I reported aboard Collett in August 1962, two years out of college and still very wet behind the ears. My assigned station for special sea and anchor detail was on the bridge. During my first two weeks aboard, we shifted berths four times, leading Capt. Bischof to quip that I had probably logged more time under way in the harbor than most ensigns had at sea in a comparable period of time.
In October we went into drydock at Yokosuka so they could remove our sonar dome and do some maintenance work. That’s where we were when President Kennedy ordered all U.S. forces on high alert because of the Cuban missile crisis.
The captain assembled the officers in the wardroom and announced that we had received secret orders and were to make preparations for putting to sea as soon as possible. He wouldn’t tell us where we were going, although he did suggest that we be sure to have warm clothes.
I went to the Navy Exchange and bought sweatshirts, sweatpants, and heavy socks.
We got under way two days later and after we had cleared the mouth of Tokyo Bay the captain came up on the 1MC and announced to all hands that we had been ordered to carry out an anti-submarine patrol across the Tsugaru Strait, which separates Honshu from Hokkaido--one of three possible routes a submarine could take into the Pacific after leaving the Soviet sub base at Vladivostok.
We proceeded up the east coast of Honshu at maximum speed, pinging all the way. Once on station, we shivered our way through several days and nights of slow figure eights, always turning toward the west so as to keep our sonar pointing toward the target area, hunting the elusive submarine. Standing bridge watches, I couldn’t remember ever having been colder.
For the duration of the patrol, we had no contacts.
Returning to Yokosuka, it was dusk, and they had just called away the special sea and anchor detail. My station was in CIC, and I had my foot on the bottom rung of the ladder up to the O-1 level when I heard our whistle give one short blast. "Okay," I thought. "We're turning right." Halfway up the ladder I heard a second short blast. "Not right," I corrected myself, "left." I hadn't quite reached the top when I heard the third short blast, which made me wonder if I should be running aft instead of heading for CIC.
Turned out some Japanese tanker coming out of Tokyo Bay didn't want to give way to an American destroyer, so we were backing down to stay clear of him.
A couple of months later some of us were at the O Club bar in Yokosuka when a group of submariners brought out an 8 x 10 glossy black-and-white photograph. It showed Collett at sea, at a target angle of maybe 30 degrees, the “730” clearly visible on our starboard bow, just above the crosshairs of their periscope sight.
They had found us headed north off the east coast of Honshu, and we never knew they were there. I can’t remember how many rounds of drinks we had to buy them to acquire the evidence and their promise not to tell the rest of the squadron.