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"They have a saying on submarines: You have days and weeks of total boredom and minutes and seconds of sheer terror." (Audio Interview, 15:52)

   Gerald McCarthy
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War: Cold War; Cold War
Branch: Navy
Unit: USS Lowry (Destroyer)
Service Location: New London, Connecticut; Pearl Harbor; Charleston, South Carolina; United States Naval Academy, Maryland; Naval War College, Rhode Island; Pentagon; Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) at Purdue
Rank: Captain
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Gerald McCarthy entered the Naval Academy in 1950 and spent his first two years of active duty aboard a destroyer before switching to submarines. He served on four subs and offers detailed descriptions of what it takes to become a submariner and his various duties in confined spaces. His missions during the Cold War and the Vietnam War were mainly patrol and reconnaissance, some of which he's still not at liberty discuss in detail. He also enjoyed a satisfying series of shore duties in the Pentagon, the War College, and at Purdue University with their ROTC program. After retirement from the Navy, he taught at Purdue for 14 years.

Interview (Audio)
»Interview Highlights  (4 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: audio (54 min.)
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»Submarines: The Silent Service
 Audio (Interview Excerpts) (4 items)
Submariners have to know everything about their boat; in case of emergency, people can take over for others; important to be a team player; training is very intense; going to sub school in New London, CT; saying that on subs you have weeks of boredom and seconds of terror; accidents are potentially catastrophic, given that you are usually underwater. (04:01) After school, his first sub, with a good skipper; his duties were supply officer, taking care of food; everyone ate the same; fresh food runs out soon, so you plan for prepared and canned items; also taking care of spare parts; on his second sub, he was communications officer and engineer officer; third sub, he was operations officer; time on sub was fragmented; you were on for four hours, off for eight, never getting more than 4 or so hours of sleep at a time. (05:33) Typical day in the life of a CO; surveying weather and traffic in your area; hold drills during the day; simulate firing torpedoes; cruising depth usually 65 feet; have to be careful of ships that could run over you, sometimes with a towing cable; being mindful of not running down the batteries and replenishing the air; taking in salt water to convert to steam and fresh water in the days before nuclear subs, which could generate fresh air and water and allow the sub to stay submerged longer. (06:32)
Running into a storm in the Bermuda Triangle; weather changed quickly from balmy to stormy; men who were on deck had be strapped in to avoid being washed overboard; water coming down the snorkel and shutting down the engines; monitoring traffic near Vietnam during the war but cannot talk in detail about where they were; they were down for 51 consecutive days; fortunately, the crew was pared down and no one had to share a bunk--the hot bunk principle. (03:53)  

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  October 26, 2011
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