E-mail from Walt Trotter

It happened during a Med cruise during the fall of 1958. We were operating with the Sixth Fleet and at the time of the occurrence we were submerged to about 100 feet and doing about one knot.

I was working outboard on No. I engine (good “ole” Fairbanks, 10 cylinder, opposed piston engines—neither the Japanese nor the Germans ever made any diesels that good). No. 1 engine: port engine, Forward Engine Room—port is left for you land lubbers. I was replacing either a fuel injector or a cylinder over pressure relief valve. Then it happened: I heard a faint scrapping sound. It seemed to be coming from somewhere forward on the port side. As I listened, it grew in intensity and volume and coming relatively closer and closer. It passed right by me and trailed off to the stern and consequently off the port screw guard (a note to land lubbers—a screw on a boat or ship does essentially the same thing a propeller does on an airplane).

I was an ENFN at the time and was standing watch with a 3rd class Engineman (SS) named Rucka who was in charge of the Forward Engine Room on our watch. He heard the noise, as did others. After we had a little time to reflect on what we had just heard, we realized that it must have been an old WWII mine. We then began to think what if we had been running closer to the surface. I don’t remember today what others on board felt or expressed about what just happened. However, I do recall it gave Petty Officer Rucka and I the willies.

I was young and immature in those days (18 years old—joined the Navy at 17) and I think that had I been older and much more mature, I would have grasped the gravity of what we had just experienced and would have had more than just the willies; perhaps something of a more physical nature. It would be interesting to know what some of the others, who might read this and were on board at the time, remember and experienced emotionally and/or “physically”.

Wally K. passes along information from Joe O'Brien regarding this event. “I was on watch at the air manifold in the Control Room at the time, with a few (many war patrol) WWII sailors, when they became apprehensive. One said ‘it sounded like a mine cable scraping down the side of the hull, and they should have known’. Fortunately, we had screw gards which held the cable away from the screws. At any rate, it got the adrenalin flowing, and left us with a good story.

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