I hosted the release of this book on my blog in November last year. Here’s an excerpt which I hope shades some light on the Navy’s most secret service…
About the Book
6 book Poopie Suits Series
Genre: Cold War Biography, Non-Fiction
Date Published: 17th January 2018
Poopie Suits and Cowboy Boots is a story of a young man volunteering to serve aboard a US submarine, and the life changing journey he had to take to even get on a submarine. Then, once aboard, you go through the day-to-day life while on the front lines of the Cold War at sea. The scary incidents, the wild times in ports of call, the ongoing testing the men were subjected to by the crew. Historical touch points anchor the story in the mid to late ’60s, a time of the nascent space program and the Vietnam War.
Frank’s story serves as a frame work to explain how submarine systems operate, in simple easy to understand terms. There is a lot packed into this true story, and we hope that those who read it will come away with an enhanced understanding of what these men went through, the sacrifices that had to made, the unrelenting pressure of zero mistakes in an always potential deadly environment. An deep insight into the Silent Service.
After introduction, Poopie Suits for 4 years was selected among the 100 All-Time Best Books about Submarines by The Book Authority. For the same time frame, it was also listed in Amazon’s top 100 books about the Cold War. An entertaining and informative true story that takes you through the intensive training from the day a person volunteers to serve on a submarine to the day they walk aboard. The scene then shifts to a hot running, brand new, fast attack nuclear submarine during the height of the Cold War and gives you a front row seat to how day-to-day life unfolded. Funny stories are told side-by-side with clear and accurate explanations of submarine systems. A fact-filled book with a heart-warming edge, you will learn a lot about the Silent Service by reading this book.
About the Authors
Frank Hood received a NROTC Scholarship to Purdue and started his formation to being commissioned as a Naval Officer. For his Senior Cruise, he was assigned to a WWII era submarine and he saw, first hand, the loose rules coupled with the cool and professional execution of duties, along with the great fun they crew had when the pressure was off. He greatly appreciated the tight camaraderie they had, and he knew that is what he wanted when he graduated.
This is the genesis of this book. For over 1 year of Nuclear Power and Submarine Officer training, to 3 years of keeping the Soviet Submarine Force at bay, this experience was one of the most impacting of his life. Post Navy, he worked as an Engineer, Sales Person, and Business Owner. Retired to New Hampshire and enjoying life. Active in the submarine veteran community, the deep bond formed 50 years before is even stronger and more appreciated.
Charles Hood is a physician practicing in South Carolina. For years he was intrigued by his older brother Frank’s service on a hot running, fast attack submarine, but could not get Frank to ever talk about it. Finally, he convinced Frank by saying, “Even without the secret mission details, your day-to-day life is a unique story, and if you don’t tell it so others can appreciate what you went through, who will?” With that Frank dictated his story and Charles word smithed it and add additional research. Vetting by many other sub vets helped reduce the errors caused by 50 year old memories. The resulting story has been acclaimed by submarine veterans and civilians alike. It is in its 5th Edition, have had other details and stories added to the original content.
From Chapter 11:
We were always aware that Soviet submarines—both fast-attacks and boomers—were never too far away, even during these drills. The Soviet equivalent of our boomers functioned similarly—staying submerged for prolonged periods, tracing the same circular paths underwater, standing at the ready for a nuclear strike on the US mainland. Of course, we had our boomers in place similarly along the Soviet coast. These tactics were highly volatile, as one wrong move could have resulted in global annihilation, but the knowledge that any missile strike by one side in the US/USSR Cold War would result in an immediate and blistering counteroffensive by the other side (the so-called Mutually Assured Destruction or MAD Doctrine) did serve its purpose as an effective deterrent to nuclear war.
Back in those days, our submarines were superior to the Soviets’ regarding effective sound-dampening technologies. We ran very quietly, and we could approach their submarines fairly closely without detection. The converse wasn’t generally true, however; we seldom experienced difficulty in determining that we had some Soviet company nearby.
We stayed in the passive mode with sonar— listening only—and couldn’t believe just how noisy the Soviets were. On their boomers, we could hear all sorts of sounds: a dropped wrench, a flushed toilet, even the soundtracks of their movies or loud conversations. The lack of sound insulation compared to our boats was stunning, but it gave us a big advantage in the cat-and-mouse “games” (for lack of a better word) played underwater.
