Theft Of Trade Secrets
The Silicon War Triology
Chapter 6 - My Sub
MY LAGUNA HOUSE
SOUTH LAGUNA CA USA
SATURDAY, AUGUST 11, 1956 0900 HOURS PST
As I was growing up, I found out that I had been raised with very strict values. Not the ones that my parents taught me but what I learned from watching all that YV. Remember, "I Love Lucy", "Leave It To Beaver", "Perry Mason". That's what life was really about. It was the truth because it was on television... right!
Then there were the movies at the theater in Laguna each Saturday that had a major impact on me as well. I also had to admit that it was my father that started everything by exposing me to so many new things. I remember my going with him to a movie on its opening night.
"Run Silent, Run Deep" is a neat war film released in 1958 based on the 1955 novel by then commander Edward L. Beach, Jr. It was directed by Robert Wise, starred Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster. The film depicted the grim reality of WWII submarine warfare as well as expertly exploring the themes of "vengeance", "endurance", "courage", "loyalty", and "honor", and how these can be tested in time of war. It is considered one of the great war-action films of its genre. It was also noted for the special effects, using models and was considered state of the art when the movie was filmed in 1957.
It was also special effects like this that my ideas of a submarine came from and three different designs were drawn up. The first looked like USS Eel, well almost. The second was more like cylinder with a bridge on top. The third was just a sleek dolphin type of design but with side housings to hold the car batteries and this is the one that we choose.
As with all projects, there are the unknown. You can use trial and error methods of learning which I mastered. Or look it up in the dictionary or in this case, ask my dad. As with any question you would ask him, you would get a question for an answer. "I think the question is: How much weight do you need to sink 1 gallon of air? Then scale that up."
Now, there were always unknown things taking place in our house, but this was one for the book, two pans of milk on the counter. "Joe, what is the milk doing on the sink" my mom inquired. See, I needed a gallon container.
Do you know that 1 gallon of sand will not sink 1 gallon of air. Or 5 lb weight will not sink it either. This has something to do with the density of the material.
"Hum, we need lead" Chris said. And where do you get lead? That's right every service station within 5 miles, 19 lbs of it. It seems that when you get your tires balanced, they take off the old weights and throw it away. And for a school project, the service stations were happy to give it to us.
The experiment took place at the Aliso Trailer Park swimming pool. Now, it was not unusual for us to have toys or other objects in the pool, we're boys. But this was a bucket of lead tire weights, the empty gallon of milk container, a small sand bucket with a handle and some string. Put it all together in the pool and the test begins. One after another, a piece of lead was put into the bucket and about half full, the gallon container was just barely floating. One more and down it went. We have the weight needed to sink a gallon of air. Now, how to measure it?
Bill's garage was where the construction began. From the spear fishing we had done over the weekend and selling the fish to the local restaurants, we made over $57. Oh, that night when we went out for dinner, my dad got real pissed when mom told him the Bonita we had for dinner was what Bill and I had got that day. And now he had to pay for it.
Anyway, the fiberglass and resin was obtained from Mac's Surf Shop in Dana Point. It was the same material they were making the new fiberglass surf boards out of.
We had decided to make a single mold of the top half and then make second copy for the bottom. The top mold required a typical conning tower or some place to put our heads to look out. It would also keep the sub from rolling over. Here we just added a rectangle box and attached it to the top mold. Then you just cut through and sand it smooth. For the bottom, it would just be opened at the bottom. We couldn't figure out how to make a hatch or seal it tight. That would have to wait for the next version. This one was just going to be an inverted bubble. There were stabilizers or wings on the front and on the back just like on real subs, plus the rudders.
The engine was simple; fourteen 12-volt batteries attached in parallel to a car starter that had it's shaft going outside with the propeller. Max at Olson's garage built it for us. See, we weren't allowed to do any welding any longer since the fire. To pay for it, we gave Max our left over fish we caught. He also fixed our bike tires and let us work there on weekends cleaning the car's windows as they came in. It was amazing that every time we were there, our parents would come in to buy gas.
Between working on the sub, surfing, and diving, the summer '58 was almost gone when the final assembly began. The light gray paint made the sub less noticeable as Max backed up to the Treasure Island Pier. In less than 15 minutes, it was in the water just bobbing. As we added the batteries to the side compartments, the bobbing finally stopped when all batteries were in place. With the left and right battery hatch in place and sealed with my mom's bathroom calk, there was nothing left to do.
I loved Max when he said, "You boys have fun. I got to go to work now. See you tonight. Hope the fishing is good?" And away he went. He never judged us but was always there to help.
Now most people would wonder or ask the question "How are we going to get this home? Right?" No, we're kids and that decision would have to come later. For now, we just jumped in the water, diving gear on. As we came up inside the sub, the bubbles we were exhaling made the sub rise up even more. We would then have to open a valve to let air out of the bubble to let us sink. Then we put our weight on one of the chairs and the added weight quickly showed us our first mistake. In our design, we forgot to add our weight to the over calculations. Now, the question was how to keep it from sinking to the bottom. In addition, that's what the diving gear was for. If it happened, the gear was our back up to get back to the surface.
