Two Cultures Collide and Heroes Emerge from the Sea 8

The United States in 1941 was tense and filled with anticipation about the war in Europe. But nothing could prepare the nation for the events that were about to transpire. The nation and the Japanese had long been on a collision course because of the nature of their two cultures. But the population at large had no sense of the grotesque nature of that clash that would occur in the coming days. Or the cost for both nations over the next four years.

 

Washington Evening star. December 06, 1941,

“Silent Prayer Banned At Japanese Shrines

Silent prayers for the dead, which have been said at shrines and temples in Japan ever since the great earthquake of 1924, have been banned.

The Shrine Board in Tokio has ruled that praying silently is a “Christian custom alien to traditions” and requests that, instead, people give two deep bows and two handclaps.”

On the night before December 7, there was only one reference to Japan in the paper which served the nation’s capital.

Negotiations between the American and Japanese governments were coming to a head but most of the country was focused on events in Europe and the coming of Christmas. There had been a sense that something was brewing in the Pacific but it was not something for the general public to be consumed with just yet.

History doesn’t record what Commander Cassin Young, Commanding officer of the USS Vestal was doing the night of December 6th. Commander Young had just recently reported on board the ship after doing an Executive Officer tour at the submarine base at New London CT. His family had moved to the west coast where they had previously been stationed and he was living on board as a geographical bachelor.

The Vestal was an older ship that served as a repair ship for the fleet in Pearl.

She had been launched on May 19, 1908, and was placed in service as a fleet collier. She served in World War I when she was deployed to Queenstown. There, she provided services for ships of the 1st Destroyer Flotilla – and stayed there for the duration of the war.

The USS Vestal returned in 1919, and 22 years later, found herself on the verge of another World War.

Commander Young had had a distinguished career up to that point. Submarine and Destroyer Commander, Squadron Commander, many important posts in Washington and the West Coast including Hawaii and finally the executive officer at the Navy’s premier submarine school. Graduating from the Naval Academy in 1916, he served a progression of duties that was supposed to lead to a promising end. But fate and the Navy that struggled in the years between the wars had an impact on his path.

According to family records, that career hit a rough spot in 1941 when a new base commanding officer arrived at New London. The pre-war years were challenging to the Navy since budgets were slim and money was tight. As the XO, Young had overseen the spending of large sums of money rebuilding the base which had been neglected. Repairs to the lower base where the submarines operated and upgrades to the rapidly growing training facility were put into place. Even the quarters where the officer’s families were housed had received some upgrades.

But the new base CO’s wife was not satisfied that her housing was up to her standards and insisted that money be spent to make their quarters even more acceptable. Young, as the man who controlled the budget, refused to spend another dollar on the quarters. The money that had been allocated would be better spent on things that would prepare the Navy for an as yet undefined conflict.

There are no official transcripts of what happened next, but refusing your boss’s orders and the conflict it must have created resulted in Commander Young receiving a less than expected follow on set of orders. When his tour was completed, he found himself with orders to an old ship (launched before he was even a Midshipman) in a faraway place.

Young had been in the Navy since 1912 and he would not reach his retirement year until 1942. It is only speculation on my part, but he probably saw the handwriting on the wall. That explains why his faithful wife and family were living in California on the morning of December 7th and he was living on a very old ship tied up next to the USS Arizona.

The Arizona was not in her normal berth that morning and the Vestal was tied up in preparation for an overhaul that was going to occur. Normally, another battleship was tied up there but as fate would have it, the previous week’s maneuvers had resulted in a switch in berths.

The night before the morning of December 7th would have been a typical peacetime schedule. Social hours and dancing for many at the numerous clubs, calm weather with a smooth Hawaiian breeze to keep the air from getting stale on the old ships. Taps on board the ships and lights out as men came back to their bunks to enjoy a restful sleep prior to a Sunday in port. The fleet had been very busy for months before then sailing in formation, practicing their gunnery and flexing the powerful engines in broadly sculpted maneuvers around the Hawaiian Islands. The great grey hulks made for a magnificent picture while carving through the seas where Captain Cook once sailed.

Commander Young may have had trouble sleeping. The move from Connecticut to Hawaii was fairly recent and his body clock was more than likely still set to east coast time. He may have even been thinking of his family on the West Coast and the work that lay ahead on the Arizona.

