by Don Ennis ETCS(ss) USN(ret), USS Stonewall Jackson SSBN-634
Since the beginning of recorded history initiates into warrior societies were given new names as a rite of passage. Anthropologists would do well study this curious practice on U S Navy submarines.
Almost everyone I know who served on submarines at sometime during his tenure received a nick-name. There seem to be as many reason for the names as individuals but in general names are given because of the individual’s actions, physical attributes, or place of origin to name a few. Before the civil war Thomas Jackson was know as “Old Tom Fool.” at the Virginia Military Institute where he was the superintendent. It was at the first Battle for Bull Run that the confederate General Bee observed Jackson’s men defending Henry Hill against Union advances and proclaimed “There stands Jackson like a Stonewall.” I have no evidence to support my theory, but “Old Tom Fool” was known to fall asleep even in the thick of battle. I think it would be consistent with the bestowing of nicknames if he were asleep. The confederate troops were rallied by Jackson’s resilience and the day was saved. The name Stonewall Jackson stuck. By similar social mechanism we who serve on the Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarine name after him, became: Che and Chug, Gunny, Wing Nut, Hoss, Chief Funny Name, Shaky, Sonny, Boing, Rooter, the boy, Kid Pid, Mr. Submarine, Pappy, Knobby, Fast Fred, Ratso, Wire Whip, Zit, Pickle, Trash Mouth, Mother, Wenatchee, Indian, Trixie, Speed, Numbsy, Angles, Easy Out, Thumper, Mr Ed, Shoe shine, Bright light, Scrubber load, ………………….* and Harvey High School.
Harvey was a young second class “A” ganger whose real name I learned after several patrols was Ron Wardlow. Harvey or Harv as he was often called was engaged to a young lady named Ginny whom the crew was taking bets would soon be renamed Ginny grammar school or some other alliteration. I think they had been contemplating marriage for almost a year and as the wedding date approached it became necessary for the bride to make the necessary arrangements with the groom’s mother. A long distance telephone call was arranged between Honolulu and someplace in the Midwest to discuss cakes and dresses, color schemes and flowers. During the conversation Ginny would interject: “I thing Harv would like this” or “I don’t think Harvey would like that.” Finally the perplexed Mrs. Wardlow asked the future Mrs. Wardlow: “Harvey? Who is Harvey?” Stunned Ginny responded “You know, your son Harvey” Not being a part of the submarine community Mrs. Warlow had no idea that her son had an alias and I strongly suspect that until that moment Ginny did not know she was marrying a man named Ron instead of one named Harv: so pervasive are nicknames on submarines.
* I could have gone on indefinitely recalling submarine nick names, but I thought it might be more fun too have you the reader recall some of the nicknames you know about. Drop me an e-mail at, firstname.lastname@example.org or send it to Stan at his e-mail address. Incidentally, how shipmates got there nick names very often make great sea stories. If you can provide the structure I can probably help with the details. Don’t worry about historical accuracy. Hell, if they were all true they wouldn’t be sea stories.
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