From PigBoats.COM

EMC(SS) Guy Covert, USN

Below are brief stories related by EMC(SS) Guy Covert of the USS R-7 (SS-84) during his service aboard from 1942 to 1943. Chief Covert also was a plank owner of the USS Trutta (SS-421) and then after two war patrols transferred to the sub tender USS Proteus (AS-19) and was part of the surrender and occupation forces of Japan. He also served aboard the USS Carbonero (SS-337), and the Capitaine (SS-336) after the war. Chief Covert had e-mailed Ric Hedman these brief snapshots of his life aboard the R-7 as he found time. This helps us to understand what life was like for our early submariners and appreciate the comforts we take for granted in today's navy submarine service. The information below will encapsulate several different emails, but we will combine them here for brevity's sake. Chief Covert passed away on May 26, 2003. He is now on Eternal Patrol with his brethren.

There is a port of no return, where ships may ride at anchor for a little space. And then, some starless night the cable slips, leaving an eddy at the mooring place... Gulls, veer no longer. Sailor, rest your oar. No tangled wreckage will be washed ashore.

Leslie Nelson Jennings, "Lost Harbor".

Torpedo Pencil
Torpedo Pencil

Guy Covert sent me his Torpedo Pencil as a gift. He had picked it up during his time in Torpedo School and had kept it until he gifted it to me in 2002. It is a mechanical pencil and all I would need to do to use it is to find some pencil lead that fit and install it. The lead extends and retracts by twisting the back section of the pencil body.
Ric Hedman

I have not tried it so I can not attest to its usefulness according to his note to me.

"Dear Ric,

My impression is that the mission of the older boats were pretty well defined. The "O" boats were the school boats in New London. The "R" boats were in two squadrons. One in Key West and one in St George, Bermuda [my squadron] It was a tiny island [Ordnance Island] that was separated from the town square by a small channel about 40 ft wide.

Our mission of course, was being target for antisubmarine warfare, plus training of submarine personnel. There was a tremendous turnover in captains to seamen, a guy would barely qualify and he was on his way to the fleet. Some of the new boats were going in commission, with a nucleus of eight or ten qualified people.

I spent almost two years on the "seven" boat and went from SN on up to TM/1c. I longed to get out to the fleet but had to wait. Had to be a few of us hanging around. As it was, it got interesting now and then and I did finally get to a new boat in later 43.

One more item: I am sure you know the personnel complement was originally two officers and twenty two enlisted. We went to about thirty six enlisted and four or five officers. We lived in barracks as there was very little living space on the boat. Most of the time while on local OPS, one section would have duty and stay aboard. The other two could have liberty and sleep in the barrack as they chose. The two sections would take the boat out for the day and be met and tied up to the dock in the evening, by last night's duty section.

We did get underway, sometimes for seven or eight days. The comfort arrangements for those times was interesting.

Guess you knew that the "R" boat hulls were riveted. I didn't know much about construction but somehow the idea of rivets just didn't appeal to me.

Well one morning on local OPS, it occurred to me, that I had pumped the torpedo room bilges three times and there had been no activity that would cause the flooding. I looked down the side of the tubes and could see a flow of water from under the sheet cork insulation that extended part way into the bilges. I yanked off a two-foot section of the cork and "POW" a stream of water about a half inch in diameter fired out. You wouldn't believe how much water can come out of a little hole like that. With a little damage control we blocked the leak.

When we got back into port, we were able to pump up enough to put the offending rivet above the waterline. About thirty minutes work by our trusty welder and a dab of black paint, everything was like new. All of which didn't improve my trust in rivets.

One more little random item; on the hull outside the torpedo room area there was two large resonators. They were about two feet in diameter. One port and one stbd. We never used them, but my idea was that they could be driven a -la a model "T" horn. Other boats being the same frequency, would resonate and they could communicate with each other.

About the only other means of detection and communication was the J.K. sound head. It was mounted forward and operated from the torpedo room, it was essentially a highly directional microphone. The operator would rotate the head and listen for propellors etc. He would transmit the bearing etc. to the OD. The ET rating hadn't come along at that time, so the radioman was in charge of all things electronic."

"There was no hydraulics so operation of the valves was limited to the location of the valve. Most important was the main vents. On the diving alarm the cook in the after battery and torpedoman in the torpedo room would open the vents. On a buzzer signal they would close them, three buzzes, cycle the vents. The valves all had wheels with one exception.

There was no low pressure blower to bring the boat up to surface trim so the trim pump had to do the job. So the ballast tanks were interconnected by a tunnel in the keel called the "main drain". The tanks were equipped with large flood valves, which had to be closed during the pumping operation. The valves were operated with large levers called kingstons. They were grouped in the starboard aft corner of the control and, as I remember, were operated by the chief on watch. The levers extended out of the deck and were about three feet high. They required a lot of weight to operate them. When the diving alarm went, the operator would place both feet on the bulkhead and lean back against the levers. It was called "walking up the bulkhead". Some time when a dive was eminent, the valves would be opened and we would "ride the vents".

One day we made a dive and it was very important that we stay down. Everything was ok, except we couldn't get the nose down to level keel. All hands, not on watch, were sent to the torpedo room and remained there all day. Chow was brought forward and no one went aft, except when necessary.

We noted that forward trim could not be flooded at all and it could be pumped quite freely. In port we pumped trim dry and pulled the trim valve. We confirmed our suspicion that the valve had come unscrewed from its stem. It was acting like a check valve and would close under pressure.

The valve was screwed on to a large diameter flange which was safetied by a taper pin through the outer circumference of the threads. Electrolysis had destroyed the taper pin. Later we pulled all valves in the torpedo room and found similar problems. The monel pins had been replaced with brass, somewhere back down the line."

