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Ray Olszewski

U.S. Navy, retired
Virginia, USA

What did you do in the Navy?

I did a lot of things while I was in the Navy.  Primarily I was trained to support and perform personnel and administrative matters for the crew members of a fleet submarine.  This was a very important job!  Crewmembers relied on me to make sure their pay and career records were kept in "ship shape order."  Additionally, I provided the Commanding Officer and the Executive Officer administrative support.  I was the "Boat yeoman" - a very important position.  I chide and joke with the officers to this very day that - "I ran the boat."

Learning those administrative skills, I became analytical, as I had to think and do many different things to take care of the entire submarine's administration.  Little did I know, but later in my life the fundamentals of this earlier career helped me in my many and later careers.  One of these was an Intelligence Research Specialist, a Professionalization Directorate Chief, Computer Systems Staff Specialist, Marketing and Operations Manager, Program Developer, and Project Manager.

Today, I write articles on a number of subjects for various publications; my interests are wide and varied.  I look back on my Navy career as very rewarding and I look back on those experiences as I continue to take on many interests.

What other countries did you live in or see during your time in the Navy?

The Navy gave me the opportunity to visit new places, meet new people, and experiences I'll never forget.  After boot camp, I went to Quonset Point, Rhode Island, then on to Submarine School in New London, Connecticut.  These were all wonderful experiences as there were many of us who were so to speak "in the same boat" - unfamiliar places, away from the comforts or familiarity of home, friends, schoolmates, etc.  New faces, different backgrounds, different attitudes, new surroundings that you would learn to easily adapt to were the agenda everyday.

My Navy military and civilian careers took me to Hawaii, Japan, Alaska, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Germany, Portugal, Norway, Denmark, England, Belgium, Italy, and Spain.

My travel to Japan in 1958 was just awesome!  This is where I met up with a fleet submarine (USS TUNNY SSG-282) that year.  At that time, TUNNY was beginning to play a very predominant role in the Cold War as a deterrent against the Soviets.  Japan was always a fun place to visit and we would do that as part of our classified deployments when we made deterrent strike station patrols in the Northern Pacific.

What were deterrent strike patrols and what was it like to be on them?

Deterrent Strike Stations were akin to World War II Submarine Patrols when submarines were sent out to sink the enemy whether they were military ships or merchant ships.  During the Cold War, a deterrent strike station was a classified location from which we could launch our weaponry to a key enemy target at a moment's notice.  These patrols were very arduous, as we would go many days without showers, fresh milk and vegetables, clean clothes - day after day after day.  No TV, no news, nothing other than your crew members.  To pass the time, we played cards, listen to the same music over and over, read books, and I conducted the submarine's bingo games.  I was called "hummer" because as I called the numbers, I'd say "hmmmm B-7."

Speaking of "No Showers", one time, I wore a pair of "long johns" for nearly 30 days without taking them off - any ability to wash the whole body - like taking a shower - didn't happen.  Also, it was just too cold to remove the clothing.  I like to tell this story as when I finally was able to remove the long johns; my body hair had grown through the cloth they were made of.  Eeeeeewwwhh!  Ouch!

This is what we had to do - remember this "we" is about 80 enlisted crewmen and officers.  We would leave Pearl Harbor, transit to the station for a couple of weeks, stay on patrol for at least a month (or so), then transit to Yokosuka, Japan for some R&R (rest and relaxation).  Then we would leave Japan, transit to station, remain on station for a month (or so), then head back to Pearl Harbor.  There is a lot of information published on the Internet, which provides insights into this era.  Over a four year period, I personally made five deterrent strike stations in this manner.  The TUNNY was not the only submarine that did these patrols as many others did in order to maintain a constant presence in the Northern Pacific over nearly a six-year period.

