Authors note: - This collection of letters will form part of a series that I have planned as ďLetters Home.ĒIn my own version of events, I have placed Jamie in at the beginning of the adventureÖ.Lillian H.

 

Sept 20th

 

Dear Dad,

 

Iím sorry our phone conversation ended so abruptly last night, my fault I guess. I could hear the disapproval in your voice and didnít know what to say that would help you understand.

 

Yes, by requesting this transfer and going into the Naval reserve Iím risking a lot. I can see that to you my decision to give up my regular Naval career must seem irrational after all the hard work I put in to earn my commission but working away from the sea in an office is not going to make me happy and the admiralís offer is just what I need to motivate me again. Heís offering an opportunity that anyone would find gratifying and heís offering it to me!He says he needs me and I know he means it, Dad. I donít care what the papers, certain officials and admirals are saying; this submarine is not a Ďfollyí! Iíve seen the plans, gone over the specs and when sheís built, she will be the most advanced boat to ever set sail and I want to be a part of that!I know I can do it and I want to make a difference.Iím sorry if this disappoints you and Mom, I wouldnít willingly hurt either of you but this is very important to me, Dad, and Iím willing to risk even your disapproval to achieve it.

 

I have talked to Lee and he understands, in fact I think a bit of him even envies my good luck. Lee has always admired Admiral Nelsonís intelligence and vision, he believes in the admiral just as much as I do.You should have seen them debating design developments at the academy, it was like they thought as one mind!

 

Iím not doing this with blind regard to myself, Dad. I respect the admiral and I also believe in what heís trying to accomplish, what I know he will accomplish! For that reason I submitted my request for transfer two days ago and it has been reluctantly accepted but my decision has been made and I wonít change my mind.

 

I have already moved out of my quarters and Iím travelling to Santa Barbara tonight. Iíll let you and Mom know when I get there. The admiral has offered me basic accommodation in a cabin on the grounds of what is soon to be the Nelson Institute of Marine Research but is essentially a building site right now. That wonít bother me; Iíve slept in worse places.

 

I will start work tomorrow as executive officer with responsibility for the organisation of the whole project.Thereís a whole lot to be done before the keel laying ceremony a week from Tuesday but Iím looking forward to the challenge.

 

Admiral Nelson has invited you both to attend if you feel you would want to come but I understand if you canít be there, itís a long way and not a very auspicious venue yet.

 

Iím sorry that we canít talk about this right now but maybe in time you will understand why I have made the choice I have.

 

I love you both and know that itís with your support that I got this far. All Iím asking Dad, is for you to trust me like you always have. I would feel happier facing the future knowing I hadnít lost your respect in the process but I appreciate your concerns and know that they are only because you both worry over me, please donít. I know this is the right thing to do.

 

Your loving son,

 

Chip.

~*~

 

 

May 8th

Dearest Ruth,

 

Hello my darlingÖ. Well, here I am again, back at sea. I know I said never again but after death so cruelly separated us, dearest, life ashore seemed too empty to bear.

 

Has it really been just six months? I have only to look at the calendar to confirm it but in my heart it feels like forever.Maybe I have chosen the cowardís way out but when Harry made his request, I didnít really hesitate. It was a way of escaping the memories that haunted me every time I turn to look for you.

 

I know you remember Harry Nelson. He was that dashing young officer who dragged me along and introduced us that fateful evening of the June Ball all those years ago. He returned to sail the seven seas while I stole you away and settled for a posting at the base hospital so we could be together. He has finally finished building the Institute and boat he kept boasting to us he would. He was away at sea doing trials when he heard aboutÖ well, he sought me out to offer his help and condolences then surprised the hell out of me by offering me the Chief Medical Officer post.Heíd heard I was thinking of resigning; I didnít really have the heart for medicine anymore after my efforts on your behalf proved so futile but he persuaded me he needed my help and I let myself believe him. Though quite what heíd make of my sanity in writing to you like this Iím not sure!

 

So thatís what brings me here to a bright new shining sickbay in a bright new shining submarine. Harry built his dream all right; sheís everything he said she would be and moreÖ Seaview! I wish you could see her, Ruth. You had an eye for beauty and she really is uniquely beautiful. Only Harry could turn the world of Ďcanít doí on its ear and install giant windows in her bow to give him the view of the oceans he always craved.

 

Our captain is John Phillips. Nice man, gentle and unassuming but extremely capable. Heís seen her through the trials very well but from something he let slip I donít think heís the man Harry originally wanted but you know the Navy, they like to call the shots. Quite who Harry was after Iím not sure but even though he built her as a private venture, I understand the Navy paid a few of the bills and will use her for official purposes occasionally, so they are exerting some pressure on the commanding officer. I daresay Harry will get his own way eventually, he usually does.

