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Korean War vet remembers sub duty

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KOREN WAR veteran Hugo Waughmbaugh relaxes at his home in El Dorado on Thursday, Oct. 8. Democrat photo by Pat Dollins

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From page A1 | November 12, 2012 | Leave Comment

“In sub school, they weeded out the people they thought might be claustrophobic,” said Hugo Waughmbaugh, 83. “I thought I would be one of them, but I wasn’t claustrophic and it wasn’t hard for me.”

A recent Mountain Democrat story about Shingle Springs resident Walter Larsen, who served aboard the sub tender the USS Sperry, sparked memories for Waughmbaugh.

When Waughmbaugh joined the Navy at the age of 18, he was hoping to fly planes. WWII was over and the Korean War hadn’t yet begun. “There were all these little schools that sprang up because the WWII vets had the G.I. Bill to pay for schooling. I started at a refrigeration trade school, but they were just taking names and collecting money, so I decided to go into the Navy.”

He volunteered to train as a pilot. “I took all the tests and passed them all, but two weeks after boot camp, when I got my orders, I’d been assigned to submarine school,” he said.

Waughmbaugh graduated from sub school May, 1949 and was assigned to the USS Voladore. “It was the newest sub the Navy had at the time and I helped celebrate its first birthday.” He was assigned to the engine room to work on the sub engines. “I received some training in school, but most of my training I got on the job.”

After serving on the Voladore for eight or nine months, he was transferred to the USS Blenny. “It was old and rusted,” he said. The Blenny went up and down the coast of California playing war games. “We’d tie up to the sub repair ships in San Diego Harbor like the USS Sperry. Tied up to the Sperry in a line, subs were called pig boats because they looked like a litter of piglets nursing on their mother.

“To go ashore, we would have to cross the decks of all the inboard boats and pass through the Sperry to catch the water taxi from her outer side,” said Waughmbaugh.

When the Korean War broke out, he was transferred to Japan where he spent two years working in the boat pool. “Korea was just a short boat ride away.”

Waughmbaugh was discharged from the Navy as a Petty Officer, third class in the fall of 1952. He has been a resident of El Dorado since 1989.

Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or wschultz@mtdemocrat.net. Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.

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