Cavalla Crew Interview

Doug Helm

On my first trip to sea all of the electronics equipment assigned to the ETís had failed by the time we reached Montauk Point. This was my first time at sea as a crew member. At that time, I was a Third Class ET and there was one other 3rd Class, one Second Class, and two seamen. I was the only one who knew anything about the RADAR as I had just finished a school on it while in ET school at San Francisco, at Treasure Island. By the time we returned, approximately one week later, we had all the equipment working except the ECM equipment. On our return the other Third Class and the Second Class were transferred and I became the leading ET on board. That was my first experience with the delegation of authority and assumption of responsibility.

I learned a lot of things while on board the Cavalla which helped prepare me for later life. The Navy was the final prep school for my future in life as I am sure it was for several men my age during this period of required military service.

In reviewing the comments by the crew members on your web site, several fond memories are brought to mind.

I was on board with Hank Baxter but unlike him I didnít make the Cuban blockade. At the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, I had just gotten married and was on leave. When I called in they had already loaded up with stores and war shots and left. I was told to enjoy my leave and report back to the base when my leave was over. Hank and I still keep in touch as I do with several crew members I met while on board the Cavalla.

Cavalla Crew Party circa 1960

I was very impressed with Yogi Kaufman while he was the CO. As he stated in his comments, when we were on exercises with other subs it was interesting to observe his tactics. On the trip to San Juan with the Thresher, we would time the difference between the initial SONAR pulse from them and the bottom pulse and determine their range. With this information and bearing information from our Passive SONAR, he was able be a very accurate shooter when we were suppose to be the target. They were puzzled by his accuracy. He could inspire you to follow him to Hell and back. When we would be returning from an exercise he would always send an ETA that he knew he would beat and the crew always thought he got us back early. One time while the several boats were waiting for the draw bridge at New London to open he cleared the decks, partially flooded down, and went under the bridge. We were all glad to be the first one back to port.

In Gary Batchís story on our trip to San Juan when we jumped started the Thresher was one of many stories of how we always seemed to make do with what we had. On one trip the RADAR failed due to gear problems in the Syncro and Servo mechanism. We were able to repair it with a part manufactured by the men in the engine room. As always it was a team effort to complete our mission.

I remember the incident related by Robert Mahon and as he stated a shower was always a prized reward on a submarine.

January 1998

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