The only facts we know are that at 7:55 when the Japanese attacked without warning, he went into action the only way he knew. As a man who had spent his whole lifetime preparing for this very moment, he went to work defending his ship.

The Vestal was a repair ship and not meant to slug it out with incoming Jap planes. But she did have guns and instinct told him to go to where the action was.

From the Vestal History:

“Sunday quickly took a turn as the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The ship sprung into action, manning every gun from the 5-inch (130 mm) broadside battery to the .30-caliber Lewis machine guns on the bridge wings. At about 08:05, her 3-inch (76 mm) gun commenced firing.

What ensued next was a fight for survival. Two bombs intended for more valuable battleships on Battleship Row hit the USS Vestal.

One bomb struck the port side and penetrated through three decks. The bomb passed through a crew’s space and exploded in a stores hold. The explosion started fires that necessitated flooding the forward magazines.

The second bomb struck the starboard side. This bomb passed through the carpenter shop and the shipfitter shop, and left an irregular hole about five feet in diameter in the bottom of the ship.

Survival became the primary focus of the USS Vestal crew, while anti-aircraft fire became secondary. A bomb hit the nearby USS Arizona. Almost as if in a volcanic eruption, the forward part of the battleship exploded, and the concussion from the explosion literally cleared Vestal’s deck – sending Vestal’s gunners and crew overboard.

Among the men blown off Vestal was her commanding officer, Commander Cassin Young. The captain swam back to the ship, however, and countermanded an abandon ship order that someone had given, coolly saying, “Lads, we’re getting this ship underway.”

With fires on board the Vestal and after two bombs had struck the repair ship, the Vestal crew cut the mooring lines with axes, freeing her from the Arizona, and she got underway, steering by engines alone. A tug, the captain of which had served aboard the Vestal just a few months before the attack, pulled Vestal’s bow away from the inferno engulfing Arizona and the repair ship, and the latter began to creep out of danger.”

The Vestal survived the attack and was completely restored. While she was being restored, her repair crews were used to try and save as many men and as many ships as she could from the wreckage in the harbor.

Think about what happened for a moment.

Young was blown from his ship by the force of the explosion. He found himself in the water with many dead and wounded around him just trying to stay afloat and alive. The force of the explosion and the resultant landing in the water must have been disorienting. Yet, this man, Cassin Young, remembered that he was the Captain of the ship that had just been attacked. The attack was still going on. Bombs, torpedoes and bullets were flying and landing all around the harbor. Yet he CHOSE to go back to his ship and climbed back on board. He is soaking wet, probably covered with the oil and dirt form the debris of the water that he just crawled out of. He rallies his me.

The part of the story that is often left out was that once he was blown into the water, the order had been given by his next in command (or some senior officer) to abandon ship. But in the back of his mind, Young remembered that the battleship that was next to him still continued hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel and many bombs. More explosions would doom the Vestal and cost the lives of his remaining crew. Young had served on battleships in his career and he was an engineer so he knew what could happen if they did not escape the death grasp of the dying Arizona. He reversed the order to abandon ship and ordered the engine room to bring the main engines on line. When they were unable to muster enough main steam, he hailed the nearby passing tug and ensured the Vestal could get out of harm’s way.

It was an action of heroic nature conducted by a men who had spent his entire life training for this moment.

For his action, Commander Cassin Young was awarded the Medal of Honor and advanced to Captain by Admiral Chester Nimitz (another submariner). The Vestal, with Captain Young in command would play a key role in many of the coming battles including supporting the coming naval battles of Guadalcanal. Operating in forward areas with threats on all sides, she served as a needed repair ship for the battered and bruised ships that fought in the “Slot”.

In November, Captain Young would receive new orders and finally get to join directly in the fight. Admiral Dan Callaghan needed a new Captain for his flagship, the USS San Francisco (a heavy cruiser) and his friend Cassin Young would be just the man for the task ahead. On one night in November, they would sail together into history in one of the wildest and lopsided surface fights in the history of modern naval warfare. Neither man would make it through the night.

Cassin Young had passed 30 years as a sailor (counting his midshipman years) on the day he joined the angels. He is an American hero and someone who exemplified what courage and service to his country mean.

I am nearly finished writing about his life and am anxious for the world to know just what a great man he was. But today, December 7th, I hope you will think about Cassin Young and all of those men and women who were able to overcome the disaster of Pearl Harbor and eventually lead the country and the world back to freedom.

