Doug was an IC Man aboard the USS Columbus (CG-12). He came aboard while the ship was in the Portsmouth yards in July of 1969, as an ICFN. He left in Athens in August of 1972, as an IC2.
The gear was an NC2 plotter, which was the size of a pool table, a little taller, that had a translucent plastic top, and a number of controls on the sides. It was placed in the CIC and used to keep track of various inputs from sonar and radar, or manually placed points. A given color of light would be assigned to a bright spot that would be moved around the top by the selected input. And one input could be the ship. One could be a plane. One could be a man overboard. One could be a submarine, etc. And the folks in CIC would have a graphical representation of these various points of interest, all moving around the tabletop, in an accurate relation to the ship. Various scales could be put in for distances and speeds. This, ideally, took the place of people constantly drawing patterns by hand on plastic wall plates to keep track of ''targets".
Anyway the main instructor in the school was named Andy McMullen, and he was a civilian engineer contracted to us from the factory that made the plotter. He was a nice guy, and very bright. The course had never been taught before, and he was constantly making notes from the questions being asked by the students, to try and refine the teaching materials. I was usually very interested in the things being taught, and tried to do my best to learn. The equipment needed to maintain this plotter was new to me too. As a technical person yourself I am sure much of this would not be new to you. I was an IC-man, and I figured out that my rate was unique in the sense that it combined electrical/electronic knowledge with skills focused on mechanical workings. Most of our IC gear was a mix. And the plotter was no different in that sense. But everything was super-sensitive, and demanded the finest touch in tuning the various electronic processors to make everything work right. The first time we were allowed to open the side panels on the plotter in order to get to and work on the inner computer-guided light projectors [that produced the various colored spots on the top of the table] we learned that even the fastening screws were different. New to me were these "captive screws" that had to be pushed in first and turned a quarter turn. Then the springs behind them would push the slotted screw heads out. There must have been twenty such screws per side panel. And about 8 separate side panels. Then we were introduced to the "differential volt-meter". This was needed to properly adjust the computer card "pots" that changed voltages by 1000's of volts to the controlling drives.
When I returned to the ship after 6 weeks of this very exacting school, I was told I was needed right away in the CIC to fix the plotter that had been installed there in my absence. Our chief said that he had been forced by higher ranking people to send George [a higher ranking IC-man than me, and very smart] to try and fix it since I wasn't available. Well, I saw the plotter, and just cried [internally, of course]. George was sorry that he couldn't figure out how to open the side panels, and had just forced the screws out. He did not know about captive screws. He did not know about differential volt meters either. And the tiny adjusting screws for the "pots" looked like they had been abused. I asked for our unit's differential volt-meter, and was told no one knew what that was. Supply records showed one had been checked out to our shop years ago, but it had disappeared. I asked at the ET shop to borrow their DV, but was rudely told where to go....they would never loan such a piece of gear to a lowly IC-man. In short the plotter never did work. And I could never make it work with the crude equipment available to me. And so a multi-million dollar plotter was just a place to put coffee cups.
I had a similar experience with motion picture projector repair school. This was a 2-week school that I attended in Norfolk about July, 1970. IC-men were responsible to show the movies to the crew, and to repair and maintain the projectors...16 mm Bell & Howell units that were built like tanks. Such projectors required knowledge about both their mechanical and their electronic guts. One week in the school was devoted to each subject. Again, I was the only person on Columbus allowed to go, and our repair shop for the projectors was sadly packed with non-working projectors. It turns out that the most critical part of the projector is the "shuttle", which precisely and quickly moves the film through a serpentine path before the projector light, and across a sound head, and then onto a take-up reel. The "shuttle" is somewhat like a table fork with a couple of sharp prongs that grabs the holes in the side of the 16 mm film and whirs up and down, and in and out doing its job. When it gets out of adjustment it chews up the film, and the picture jumps around, and the sound can get screwy. To adjust the "shuttle" you need to have a Bell & Howell "shuttle adjustment kit" which comes in a neat box about the size of a match-box. It cost about $1600 for such a kit. So when I got back to the ship, I was ordered to the "movie locker", an IC space where the projectors, movies and repair parts and equipment was stored. I felt great. The space was well air-conditioned and could be locked from the inside. There was only room for one or two people. And it was an ideal place to work....and to hide from dirty hot work elsewhere. I eagerly tore into my first broken projector, and looked all over for the Magic "shuttle adjustment kit". When I could not find it, I asked around. No one had ever heard of one, or seen one. I checked Supply, and we were supposed to have two in our unit. Must have been lost or stolen years before. So I just made do, like other IC-men before me, who had never had the benefit of the repair school. And the projectors never did work quite right.
The lesson for me in both of these incidents was this. Any gear that required special repair gear should never have been put on a Navy ship. Sailors just could not be trusted with this fancy stuff. Great engineering should have been focused on simplifying the equipment so that simple tools could be used to maintain it.
