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Things dripped in submarines. Sometimes, the drips were water.

Lots of the drips were diesel fuel. Strangely enough, diesel fuel drips could appear in almost any compartment in the boat. The fuel tanks were scattered the length of the submarine, on the outside of the pressure hull. So it was quite possible, and common, for drips of diesel fuel to appear in unexpected places, such as the control room in the forward half of the boat. These diesel drips were small and slow, but numerous.

Sea water, of course dripped in through similar gaps, cracks, and opportunities. The volume of these drips was generally quite small, so sea water flooding was not much of a problem. We took lots of precautions to be sure that we did not get sea water drips into our battery acid, or into our electrical equipment. At other places, sea water drips were just a nuisance.

Some of the more spectacular drips were hydraulic fluid. We used stainless steel drip pans under all of our hydraulic equipment. We designed the drip pans ourselves, and we had them made to order by the skilled mechanics on the submarine tender. When the hydraulic equipment was not pressurized, the drips were usually (not always) insignificant. However, when some of the hydraulic equipment was used properly, it dripped or sprayed hydraulic fluid at innocent bystanders. We got used to the feeling of hydraulic fluid in our hair. And on our faces. And in our clothes.

Hydraulic fluid, for those of you who are not familiar with it, is quite similar to the fluid in the automatic transmission on a car.

Other things dripped, too. The submarine was designed so that most things dripped into the bilge. Only a few drips had a good shot at our heads and faces. (We will not discuss some of the difficulties associated with the plumbing fixtures. I do have my limits.)

A result of all these drips, combined with a lack of laundry facilities and a severe shortage of water for bathing, was our tendency to smell like our drips. Some of the drips were noticeably aromatic. But mostly, we smelled like diesel fuel. When we were at sea, the diesel smell could even overpower the natural body smell of us unwashed submariners. When we were ashore where we could shower every day, the diesel smell overpowered all other smells with no question about it.

Fortunately for us, our noses saturated with the diesel smell after a few minutes aboard, and we did not much notice the fragrance of the diesel fuel ourselves. Sometimes when we had to make a trip to an office ashore or to the Navy Exchange we were told that they could smell us a block away. It was a badge of our honored assignment that we smelled constantly of diesel fuel.

Each day in port, on those days that I got to go home at the end of working hours, I changed and showered as soon as I got in the door. My uniforms were washed separately from my civilian clothes. It was still difficult to hide my submarine affiliation when I was ashore. I tended to smell of diesel fuel, with my skin permeated with the stuff.

One time we knew ahead of time that we were to attend a formal function during a visit to another port. We needed to wear our dress uniforms. We also knew that the uniforms would smell like diesel fuel even if we kept them wrapped and sealed in plastic before bringing them aboard the boat. So we shipped our uniforms to our hosts ahead of time. The event turned out to be charming, and it was made all the better for the others by our lack of diesel aroma.

An earlier time, after my first training cruise on a submarine, I had gone to the Exchange to buy some necessities. None of my insignia identified me as a submariner. As I approached the building a Chief Petty Officer was leaving. He sniffed, smiled, and said, "Welcome to the submarine force, sir."

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