Scuba Diving for the Navy
The other story I have to tell, maybe of only interest to me, but you’re going to have to suffer through it anyway is this. Here goes - I joined a Scuba diving club, sponsored by the Navy Recreation Division at Grosse Ile, and went through the training and final graduation requirements, using breathing air tanks (Scuba gear), so that I could freedive, with a buddy (ALWAYS). Shortly afterwards, we were contacted by the Detroit, MI Recruiting District, and asked if we were interested in performing at the Michigan State Fair, for recruiting purposes. We jumped at the chance and were sent TAD (temporary additional duty) to the Recruiting District. They had secured the pool, on the fairgrounds, and planned to demonstrate, as it was known then, the UDT (underwater demolition team) operations. Each of us had made our own wet suits, bought our flippers, masks, and snorkels, and, along with the Navy scuba tanks, were ready to rumble. Just a side note, we were in the State Fair opening parade, the weather was in the 90’s, the parade was a couple of hours long, it was downtown (all those buildings were radiating heat like you couldn’t believe) and we were on a float in our wet suits. All of us were sweating profusely and we asked one of the recruiters to get us some water, not to drink but to pour down the inside of our wet suits. All he could find was a gallon pickle jar which he used to get water from bar-to-bar (and probably something for him, too!) and we dumped it into the suits. Believe me it was better than anything else we could have gotten. When we got to the pool at the fairgrounds, we hit the pool at a gallop - what a relief - whew!!
The show went like this - four of us were to roll into the water, with full gear, from a Navy rubber raft into the water and swim underwater, to about 10 feet deep, to a concrete block which had a line tied to it with a slip ring. It was attached to line tied to four multi-colored 2x4’s that protruded slightly above the water. These simulated a beach obstruction we were to blow up! Also attached to the concrete block was a high pressure air hose from a large bottle of compressed air. Behind the scenes, a Navy explosives expert had a length of primer cord, which he knotted and ignited by battery power to create an explosion inside the inverted barrel. During the time the four of us were under water, the narrator kept up a constant dialog about what we were accomplishing. As we swam away, one of us would turn back, as if something was wrong or forgotten, and the narrator would get excited saying “If he doesn’t get away from there he’ll get hurt or blown up”. Amazingly, we always made it back to the rubber raft!! The explosion sequence went like this. One of the recruiters, at the proper time, would open the air valve so that the compressed air would push water, from the pool, into the air. The primer cord would then be ignited, producing a resounding bang, and the slip ring pin would be pulled and would release the 2x4’s, which then would float to the surface, simulating the demolishment of the beach obstacle, thus ending the show. Now for the real reason for telling this story - The first show was lightly attended. We later found out, as we walked around the fairgrounds in our wetsuits, when the explosion took place, the crowd, from all around the fairgrounds, moved to the pool area to see what had happened. What morbid people!!
Every show (as I remember 5 or 6 a day) was packed, including standing room only, from then on, for ten days (the length of the fair). One time the explosive expert had been nipping on some whiskey a little too much and tied too many knots in the primer cord. The resulting explosion sent the barrel about 10 feet into the air - what a noise that made and it made the Recruiting Officer a bit perturbed, to say the least! Don’t know what happened to the Chief but the explosions were more subdued from then on. In fact, it was so good, that ex-UDT personnel asked us, the scuba guys, which team we were assigned to! When we told them we were from a Navy recreation diving club they couldn’t believe it, as the show was so realistic. The Navy had to have gotten a lot of exposure and new recruits from our show.