. Social Hour at 6 PM with the business meeting from 7 - 9 PM.

We will have two special guest speakers:
  • King County Councilman - Bob Ferguson
  • Regional Veterans Service Manager - Joel Estey

Both men are advocates for veterans. Both speakers have pertinent information for veterans and there will be an open forum for questions and answers after the presentations.

Don't miss this meeting it will be a good one!

Please spread the word and invite you fellow Veterans.

For a little more information, see the March 5 blog post.

We will also be celebrating Seattle Base's 12th year anniversary (the Base was started 3/23/1999).

See you there!

PS: special thanks to Dick Gonzales for arranging these very special speakers.

Keith Watson
Commander, Seattle USSVI Base

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Accepting Nominations for USSVI National Awards

From John Stanford, USSVI National Awards Chairman
The USSVI 2011 Awards Guidelines that members and bases can use to submit nominees for the 2011 USSVI Award Program is now posted online. Just go to the USSVI website, click the Awards button, then the Manuals button.

Any USSVI member in good standing can nominate another member in good standing (or entity such as a Base, where appropriate and stated in the award description). Nominations are submitted using the following guidelines:
  • All award nominations shall be typewritten and shall be a maximum of two pages.
  • Clearly state the specific award for which nomination is being made, along with the member’s name, title, and home base.
  • Each entry shall be for the nomination of a single award. Do not include more than one base or member on the same nomination.
  • Do not include any photographs or endorsements. Additional nominations or separate endorsements for a nominated member or base are encouraged.
USSVI members can make nominations for the Joe Negri Award, Robert Link National Commander’s Award, Ben Bastura Historical Achievement Award, Meritorious Award, and Silver Anchor Award. All the awards are described below. Note the other USSVI awards (District Commander of the Year, Golden Anchor, and Newsletter of the Year) have a different nomination process.

The Joe Negri ‘Shipmate of the Year’ Award
The late Joe Negri is considered the primary founder of USSVI. The Joe Negri Award is given to the member who, by his personal individual efforts and participation during the preceding years, contributed the most to the advancement and embodiment of the USSVI creed and agenda, and by his dedicated service and support to our USSVI organization and his fellow submarine veteran brothers exemplifies the meaning and spirit of the word, “Shipmate.”

The Robert Link National Commander’s Award
Robert Link was the first National Commander of USSVI. This award is the USSVI version of a “Letter of Commendation” from the National Commander. The nominations can be for a member, a group, or a base.

The criteria for selection and presentation of this award are at the sole discretion of the National Commander. Nominations for this award can be sent to John Stanford or directly to the USSVI National Commander (

The Ben Bastura Historical Achievement Award
The Annual Ben Bastura Historical Achievement Award is given to the person(s) who have demonstrated their understanding and commitment to our creed in perpetuating the memory of submariners and submarines by gathering, creating, or in other ways preserving a significant amount of submarine history.

The award is given to the person(s) in the submarine community who has shown a broad and encompassing discipline of gathering submarine history. That person should have demonstrated that they are an expert in the many aspects of gathering and preserving submarine history, its artifacts and/or documents.

Meritorious Award
This award is presented to the member, base, or group that most exemplifies the motto, “Pride Runs Deep,” through efforts and involvement in local veterans affairs, parades, school activities, and presentations to civic, legislative, veterans, patriotic and other organizations.

Some examples may be library displays, community bulletin boards, schools, and items that appear in print and/or electronic media, press releases, public/community service announcements, etc, which promote the concept of Honor, Duty, Pride, and the history and lore of the US Navy Submarine Force to the general public and community at large.

The Silver Anchor Award
The Silver Anchor Award is presented to an individual member in recognition of his efforts to support one of the primary objectives of our creed: “to provide a way for all submariners to gather for their mutual benefit and enjoyment.”

This award recognizes the member’s volunteer support for meetings, projects and events, including work to recruit new members and to retain the current membership of the base. This award is only presented to individual members.

Submitting Nominations
Award nominations can be submitted starting now through April 30, 2011. All Award nominations must be received by John Stanford, National Awards Chairman, by that time. E-mail nominations to or mail them to:
USSVI Awards Program
John Stanford, Chairman
3026 Cesery Blvd.
Jacksonville, FL 32277-3527

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Veterans Benefits Speakers at March Meeting

The Seattle Base March meeting is still a couple weeks away, but we wanted to get the information about our March speakers out as early as possible, so you can make plans to attend and invite your veteran friends.

Seattle Base member Dick Gonzales has arranged for the Regional Veterans Services Manager, Mr. Joel Estey, and his guest speaker King County Councilman Mr. Bob Ferguson to speak at our March meeting.

The information they intend to provide can be invaluable to you, especially if you are currently on benefits or curious about any impending changes or enhancements in the system.

King County Councilman Bob Ferguson has been one of the driving forces behind the Veterans and Human Services Levy, a voter supported effort to assist those in need, which was passed by King County voters in 2005. Councilman Ferguson is out front again on promoting support the vote for renewal of the levy, set for later this year.

Councilman Ferguson's presentation will explain the concepts behind the Veterans and Human Services Levy and the impact it has on veterans, their families, and others in need. Some of the topics he will address are: the history of the levy, cost to tax payers, how much funding goes to veterans services, are new veterans seeking services, and the services provided by the levy for veterans and others at risk. You can also find out more about the levy on the King County website. You can read an overview of the accomplishments of the levy, through 2009, here.

After the levy presentation, Mr. Joel Estey will provide an open forum and an opportunity to field relevant questions on veterans affairs, such as:
  • initiating a claim
  • disability compensation
  • compensation and pension benefits
  • survivors benefits, healthcare, and prescription coverage
  • burial services, memorials, etc.

We really believe the presentation and open forum will provide worthwhile information and encourage you to attend and pass information about the meeting along to other veterans.

A special thanks to Dick Gonzalez for coordinating the presentation.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Submarine Educational Videos from a Seattle Base Member

Seattle Base member Darin Detwiler is a teacher who has created a series of short informational videos for his students about the 41 for Freedom ballistic missile submarines, submarine history in the Pacific Northwest, and submarines with Washington state namesakes.

Darin originally posted the links to the videos on the Seattle Base Facebook page and I've embedded them here for your viewing pleasure. As always, you can click on the Full Screen button (the four arrows in the lower right) to view a larger version of the videos.If the videos don't work from the version below, just click the link to YouTube in the description for each video to go to that video.

Thanks to Darin for creating these videos and I hope you enjoy them.

A Brief Look at the 41 for Freedom: U.S. Navy Nuclear Ballistic Missile Submarines from the Cold War era. (

41 For Freedom: A deeper look into the names of the original SSBN fleet.(

41 For Freedom: Epilogue, A look at what became of the original SSBN fleet (

Pacific Northwest Submarine History: A brief look at the historical highlights of submarines in the Pacific Northwest, from before World War II to today.(

Submarine and Washington State Namesakes: A look at Cold War submarines and their namesake Washington cities and counties. (