“I saw the submariners, the way they stood aloof and silent, watching their pigboat with loving eyes. They are alone in the Navy. I admired the PT boys. And I often wondered how the aviators had the courage to go out day after day and I forgave their boasting. But the submariners! In the entire fleet they stand apart!”
James Michener, Tales of The South Pacific
For eight years, beginning in 1960, I served in the US Navy’s Submarine force. It was an adventurous and memorable time that helped to give me a sense of immense pride and self worth. I left the service in 1968 and as time passed I became involved with career and family and I began to think less and less about those times. But now that I am 70, and realize that it was 50 years ago that I first qualified and earned my Dolphins, I find myself reminiscing.
Like many military units where danger has been shared on a daily basis, there is a heightened sense of camaraderie among submariners. The history and solidarity of this unique band has been kept alive by the Submarine Veterans of WWII, the U.S. Submarine Veterans, and the many books, articles and personal websites written and maintained by submariners.
“In over one hundred years of US Submarine Force history, sixty six submarines have been lost, almost 10% of all the submarines commissioned. During World War II, the U.S. Navy’s submarine service suffered the highest casualty percentage of all the American armed forces, losing one in five submariners. Forty-eight submarines of the United States Navy were lost in action during World War II. Some 16,000 submariners served during the war, of whom 375 officers and 3131 enlisted men were killed.”
This comradeship even extends to our sworn foes with whom we struggled during the long years of the Cold War. I remember that when the Soviet submarine K141 Kursk went down on 12 August 2000, many of the US submariner website authors posted tributes and prayer pages for the 118 officers and crew that died on the bottom of the Barents Sea.
“During the Cold War with the Soviet Union from 1948 to 1991, the U.S. Navy launched more than 2,000 secret missions against the Kremlin. The men who manned these “underwater U-2s” have gone largely unheralded.”
Recently, I have begun digging out old photographs and documents from those times in order to organize them (and my memory) and to preserve them for others who might be interested. I’ve begun to post some of the material to this website. It’s still a work in process but what I’ve done so far can be seen here: Silent and Deep
Much of the material is a retelling of my personal experiences and recollections but for continuity I’ve supplemented it with articles from other sources that I have collected over the years. Although I had a Secret clearance, none of the material herein is Classified. I have tried to give full attribution for all outside material but some of it was collected over 30 years ago and my notes weren’t that good.
The first submarine-launched Polaris nuclear missile was on July 20, 1960. This event was celebrated with a simple naval message from the commanding officer of USS George Washington (SSBN598) to President Dwight Eisenhower: “POLARIS – FROM OUT OF THE DEEP TO TARGET. PERFECT.”
“No one has done more to prevent conflict – no one has made a greater sacrifice for the cause for Peace – than you, America’s proud missile submarine family. You stand tall among our heroes of the Cold War.”
— General Colin Powell