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Our military ran short of front line manpower in the late 1960s and early 1970s, so an old tradition was dusted off to get the right kind of talent into the right billets, within the constraints of the law. When I was assigned to be the Weapons Officer of USS Odax, I was a Lieutenant (Junior Grade) or O-2, in a position that called for a full Lieutenant, O-3. So I got promoted. At least, to all external appearances I got promoted. Unlike real life, where the general HR policy is to keep all personnel actions confidential, dates of rank and lineal numbers were well known among naval officers.

I got two official letters regarding my appointment as "Weps." The first was the letter informing me of my official duty assignment. The second letter is shown below. This process is traditionally and historically referred to as frocking, as in wearing the frock coat of your rank but not getting the extra pay.

So, like George Armstrong Custer, I was frocked.


I did not get a raise,

I did not get all the auhority,

I did get the title,

I did get the insignia,

and I got to fire a torpedo.

Once I became Weapons Officer, my Battle Station was to operate the Torpedo Data Computer, in the conning tower. When we were at Battle Stations, the skipper manned the periscope, the quartermaster asssisted on the periscope, the Navigator hovered over the Dead Recogning Tracer, there was a dependable sailor on the helm, and another dependable sailor was our phone talker. That's too many people in such a tiny compartment.

It was standard for a couple of submarines to go out together for a day or a week and practicing attacking each other. The attacker and the target could each be either surfaced or submerged for any given exercise. And sometimes we shot torpedos at each other. These were exercise models of a standard Mark 14 Mod 5, electrically set torpedo. The explosive warheads were replaced with exercise heads that caused the torpedo to float at end of run, so they could be retrieved and re-used for training.

These practice torpedos were set to run below the keel of the target.

Shortly after I was frocked, we went out for one of these practice days. The skipper took the first shot. Then for the second run he afforded me the standard honor of manning the periscope myself for one of my own torpedos. It was scored as a hit. But best of all was that we found it and my torpedomen recovered it at end of run.

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