Mister Mac

 

 

 

Oh Flower of Scotland… Happy Saint Andrews Day 2018 5

November 30th is Saint Andrews day in Scotland.

It has been over 27 years since we left Scotland to return to America but in so many ways it seems like yesterday.

Our trip was cut way too short with the imminent closing of the American base at Holy Loch and so many things have filled our lives since that day. But Scotland will always be a part of our lives.

Arriving there in August of 1990, we learned so much about living in a country that was filled with amazing adventures and challenges. We quickly learned that life was entirely dependent on schedules and arriving at the appropriate place on time. From the airport, our sponsors took us to the ferry landing where we got in line. It is possible to drive to most places in on the Scottish mainland, but the ferry was the quickest way. Plus, the cost of petrol at that time was very prohibitive so you learned quickly that using the short cuts was a necessity.

That first trip across the water from Greenock to Dunoon was pretty exciting. Although Debbie and I had ridden a few ferries in Washington State, this one seemed a lot closer to an adventure. The water was very choppy and the wind was blowing as if to say “Welcome to Scotland” in a way that was mistakenly Scottish. Even for an August day, sweaters were more appropriate than short sleeve shirts and the mist that came over the bow was brisk indeed.

Arriving on the other side, we all drove off in their car to take a short trip around Dunoon and the American points of interest. After a short drive, we rounded the road from Dunoon and in front of us in the Holy Loch stood the submarine tender and my next duty station, the USS Los Alamos AFDB 7. Both were grey and the brightness of the day highlighted the vessels where I would spend much of the next fourteen months. Looking at the drydock, I remember thinking to myself, what have I gotten myself into/

 

 

We settled in to Dunira (which was the name of the Bed and Breakfast that would be out temporary home for a few weeks) and met the owners. She was Scottish and he was Danish. They made a lovely couple and we were ushered to our small apartment upstairs. The shower was smaller than any I had seen since my first submarine.

The rooms were very tight and we realized we had carried too much stuff with us. That would be a lesson that would repeat itself over the next few months when the rest of our household goods arrived. Some of the things we brought we not even unpacked for the tour.

But we were in Scotland, the land where some of both of our ancestors had come from. We have done a lot of genealogy and with the few clues that were passed down to both of us have found a lot of information about where our families had their origin.

One of the highlights of the tour was when we were able to have the perfect Scottish weekend. The weekend started with a drive to Newtonmore, my family’s ancient home. When we arrived we attended a Ceilidh for Clan MacPherson followed by a full day of Clan activities on the following day.

Sunday, we drove to Edinburg for the World Famous Tattoo. I had purchased tickets nearly a year in advance and we had the most amazing seats just below the Governor’s Box.

It was surely a weekend to remember.

We learned a lot of history while we were there. For instance, even though the British Union Jack is flown nearly everywhere, the St Andrew’s Cross or Saltire is Scotland’s national flag.

We traveled quite a bit while we lived there but I was not able to make it to Athelstaneford. This was a village three miles north-east of Haddington in East Lothian.

This is their story:

Athelstaneford gets its name from the legendary battle between Saxon King Athelstane and Pictish King Hungus (Angus) in the 9th century. It began as a model village in the late 18th century, thriving on agriculture and weaving.

Between 815 AD and 832 AD, legend describes how an army of Picts, under Angus mac Fergus (High King of Alba), had been on a punitive raid into Lothian (which was Northumbrian territory), and were being pursued by a larger force of Angles and Saxons under Athelstane.

The Scots were caught and stood to face Athelstane in an area to the north of the modern village of Athelstaneford. The two armies came together at a ford near the present day farm of Prora (one of the field names there is still called the Bloody Lands).

King Angus prayed for deliverance and was rewarded by seeing a cloud formation of a white saltire (the diagonal cross on which St Andrew had been martyred) against a blue sky. The king vowed that if, with the saint’s help, he gained the victory, then Andrew would thereafter be the patron saint of Scotland. The Scots did win, and the Saltire became the flag of Scotland.

https://scottishflagtrust.com/2017/09/exhibition-the-story-of-st-andrew-and-the-saltire/

One other thing we learned from our local friends was that even though there was a song called Scotland the Brave, the true unofficial national anthem, for all true Scots was “Oh Flower of Scotland”.