After I left the submarine force in 1962, I went to the Naval Air Station in Sanford, Florida.  Sanford is located north of Orlando and at the time, Walt Disney World did not exist.  I was responsible for maintaining officer records.  I had the job well in hand and started to look for another new and exciting job in the Navy.  So, I applied and became an Intelligence Specialist and was immediately assigned as an Administrative Assistant to the Air Force Defense Attaché at the American Embassy in Djakarta, Indonesia.  Wow!  I didn't even know where this place was and it turned out to be one of the most glamorous duties I had in all the time I was in the Navy.  I was single at the time, and lived totally on the local economy.  I had four servants to include someone to wash my clothes, clean my house, a cook and server, and a driver.  Sounds like somebody's mom all wrapped up in one person, right?

Another place was Rota, Spain where I was assigned on a temporary duty and was a Naval Intelligence Analyst keeping tabs on the Soviet Navy who operated in the Mediterranean.

Do any specific things stay in your memory?

Mostly, it was those shipmates who I served with over all those years.  A number of years ago, I was the President of the USS TUNNY (SSG-282) Reunion and with the help of several other crewmembers and the Internet; we found nearly 350 former Tunny crewmembers.  Every two years, we have a reunion and so far we have had them in Pittsburgh, Seattle, Charleston, and one coming up in San Diego.

How much of your navy career was spent aboard submarines?  What was the longest time you spent at sea and the longest spent deep underwater?

Well, I actually spent 4 years on one submarine, the Tunny.  I served about a year on another, the USS BANG (SS 385).  These were both diesel powered submarines and are no longer around, but there are a number which have become museums.  If you have an opportunity to go inside one, please do - you will appreciate the arduous conditions we lived in.  I remember once, the Tunny stayed at sea for 45 days - a long time for a diesel submarine.  We snorkeled once for 27 days - snorkeling is partially surfaced and submerged.  That was when I wore the long johns for about 30 days!  Peweee.  Nobody minded because we all smelled the same.

What types of communication are used on subs?

On submarines, use of active communications was a no-no, as we did not want to give away our position, especially if we were on a mission.  Our communication was more of a "passive nature" as we would listen and hear what was going on in the world with the special equipment we had.  To do this we would have to trail out a long communications wire to receive the signal.  I don't know or believe this happens today!

Sometimes we would receive news which our Radiomen would copy and share with the crew members.  One publication, the Tunny Picayune, became the crew's newsletter.

What technology, in use during your time in the navy, has become obsolete due to advances in technology?

I think the field of photography has changed quite a bit.  Nuclear power replaced diesel power.  Computers have replaced typewriters (which we used to type the patrol reports).  Packaged food has replaced canned foods.  Music (CDs, DVDs have replaced radios and tapes [we even had a juke box on the submarine I was on]).  Bulky and canned movie reels, we took to sea with us, can now be played on DVD players anytime.  Distance learning can be performed in the spare hours while sailors are at sea.  Today, with all the time that I was at sea, a sailor could earn a Masters or a PhD.

How did your military career prepare you for the other six or so that you have had?

Discipline was a key factor, as well as knowing the military structure was a big help because the companies I worked for later, had military contracts.  The companies loved the "gray beards" because of their exposure to the world and all that experience they brought with them.

Time management was another area because having "daily objectives" helps one become successful.  In all my working years and I still to this day is make a list of what is going to be accomplished and what needed to be done.  At the end of each day, I checked the list and if I did not get it done, it became a priority on the next day's list.

Here is a summary of my Careers which have resulted in retirements and/or vesting programs:
• U.S. Navy Reserves 23 years, Yeoman (YN) and Intelligence Specialist ((IS) Petty Officer (E-6).
• U.S. Civil Service (Navy and Department of Defense) GS-15 Intelligence Research Specialist and Systems Engineer, Professionalization Directorate Chief
• Sperry Corporation which became Unisys (Systems Developer/Marketing/Business Development)
• PRC which became Litton/PRC which became Northrop Grumman (Marketing/Business Development)
• Social Security

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Ray's General Interview

- 9 January 2007


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Last Updated:
22 January 2007

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