Donald Ulmer oral history interview



Donald Ulmer oral history interview


Born-digital video recording of an oral history with Donald M. "Don" Ulmer and interviewer John Barth, recorded as part of The Museum of Flight Oral History Program, June 19, 2017.


Submariner and author Donald M. “Don” Ulmer is interviewed about his life and military service. He discusses his 32-year career with the United State Navy and describes his experiences aboard various submarines, including the USS Clamagore (SS-343), Halfbeak (SS-353), Barracuda (SSK-1), Patrick Henry (SSBN-599), and Corporal (SS-346). He also shares aviation-themed stories from his childhood, such as his first airplane flight in a Stinson SR Reliant and witnessing the Hindenburg crash in New Jersey. The interview concludes with an overview of Ulmer’s writing career and his docent work at The Museum of Flight.

Table Of Contents

Introduction and personal background -- Early aviation experiences -- School years -- Pursuing a career as a submariner -- Service on the USS Clamagore (SS-343) and assignment to the Naval Academy -- Naval Academy experiences -- Submarine School and influential people -- Service on the USS Halfbeak (SS-352) and USS Barracuda (SSK-1) -- Flag lieutenant assignment with Admiral Frederick B. Warder -- Service on the USS Patrick Henry (SSBN-599) and training assignment in Scotland -- Service on the USS Corporal (SS-346) and return to the Clamagore -- Pentagon assignments -- Experiences as a pilot -- Naval Material Command and the Boeing Company -- Career as an author and playwright -- Involvement at The Museum of Flight -- Closing thoughts




1 recording (1 hr., 40 min., 49 sec.) : digital



Bibliographic Citation

The Museum of Flight Oral History Collection/The Museum of Flight




Biographical Text

Donald M. “Don” Ulmer is a submariner and author who served in the United States Navy for 32 years. He was born in Beverly, New Jersey on March 16, 1929. As a child, his interest in submarines was piqued by news stories about the USS Squalus, which sank in 1939. The sinking and related rescue operations inspired him to pursue a career as a submariner.

Ulmer enlisted in the United States Navy in 1947. He completed training as an electronic technician and attended Basic Enlisted Submarine School (Connecticut). In 1949, he was assigned to the USS Clamagore (SS-343). He also served an interim assignment at this time, helping to study German submarine technology on a surrendered U-boat. After several months on the Clamagore, he was selected to enter the U.S. Naval Academy (Annapolis, Maryland). He graduated in 1954.

Ulmer next served on the USS Fremont (APA-44), where he earned his officer-of-the-deck qualification. In 1955, he entered Officers’ Submarine School and afterwards served on the USS Halfbeak (SS-352) and Barracuda (SSK-1). In 1959, he was assigned as flag lieutenant to Admiral Frederick B. Warder, Commandant of the Eighth Naval District. He then served as weapons officer aboard the USS Patrick Henry, operating out of Holy Loch, Scotland. He remained in Scotland until 1965 on a training assignment, then returned to the U.S. to serve as executive officer aboard the USS Corporal (SS-346). In 1967, he was assigned command of the Clamagore. His subsequent assignments included serving at the Pentagon and with Naval Material Command. He retired in 1979 at the rank of captain.

As a civilian, Ulmer worked for the Boeing Company on submarine-related projects. He retired from the company in 1996. In 2004, he joined The Museum of Flight Docent Corps and is still an active volunteer as of 2017. He is also a published novelist and playwright and a hospital chaplain at Overlake Medical Center (Bellevue, Washington).

Biographical information derived from interview and additional information provided by interviewee.