CHOPPER a word which has several meanings, but no more sensitive than to those of my age/service group who served in the cold war submarine service.

To start with, let's clear-the-decks and state, but thereafter, finish with, the more prosaic, the innuendo and the euphemisms associated with this word.

My wife and I once worked a six-week time frame at the ULTRA [after our time changed to Ferguson]  TV Factory in Fareham, Hampshire, she on the day-shift soldering components onto PCB's, and me on the evening-shift loading completed TV cases from a high conveyor belt to a lower conveyor belt destined for the packing and shipping area. We did this because the car needed a set of tyres [five in all] and Christmas was coming and we had [have] three kids! My efforts paid for the tyres and my dear wife's paid for three bikes, a Dido for the youngest, a Tomahawk for the middle boy and a Chopper for our eldest, who at that time was eight going on nine.

So, a Chopper was a bike, and believe me, our eldest lad Steven enjoyed it to the full. Christmas Day in our house that year was a pure joy and an acknowledgement of our joint  efforts, with Beryl my dear wife, the super star, recognised as such by me, but fortunately not by our boys.  Pride and love [of being parents] are easy partners and we achieved that in great measure. Circumstances changed as did our home geographical base, and the next and subsequent Christmas' didn't involve us in using our spare off-duty time on such pursuits. Presents were better funded!

 A chopper is a phallic symbol of the male member, universally understood as such. However of no consequence on this page.

It was the nickname of a Chelsea footballer, the defender 'Chopper' Harris, and, as I understand it, the nickname for anybody called Read - Note READ and not REED

{etc} whose name is normally dubbed "Blood".

Next comes the axe, long ago renamed a 'chopper'. It cuts down and shapes wooden objects, specifically trees. Also of course used as a weapon. Some people call the assault rifle AK47  a Chopper!  Heavy tools like the machete and the butchers meat cleaver are also called Choppers.

And what about the fraternal greeting of 'chopper' meaning friend, an alternative to 'oppo' or 'pal' ?

We must not forget the 'chopper' a la the helicopter, or the teeth or sets of false teeth.

There may be other uses?

 That leaves me with the name 'chopper' pure and simple, whether it be a noun, a verb or an adjective.

During the 1960's the USN and the RN cooperated totally with the tasks of the cold war largely operated against Soviet submarine intrusions in the North Atlantic sea areas, always supported by their [Russian] on-task and ubiquitous AGI's, which were intelligence gathering vessels, heavily rigged with aerials and sensor equipment's above the upper deck and who knows what beneath the water line, masquerading as deep sea fishing vessels. 

For the RN, the 1950's [before my time in boats {transferred in 1959} and before the loss of Affray {1951} having joined the navy in 1953] had been a sad period when we lost the submarine Affray and the Sidon, but the 1960's were even sadder although fortunately not in the RN, but certainly in the USN. I had been at Portland in HMS Tintagel Castle at the time of the Sidon disaster in 1955 and had been a street liner as a boy telegraphist for the long funeral hearse and cortege winding its way up the twisting road route to the Naval Cemetery high up on the rock. It affected me greatly.

Then, in HM S/M Auriga on the Canadian station [SM6 based on Halifax] in 1963, our boat stood by above the last known position of the USS Thresher, there ready to act with other US Boats, as a decompression chamber, in case the crew had escaped. As it was it transpired  the submarine was their grave, sunk in an area known to be nearly four miles deep off Boston. I was the Radio Supervisor of Auriga and as such was heavily involved in the signalling to bring about a cohesive support and rescue plan. One of the  sad outcomes of this was that the wife of our skipper [Lieutenant Commander M.R. Wilson RN] as a direct result of the loss of the Thresher, had a nervous breakdown resulting in the skipper relinquishing his command and the family returning prematurely to the UK. Our new skipper [Lieutenant Commander K A Bromback RN], appeared not to have an empathy with this very sad part of our commission, and was not a popular man.

The Thresher affair played on my mind, indeed on many minds in those western Atlantic waters many miles from our home in the UK.  As the pain and the memories of 1963 [including those of JFK which were felt more deeply on the North American Continent than elsewhere] were lessening, a new an equally tragic circumstance developed with the tragic loss of another nuclear submarine, this time the USS Scorpion off the Azores. She too was lost into the unfathomable depths of the Atlantic only this time East and not West. Sadly, her death was a much more lonely affair and it took several months to find her wreckage. That was in 1968. Once again, the submarine service was in deep mourning and yet none of it affected UK submarines, though it did UK submariners.

Whilst we were coming to terms with the loss of two nuclear submarines in one decade, we were made aware of the plight of a USN diesel electric boat of WW2 vintage and this occurred in 1969.

The story of the near death of the USS CHOPPER [SS342] is legendary and a case of great interest to all submariners irrespective of their country or navy, and yes, to all sailors of all nations. She experienced [and survived] a nightmare which really belongs in a Walt Disney Hollywood Studio for it is so surreal, and to recorded international history, never equaled or surpassed  by any other submarine incident. I know the story well and have done for many years, from the time it first became into the public domain, and how it didn't become the third 1960's tragedy beggars belief.

I am not going to repeat or steal this story for it is well documented [for those with an interest in such matters] so here, I will mark it out as an interesting 'must' read story. Obviously, only a submariner can follow the story with a total understanding especially a diesel electric boat submariner, but I recommend this to all naval people. Please salute the story and be thankful that none of us was involved.

Look at these URL's

  USS Chopper (SS-342) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia