Sunday, March 12, 2006

Odd Ball Cap - Story

Have you ever saved something, forgot about it, and then found it years later. Such is the provenance of the item pictured below, with one odd twist; the ship's name doesn't match the current hull number.

(Click on Photo to see a current USS Rhode Island ball cap)

Story of the Ball Cap's origin:
In the summer of 1982 I was home in Rhode Island on leave from my first submarine home ported in Charleston SC/King Bay GA. (Off crew was in Charleston, boat refit and deployed from Kings Bay). Home for me was North Kingstown, RI and the New England village of Wickford.

While at home on leave I was invited by a neighbor to crew for a day of sailing on Narragansett Bay. The sailboat was a 35' sloop, so two could handle it with no problem. The winds were typical for a summer on Narragansett Bay about 1o knots or less in the morning increasing to 15+ in the afternoon if a good sea breeze kicked in from the southwest.

Around noon time somewhere about a half mile off Quonset Point near Hope island I spotted this ball cap floating in the water. Grabbing a boat hook I quickly fished the above hat out of the bay. Having been a machinist at Electric Boat's Quonset Point facility before joining the Navy I knew that some yardbird working on the waterfront probably lost the hat and it ended up in the bay. At the end of the day I rinsed the seawater out of the ball cap, dried it out and put it away in the stuff I had stored at home, then forgot about it.

From some reason that hat has followed me from closet to storage, seabag to foot locker and cellar to attic.

So what's so odd about that ball cap?
First it is not an official US Navy ships ball cap, it was produced and sold to local Electric Boat shipyard workers taking pride in producing a Trident submarine named after their state.
Second the name and hull number were actually correct at the time. On Jan 19, 1981 the keel was laid for the SSBN 730 hull and it was at that time designated to become the USS Rhode Island.

It was not until the after death of Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson on Sept. 1, 1983 while in office that the intended SSBN 730 naming was changed from USS Rhode Island to USS Henry M. Jackson. The announcement of this change was made by then President Ronald Reagan on Sept. 9, 1983.

The Democrat from the state of Washington was a strong advocate of the Trident Submarine program and a leading member of the Senate Armed Services committee.

Believing in a strong national defense, supporter of human rights and advocate for free market economies many of Senator Jackson's former Assistants went on to become key figures in the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations. These Assistants include Richard Pearl, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith.

The USS Henry M. Jackson (SSBN 730) is the only Trident submarine not named in honor of a state. The USS Henry M. Jackson was commissioned on Oct. 6, 1984.

Ten Trident hulls and a little less than ten years later on July 9, 1994 the SSBN 740 hull was commissioned as the USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740).

The USS Henry M. Jackson is home ported in Bangor WA. and the USS Rhode Island out of Kings Bay GA.

Another odd bit of trivia, long serving Rhode Island Senator John Chafee who died in 1999 while in office also had a Navy ship named after him, the USS Chafee (DDG-90). Senator John Chafee served as Secretary of the Navy from 1969 to 1972.

I've never worn that ball cap and don't know if many still exist but I'll still hang on to if not for any other reason than I think it's a bit odd.


WillyShake said...

What a great post! I not only learned a bit of trivia--I learned *history*! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jim,

That's about the same time I was sailing on Wednesday races in the upper bay and I lost that very same hat overboard!! I bet ya it's my old hat! Let's talk at the next RI base meeting, Shipmate.

Lubber's Line said...

Hmmm, Bob that sounds a little fishy shipmate. We'll have to discuss this over a beer. I can't believe an old sonar tech didn't near the splash and change course 180 to investigate. -LL

Vigilis said...

Lubber, even if bob rogers had his name in the ballcap, it is a great tale. For that reason, and hoping you have a good sense of humor (how else would you have survived submarines) I have linked to and embellished it. -still laughing!

Paul Farace said...

Found my ssbn 730- Rhode Island cap in a thrift store. Now have both Rhode Island and Jackson caps!