Roy Williamson of the folk group the Corries wrote both the lyrics and music for the song. The words refer to the victory of the Scots, led by Robert the Bruce, over England’s Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

I have several recordings of the Corries and I might be wrong but it feels an awful lot like they were tweaking their neighbors to the south in defiance. I’ll let you be the judge.

O flower of Scotland

When will we see your like again

That fought and died for

Your wee bit hill and glen

And stood against him

Proud Edward’s army

And sent him homeward

Tae think again

 

The hills are bare now

And autumn leaves lie thick and still

O’er land that is lost now

Which those so dearly held

And stood against him

Proud Edward’s army

And sent him homeward

Tae think again

 

Those days are passed now

And in the past they must remain

But we can still rise now

And be the nation again

That stood against him

Proud Edward’s army

And sent him homeward

Tae think again

Happy Saint Andrew’s Day!

Mister Mac

 

 

“In my spare time, I went to Harvard”… how they kept from being bored on a boomer in ’65 3

November has been submarine month at theleansubmariner.

Probably a large part of that is the nostalgia of looking back over the last 45 years and my own experiences on the boats. I got a chance to share some of my memories as well as stories from the archives that highlighted submarine development since the early part of the 20th century.

My memory is not always as good as it used to be. There are some things that happened that seem like yesterday. My dreams are often invaded with unwelcome scenes that wake me up in an unsettled state. Rushing water, uncontrolled hydraulic leaks in places that shouldn’t leak, small fires in places that aren’t supposed to burn, seeing a shipmate electrocuted for the first time (brought back to life), extended patrols with supplies running scarce. One dive that went too far. But we always came home. We always came back for more.

Life, death, loneliness, sadness, great joy, tedium, excitement… all within a hull that is closed in on all sides.

Before I joined the family, others came before and had their own set of emotions and experiences. But reading this excerpt from the 1965 All Hands magazine on Polaris submarines makes me wonder one thing; what the hell happened from the time this was published until the time that I reported on board the George Fish? (slang for the USS George Washington)

As I read through this article I was struggling to believe many of the words written. But by the time I got on board, the Harvard education must have been a thing of the past. Not complaining. My DBF friends went through much worse. Smaller boats, no showers, limited supplies and always having to come up for air. We did have remarkable food. We did have great colleagues. We did have more time to recover between missions.

I can understand why they thought of us as part time sailors. Those months in off crew were pretty special. But by my eight patrol on boomers, I was pretty sure it wasn’t a life I wanted to live forever. My time on the San Francisco convinced me of that too. Longer away from home but never ever boring.

Our lives as submariners will always separate us from those who served in other ways. Not better. Not more dangerous than a tin can on the open ocean fighting a typhoon and trying to keep formation. Not as exciting in some ways than screaming through the air in a supersonic jet. Certainly not getting shot at in a jungle. But all have their own memories.

Looking at the experience in the past is like looking at a painting.

From far away, you see one thing. As you get closer to the painting you start to see the separation of colors. Some light and some dark. Closer still you see the brush strokes and all the areas the artist missed. The imperfections come to life the longer you look.

Maybe the answer is to just stand back and enjoy the painting from a distance.

In the meantime, here is life on board a Polaris Boat in 1965. I can’t wait to hear from the ones who actually lived this.

 

ALL HANDS MAGAZINE 1965

As might be expected, all is not work on board the submarine during patrol.

Bunks for the crew are scattered throughout the ship. So are the comparatively spacious crew’s quarters. Only the Captain has his own cabin. The officers double and triple up in well designed, but compact staterooms. The ship is decorated throughout in light pastel colors to provide a pleasing atmosphere for the long haul.

Scene from the Robert E. Lee Mess decks. Same layout as the George Washington

Men who have served in diesel- powered submarines find it pleasantly difficult to adjust to the plentiful supply of water afforded by nuclear submarines and to the fresh air and space.

The crew’s mess is large by submarine standards and serves the additional purpose of movie and recreation hall, study area and country store cracker barrel.

Eating, of course, is of major concern, and every possible effort is made to provide outstanding food. This begins with the excellence of the cooks who are given special training at topflight restaurants before joining a Polaris crew.

