Ray Blakely will speak at the annual Grand River Historical Museum Society dinner on Jan. 14.
Ray Blakely, Chillicothe, served in the Navy during Vietnam on a submarine and he will share those harrowing experiences with attendees at the annual Grand River Historical Museum Society dinner on Jan. 14.
Each of Blakely’s deployments lasted three to four months and most, if not all, of that time, was spent underwater within the submarine.
Among many life lessons, Blakely and fellow sailors were expected to be able to perform a variety of jobs while aboard the submarine. In the event that others were not able to perform their regular jobs, the remaining members of the crew had to be able to fill those positions. The inability to carry out a job may be due to the individual, such as sickness or injury, or it may be the result of other circumstances, such as flooding, in which event certain areas of the vessel would be sealed off, making it impossible to rotate work areas.
“The submarine community is relatively small compared with the rest of the surface Navy, and the camaraderie within the submarine community is uniquely its own. While the brotherly bond is strong, as it is in within any military unit, residing within the depths of the ocean for several months at a time with only about 100 people in a 33-foot diameter metal tube, the bond can be distinctive. And there’s an understanding of challenges they all face in such conditions, an understanding which carries over even once back on land,” Blakely said.
During the time of the Vietnam War, communications on submarines were slow and unreliable at best. Sailors were allowed to receive communication through family grams - a 25 to 50-word message. Servicemembers could receive these messages, but not send any.
“Another problem was that family members sending the family grams had no way of knowing whether or not the message was received. Oftentimes, those aboard the submarine would have to wait to receive news of any kind until surfacing, which could be up to four months later,” Blakely explained. “Obviously, technology has since changed and communications are much improved aboard submarines.”
During the presentation, Blakely will share many memories with attendees. Dinner will begin at 6:30 p.m. followed by Blakely’s presentation. This program will give a true insight into the life of those who served in the submarine fleet and the challenges we can only imagine residing under the waters for weeks at a time.