This is submarine week on Meet the Author so it is only appropriate that I interview Gannon McHale about life as an enlisted sailor on a fast attack submarine during the 1960s.

What inspired you to write Stealth Boat: Fighting the Cold War in a Fast-Attack Submarine?

The inspiration for the book actually came from a shipmate, who suggested that I “write down all those old sea stories.” As an actor I have been in the storytelling business for thirty years, and storytelling was a big part of my childhood. I thought that perhaps the time had come for someone to recall life aboard a submarine as seen through the eyes of an enlisted man. Submarine sailors love sea stories and I believed that my approach might inspire other men who served aboard boats to recall their own experiences.

What was it like being an enlisted man onboard the USS Sturgeon (SSN-637) in the late 1960’s?

Much has been written about the late 1960’s as one of the most divisive periods in our nation’s history. The country was nearly torn apart by the Vietnam War and it caused a great deal of heartache in families nationwide. The almost universal “support the troops” sentiment of today was definitely not the norm. The Selective Service Act was in place and all young men who reached the age of 19 were required to serve two years active duty in the military. Many young men fled the country to avoid being drafted. Others faked medical and psychological ailments to avoid service in what they deemed an unnecessary and immoral war. I and many of my colleagues enlisted in the Navy specifically to avoid being drafted for service in Southeast Asia. However, we were not going to shirk from our responsibilities, burn our draft cards or go to Canada. We decided to be proactive about our military experience and we ended up in the submarine service where the “Cold War” required us to do things that were just as dangerous as being sent into combat.

Who should read Stealth Boat?

Everyone who has ever served aboard a submarine and anyone who is curious about the experience should read this book. I tried to recreate the day-today camaraderie that is unique to the submarine service, and I hope that it will inspire those men who served on boats to recall their own experiences. I also hoped that it would “open a door” and shed some light on what has been, until recently, a highly classified part of our nation’s history. The Submarine Service contribution to winning the Cold War cannot be overestimated.

How did your time in the Navy prepare you for Broadway and regional theatres across the world?

I had no idea when I was in the Navy that I would end up in Show Business. However, the friendships that I developed aboard the USS STURGEON have been a part of my life ever since, and the training and experience I gained as a submariner helped give me the strength and determination necessary to survive in a highly competitive and often capricious business environment.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

From the book……”My four years in the Unites States Navy coincided with one of the most interesting periods in the history of the Submarine Force, the ascendance of nuclear submarines and the decline of the diesel-electric boats. In the beginning of my service I reported aboard the newest commissioned nuclear powered attack submarine in the fleet and subsequently made her first three patrols. At the end I made a patrol aboard one of the oldest diesel-electric boats in the fleet before she was decommissioned and stricken from the list. I am very happy that I served aboard both vessels. The first was the future in the present tense, and the other was the past. As the “future” Sturgeon was the major, defining experience of my life and, as the “past,” Dogfish gave me perspective, a tangible sense of submarine history, and completed my immersion into a mystique that only those men who have served on submarines can ever truly comprehend.”

I was very fortunate to serve on a great boat with great men, some of the finest I have ever met. I truly believe that the Submarine Service provided me with not only the first and, perhaps, finest adventure of my life, but the experience and the friendships of a lifetime. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Posted by Jim Dolbow in Books

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  • Sargent Rock

    Some co-workers were asking about life on Submarines. I told them about trim parties, halfway nights, and insignificant events logs. I have to tell them about this book.
    It has been a long time since I heard someone yell, “Submarines Once, Submarines twice” or “DBF”
    I have to get this book.

  • Sargent Rock, thanks for reading and commenting! You wont be disappointed by the book!