Our sound equipment was incredibly sensitive. To gain the best understanding of the sheer collecting power of our equipment, familiarity with the amazing tech inside the sonar dome was essential. This was an 18-foot diameter orb-shaped unmanned room positioned immediately inside the ship’s bow. Here, an array of more than 100 sound sensors was deployed on the exterior of a big sphere; think of it as a round studio with a bank of microphones (hydrophones) pointed outward in all directions, with each microphone connected to its own speaker in the Sonar Shack in Ops.
Each hydrophone yielded unique auditory information that was subjected to sophisticated sound processing and then displayed on a circular screen inside the Sonar Shack. Inside that room, which was always kept very dark, there were usually two highly trained men on watch who monitored all of the displays surrounding them as they intently listened to the sounds of the sea through earphones. Like air traffic controllers, these guys had to remain hypervigilant for any noises considered out of the ordinary. These sonar operators were called sonar men, and they played an extremely important role in our survival and success at sea. To the untrained ear, listening to the cacophony of sounds funnelled into their earphones and displayed in wave format on the monitors around them was a bewildering experience. The sea was a relatively noisy place at times, with multiple sound sources superimposed upon one another.
For example, the sounds of sea mammals like whales and dolphins were easily detected by our hydrophone system. The whale songs could last for minutes if not hours, and they never repeated themselves. In addition to these biologics, the sonarmen had to tune out the pounding sounds of the ocean itself especially during periods of heavy wave action and storms. Add to the list of interfering noises the turbulence created by our own boat slicing through the water. We could often hear these background sounds of the sea in the Control Room as a live audio feed from the Sonar Shack, and I can recall my difficulty in trying to discern what I was hearing at any particular moment. T
he job of the sonarmen was to eliminate or ignore the irrelevant background noise and to instead discriminate those sounds that might signal the proximity of an enemy ship. Let me tell you, these guys were really, really good at their jobs. With their experience in detecting even the slightest hint of a manmade sound originating anywhere outside our boat, they could detect a Soviet sub or surface ship from many miles away.
Once while we were in the Mediterranean Sea, the sonarman standing watch pickedup on a Soviet cruiser that we subsequently learned was more than 250 miles away at the time. It was an amazing feat, but when the sea conditions were just right (“good thermals”), the sound of the enemy could propagate through the water for many miles. Remember that while we were busy trying to detect the enemy by passive sonar, they were doing the same thing, by both submerged (submarine) and surface (destroyer) sonar. Our goal was to keep tabs on them without revealing our position. Since we had superior sound detection equipment and analysis, and because our subs ran quieter, we were able to meet this compound objective under most circumstances. T
wo important keys to our success were (1) going deep and (2) staying in passive (listening-only) sonar mode. The importance of proper depth, while not necessarily immediately obvious to a novice, was absolutely crucial in helping us maintain our cover. Although sound waves do travel a long way in shallow water, there is a certain depth below which sound wave transmission is significantly degraded. By finding that depth, we could become nearly completely inaudible to an enemy. On the other hand, that same principle which facilitating our concealment also meant that our own passive sonar capability for detecting a nearby enemy was compromised.
Every move, I learned, had trade offs. The odds of a surface enemy ship “seeing” us diminished greatly below a depth of 400 feet and became almost nil (even with the best Soviet destroyer sonar equipment) at 600 feet. Thus, we walked a tightrope at all times in finding just the right depth to continue monitoring our enemies while minimizing their capacity to detect us. If you stop to think about it, it was for this precise reason that the US Navy placed such a premium on constructing submarines that could withstand very deep dives.
By staying below the effective zone of sonar detection, our travels could not be easily ascertained by the enemy. This strategy also helped to explain why the Soviets placed such a premium on maintaining their sonobuoy network on the seabed of important shipping routes in the Atlantic and Mediterranean waters. The general upshot of this paradigm was that we routinely varied our operating depth: deeper for better cover but less ability for surveillance; shallower for better sonar capability but poorer cover. Those vessels around us that relied on active sonar—whether submerged or surfaced—were very easy to detect. (Pinging is extremely loud. At the source, the sound of a single ping may exceed 200 decibels.) As a result, such intermittent pinging could be readily heard from just about any compartment aboard the Seahorse.
Also, I should point out that the classic Hollywood version of the “ping” sound is nothing like the real thing. An actual ping is not a single note, but a series of different frequencies in crescendo, and the sound is a lot shriller.