Unknown Waters: A Firsthand Account of the Historic Under-Ice Survey of the Siberian Continental Shelf by USS Queenfish (SSN-651)

By Alfred S. McLaren | Go to book overview

2
Becoming a Submarine Officer

Looking back, I cannot help but wonder at the convoluted path that led me to become commanding officer of USS Queenfish, on 12 September 1969, after two years serving as her executive officer and twelve years of sea experience, most of them in submarines.

I had, in fact, never planned to become a submariner, much less a nuclear submarine commander. Long before entering the U.S. Naval Academy on 5 July 1951, my sights had been set on being a Marine Corps fighter pilot. Airplanes had been my passion since boyhood, so submarines were definitely the furthest thing from my mind when, approaching service selection and graduation from the academy, I learned from a final precommissioning physical that my right eye was 20/30, not good enough for flying. My fallback plan of becoming a marine infantry officer and going to a reconnaissance company following basic school at Quantico abruptly fell through as well when the U.S. Department of Defense mandated that 25 percent of our class was to be commissioned in the U.S. Air Force (its academy's first graduating class was still several years away).

To my utter dismay, following graduation I found myself headed for Navy line (instead of the U.S. Marine Corps) and a Pacific-based destroyer, USS Gregory (DD-802). It was unbelievable, particularly for my family, which had heard me maintain for years that I would never be a naval officer. My attitude formed during my early teenage years when my father, Captain William F. McLaren, took me to sea on his destroyer, USS Fraser (DM-24), for extended periods during the summers. Constant rough seas, not to mention all the unpleasant smells from a de

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