Memories and Stories from the Commissioning Crew
William H. McMicken, M.D.
My home port was New London on October 31, 1960 where I was Medical Officer of USS Seawolf SSN-575. I had become a member of the re-commissiong crew in April 1960. Seawolf was re-commissioned Sept 30, 1960 with a water-cooled reactor replacing the original sodium-cooled version and on October 25, 1960 (six days before Snook was launched), we departed New London for a three-week period of independent operations at sea.I was detached from Seawolf on March 25, 1961 and arrived in Pascagoula as Medical Officer of Snook on April 4, 1961. I had enjoyed active sea duty on board Seawolf and was disappointed that much of my time on board Snook was in the shipyard.Captain Bucknell asked BuPers and BuMed to let me stay on the ship for the first deployment but his request was refused. I reluctantly said goodbye to Snook and her crew on April 14, 1962; the Navy wanted me to go to Deep Sea Diving  School and after that I was Squadron Medical Officer of SUBRON SIX in Norfolk, VA. ... was on board SUBRON SIX's USS Sealion APSS-315 in the Caribbean during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.


Gary Lester, IC1(SS)
Most of the commissioning crew arrived about a year or more before commisioning and of course the commissioning and construction crew were the same.Most engineering folks were on board at launching along with a section of the forward folks. Having been on 3 different submarine constructions the routine  was about the same for each - Officers on one sail plane and chiefs on the other
Commisioning crew of : Snook; Andrew Jackson; Puffer


David Fletcher TM2(SS), ETC(SS)
I am David Fletcher a Retired Chief ET, but at the commissioning I was a TM 2. I arrived early 1960 when the boat was alongside the pier being completed. As far as I know the assigned crew at the launch
(not all shown at launch ) remained through commissioning. Through beers at Kuykendall's Outrigger bar near the shipyard entrance most of the first arrivals were said to be the nuke's which is understandable, they had to get themselves used to sleeping with their RPM manuals.


Jack Hester RM1(SS)
We came dwindling in, as some went to schools before reporting. I reported in along with ET1 Anderson, others arrived throughout construction and final construction.

The crew continued to grow as construction increased. I arrived in Jan 61 and we left for San Diego in Oct 61....during that time crew members continued to arrive. As an example the Senior Chief RM was onboard when I got there but the other two first class didn’t come in until Feb and March. We stopped drawing 16 bucks a day per diem the last of Aug 61 as I recall. Most took their families to San Diego. I took my wife and 2 children to Kansas where they stayed with my parents until the boat got to San Diego. The Snook’s admin offices were onboard the USS Marlboro, a really old commissioned Navy Barge...They stayed there almost until we set sail for San Diego.

The thing I remember most was the gang forward of frame 44 (non-nukes) came to quarters every morning and then were dismissed for the day if there wasn’t anything going on. we all mustered at the little bar (Outrigger) out the front gate owned by two of the crew (Keane and Kirkendall). . Once we were able to start moving onboard then we had to have a below decks watch and start our qualifying. Most of us old-timers qualified before leaving Pascagoula.

I had a Navy drivers license so I had to drive Rickover around from the Mobile airport to wherever and then back to the airport. That was “always” an experience, especially if things didn’t go as he wanted during the visit. I also went to Pensacola once a week to pickup message traffic as the Air Station had our radio guard after commissioning.

At the time we were there Mississippi was a dry state (on paper anyway). The Air Force Base (Keesler) at Biloxi had a liquor store so Harry Landers and I would go over there and buy beer and booze by the carload, bring it back to our houses and the guys could come there anytime before 8 pm and buy booze from us. We charged some extra (can’t recall how much) and that went into the ships slush fund which was controlled by the COB and selected members of the crew.

We had our commissioning party at Keesler and it was great. Live band, super sit-down dinner and then dancing...most of us rented a motel room in Biloxi for the night.
Since everyone drew per diem the COB (Dutch Kneuer) went to the XO (Watkins) and asked if we could get a slush fund going by guys investing into a non-profit (for them) fund, which would pay for incidentals, loans, etc....The slush fund paid for the entire commissioning party....When I left the boat in Okinawa after our first patrol the slush fund was still operating.

Walter "Stumpy" Taggart
I arrived late in the commissioning cycle and was not onboard for the launch. I was there for 2nd sea trials and first excursion to test depth. We had a 3 inch aero-quip flex hose rupture during this dive in the engine room, we beat the red flare to the surface. I was in the control room at the firing panel, crew was at battle stations (normal for this op), I had the JA phones on, my normal battle station. My Chief was Dale Smith FTCS (SS), he late made MCPO, anyway he almost took my head off trying to take the phones away from me, I'll never know why. By the time he got them on, after the fight, we were on the surface. I remember Capt. Bucknell being calm and giving orders when everyone else was about to panic, he made it seem like a normal evolution, at least in the control room.

Some of the crew was there from the beginning, had to get all the paper work done and write all the procedures.

The biggest part of the crew that was on board had been there for some time and remained until we arrived in San Diego. I believe that CSC (SS) Garland was transferred just prior to us leaving for San Diego and that Valton Ray reported on arrival. The answer is the construction crew and commissioning crew were one and the same.


That's about what I remember during my short time on board prior to commissioning, besides testing every system in ways that would never happen.


p/s: I got my nickname on Snook from the Chief Sonarman "Leapin" Larry Tidmarsh. He claimed I was the only guy in the Navy that could sit on a dime and swing my legs.

John Di Filippo
I was on the sail plane with the officers including the Exec and I am on the extreme left and I was the only Chief on that Starboard Plane. My first wife Georgina Di Filippo
(deceased in 1998) took many video shots with my Sony Camcorder that day and they are identical to these shots. In addition to this video there is much more which was taken at Jerry Massanari's rented house on the beach where we had a big party after the launching. Jerry's Mother was in attendance and she flew in from California. One of the high lights of the video is shots of yours truly entering the party playing my accordian and wearing a fake handlebar mustache, peak cap and dressed typical of the Italian musicians.


We had great entertainers in the crew and one was a Chief Sweigart ICC(SS) who was a great imitator, especially of scantily clad women and that is shown on the video. We had several parties including a Xmas Party which was indoors/outdoors. Almost the entire crew, along with our wives and children, ventured to New Orleans for Mardi Gras parade and we all stayed in the same motel. We were all great drinkers, I  don't know if we were great lovers but when we had some spare time we sure enjoyed ourselves.