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Four months into the Master Sailing List Research project and I have gained a whole new appreciation for those few, those precious few, that wore the crossed quills or the quill and logbook. Yeoman and Personnelman, (back in the day, now Personnel Specialists) held the boat together with the glue of administration and clerical responsibilities.

I didn’t give them as much credit as deserved back in the early eighties, but I was yet to get lost in Personnel Diaries and Distribution Reports. Let me tell you something. Find a shipmate that worked in the Ship’s Office, and thank him. You scarcely can imagine what he was up against, and I’m not just talking about an angry XO! But that’s not what this little missive is about.

I wanted to let you in on two items: 1) the Personnel Reports that have been processed and added to the website for your viewing and researching pleasure, and 2) the acquisition of our first Deck Log, the October 1974 UNCLASSIFIED Deck Log - Remarks Section.

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Memorial Day.

A day of remembrance, a day to honor those who died in military service to their country, a day of remembering…

I’m a veteran. I served in our Navy’s Submarine Force during the Cold War. I’m not ashamed to say I’m proud of that fact, because it helped make me who I am, and I appreciate the honor when someone says, “Thank you for your service!”

But today is not my day.

It’s true I held the line, side by side, with my brothers in arms during the Cold War. It’s true we had a fast ship, as our naval forebear Commodore John Paul Jones once asked for, and true to his standard, we sailed her in harm’s way. It’s true we stared into the face of death in those moments of sheer terror, surviving only by our character, our force of will, our iron professionalism, and the everlasting grace of the Almighty God. It’s also true that most of those stories can never be told, save late at night, in the small and exclusive audience of those that earned that right by being there.

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On April 10th, 1963, I was sitting at my desk in Mrs. Adam’s first grade class at the Branon Street Cottages, as the small school in El Paso, Texas was called. Do I remember hearing that the USS Thresher had been lost with all hands?

I think so, but fifty-five years plays games with your memory and it’s hard to separate that which is real from that which might be imagined. What I am sure of, is that having studied the event, done my time in Maneuvering, and traveled tens of thousands of miles submerged, my appreciation and gratitude for what the deaths of our shipmates bought us continues to grow.

I’m sure they didn’t give it a thought, as they cast off lines the day before and put out to sea for post-overhaul shakedown and testing. We wouldn’t have either. We were young enough to think we could take on the world, and what 20-year old wouldn’t with 5000 tons of nuclear-powered HY-80 under his feet, and a torpedo room full of the most sophisticated weaponry to grace the planet.

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It always comes as a shock when I discover that one of our shipmates has passed on. I know it should be expected because many of us are approaching that age, some more rapidly than others, but it is a shock none the less.

Now that I’m heavily involved in the Master Sailing List Missing Shipmate project, poring over personnel records, often for several hours a day, it is even more disappointing when I discover that our shipmate has passed on before he ever had a chance to reconnect with his shipmates through the www.ssn-680.org website. After all, reconnecting is what the website is there for.

So it is with a heavy heart that I report to you the passing of MMC(SS) Gary R. Morrison, 1942 – 2012, and YNC(SS) Guss G. Pappas, 1934 – 2017.

Chief Morrison arrived onboard the Bates on May 21, 1974, and retired from the Navy after 20 years. He passed away on May 12, 2012, and is buried in New London.

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It’s been a busy few weeks sorting through personnel reports from the boat. As I discovered previously unidentified shipmates from 1974 (seven so far), I also discovered that significant changes to the website and site database were required to accommodate and make available what I was discovering.

For example, I was surprised to find the enlisted rating “SD” among the documents. A little research revealed that there was a rating for “Stewards” up until 1975, and we actually had several assigned to the Bates. Of course, that required that the list of ratings in the database be updated, which required restructuring because of the sheer number of ratings, which required the addition of new rating fields (RANK/RATE - ROB, and RANK/RATE - DEP), the transferring of rank already assigned, which means you’ll see an extra rank/rate field or two until I can complete the data transfer.

Yes, it’s been a busy few weeks. There have been many changes that I’ll sum up here:

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I was pleasantly surprised on Monday morning when I checked my email and found a bill from the National Archives. You might think it hard to use the words “pleasantly surprised” and “bill” in the same sentence, but I was pleased to find out that they had identified 69 records related to muster rolls on the boat, and if I would be good enough to send them $55.20, they would email me copies of the reports.

I had expected it to be a few weeks between submission of my request last Thursday, so I was impressed with the fast response. I wasted no time paying the invoice, also happy to find that the archives actually accept electronic payment. Again, I’d expected having to mail a check and wait for a few weeks while my payment processed.

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As many of you know, I’ve been working to obtain a complete muster roll of all personnel assigned to the USS William H. Bates (SSN 680) over the nearly twenty-eight years that she was in commission.

Mark Gray set out to compile such a list back in the late nineties, producing a complex spreadsheet that listed everyone that he could identify. In fact, much of what we call the Master Sailing List on the www.ssn-680.org website is the result of Mark’s initial work, and we clearly would not be where we are today without the his tireless effort.

As of today, we are closer than we ever have been. I have recently been in extended conversation with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), in an attempt to locate official documentation related to the boat and the people assigned to her. Today I have sent off the first of many requests under the Freedom of Information Act that should produce the Personnel Diaries and Quarterly Personnel Reports for the life of the ship.

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Fund Sailing List Research!

Help fund SSN–680.org research and recover Personnel Diaries and Quarterly Muster Reports from the National Archives, helping us in our goal to identify every sailor that sailed on the USS William H. Bates (SSN 680) and add them to the Master Sailing List.

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