A Submarine Naval Veteran From the ‘60s
Celebrate Our Veteran gives voice to the stories of the U.S. military veterans living amongst us. The actions of these brave and dedicated people, who have served our country both in active military duty as well as administrative positions, have and continue to contribute to the protection and preservation of us and our country.
We hope that this section of our paper is an opportunity for our community to hear and see veterans with new eyes, and for veterans to receive recognition and honor for their experiences and life journeys.
This month’s Celebrate Our Veteran recounts the story of Glenn Hero, as told in his own words. It is told in two parts.
by Melissa LaScaleia
I was born in Worthington, Ohio, number four in a lineup of eight children. In the second grade, we moved to Groton Long Point, Connecticut— seventeen miles from the naval submarine base. There were a lot of officers stationed in my hometown; the captain of the Thresher lived on my street. In April 1963, his submarine went down and all hands were lost.
Growing up in the ’50s, the officers would take us to the base movie theatre on Saturdays; it was a real treat for us. Perry Hall, the captain of the submarine, Bang, had nine children and also lived in my neighborhood. So we were always a big crowd at the movie theatre. And outside, they had one and two-man submarines on display that we would climb on until shore patrol came by and chased us off.
Because I lived right on the water, I was always swimming. So between this and my experience with the officers as a boy, when I decided to join the military, it seemed natural to me to sign up with the Navy, and to volunteer for submarines. I joined in October 1962.
In order to get into submarines, you have to pass various tests to make sure you can withstand the change in cabin pressure. And, you also have to have all the fillings in your teeth drilled out and filled with pressure fillings so your teeth don’t crack.
As part of the first test, we had to go to the submarine tender where they have a decompression chamber. Normally, four people would be comfortable in there; they put twelve of us inside, then increased the pressure gradually until you got to the equivalent pressure of fifty feet underwater.
As they increased the pressure, it would affect someone, and when they would start to yell, they would let that person out, then begin again. By the end, there were only three of us left. And once you passed that, then you went to submarine school for two months.
There, I learned all the different systems on a submarine. There were also more tests to ensure you could withstand pressure and water simultaneously— one took place in a 140-foot tower filled with water, which slowly increases in pressure. For me, these tests were a piece of cake.
Once I graduated, I was assigned to the Triton SSRN 586, in Norfolk, VA. It was the first submarine to go around the world underwater. Two of my other brothers also went into submarines, and one was on the Triton two years before me.
Once I was assigned, then I had to qualify, which means having a functional knowledge of all the electrical, hydraulic, and pneumatic components of each compartment. Once I passed, I received my dolphins, the submarine insignia. Then we were sent on patrol.
My job was to stand watch for four hours at a time at either the bow planes, the helm, or the stern. I was also the yeoman— I performed the functions of clerk and bookkeeper.
On the submarine we went hundreds of feet deep, at a speed in excess of 20 knots. One patrol we stayed submerged for 79 consecutive days. It’s a long time to be underwater.
That was why for me, when everybody complained about lockdown during Covid, I thought it was a piece of cake.
Continued next month. Click here to read Part 2.