When the ship leaves port, it carries a supply of food that will more than cover the expected duration of the patrol. Boneless and ration-dense foods are used to save storage space, but submariners swear by the ability of the cooks to prepare a meal as fresh looking and tasty as you can get. Almost all, however, revel in the abundance of fresh lettuce and other such foods when their patrol is ended.

Food consumption, on a typical patrol, will include something like 4000 pounds of beef, 3000 pounds of sugar, 1200 pounds of coffee, 120 pounds of tea, 2000 pounds of chicken, 1400 pounds of pork loin, 1000 pounds of ham, 800 pounds of butter, 3400 pounds of flour and 960 dozen eggs.

Some of the more enticing items listed on the menu are chicken Isabella, baked Alaska, shrimp Newburg, beef Stroganoff and lasagna. Standard favorites are roast beef and steak.

Four meals a day are served, including breakfast, lunch, dinner and a soupdown in mid-afternoon. The galley is open the rest of the time so anyone can help himself. Needless to say, with this abundance of calories available and beckoning, keeping the waistline under control could become a problem. There are, however, exercise machines available for this purpose.

ORIGINALLY, there was a fear that boredom would plague the crew on long patrols, but this has not been a problem. This is partly due to the long hours of hard work required on the part of every officer and man to keep the submarine ready at all times for its mission.

Off hours are more than filled with recreational facilities available, a well-stocked library, the need to study for advancement in rate and, if desired, the opportunity to take college-level courses for self-improvement and college credit.

Harvard University has devised a full, two-year course of instruction for the men to earn credits toward a bachelor’s degree. Lectures for the most part are on film, and the greatest share of the work is done while on patrol. Any lectures, tests or laboratory work which can’t be accomplished on patrol are done in the home port as part of the day’s routine. These courses are available only to Polaris submariners.

The submarine carries a good supply of movies, and movie call goes at least once a day, although usually twice to take care of day and night workers.

ALL IN ALL, the crew finds that time passes faster than expected, and soon it is time to head back and turn the ship over to the Blue crew once again.

When the submarine surfaces and the men rejoin the world of ordinary mortals, the first taste of fresh air is not too greatly appreciated, since the controlled air of the submarine is cleaner and purer.

A rash of colds may hit the crew right after return too, for they have been free from infection since about a week after submerging on patrol.

Once they are home, the crew may take leave if they want it. Like other Navy men, Polaris men get 30 days’ leave a year and usually split it between home port periods.

After a week or two of getting used to home life, the crew starts on a regular five day a week program of refresher training. Of particular importance is their work at Edwards Hall, which was built to furnish refresher training for officers.

 

The rest of the article is kind of technical.

I’m sure much of it was accurate at the time. As I said, the whole Harvard program was long gone by my day. The library on the GW was in upper level missile compartment. My first two patrols I spent every waking hour up there reading every book on board (after I qualified). Then on my third patrol, the whole upper level was declared off limits except for drills and watch standers passing through. But definitely no lounging. The poker games never ended (again, except for drills). No one ever messed with the cards and as soon as the drill secured, the boys were right back at it.

For my submarine brothers, thanks for being a part of my life and story.

As I have heard so many others say, I would willingly do it all again.

In Honor of Submarine month, reposting a link to the all time most visited site on theleansubmariner:

https://theleansubmariner.com/2013/11/24/id-like-to-be-a-submariner-how-hard-could-that-be/

 

Mister Mac

“Who you calling Bubblehead?” 3

I was having a fun filled conversation about the head on a submarine that included the operating procedures and the sanitary tanks this week with a very good friend.

To be fair, who else would you have such a conversation with?

My friend was a ground pounder back during the countries extended excursion into South East Asia and since the conversation was on Facebook, we got a number of inputs from other Submariners. You just can’t have an isolated conversation about such a weighty subject without having others who observe it want to weigh in.

We talked about the method for using the head, the disposal process, the highlights and lowlights of use during an extended underway deployment and certain contests that most hard core Submariners would be well acquainted with that involved the head. Most importantly we included safety features such as remembering to never try and flush when the system was pressurized. Ah, the memories came flooding back.

My dear friend the ground pounder at one point started to push back a little when a few of the boys reinforced with glamorous stories of their own. At one point, I let my fellow brothers of the Phin know that while he had never ridden a submarine, he had many of the necessary skills to be included as a bubblehead. I know this about him since we worked closely together and have had a friendship for over twenty years. I truly believe that if Uncle Sam had not drafted him back in the sixties to go and urinate in a 155 MM shell, he would have found himself on a submarine at some point or another and would have fit in quite well.