 

The XO is something of an enigma though. Very much younger than I expected, graduated second in his year and was considered something of a shining star among the higher echelons. He has had some sea duty but was seconded for senior admin duties to the Navy dept.Heís a reserved young man but highly organised and capable beyond his years, if all the stories are to be believed. John and Harry seem totally confident in him. Harry certainly must be to have risked censure by poaching him right out from under the Pentagon War Lords, apparently they had different plans for Lt Commander Morton. The crew have due respect towards him but I detect a little reserved awe when they talk to him. Chip Morton has a calmness about him that can be quite unnerving. The stories abound that he has some sort of second sight.I must admit nothing seems to pass his attention.I have met with him many times and he always has the same quiet demeanour and passive approach that seems to assess everything without even a flicker of emotion, thereís not a hint of what goes on behind that unruffled exterior or closed expression, thatís not to say I donít like him, I do, heís just a hard man to pigeonhole!

 

The only man in the lower ranks that seems perfectly at ease with our young exec is the CPO. Iíve watched him around the boat, a plug ugly, big bull of a man, very much Ďold Navyí but he handles the crew with the expertise of a shipís master.Curley Jones is also very good at guiding an inexperienced first officer with a subtlety that is rather inspiring, I think thereís a great deal of mutual respect held between them. Harry certainly knows the people he needs to make a good crew! This boat has a good feeling about it.I think I may even be happy aboard her.

 

I have to go, Ruth and check my domain. I have excellent corpsmen but you know my attention to detail, just want to assure myself that weíre ready for every eventualityÖ

 

I miss you my dear, miss you with all my heart.Youíre never far away from my thoughts but maybe this boat will help to fill the space you left in my life and the pain will be eased enough for me to carry on day to day without my wish to be with you again consuming all my thoughts.

 

Goodbye dearest, till the next time I come to share my life with youÖ.

 

Your lonely but devoted husbandÖ

~*~

 

Nov 23rd

 

Dear Jiggs,

 

Of course youíre welcome aboard Seaview anytime!Weíve been friends too long to allow a little healthy scepticism come between us.

 

Itís taken me ten years to get from drawing board to operational sub but I never lost my conviction. I knew it was a viable proposition no matter what those blinkered sceptics believed!They fought me every step of the way but I wasnít going to let their negative narrow-mindedness stop me. I wanted this too much for that! The last three years have seen the whole project come together at last.

 

Itís unfortunate that the delays escalated the costs but I suppose I have to be grateful that I still have a few friends in the halls of power that were willing to fight for me and donít think Iím not grateful for all the influence you exerted on my behalf, I do know what it cost you and appreciate the ridicule you suffered for supporting ĎNelsonís FollyíÖ youíre a true friend, Jiggs.

 

Now, it begins.I will have to suffer the occasional interference from the Navy Dept but it will be worth it to take her out and do the work I have always dreamed of doing, worthwhile research that one day might help to save our ecologically beleaguered planet from itís own destruction!

 

I suppose you heard they turned down my request for Crane as captain. Fools! They are going to waste a man worth ten times their value by using him for so many ONI spy missions.Iím not saying what he does is not valuable but heís used on the most dangerous missions and so often left unsupported while they guard their backs! Heís a brave, selfless young man with only one axiom in lifeÖto do the right thingÖit will get him killed by cowardly men behind big desks in shadowy offices!††† I know, I know we disagree, but mark my words old friend, I havenít given up on him yet - I recognised his worth a long time ago and while John will make a more than suitable captain for Seaview in the interim, she will have the man I designed her for.Lee Crane will be her captain if I have to deal with the devil himself to get him!

 

Yes, Morton has settled in very well. I knew as I followed him through his career he was just the man to manage my boat.Heís exceptional when it comes to organisation and has completely made the XO post his own. The men were a little reserved at first around him; heís not an easy man to get a feel for, I admit, but heís been smart and built on their strengths. He also has Curley Jones to watch over him, I can see quite a mutual respect forming there; I may not be able to read Morton as well as Iíd like but now I have Curley to do it for me.

 

From those early years at the academy when I first came across them I always intended these two men to work in tandem and with one in place the other will follow!Their intelligence and flair is just what I need for Seaview, what she rightfully deserves. I will have the best command crew I could hope for!

 

You call me obsessive, maybe your right, Jiggs but itís my obsession that got Seaview built and I wonít jeopardise all that work for nothing less than perfection!I wonít rest until I get everything just right!

 

Iíll be in touch in a few days and you can buy me dinner, your turn I think!

 

Best wishes,

 

Harry

 

 

~*~

 

Jan 18th

 

Dear Sharkey,

 

Hi there buddy, you know I ainít much for letter writing but weíre shoving off tomorrow and I thought Iíd just tell ya you owe me $20. You were so sure we wouldnít get this one off the slipway, well, we did it and she sure is a sight to behold!

 

You shoulda knowed the admiral wasnít gonna let things go wrong. Heís fair bustiní a gut from the first day he laid her keel, now sheís all spruced up and this trip is the last of her shakedowns before she gets commissioned.

 

You, me and Bull Swenson, we seen it all Sharkey. The three of us have sailed aboard most of the tin cans out there but you ainít seen nothing like Seaview, no sir!Sheís sleek and fast and can dive deeper than any other sub on the planet. This new design of the admiralís is gonna make a few of those Washington big wigs sit up and take notice for sure!They wonít be laughing at him no more!

