By Derek Maul
As a kid in Kentucky, submarines were the last thing on Joseph Hayden’s mind. However, once the young cook enlisted in 1945, he knew exactly what he wanted to do.
“I was working at Gabe’s Steakhouse,” Hayden said. “Guys came in from the Army, the Marines, and the Navy. They said, ‘Your birthday’s coming up, which one of us it going to get you?’
“I wanted submarines.”
After the initial training in Maryland, the Navy sent Hayden to San Francisco, Chicago, then New London, Connecticut.
“The commander on base was going through the chow-line. He asked me what I wanted to do. I said I wanted to be in the next class going out.”
With the war winding down, Hayden was assigned to Key West, where the USS Sennet had just returned from the South Pole. A year later he volunteered to man the decommissioned German sub (U-3008 “Der Beast”) captured off Long Island.
“They found coupons where people had been on-shore in the theaters,” Hayden said. “It could run its diesel engine under water with a 24 foot snorkel fitted with a flapper. Our subs had to charge our batteries on the surface. They could do it submerged.”
Hayden enjoyed his work, cooking for a compliment of 100 sailors.
“After the U-boat was decommissioned I went back to the Sennet. Then we took it to Philadelphia for decommissioning in 1949.”
Honorably discharged as a cook third class, Hayden stayed on in Philadelphia, going to work for a bearing manufacturer.
After changing companies, advancing quickly, shifting to an auto-parts manufacturer, and moving into gaskets, Hayden found himself in New Jersey.
“That’s when I met my future wife, Betty,” he said. “We married February 16, 1963.”
As a regional sales manager, Hayden stayed in New Jersey more than a decade. Then he transferred to Detroit. Later the company moved him to Atlanta to manage ten southern states.
“My division took first place in the company every year for sales,” he said.
“In 1980 I took a new job and we moved to Florida,” Hayden said. “But after two years I wanted to do something different. I went to work for Riley Electric Company in Brandon, went back to school, and earned my license as an electrician.”
Eventually he launched his own company, Electrical Consultants of Brandon.
“We did very well with it,” Hayden said.
Hayden was active in the New Jersey VFW, volunteered with the Shriners, and cooked – along with Betty – at the Brandon Elks club for 17 years.
“Then it was time to properly retire,” he said. “We’ve been here at The Bridges almost a year. It’s fantastic; everything’s at our fingertips.”
Reflecting on his busy life, Hayden said his years in the Navy were formative. “I enjoyed wearing the uniform,” he said. “I got to travel and see places I’d never have seen. It’s a part of your life that makes you stronger.”