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Torpedo in the air exiting a test torpedo tube.

Torpedo test fire.

CHAPTER SIX
From Steam to Electronics
1950-1959

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The Commanding Officer's Quarters in 1952.
The winter of 1952 brought a lovely dusting of white to the Commanding Officer's Quarters.

Commanding Officers
Captain James A. Prichard July 1, 1951-August 1, 1955
Captain H. A. Pieczentkowski September 18, 1955-July 21, 1955
Captain James A. Prichard July 22, 1955-December 51, 1957
Captain William B. Moore January 1, 1958-June 30, 1960
Dragging on the heels of the postwar lag in production of weapons, the 1950's started out rather slow. In fact, with only 221 civilians and 100 military members, the Naval Torpedo Station was directed to consolidate with the Naval Ammunition Depot at Bangor. The new, combined activity was call Naval Ordnance Depot and it lasted all of two years.

In 1951 civilian employment levels jumped to 626 in response to an increased workload due to the onset of Korean hostilities.

The civilian workforce continued to rise during the decade, reaching a peak of nearly 1,000.

Numerous employee programs and recreational activities became annual events.

In the mid-50's, NTS extended its northeastern borders by filling in 2.37 acres of the north lagoon, making it virtually non-existent.

 

A large gatering of workers standing before industrial buildings.
The civilian workforce gathers in front of Building #1 in 1954 for presentation of the Secretary of the Navy Award for Achievement in Industrial Safety.

 
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A young sailor standing on the pier.
A young sailor by the name of Frank McSpadden, on roving patrol in 1952, takes time out of his day to pose for a photo on the Station's Pier #2.
 

Sam Watland standing with a very large salmon in hand.
Sam Watland proudly displays his first-place winning salmon in the first annual NTS Salmon Derby, sponsored by the Employee Service Association (forerunner of today's Recreation Association) in 1954. Sam, a worker in the Pipe and Storage Shop, caught his 19 pounder in the waters off Point No Point, Hansville.

Photo of the industrial area densely packed with buildings.
The industrial area is shown here just before it was extended in 1954. The area, which is now parking lot #1 and Building 514, was known as the north lagoon and was filled in with 80,000 cubit yards of material from a dredge operation off Pier #1, adding 2.37 acres.
 
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Visitors line the pier.
Visitors to Keyport's 40th birthday open house line Pier #1 to watch a torpedo firing demonstration.
In 1955, Keyport held an open house for the community to celebrate Armed Forces Day and the Station's 40th birthday. The Allied Trade Shop, Diving Locker, and Machine Shop were all opened for tours.

Throughout the decade, visitors flocked to the Naval Torpedo Station. Groups representing chambers of commerce, Lions Clubs, historical societies, and more were treated to tours and presentations on the importance of the Navy and its contributions to the development of Kitsap County.

The Marine security force was replaced by a civilian guard force in 1958. The Marines had been part of Keyport since 1916 and had served on horseback in the early days, patrolled with dogs in the 40's, and performed as auxiliary firefighters.

Technical research expanded throughout the decade and the torpedo began to develop into a more complex undersea weapon.

More modern equipment and facilities were added. By the late 50's, the Keyport Range was all but retired as the Station began more and more testing of the deep

  Employee demonstrates a modern machineto a familly with children.
Visitors flocked to Keyport to take part in the Station's 40th birthday open house in 1955. Here, an employee demonstrates a modern machine, a fine pitch redliner used to check gears.
 
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A torpedo is launched off the pier
A torpedo is launched off the firing pier into the Keyport Range in Port Orchard Inlet. The firing pier, which was attached to the Station's Pier #1, was decommissioned in 1963. The Keyport Range has rarely been used for testing since that time.
 

Visiting children in the hyperbaric chamber.
Visiting children enjoy an insider's view of the Diving Locker's hyperbaric chamber, which was built at Norfolk Navy Yard in 1930. The children were touring the chamber, one of the oldest in the Navy, during NTS' annual Armed Forces Day Open House in 1956.


Officers pose in front of a helicopter.
The new three-dimensional underwater tracking range at Dabob Bay attracted the interest of numerous top level officials. The above dignitaries prepare to board a waiting helicopter for a whirlwind tour of the area. From left, Dr. Joseph Henderson, Director of the Applied Physics Laboratory and developer of the 3-D range; Rear Admiral Frank Watkin, Commandant 13th Naval District,. Vice Admiral Hyman Rickover, Chief of the Naval Reactor Branch of the Atomic Energy Commission and Assistant Chief of the Bureau of Ships for Nuclear Propulsion, Captain William Moore, NTS' Commanding Officer; Senator Henry Jackson; and Captain William McLaren, NAD Bangor Commanding Officer.
 
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A group of men posed in front of the Naval Torpedo Station.
Captain Prichard, in the center, played host to a number of community groups during the 1950's. The Station was a popular attraction, especially as its facilities were modernized to accommodate the arrival of more advanced weapons. Other Station officers present are: to the left of Prichard Lieutenant Commander Striklin, to the right: Commander Cochran, and Lieutenant J.G. Heif.
Children pose with Santa.
Keyport employees sponsored a special Christmas Party in the late 50's for underpriviledged children from the local community. Captain William Moore and Santa pose with the delighted children and their new toys.

water weapons. The newly established Dabob Bay Range began seeing full usage by this time.

