April 30, 2015


When I was a sailor, I worked in the Combat Information Center (CIC), a dark room behind the ships bridge, lit full of radar and computer displays. The DRT was a legacy of the infant information age CIC, I came aboard ship when a new era was dawning, the Naval Tactical Data System, computers slaved to radars with humans interpreting between them. This new world had distributed intelligence and coordinated links connecting shared information. It was an early preview of the world we take for granted today. The DRT was a paper and pencil precursor of what was to come. Radar contact range and bearings were called out by an operator and the plotter on the DRT would draw an image of the world on tracing paper stretch across an illuminated glass box. A compass rose that moves as the ship does was projected to the paper from below and relative locations of other ships in the vicinity are plotted in real time. The CIC is a cognitive cognate of the ship, the world drawn on an illuminated piece of paper with identities assigned to all contacts: friendly, unknown and hostile. It is a veritable cranium stuffed full of chattering fragments of selves illustrating a world outside as the ship advanced into a dark Pacific abyss.

Bridge, Combat!

Bridge Aye!

Combat recommends course 250!

Bridge Aye!

Bridge, Combat!

Bridge Aye!

Combat reports new unknown contact Oscar, bearing 210, 12,200 yards. Course 065, speed 15 knots.

Bridge Aye!

Theatrical lighting. Coffee cups. Log books were kept in pencil and not ink in case the ship sank. Ribald stories. Clocks ticked off the watch. Two chief petty officers, one that looked like Mr. Clean, bald with a gold ear ring, another with a van dyke and clean long fingernails that looked like he stepped off an Elizabethan court. Two first class petty officers, one big bear of a guy who was always ready to put you in a head lock, another nicknamed "Flash", whose nervous system was stuck on overdrive. Wires and cables everywhere, simultaneous conversations all around, inside and out of your sound powered headphones. Grease pencils glowed on edge lit plexiglass displays.


Posted by Dennis at April 30, 2015 10:14 AM


Great description of the activities in Combat Dennis. You made magic happen on the DRT, the way you were able to take information from many different sources and graphically represent it to those needing to know. Military artwork at it's finest.

Reposting my reply to Bob's FB contact.

Robert Burnidge: "I posted a comment on your blog Dennis. You made the routine job of plotting on the DRT and turned it into Military artwork. One of the happiest days of my life is when I was discharged from the Navy, but I do have some fond memories of the people and events of that time 40 years ago."

(my reply)

Hi Bob! Same here, I was so happy on my last day onboard that as I was on my way to the quarter deck, I jumped through a hatch and banged the crown of my skull on steel. I was lucky that I didn't have to go to sickbay! Good thing I had a thick head of hair then to cover the lump You were a big influence on me, Bob. I had turned 18 in bootcamp and as I saluted aboard the Truxtun as a push button petty officer, you and Doug Grassey were the first role models of manhood that I had gravitated to as a young man. I remember modeling your calm intelligence and professional bearing, always with a hint of a smile.

I often wonder how our lives would differ had we stayed in the Navy. Most likely I would be on the donor list for a liver transplant LoL! Trying to keep up with the old 'salts' was not a good idea. In a parallel universe somewhere our careers have careened off path in a different direction after spending 20 years in the Navy.
Your rendition of the dead reckoning tracer is spot on. Great job! It was quite a technological marvel for its time. Any time I see that contraption it automatically brings back memories of over-caffeinated sailors standing around and telling embellished stories of the last port of call.
I, also, was happy to get my DD214, however, I am grateful I was able to visit all the strange lands we landed upon. It was always a weird feeling to venture out into some unknown territory without a tour guide and return to the ship still alive.
Good times!

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