USS Lafayette SSBN 616
Chief of the Boats

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Updated: 1/28/2019
Chief of the Boat (COB) is a senior enlisted man on a submarine in the US Navy who assists and advises the Commanding Officer and Executive Officer on matters regarding the good order and discipline of the crew. There is only one COB on a submarine and he is generally responsible for the day-to-day operations of the boat's non-commissioned personnel and for their morale and training. While it is usually true that the COB is the most senior enlisted man, it is not strictly required. The CO is neither required to select the highest ranking man or the most senior in time in grade aboard, nor to replace his COB with a more senior man who reports aboard after the COB's selection.

When a new enlisted sailor joins a boat's crew, the COB is usually one of the first people he will meet. While the COB is outside the direct chain of command for sailors junior to him, he has a tremendous amount of authority and carries a lot of weight, generally being thought of as the top of a virtual enlisted chain of command.

61-63  QMC    Sitter, Allan E
63-65  ETCM   Hilt, Roy August
65-67  HMCS  Eaves, Charles "Doc"
67-67  TMC     Williams, James J

--- Overhaul --- 

68-69  MMC   Surrette, Jim (Red)
69-69  FTCS   Roth, David
69-71  TMC    Jones, George C
71-72  FTCM  Masterson, Tom

--- Overhaul --- 

74-77  FTCS    Mahan, Robert R
77-79  MMCM  Mumford, Ronald
79-81  QMCM  Pollick, Raymond J

--- Overhaul --- 

83-84  MMCM  Gilger, Harry R
84-85  MMCM  Holt, Robert J    
85-88  FTCM    Young, Mike
88-90  PNCM   Wagner, William R

--- Decomm ---
The first COB

Back in the first days of Submarines, the Chief of the Boat was the executive officer, in fact, if not in name, for the commanding officer was the only commissioned officer on board. The original crew of Holland, consisted of five men and one officer as captain. 

The Year                 1900 
First Chief of the Boat  W H Reader CGM 
First Boat to have COB   USS Holland SS1 
First Skipper to have COBLT  H H Caldwell 

The question "the reason for creating the position" may be in the fact that, there was only one Chief in the crew, hence the name "Chief of the Boat" and so it remained, even after they started carrying an executive officer. Send me your ideas, ya throw a thought out on the deck, you never know what will happen, or even what it will look like, when it comes back.

GMC W.H.Reader, bottom left, was the submarine service's first COB. MMC B. Borvic, is at right. Middle row (L to R), GM2 C. Gunther, LT H.H. Caldwell, CO of USS Holland SS1 and GM2 A. Calluhan. Back row (L to R) GM1 H. Wayhap, GM1 O. Swanson, Gunner (CWO) O. Hill and EM2 W.Hall. Hill, Hall, and Gunther were under instruction and weren't Holland crew members. (Reprinted from "All Hands" October 1983)

Information from All Hands Oct 1983
My Recollection of the USS Holland after 43 years
The first COB, GMC W.H.Reader

The Holland, as far as I can remember, had two ballast tanks, two compensating tanks for two torpedoes, several air flasks, compressor, 50 hp motor, 110 V 120 Amp, ESB storage battery and a 50 hp Otto gasoline engine, a tank of 1500 gallons of gasoline, 1 - 18" torpedo tube; also a dynamite gun of approximately 8" diameter. The original crew consisted of five men and one officer as captain; later an executive officer was added. 

The hull was some 53-ft long and approximately 11 ft in diameter, with a deck amidships about 3 ft wide. In order to have more room on the deck, gratings were added on brackets secured to the hull, which were removed when the ship was preparing for maneuvers. The conning tower was some 18 to 20" in height, circular, and approximately 30 inches in diameter, the opening leading into the boat being 18" in diameter. The conning tower was equipped with openings of about 1-1/2" x 3", which were sealed with heavy glass, which permitted limited observation when ready to submerge. The tower was equipped with a heavy brass cover which, of course, had to be closed before submerging. 

The inside of the Holland consisted of a torpedo tube and dynamite gun, as mentioned before. Below the torpedo tube was the gasoline tank. To the rear of the gasoline tank was the battery compartment, the cover of which constituted the deck. On each side above this deck was one compensating tank to be filled when the torpedo on that side was to be used. 
The only place where one could stand upright was in the conning tower and in the forward portion of the engine room. There were no accommodations for eating or sleeping. 

So much for the general description 

At first our instructions consisted in getting used to our respective stations when underway, timing for diving, filling and blowing out ballast tanks, and then in working submerged runs. The captain in the conning tower, the air man at the air valves, one man at the tank valves, one man at the torpedo tube, the machinist at his engine, and the electrician at his controller. There was no moving about while submerged, everyone remaining at his post. My position as the electrician was next to the gas engine on one side, the wheel ropes over my head, the controller in front of me, and the only way to get out of my place was by squeezing through a small space between the gas engine and a 10 hp motor. 

Ventilation, while running on the surface, was by means of a ventilator over the engine and draught from the open conning tower. Preparing for diving, the ventilator had to be removed and handed down into the boat. After a short while we became expert enough to dispense with our civilian instructors and were on our own. All this took place at the Torpedo Station at Newport, where we practiced in summer, and spent the winter months at Annapolis, Md. 

I recall that on one of our runs we had some congressmen on board. To us it was amusing to see these congressmen dig into their ears while making a series of porpoise dives. While preparing to dock, the captain inadvertently gave the signal to back at full speed, when he intended to give the stop signal. The speed with which this signal was obeyed made a great impression on our visitors, who did not know what really happened. 

