“Big Al the Sailor’s Pal,” Al Konetzni entered the United State Naval Academy in 1962, inspired by the 1950s television series about the Navy, Men of Annapolis.

Twenty years later he was undertaking one of the most intrepid patrols possible for a submarine commander – trailing a Soviet ballistic missile submarine under the Arctic ice. As one of our Russian submariners points out, the noise of the ice “cancels out the British and American advantage.” For Al, it was almost intolerable: “The cracking, the screeching - it sounds like you are in an insane asylum sometimes.” Al used this highly successful trail to gather invaluable intelligence about the Soviet Delta submarine. The trail lasted so long that the crew ran out of essentials like lavatory paper and butter.

Al says submarine life has a levelling effect which he personally enjoyed. “On a submarine if you have a problem at home, whether it be your financials are bad or your wife…there is not a soul in that sewer pipe who doesn’t know that. I don’t care if you are the commanding officer or the most junior seamen or fireman on board, and that appealed to me because it was real.”