Various classes of U.S. Navy SS-class and SSN submarines from pre-WWII with some serving into the 1970s.
As we look back over the growing distance of time, submarine veterans realize, our service in the Navy’s submarine force was an important pinnacle of life experiences. The shipmates we served with, we carry a special bond for life.
Life under the sea in a nuclear powered submarine is packed full of a myriad of systems to understand and operate in the performance of our missions while surviving for months under the ocean. These are amazing experiences to reminisce upon.
Most of us did not spend much time reading submarine history when we served, when we weren’t in school we were doing what most young sailors are up to doing, often getting into trouble or trying to stay out of it. Much of the history learned came from submarine school where gallantry and heroism of submariners of the past adorn the walls of the memorials throughout the base in Groton, Connecticut. We’ll never forget the immortal last order of WWII Commander Howard W. Gilmore shouting “TAKE HER DOWN!” as he lay mortally wounded on the bridge of the USS Growler SS-215, engaged in close combat with an Imperial Japanese warship.
When we trained to serve on submarines we needed to get heavy on the latest equipment, operations and strategies relevant to the day. We were too busy responding to the demands of understanding the working details and operations of the submarines we served on. We didn’t think too much about legacy as young men, most of us not far graduated from high school when we became QUALIFIED IN SUBMARINES and awarded the coveted Submarine Dolphins. Living the submariner’s life was more than enough.
Various classes of US. Navy SSN class submarines from 1960s through current times.
When devoting some time to reflect, not only of the bold actions of the generation of Cold War submariners, but beyond to theSilent Service as a whole, from today’s technology rich multi-mission environment to the total warfare of WWII, we can be faced with a heightened and broadened picture of the silent service’s reality and how we were and are an important part of it.
To understand the crisis and relation of the powerful nature of the submarine in unrestricted war is to developed a deep respect for the vision, the innovation and the heroic daring of the WWII submariners. America was caught on her heels by the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and the initial small fleet of submarines responded in the fight for survival. Those who fought in the fleet subs overcame many epic obstacles including archaic doctrine and tactics, long deployments far from any support and deep in enemy territory, short upkeep periods in-between, the horrific experience of depth charging, the close and closed often fetid and oxygen depleted nature of surviving submerged, and the supreme frustration of their own torpedoes that failed to perform in a variety of ways including some that circled back home in that nightmare scenario.
Another unique problem encountered by U.S. submarines on patrol, often operating in radio silence secret deep in enemy held seas and needing to frequently run on the surface to recharge batteries, was being attacked by allied aircraft who were unable to identify U.S. submarines or were just too exuberant to exercise any care.
Nevertheless, despite being shot at by our own fighter planes when not involved in joint operations, the Silent Service provided the best safety nets for downed pilots. Many were rescued by the submarines going into harm’s way often within range of the enemy planes and shore batteries. Perhaps the most famous rescued pilot was President George H.W. Bush, then a young navy lieutenant.
Machine and man were destined to be drawn together to fight the unrelenting forces of the ocean and of the enemy. The intelligent resourcefulness, tenacity, fortitude, collaboration, and lack of tolerance for bullshit embodied by the U.S. Navy submariners were instrumental in turning the tables on a powerful foe in dramatic fashion – leading to ultimate victory.
The impact of WWII leadership in submarine warfare and the establishment of a well maintained and leading edge U.S. Navy submarine force, ready for war but with a vision of peace, has shaped the world as we know it.
IMPACTING NAVAL WARFARE
In World War II, there were seven submarine captains who were awarded the Medal of Honor for their “Conspicuous Gallantry and Intrepidity at the risk of this life above and beyond the call of duty…” They are:
CAPT John Philip Cromwell, USS Sculpin
CDR Samuel David Dealey, USS Harder
RADM Eugene Bennett Fluckey, USS Barb
CDR Howard Walter Gilmore, USS Growler
RADM Richard H. O’Kane, USS Tang
VADM Lawson P Ramage, USS Parche; and
CDR George Levick Street, III, USS Tirante.
To offer you a snapshot of the impact of the WWII Fleet submarines, I want to quote RADM Richard “Dick” O’Kane from his book “Wahoo”.
“Our submarines sank over 1,300 merchantmen, half again the number sunk by all other forces combined. Over 200 warships were sunk, which exceeded even the number sunk by U.S. Naval Air; and, in addition, there were 300 special missions. All of this was accomplished by a force manned by only 2% of the United States Navy’s personnel. After the war, Japanese admirals and generals alike place U.S. submarine operations first in the factors leading to the fall of the Empire.
“The results were not achieved without the most severe penalties…”
52 submarines were lost out of about 263 that made war patrols and 3,505 shipmates are still on patrol“our submarines had the highest casualty rate in the armed forces, six times that in surface ships, for boats engaged the enemy continuously throughout the war, except for about 3 weeks between 2-month patrols.”
Support the Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum
Don’t miss the opportunity to support the legacy of the Silent Service while providing recognition of SSN-698with a tax-deductible gift. It’s a twofer. Make your donation before January 1st 2020 in our effort to achieve special honors for USS BremertonSSN 698. Donations of any amount are welcome!
The museum is involved in a substantial and exciting new revitalization of their facility to help better educate the public about the Silent Service. As alumni of the Bremertonwe have an opportunity to help make an impact as well as driving at achieving special sponsorship status and recognition with respect to USS Bremerton SSN-698. Please click on the link/image of the Bowfin below for more information.
All donations are made through the Bowfin.org websiteand go directly to their renovation and expansion efforts. Corporate sponsors welcome.
698 LOOKING FORWARD
USS Bremerton, the most senior not yet de-commissioned submarine in the United States Navy, is currently at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard preparing for her date with destiny. Decom ceremony and reunion in Bremerton are tentatively scheduled for Spring of 2021, that puts BadFish on course for a 40 year run.
SAVE THE 698
Join the Movement. Are you passionate about preserving the USS Bremerton in any way shape or form after her decommissioning for the benefit of the public and of naval history? You are invited to a new closed group forum on Facebook “SaveThe698” to be involved in public discussion related to Saving 698. You can see the group site by clicking HERE.
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