The new range was set up, in cooperation with the Applied Physics Lab of the University of Washington, to track torpedoes and targets three-dimensionally.

 

Nuclear USS Sargo (SSN-583) underway on the surface.
In 1958 the USS Sargo (SSN-583) was the first submarine to work with the Station at Dabob Bay in tracking the underwater course of the newly developed acoustic torpedoes and their characteristic runs.

 
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Marines posed in front of the gate.
The Marine security force stands at attention at the Station's main gate. The Marines provided security for the torpedo station for more than 40 years.
 
This new technology allowed for greater accuracy in test results.

The Station's mission was revised in 1958 to take into account changes which, in essence, brought the Station from the age of steam torpedoes into the age of

  electronics, featuring delicate, miniaturized, transmitter homing and guidance systems.

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Officer smiling as water and fish shoot out of a hose.
With an environment ideal for spawning, the lagoon became home to over four million fry and fingerling salmon in 1958. The Station, working in conjunction with the State Fish Farm Program to plant the salmon, hosted the fish for several years.
 
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A diver on a platform ready to lower.
A diver in a monstrous-looking suit (Mk 5 Dive System) is lowered into the waters off Pier #1 for a training exercise in 1947. Today's divers use the Fly Away Diving System, featuring the Mk 12 diving suit which is much lighter and more flexible than the old Mk 5. With this latest system, divers can dive up to the maximum depth established for this Station of 170 feet.
 
Navy Diving: A Strong Program Since 1919

Though times, equipment, and procedures have changed, one thing remains the same today: it takes a special breed of human being to volunteer to descend into dangerous depths of sea-a darker than dark abode full of reminders that you are somewhere you don't naturally belong.

The Torpedo Station has long been a source of top Navy divers. In 1919, Keyport held its first diving class with eight or nine enlisted men, under the direction of

Divers are a funny bunch of people, or so said an article in a January 1976 issue of the Bremerton Sun. For those who have never met a Navy diver, the article continued, he is a legendary man who has fought innumerable sharks, giant squids, disported with mermaids; sea snakes have been known to die after biting a diver. And if that is hard to believe, the article went on, just ask a diver. He will verify every word.
  Chief Mickey Nolan.

Those first students were not taught the strict procedures that Navy divers follow today. In fact, it was common practice for those divers, working 40 feet down on the torpedo range, to do their job and "shoot" to the surface with little knowledge of the potential consequences. This practice stopped abruptly in 1926 when one diver developed Caisson Disease. "The bends," as the disease is commonly known, is a painful condition in which nitrogen gets into the blood stream as a result of rising too quickly from the depths.

Though Keyport now has a recompression chamber for treating the bends, in those days the nearest one was Victoria, British Columbia. However, because time is at a premium in treating such cases, those afflicted with the bends would be suited up and lowered into the deepest possible area, usually off Seattle where the bay was 200 feet.

By the 1940's the diving school had become fully equipped to train and qualify second class divers. The whole diving program was highly recognized for its expert

 
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divers whose first and most important job was to aid in the recovery of torpedoes gone astray.

During the same decade, the Diving Locker, as it is called today, became home to the area's only recompression chamber. In fact, the Diving Locker also became equipped with a mobile chamber to be on hand wherever needed throughout the Pacific Northwest.

The diving operation of the 1980's is tasked to support the Station's ranges by assisting in the recovery of torpedoes and other test units, and by performing ship's husbandry. In addition, the Diving Locker assists in area search and rescue missions.

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  Robert Sheats: A Man of the Sea

The Navy Diving Program has brought many divers to Keyport over the years, but there is one whose memory is bound to hang around for a while. He was known to some as the "Man of the Sea," and to others as "Aquanaut," meaning breed of man who is at home under the sea.

Master Diver, Robert C. Sheats was well recognized for his underwater work in the U.S. Navy. He enlisted in the Navy in 1935, qualified as second class diver in 1937 and became first class diver in 1939, followed by Master Diver in 1958.

Robert's life has held moments of danger and excitement that many of us would rather watch on the big screen than experience. During World War II, he was

Diver standing in front of may hard hat dive helmets.
This young diver's smile may be due to the fact that he is part of a top-notch diving program in 1954. Keyport 's divers have been constantly recognized for their good work since 1919, when the first diving school was held.
 
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Young divers listening to Master Diver.
Master Diver Sheats, left, goes over new procedures with divers at the Diving Locker in 1965.
 
taken prisoner by the Japanese and forced to dive for the Philippine Treasury which had been purposely hidden in Manila Bay.

His release from the prisoner of war camp in 1945 was the beginning of years to follow of underwater salvage work. As Master Diver at Keyport from 1958 to 1966, he faced many heartwrenching and honorable assignments which included recovering the bodies and black boxes from small plane crashes.

In 1962 he earned the title, Outstanding Enlisted Man of the Area, presented by the Federal Business Association of Seattle.

In 1965 he took a step into national notoriety as team leader in the Sealab II Project off the coast of California.

  Robert retired from Naval service at Keyport in 1966 and a few years later was the first to receive the annual Man of the Sea Award, given by the National Association of Underwater Instructors.

Today, Robert is a consultant on diving safety in Poulsbo, Washington.

Beyond his sea stories, the Navy Diver has been known to do hard, physically demanding work. He is recognized as an expert in his field and is frequently called upon to assist both military and civilians during times of emergency and disaster throughout the Northwest.
 

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