"Just thought of a little item that might be of interest. It was an R boat that was in the late thirties trade between England and the US, which was exchanging some older ships for base rights. She was repainted and renamed the HMS P-512, and was birthed with us in Bermuda. The crew was mixture of English, Scotch, Canadian and Irish. They were great fellows and we got along fine.

We did notice a few differences of operation. The crew would all go ashore except one. He would start a battery charge, bring a deck chair a magazine and a cup of tea topside and go below about thirty minute intervals to check progress of the charge. When the charge was complete, he would disappear.

We thought it was funny when they fired the three inch deck gun. They tied a lanyard to the trigger and went behind the bridge to pull the string. {can hardly say I blamed them. I was pointer on our gun.}

Used to come topside to see them get underway. The skipper would invariably give the deck apes a thorough tongue lashing.

One of our officers had acted as liaison officer with some of the English ships. He said they must have all been damn fools or the bravest suns of guns in the world. They would strip a rowboat for action with a destroyer.

Don't know which number the former R boat was. Suppose it could be found in the archives. Webmaster's note: The R-17 (SS-94) was loaned to the Royal Navy under the Lend-Lease Program and renamed the HMS P-512.

"The engine room contained two diesels of around four or five hundred horse power. They were clutched to a shaft that passed through the bulkhead into the motor room [later became the after torpedo room] and drove a motor, which also doubled as a generator. The motor was clutched to the propellor shaft.

Under way, the engine would drive the propellor through the motor. The armature of the motor would just free wheel until an excitation was applied. It would then produce a current that could be used to charge the battery. The current could be used for furnishing power for other uses. When the power used this way equaled the output of the battery, we were carrying a "zero float" and conserved our charge.

On diving the engine would be unclutched from the shaft the boat would operate on the battery motor combo. The boat would also use this combo for backing down. In port, the motor was declutched from the shaft. It would, then, do its duty as a generator for charging the battery.

Mounted over the number one engine clutch was the throne. Most of the time on local ops we made it through the day till we got back in port. But, on extended ops, its use became an act of pure necessity. We would shed our dignity and bare our soul to the smirks of the passers by, and also a fine oil vapor which could leave an outline of the parts that were not protected from exposure."

"There was no induction. Webmaster's note: The induction was a large pipe to carry air into the boat and for air for the engines to use. When the engines were running all hatches and doors from the bridge to the engine room had to be open. This almost brought us to grief.

It was on a weekend day when we got orders to get underway to ride out a storm. We rounded up all the unfortunates that hadn't gone on liberty and got underway with about twenty or so crew.

We rode out the night and submerged at day light. We ran till about dark and surfaced. About then all hell broke loose. The old gal rolled over, we could swear, almost flat on her side. Things were flying all over. A huge Niagara came pouring into the control room. It seemed like a long, long time before she finally righted and they got the bridge hatch closed.

Our battery was almost completely drained and we were adrift for about three days. Our food stores were practically nil and we went through them in a short time. We ate emergency rations, which was then a locker full of pork and beans.

A hatch was carefully opened and quickly closed to provide some ventilation. The sea finally flattened out enough for us to open the hatches and get the old engines going.

Since we had been drifting blind for a long time we were disoriented as to position. The radioman finally got a fix on a Hamilton radio station and were headed for port.

When we finally arrived, there was a large bunch of guys on dock and we were surprised at the greeting. We were told that we were reported missing."

"The torpedo room was surprisingly bright and cheerful, after you had seen the boat from the outside. It was fairly roomy, as it only carried six or eight bunks, which didn't take up much room. It was kept brightly white. The deck covering was of canvass construction and painted a bright green shellac. It was easily maintained, a fresh coat made it look like new. Quite a few guys hung out up there. For a nap, you would pull a bale of rags under your head and stretch out on deck. Lotta guys took their meals there. There were no mess tables so we would fill our trays and carry them to a convenient place on the deck. Incidentally, the quality of chow, was in the best submarine tradition. There were four torpedo tubes. Some of the boats had the barrels white. The tube doors were brass and shone like mirrors from years of bright work polish.

Torpedoes were stored in racks alongside the bulkhead. There was two traveling chain falls running down the overhead. We would pick the torpedo up, at its center of balance with the chain fall, line it up with the tube and insert it up to the hoisting strap. The strap would be removed and an adapter would be inserted in the tail. We would hook a block and tackle into it and pull the torpedo the rest of the way into the tube.

There was no TDC (Torpedo Data Computer). Gyro angle would be ordered from control. We would engage a spindle and set what angle was ordered. The spindle would be withdrawn before firing.

Tube shutters and outer doors were opened manually. Forward Trim served as the W.R.T. Webmaster's note: The "Water 'Round Torpedo" tank, used to flood the tube prior to opening the outer torpedo tube shutter doors and to drain the tube after the torpedo had been fired and the outer doors had been closed.

The room could be [presumably] used as an escape chamber. I'm glad we never had to test the theory. At that time escape buoys etc. had been removed from all boats, due to the possibility of a depth charge marking a convenient target.

There was a mushroom anchor under the keel, which could be operated from inside the room, we called it the "submerged anchor". I recall using it once, after yard overhaul. We flooded to almost negative buoyancy, then dropped the anchor and slowly wound ourselves down to test for leaks.

So, that just about winds it up from here. It's been fun and I hope I have added little insight. The web has been great and I'll be spending a lotta time with it.

Yours in a great brotherhood.


Guy Covert, EMC(SS), USN (Ret.)"

The webmasters would like to express their heartfelt thanks to the late Guy Covert and his family for sharing these insights into life on a Pigboat. We are eternally greatful.

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Ric Hedman & David Johnston
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