Our first experience of what could happen came to us one night off Rose Island. We had prepared for diving, with the conning tower hatch partly open, when the swell of a Sound steamer washed over the hatch, and some water entered before the hatch was securely closed. Enough water entered to overcome our positive buoyancy, and we struck bottom. I do not recall the exact depth, but it was between 90 and 100 ft. The tanks were blown out, and we started to return to our mooring place, when we had the misfortune of running aground. We managed to free ourselves and returned to our home. This accident caused us to wonder how we could escape should we be unable to rise to the surface. 

Later, at Annapolis, we tried an experiment. A dog had attached itself to our crew, and one day, with Capt Caldwell's approval, we put the dog in the torpedo tube, closed the inner door, opened the outer, and applied fifty pounds of air into the tube. On deck we expected to see the dog shot to the surface, but only air bubbles appeared. We imagined that the dog had become jammed in the outer door, but closing the door slowly we found no obstruction. The tube was blown out, and there was the dog perfectly dry and unharmed. The tube being inclined and admitting air too quickly, prevented the tube from filling up completely, the dog remaining between the inner door and air inlet. 

Our batteries were old and would not keep the charge, and about August 1902 had the battery charged by the Newport Light Company. We were finally ready to be towed to Philadelphia, with a stop at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. While there we again charged our battery for a day and late that afternoon the battery began to gas badly. At five o'clock we stopped the charge, keeping our 1/4 hp motor running to clear the boat of the fumes. At six, when I went ashore, my assistant, Elect. 2nd class, W. Hall, was instructed by me to keep the exhaust blower on until nine o'clock. Sometime later that evening, Mr. Hill, the executive, gave orders to close the boat up. The next morning Hall started the exhaust blower, the gases were ignited by a spark at the starting box, burning him so severely that he was confined to the hospital for three months. 

After the court of inquiry we proceeded to the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Our tug cast us off so we could make the dock under our own power. We had barely made the dock when little blue sparks made their appearance. I gave the alarm and every man made for shore. We opened all hatches and brought everything on the dock which could cause spontaneous combustion. Among these was a bale of waste cotton. Capt Caldwell was sitting on this bale on the dock when he noticed it to be warm. Upon opening the bale a lump, the size of a fist, was found to be smoldering in the very heart of the bale, which eventually would have caused a fire, or at least very heavy smoke. 

Instruction continued, and finally in the latter part of 1902, Capt. Caldwell was transferred and Capt. Arthur McArthur assumed command. My request for transfer was granted and I was transferred to the U.S.S. Minneapolis on Jan 21, 1903 and to the U.S.S. Worden on February 3, 1903, and discharged November 26, 1903. 

Thanks to a disagreement with Admiral Leutze at the Washington Navy yard, while at the Gunnery School there, my navy career ended, with the recommendation of Capt. B B McCormick, commanding the USS Worden, that I be reassigned to his ship upon my re-enlistment. 

The foregoing is to the best of my recollection and may differ in some instances with others, but I believe it to be substantially correct, after some 43 years. The picture of the crew is as of 6/29/1901. Two men who were attached to the USS Holland remained only a short time. 

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67-68  TMC   Williams, James J

72-74  FTCM  Masterson, Tom

81-83  MMCM  Gilger, Harry R

90-91  ETCS  Rowe, Dennis L
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George Henson
Gold 63-67 TMC
Jim "Red" Surrette
Blue 68-69 MMC
David Roth
Blue 69-69 FTCS
Wendall Calloway
Gold 70-72 RMC
Robert Mahan
Blue 74-75 FTCS
Gold 78-78 FTCS
Thomas Connors
Gold 79-81 SKCM
Harold Buzzell
Gold 87-89 MMCM
Harry Gilger
Both 81-83 MMCM
Blue 83-84 MMCM
If anyone has a photo of a Lafayette COB, please email it to the webmaster. The following are the only photos we have and some of these are poor quality, so we need your help.
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Ronald Mumford
Blue 77-79 MMCS
Roy Hilt
Blue 63-67 ETCM

61-62  EMC    Smart, John H 
62-65  SOCS  Anson, George  
65-67  TMC    Henson, George S

--- Overhaul --- 

68-69  TMC    Williams, James J 
69-70  MMC   Cope, Gerald C 
70-71  RMC   Calloway, Wendall E 
71-72  FTCS  Lareau, Paul 

--- Overhaul --- 

74-77 ETCS  Csisar, James G
78-78 FTCS  Mahan, Robert R
79-81 SKCM Connors, Thomas R

--- Overhaul --- 

83-86 MMCM Bowser, Ray
86-87 MSCS  Siedlicke, Dave
87-89 MMCM Buzzell, Harold
89-90 ETCS   Rowe, Dennis L

--- Decomm ---

George Jones
Blue 69-71 TMC
Raymond Pollick
Blue 79-81 QMCM

Sitter, Allan E
61-63 QMC Blue
Anson, George
62-65 SOCS Gold
Cope, Gerald C
69-70 MMC Gold
Csisar, James G
74-77 ETCS Gold
Holt, Robert J
84-85 MMCM Blue
Young, Michael
85-88 FTCM Blue
Wagner, William R
88-90 PNCM Blue
Rowe, Dennis L
89-90 ETCS Gold
90-91 ETCS Combined
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