CINCINNATI – Chris Becker, once an officer on the USS Cincinnati nuclear submarine, remembered when it sailed the ocean red in tribute to the city’s baseball team.
“Everything that could be painted red was red,” Becker, a Cincinnati native, told the University of Michigan Record. “The baseball caps we wore during drills were Cincinnati Reds baseball caps.”
The sub’s bright red backup engine was even nicknamed the Big Red Machine.
The Reds, in turn, signed a bat after one of their 1970s World Series championships and donated it to the sub.
Appropriately, when the submarine “sailed” into downtown Saturday, it was on display before the Reds game outside Great American Ball Park.
Not the whole submarine, mind you, but three of its most recognizable pieces - part of the conning tower, its sail planes and the rudder - have been trucked in from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard near Seattle.
The sub’s appearance is part of an effort to create the USS Cincinnati-Cold War Memorial on the riverfront, according to project coordinator Joseph Jaap, a Cincinnati native and former nuclear submarine officer. The sub pieces would anchor the memorial.
There was a welcoming ceremony on Main Street at 4 p.m. Saturday followed by public viewing until 7 p.m.
Retired Commanding Officer Robert Hawthorne and former crewmen were on hand for the occasion.
To mark the event, the Reds offered discounted tickets for Saturday’s 7:10 p.m. game with the Brewers.
The Navy determined that the USS Cincinnati – nicknamed Cincyfish - contained too many classified secrets to allow the entire sub to be converted into a public museum, Jaap said. Plus, the sub was 360 feet long, 50 feet tall and 33 feet wide – and it weighed 6,000 tons - so the cost of getting it here might have torpedoed the project.
But the Navy donated:
> The conning tower "sail" structure that contains the periscopes, radio and satellite antennas, sonar, radar and snorkel equipment. It is 26 feet long and 18 feet tall with a wingspan of 31 feet. It weighs 50 tons.
> The upper section of the rudder. It is 17 feet tall and 13 feet wide and weighs 26 tons.
> The emergency diesel-powered electrical generator. It is 23 feet long, 6 feet wide and 11 feet tall and weighs 24 tons. But it will not arrive here until October.
After Saturday’s event, the pieces will be refurbished and stored until they are installed at the memorial, Jaap said.
Several riverfront locations are under consideration for the memorial, Jaap said. He hopes it can be completed in time for baseball’s 2015 All-Star Game.
Built for $900 million, the USS Cincinnati was commissioned in 1978 and decommissioned in 1996. Between then it patrolled the North Atlantic, the Mediterranean Sea and the Arctic Ocean.
The sub was the fourth Navy vessel named USS Cincinnati. The others were:
> A Civil War Gunboat (1862-1866). It was sunk twice in battle, only to be raised to fight again.
> A Spanish-American War Cruiser (1894-1921): It operated in the West Indies during the war and participated in the blockade of Cuba and the bombardment of Matanzas, Cuba.
> A World War II Cruiser (1921-1945): It was based at Pearl Harbor from April 1940 to March 1941, just missing the Japanese attack. It sailed patrols and escorted convoys in the western Atlantic and Caribbean and later patrolled southern Atlantic shipping lanes until the Germans surrendered.
Saturday’s event will also include the Cincinnati Council of the Navy League of the U.S., the Cincinnati Base of the U.S. Submarine Veterans, Inc., members of the Navy Reserve and the Naval Support Center Cincinnati.
Read more about the USS Cincinnati-Cold War Memorial project at https://www.facebook.com/USSCincinnati
Buy discounted tickets to Saturday's Reds game at http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/cin/ticketing/group_theme_dates.jsp?loc=usscincinnati