Cold War veteran recalls terrifying moments while onboard a submarine


EVANSVILLE, Ind (WEHT)– A former Navy SEAL from the Tri-State knows what it’s like to be in a submarine under the sea. He was aboard one in the Cold War.

“Submariners are all brothers. It doesn’t matter what country they are from,” Fred Voelker said his heart goes out to those 53 Indonesian crew members who was in the submarine that went missing. Voelker was on a submarine for four years and knows how tough it can get underwater. “So I feel for those guys who are under there right now.”

Voelker spent most of his time aboard the USS Queenfish.

“It was usually days of boredom followed by seconds of sheer terror,” Voelker explained. He went through submarine escape training, but says those tactics can’t be used in every condition.

“One thing about submarines, if things start going bad on you, you weren’t getting out,” said Voelker. “You had to fix whatever was broke or you didn’t get back to the surface.”

Voelker says when things go wrong, there’s no time to dwell on the possibility of not making it home.

“There were two big casualties, I guess, you could have on a submarine [they] were fire and flooding and you had to take care of both of them,” said Voelker. He was in the submarine for up to 50 days at a time, but the USS Queenfish was capable of housing the crew for up to 3 months. “The only thing that limited us was the amount of food that we could carry because we made our own water, we made our own air.”

The Cold War veteran is thankful he wasn’t contained to the submarine’s close quarters for 90 days.

“We got six square feet per men,” said Voelker.

(This story was originally published on April 23, 2021)

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