Chris got in the front end as "Captain" and slid up onto the seat platform. With the thumbs up, I slid into the back seat. Although we were not using the tanks and regulators, we knew we needed to bring them along. We had been to 50 feet underwater hundreds of times in Scouts and that really was the worst thing that could happen if we lost the bubble somehow.
With a "let's do it", Chris pressed the motor button and the starter started with a very high whine much like starting a car but faster. Even if you know it's going to work, that first lurch of motion was the most exciting thing we had ever done. Then with the release of the button, we started to slow down. Press is again, and we started to move again.
As we had passed the end of the pier, we started thinking about the design and the integrity of the hull. The inverted bubble it's self was holding.
The windows were next to test. "Ready" and Chris opened the exhaust valve and slowly the water level came up into the sub but the water level outside also cleared the top of the windows. We were now under water and under power.
First came a left turn, no problem; and then the right, no problem; and most important still no water leaks or trailing bubbles that would be the primary sign that we were losing the bubble.
Now what happens if we stop? Chris removed his finger and we came to a stop. The silence was unbelievable. You could see the fish and then we noticed the nose was rising. Or was it the tail sinking. No problem. Chris pushed a 5-pound weight forward 6 inches to level us out. We started to level out but we were still sinking. With a blast from my regulator, the sinking slowed. Another burst, "oops too much" and Chris had to let out some air.
There we sat, floating with the current about 6 feet underwater. We figured we would have about 1 hour of power from the batteries but by turning them off now and then, we could push it somewhat.
So the next test of course was to the bottom. We were in about 18 feet of water with a sandy bottom. As Chris let out more air, down we went and we had to clear our ears for the first time. Then we noticed that we were speeding up and even with light bursts from the regulator we hit the bottom with a thud, nose first then the tail.
Damn, our first serious design flaw. As you go deeper under water, that 1 gallon of air is reduced to ½ gallon by the pressure of the water but the weight stays the same so you speed faster to the bottom. This means that if you joy ride by going up and down, you must add air into and out of the sub. That means more air and we only had two tanks of air.
Ok let's surface and see what it takes. This time Chris gives his regulator a blast, then another and another. One more and we started to move. Ok off of the bottom and rising.
At about the 12-foot level, we were moving too fast toward the surface. Chris had to let air out to slow the rise down. At about 5 feet from the surface we stopped. We had now used up about ¼ of our air.
Now, one thing for sure is that with all those houses looking over the ocean, there would have to be someone with binoculars looking at us. And... at the height of the cold war, we just had to be a "commi submarine." Hence, the phone calls to the Coast Guard. As always, the Point Hatter was assigned. So at full speed with the light surface chop, the USS Hatter could easily make the distance from Corona Del Mar within 23 minutes. However, not this day, they were heading home from some exercise off Camp Pendleton 10 miles south and was now about 3 miles off shore just passing Dana Point when they got the call.
It had been a good day. We had learned a lot and had more fun than ever. Chris had taken the sub out about 300 yards off shore into "blue water" for a quick "under power dip" and then back home. The quick dip went to about 40 feet under full power and at the same time, we had turned back toward shore. On the way up, we surfaced to get our bearings and then homeward we went.
As the Hatter was about 1/2 mile out and closing, we broke the surface. "Sir, it's something but not Russian. It's just bobbing there."
Even over the whine of the sub's starter, you could hear the sound of the Hatter approaching. It was just like in the movies. "Damn, we need a rear window" Chris said as he made a slow turn to the left to look out the window.
There she was, "the Hatter making her depth charge run" Chris yelled.
"Down now" I yelled and you could hear the air go "pissssss." We were within 30 yards of the outer rock outcropping; if we could make it there before the Hatter got here we might have a chance. We could hug the rock outcropping back in.
Now the Hatter could easily come into 20 feet of water if they had to but not with the rock outcropping in this area. The Zodiac was ordered ready and about 300 yards off shore, it was launched.
We had made the turn into the Treasure Island harbor and were heading straight toward the pier. We were in about 16 feet of water moving at 1 mph but the Zodiac was closing on us at 20 mph.
It was in our subconscious that first told us something is not right. It was the first time the whine was not as strong. We were losing power and that hum was getting softer, and softer. Then nothing! Chris took his thumb off the button and said "That all folks. Damn almost."
I said, "To the bottom, let the batteries recharge." We should have just enough power to get to the pier that way. With a simple pissss, down we went. Then, here came the Zodiac, first down our left side (excuse me... the port side), then a wide turn and back down our starboard side (the right side). Then with a big turn and back it came down our starboard side and then up our port side.
"Maybe they can't see us" I said?
But just as Chris said "Right", the Zodiac came back this time slower and then came the splash, splash of the two divers.
Well there was only one thing left to do. We waved at them when they swam over to us.
Of course, we got the thumbs up from one of the divers but I don't think he was telling us "good going." We let some air out of our regulator and slowly the sub came to the surface.
