What is it like to experience a nuclear explosion from inside a submarine? An officer whose boat was used as a target vessel in 1958 tells the tale.
I was none too pleased to be assigned to the USS Bonita (SSK-3). The SSK class had a bad reputation in the U.S. Submarine Force. Even worse, the Bonita was not a front-line submarine, a fact I was disappointed to discover soon after reporting aboard as third officer in January 1958. During my 11 months in the boat, her officers and crew would be challenged with numerous unique problems—most related to the Bonita’s participation in two Operation Hardtack I nuclear tests—that required a maximum of flexibility and innovation.
The submarine’s hard-charging skipper was Lieutenant Commander Bob Newbern. While an instructor in the Weapons Department at the Naval Submarine School, he was known as “Tubes Newbs.” Captain Newbern was the main reason the Bonita returned from the nuclear tests at Eniwetok Atoll in one piece rather than ending up on the bottom, thousands of miles from home. Under his leadership, Hardtack became the crown on the submarine’s otherwise tarnished reputation.
An Unsatisfactory Design