Another memory popped up. About November 1971 I was an IC-2, and was increasingly assigned to fix or handle lots of dirty jobs that in earlier days would have gone to lower ranking people in our unit. But we were increasingly short-handed, and the 1st class and chief felt many jobs would never get done if they did not tell me to do them. One particularly dirty job came my way when we learned that a fuel oil leak had allowed about 2 inches of oil build up under our MG room motor-generators. These MG sets were about half the size of a volkswagen. One end was a 60-cylce motor that drove the generator end, which produced 400-cycle power that fed the missile houses. The missile control people used 400-cycle power on many pieces of equipment because it allowed for use of much smaller motors. We had 6 of these MG sets in an armored room in the lowest portion of the ship right at the bow. An armored hatch that was usually locked and weighed about 400 pounds required two men to lift and lock open, so IC-men could go down a ladder where the MG sets ran. The place was noisy and hot. The MG sets were bolted to an aluminum plate floor, where individual plates could be unscrewed for access to the crawl space underneath, where cables were strung everywhere. That was where the fuel oil had built up. There was only one way to clean it out. I sent a couple of "peons" to raid every living space on the ship, and steal as many rolls of toilet paper as they could find. They were to also bring back dozens of big plastic bags. Totally sacrificing a uniform I descended into this black smelly hot mess and soaked up the oil with the toilet paper while the "peons" just above me filled the plastic bags, and ran them up six decks to throw them over the side. Wonderful environmental impact! I spent about 5 hours crawling in this crap until I had mopped all the oil up, all the time hoping nothing would catch fire. And feeling burning on my skin from the oil which had soaked everything I was wearing. When the job was done it took about an hour of work to get clean. And of course I got the usual thanks...nothing.
Another memory. I learned sometimes that some people are truly ingenious. One day the electricians [EMs who were more numerous than IC-men, and occupied the same E-division on Columbus] had a large motor that would not work due to lack of a large resistor to replace one that had fried. Their 1st Class took a couple of EMs and made them file bolts into iron dust. Then he took some non-conductive rod, mixed the iron dust into glue, and pasted the mix onto the rod. After it dried he attached a multimeter to it, and gradually cut it to length to a point where it read the resistance he was looking for. When put into the motor-controller circuit it worked perfectly. I never forgot the lesson that you don't always need a factory made part.
Some IC-men and EMs were getting darned tired of bad haircuts at the ship's barbershop. So some of our bolder guys told them we needed good "near" civilian haircuts. Of course the barbers told them [and all of us] to stick it. But in a week, if you told them you were either an electrician or an IC-man you got what you wanted for a haircut. Why? Because the EMs cut off their air conditioning. And we cut off their SE circuit [ship's entertainment]. So we could work on it of course. One of our guys...Haney...was a deal maker. He arranged for IC-men whites to be starched and pressed whenever we needed it. And later dungarees too. We looked as good as chiefs and officers for awhile there. Because Haney arranged for the Laundrymen to see private movies in their living quarters on a regular basis. That is all it took. Small favors went a long way.
On a bright and beautiful summer morning we pulled into Athens harbor. Suddenly GQ was called, including "...this is NOT a drill....this is NOT a drill.." Normally it took the crew about 7.5 minutes to secure all hatches and all hands at duty stations for GQ. We did it that time in about 5 minutes! It appears someone had spotted what looked like an old mine floating near the ship. And whoever was in charge did it by the book and called GQ to button up the ship in case of explosion from the mine. But for awhile everyone thought WWIII must have started.
On a another bright summer morning...Sunday , when we were allowed to sleep in unless on watch, with only the red lights on in the berthing compartments. I woke about 0700 to feel the ship not moving. Went up on the main deck, and we in fact were stopped. A carrier was about a quarter of a mile from us. And one of our small boats had been put into the water, and was towing something. Turned out the carrier had dropped a new jet engine into the water. And since it was packaged in a buoyant water-proof container we were able to take it back to them and save the Navy a million bucks or so.
We pulled into Izmir, Turkey in 1971, I think. In the city itself we were told there were a lot of hostiles. Many of us went on bus tours to places like Ephesis, an old Roman city mentioned as one of the Bible books [Letters to the Ephesians]. Very good tour, and the locals were friendly. Anyway an EM acquaintance went into town instead. He was minding his own business when a mob of unfriendlies approached him. A number of Turkish cops appeared and pushed him up against a car nearby, and "circled the wagons" around him to protect him from the mob. They were yelling at him in a language he only knew was quite hostile. As he faced the folks shouting at him, someone quietly crawled over the roof of the car from the street. And he was knocked silly by a weighted umbrella. When I saw him he had a bloody head for awhile. But no serious or permanent injury.
Here is a comment Doug wrote to me when he was sending these Memories:
"Your putting this stuff on the site is a real kick. I found a lot of friends pictures there, who before I could not even remember their names. Brought back more memories. Ready for another? You must be sick of these by now!"
Well Doug, it is a real kick to read the stories, too!!! And I'm not tired of reading them either :-)