Cold War (1953-64)

“Surface Target” — Anti-Submarine Warfare Exercises

Memory from: Lieutenant John F. "Jack" Hofer

Setting the Scene

Submariners and destroyer sailors. Are there any greater rivals in the sea services? The two stalk each other throughout the world's oceans constantly, even during peacetime. The sailors who hunt their silent-but-deadly prey refer to submariners good-naturedly (or not) as "Bubbleheads" while submariners respond in kind by referring to the sleek destroyers, stately cruisers, and imposing battleships and carriers by the good-natured (or not) slur of "surface targets." Several years ago, Lieutenant John F. "Jack" Hofer, the KIDD's Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Officer from June of 1952 to February of 1953, sent us a photo offering a unique view of the KIDD--one from the periscope of an "enemy" submarine. This is certainly one sight that no destroyer skipper ever wants to see!

The Recollection

You guys are great! I was stunned when I found out last year that the Ole “Pirate of the Pacific” was still alive, well, and in such good hands. The enclosed picture was taken (I believe) by the USS SEAWOLF during major ASW [Anti-Submarine Warfare] exercises late in 1953 or early in 1954 while we were en route from Japan to Okinawa. After the exercise, I went aboard the boat [the submarine] in Okinawa to see how the other half lived and was given this picture. I was ASW officer on the KIDD (as a LTjg), and as you can see, this was a stand-off at 4,156 yards. Out of range of our sonar and, they said, out of range of their torpedoes. [Editor’s Note: In researching the activities of the SEAWOLF, we find this photo could not have been from her as the second USS SEAWOLF (SS-197) was lost to friendly fire in 1944 during World War II. The third vessel to be named SEAWOLF (SSN-575) was not launched until 1955 and didn’t enter the fleet until 1957. Therefore, it was some other submarine that had KIDD in her sights on this occasion. In yet another example of history repeating itself, Lieutenant Robert P. Bentz, the KIDD’s Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Officer from September of 1953 to September of 1957, sent us a similar photo of the KIDD as viewed through yet another periscope!] We met in 1996 when I and my family visited Baton Rouge. I am not sure you remain as Ship Superintendent, but I thought the museum might be interested in having the enclosed picture.

I ran across it when reviewing some old Navy letters and thought you might enjoy seeing it. My guess is the picture is somewhat unique. It was taken through a submarine periscope (I think during the first week of March in 1955). Fortunately, the submarine was a U.S. sub participating in an ASW exercise. I was the ASW Officer on the KIDD at the time. In looking through my correspondence, I noted that after the exercise, the KIDD received a message from COM DESDIV 152 [Commander, Destroyer Division 152] which reads in part: “DESDIV 152 far outclassed other divs present X Particularly gratifying was WEDDERBURN performance as screen CDR and ALL ASW teams overall performances X Sub CO reported–don’t apologize for your boys they are the hottest afloat X I can’t shake them X CDD 152 takes great pleasure and pride in your achievement X Well done” I came into possession of the picture of the KIDD centered in the sub’s sights during a conversation with officers from the sub at a post-exercise “get together” at an “O” club [Officer’s Club]. When they learned that I was the KIDD’s ASW Officer, they presented the picture and negative to me (I presume to let me know that my team was not quite as hot as we might have thought). We had not detected the sub on that run and certainly did not know it was close enough to take pictures. (The negative, which also had a clock face showing date and time, has escaped me in the intervening years, but the picture survives.) My letter home for that week contained the following reference: “Our Hunter Killer exercise has been going very well except it hasn’t amounted to much. I was up in Sonar all last night, but we had only one alert to assist another ship to investigate a sonar contact. It turned out to be a fish. We went out on one Search and Attack Unit (SAU), but made only four attacks on the sub. We got four hits and received a Well Done from the SAU Commander.”

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