New Haven, Connecticut, 1922

by Milo Ketchum

In the summer of 1922, when I was 12 years old, my mother and father took me to a convention of the Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. We stayed in one of the dormitories as was the custom for the organization. The building was a copy of one from an English university, which my father pointed out was no valid solution for this day and age.

A feature of the program was a visit to the submarine base at Groton, Connecticut, about 40 miles east of New Haven on Long Island Sound. Further more, it was to be made in a Navy Destroyer. Naturally I was thrilled, as any boy of that age would be. We departed from a pier in the harbor and my impression was that the ship was not as large as I had expected. Actually these vessels were much smaller than they were in the next war. The weather that morning was typical for an early summer day: calm and hazy with a slight wind from the east, to change later in the day to a strong southwest breeze. We started up the Sound at a leisurely pace with the wind in our faces, and I remember a single gaff rigged sloop bound down the sound, towing a dinghy. We seemed to arrive quickly at our destination which was Groton, opposite New London, on the Thames River. (Pronounced locally using the "th" sound rather than the British "t"). The submarine base is located on the east side of the river about four miles from the mouth. We docked at a pier, had lunch, and then had a short tour of the grounds. Then we were invited to go down in an old submarine used for training, and not for actual operation. I remember climbing down through the conning tower and the dim passages and mysterious equipment, much more than I could absorb at that age.

The trip back was even more dramatic. Soon after were dog T. ted the river, we saw a submarine which in a few minutes started to submerge to the accompaniment of cheers from the passengers of the destroyer, The demonstration was not all, however. The weather had changed, from the dull morning to a bright sunny afternoon with a strong southwest breeze, so characteristic of the Sound- From astern we soon saw another destroyer moving fast. As it caught up with us it started laying a smoke screen, great billows of black smoke into which it disappeared, then came out again and making a wide turn saluted us and returned to the base. Surely this was a magnificent experience for a twelve-year-old.

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