Now, it is not a good idea to just slide out the bottom of a submarine with two real divers in the water. You could easily get shot that way but that's what Chris did. Tank, facemask, and fins in hand. Out he went.
Since I didn't hear depth charges, gun shots, or explosions, I followed. In the water, we put our facemasks on and then surfaced. Every once in a while you here a priceless statement from someone that leaves a lasting impression on you, as the Coast Guard diver broke the service he said, "What the hell are you kids doing?"
I answered, "Do you like our submarine?"
Well, they were not amused, the Coast Guard decided to tow the sub back to the pier and wait for the Sherriff. Then after some calls, they changed their minds and towed it out to the Hatter. Up we went, up went the sub, up went the divers, and up went the Zodiac.
As always, we were taken inside to be checked out and offered water. Phone calls or whatever were made. Then we were under way back to Corona del Mar as the Coast Guard called it.
Well, we knew we were in real trouble when Kendrick said, "This time you went too far. Damn it, listen to me; don't you say anything until your parents show up. God damn it you two"! In all the years, we had never heard him swear.
As we docked, we were escorted off the Hatter and into the "Guest detention" area. The needed phone calls had already been made, but instead of our parents showing up, an attorney did.
In a short discussion, it was determined that the sub was not really a submarine as legally defined. Then the question was what it was. "And unless you can point to a law they have broken, they should be released" the attorney said.
After a thorough review of the law, it was decided that we didn't have "the correct underwater communication gear" required by law. Second, was the port side battery compartment had leaked some salt water into the compartment. This opened us up to some environmental rule and was given a ticket for that. Finally it was settled with..."Therefore someone else could handle this."
We never saw the sub again, but we did get our diving gear back. Chris really got busted by his parents. He was sent to the Carlsbad Military Academy for the next school year. And when his father was transferred to Washington DC, Chris went to high school there.
For me, there was grounding, community service, no surfing, grounded, more community service, oh did I mention grounding. It wasn't really bad, there was still school and now I had more time to work on my other projects in my bedroom. But what was bad, my father stopped talking to me. It would have been ok if he would have yell at me or how about a lecture or something. No. Just silence.
Of course there came the psychologists who tried to analyze me. Oh the tests were fun. You do them with your right hand the first time and then your left the second. It really screwed up the tests and their notes.
There was this last one. During one of the sessions, he brought out two dolls with all the right equipment needed to embarrass a kid, but he started asking me these really strange questions like if I liked boys or want to dress like girls. Real dumb... right?
After going around and around for a while, I asked him what's really going on. He said, "Your mother is worried about you wearing your sister's underwear and I am just trying to understand this need."
"First, I don't wear my sister's underwear, second I..." and it had just dawned on me, Paul and Joann were using my bed.
He realized something happened and quickly changed topics by asking me, "Do you play Chests."
As we played, he would then ask some bizarre questions like "James, why do you feel the need to show off in class?"
"Look, the only way to get attention is to do something extraordinary. Like I get straight A's and I get a mimeographed award to take home. BFD! Even my father didn't look at it, it was just expected. So watch what happened when I got D's. He may have been yelling at me, but at least he spent time with me to do my homework. But then he just got me a tutor when it became time consuming."
Or the time the shrink asked, "Why do you build everything so large?"
"Look, making a plastic Revel model is what other kids do. It's too easy for me. So I scale thing up from the original, put real engines in it, and install my radio control in it. One day, I will build models for the movies." What I didn't say was how pissed my dad was when he was told that my mom bought the radio control gear for me.
Oh, one day that I was there, I had to go next door for a hearing check. My hearing was perfect but my father and the school said I was not hearing them. Well school was boring and the surf was up. And then, how long can a kid get yelled at before he no longer hears the yelling?
"Look", I said "every time I do something he doesn't like, he tells me what I did wrong. Mom calls him a perfectionist, but Joann and I call it 'the lecture'. Look, I don't even hear it any longer but then he's spending time with me and that's great. Right?"
Finally, after many talks about my father and the other adult men in my life, I got serious one day and said, "Look, I want to make my father proud of me. All the other fathers seem like me, mine doesn't. So now do what I want, a screw him. Look, in school, my grades are back to A' but this isn't good enough. Even when I bring home these mimeograph awards, it just get me bitched at. So screw him. You asked me one day why I cut school to go surfing? Well that's simple, it's quiet out there."
It was also the first time I became aware of the 'open mouth affect' when someone was shocked at what I said. From then on, we just played Chests. I didn't answer any of his dumb questions, he got paid and my mom was happy.
Some time passed when out of the blue during a very good chest match, he asked about the underwear again. Without thinking I said, "Paul and my sister were using my bed to screw around. Check mate!" I got him. It was the first time that I had beaten him and as it turned out the last, I never went back.
See, he told my mom and dad about Joann. Joann then abandoned me and was sent off to a girl's boarding school in Los Angeles where I was allowed to visit her once a month. Oh... I was allowed to bring her a candy bar!
Lesson learned: If you talk, you will harm someone!