 

Iím real proud that the OOM asked me to throw in with him. We both know that I was kissed by Mother Carey* and I wasnít ready to be beached yet. Iím a few pounds too heavy and been around a few years too long maybe for the young officers theyíre turning out today but I donít hold no grudges for that, things always gotta move forward, though I can still teach these newbies a thing or two. There ainít a sub engine been built that I canít strip down and put back together before they even got their hands dirty!The admiral, he knows that, reckon thatís what he needs, a safe pair of hands while he gets the feel for her.

 

Most of the crew are old hands with a modern slant on things, some have got her deck under their feet already and a few still gotta grow with her but I ainít worried about them, theyíll do fine.

 

We got a good skipper in Captain Phillips, you wonít know him probably but I sailed with him in the Swordfish. Good man, he ainít likely to go doing nothing foolish with the admiralís baby.Heís my idea of a real officer and old Navy so he knows the value of good men and will handle them right.The admiral trusts him and it shows but the poop is that the old man wanted another choice but got blackjacked by the top brass on that.††

 

We got a fresh wet behind the ears XO though, name of Morton, Lt. Commander Charles ĎChipí Morton. The admiral scooped him straight outta Washington! I wasnít so sure about him at first, real young and a quiet type. Some of the guys were a bit shy around him too, not comfortable like. He donít say a lot most the time but he sure knows how to get his self heard okay! Heís got all the technical know-how to run her but knows he still got a lot to learn about handling a boat and he ainít too proud to ask.He handles the crew real well and listens to the old hands, this boat is the better for him being here I think. Heís new Navy but with an old head on his shouldersÖ the admiral still knows quality when he sees it.Heís going to make Seaview one mighty fine exec if you ask me!

 

The admiral is real proud of her and his crew and were sure proud to be serving with him!

 

Letís you me and Bull meet up in Pearl real soon, I wanna spend my $20 on a night we donít rememberÖ.

 

Be seeing ya around buddy.

 

Curley

 

 

~*~

 

 

* 'Kissed by Mother Carey', is a term applied to someone devoted to life at sea.

 

~*~

 

 

Dear Harry,

 

I guess if you are reading this Iím either incapacitated or Iím Ė well, letís just say Iím on permanent leave shall we?

 

I have made detailed arrangements with my lawyer for the disposition of my assets. I have no close relatives as you know, the sea has always been my mistress and she is a very hard lover to spurn, the only thing I ask of you is to accept the bequest and use it to best further the aims of the Institute.

 

Now is not the time for equivocation, Harry, our long friendship deserves more than that.I know I was not your first choice to be captain but I never held any grudges for that. You should have known that the Washington mandarins were not going to let you win every battle, and you had been a little too vocal in your preferences, they had to extract their pound of flesh for your effrontery in proving them wrong and building Seaview in spite of their protestations.I was their punishment, the captain you didnít want over the man you did. Maybe I would have declined the appointment if I thought for one moment they would have reconsidered but I think we both know that wasnít going to happen, so I gratefully accepted the opportunity presented me.†† Little did they know, that I was in fact on your side and supported your choice of young Crane but was happy to serve as his substitute while he was unavailable yet always prepared to stand down the moment you secured his transfer, as I knew you eventually would.

 

Sometimes divine intervention cannot be beaten Harry, not even by someone as determined as yourself. In this case I was the best man for the job and I think you came to appreciate that.I never felt like second best nor was I insulted, I merely felt fortunate that destiny had dictated my presence aboard and not his. Iím sure the delays, wrangling and character assassinations would have taken their toll on a younger more dynamic man such as Captain Crane and possibly pushed him to his own destruction, whereas I have weathered the storms of dissention before and always managed to find calm waters.

 

You have created a boat with heart, Harry, several hearts in fact. There is not a man among your handpicked crew that would let you or Seaview down Ė she has bewitched them as she did me. I have spent the last two years watching trained, seasoned vets and the new, young eager beavers become one highly skilled body of men, they are a credit to the vision for your dream, Harry but I havenít done it alone, no captain ever does. You chose the men to suit the boat, particularly that gruff three hundred pound CPO you set as a watchdog on all of us and handles men and officers as if he was born to it, but even he succumbed to her charms in the end!

 

I must say I congratulate you on the selection of your executive officer. I will be the first to admit Harry; I thought you had made a mistake that you would come to regret. Despite his commendable reputation he appeared too young and inexperienced for such a crucial position but I quickly saw that he doesnít have the words Ďit canít be doneí in his vocabulary any more than you do, again you confounded us all and proved to have picked the right man for the job.

 

If I had been blessed with a son, Iíd like to think he might have been someone like Chip Morton. Without him Harry, I think you would have fought bigger battles and my job would have been more difficult to say the least. I have never met a man with such quiet composure, steely determination or limitless personal resources as he has; it has been a privilege to have served with him. My only advice to you, Harry, would be to get to know him better Ė heís more that just the outstanding administrator you know him to be. He has a maturity of character that you would do well to recognise and come to rely on in the years ahead.I envy you the adventures you will have with Crane at the helm and Morton as his first officer!

 

I wish you fair winds for the future, Harry. Iím glad to have been even a small part of your odyssey.

 

Goodbye old friend,

 

John.

 

~*~

 

 

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