Sadly, when I called him an honorary bubblehead, he was confused and a bit disoriented. Perhaps even a little chagrined. Why would I call him such a thing? After all if you Google Bubblehead on the internet, you will find the following:

Dictionary.com: Bubblehead

NOUN slang: A stupid of foolish person; dolt (First heard in 1950-55)

Merriam-Webster: Bubblehead

A foolish or stupid person

Synonyms often include:

airhead, birdbrain, blockhead, bonehead, chowderhead, chucklehead, clodpoll (or clodpole), clot [British], cluck, clunk, cretin, cuddy (or cuddie) [British dialect], deadhead, dim bulb [slang], dimwit, dip, dodo, dolt, donkey, doofus [slang], dope, dork [slang], dullard, dum-dum, dumbbell, dumbhead, dummkopf, dummy, dunce, dunderhead, fathead, gander, golem, goof, goon, half-wit, hammerhead, hardhead, idiot, ignoramus, imbecile, jackass, know-nothing, knucklehead, lamebrain, loggerhead [chiefly dialect], loon, lump, lunkhead, meathead, mome [archaic], moron, mug [chiefly British], mutt, natural, nimrod [slang], nincompoop, ninny, ninnyhammer, nit [chiefly British], nitwit, noddy, noodle, numskull (or numbskull), oaf, pinhead, prat [British], ratbag [chiefly Australian], saphead, schlub (also shlub) [slang], schnook [slang], simpleton, stock, stupe, stupid, thickhead, turkey, woodenhead, yahoo, yo-yo.

I am sure my great friend of more than twenty years had to have been distressed when he saw that I might have calling him a dolt. But nothing could be further from the truth!

I tried to assure him (to no avail) that only the most significant people in my life ever earned the title of Bubblehead. I have many honorable friends who were skimmers (or targets as we bubbleheads call them), Airedales, ground pounders, jet jockeys and so on. But only a few ever became Bubbleheads.

So who are these creatures? Where do bubbleheads come from?

Well, it’s partially a mystery. Even though literature is filled with submarine stories like Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea” and American lore is overflowing with high tech submarines with windows and mini subs like those found in “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”, real life is never quite that well defined.

Often times, credit is given to skimmers who resent the fact that we have the best food, best assignments, best advancements, extra pay for riding in the same ocean and really cool equipment. According to my friend the ground pounder, we also drink all the best beer in Norfolk leaving the Army to drink nothing but 3.2 beer.

Some people claim that it had something to do with a slang name once given to Bell Hat divers.

Others credit it to the clinometer that is found in the control room of most submarines. The only way to determine the angle of a submarine on its axis is to have an inclinometer which is a curved vial mounted with a bubble of air within that indicates at any given moment what the submarines disposition is in relation to the earth and the ocean. (Interesting note: when someone is said to have lost the bubble, it could relate to the fact that they are no longer stable and their bubble has escaped the inclinometer… but I digress)

But I have my own ideas about their origin. Let me explain.

First, the term bubblehead seems to be unique to American submariners. I am sure someone from my global submarine community will fire a torpedo in my direction for saying this but since I am an American Submariner and that is my sole experience, I am sticking with that preposition.

Bubbleheads come from farms, townships, cities, boroughs and the suburbs. Anyplace and any state in the country and a few of the territories. Even the Philippines. But all Americans by their devotion to the Service

They must have an equal measure of intelligence and sarcasm in order to survive the curing process involved in their making. They come in all colors, sizes and backgrounds. Despite the space limitations, a few of the largest humans I have ever met served on board boats. They are also serious, lighthearted, emotional, emotionless, happy, angry, sleepy, often grump and dopey. All though to be fair, dopey doesn’t normally do very well

 

 

 

 

 

Bubbleheads are made under pressure. In the early days, that meant surviving the pressure chamber test and the dive tank test. Once they get to the boat, there is the pressure of being a non-qual air breathing nub with no useful purpose under the sun than to fetch coffee and scrub the head form sun up to sun rise (which is incredibly hard to define once the boat is submerged). The pressure comes from driving a boat into an ocean that is wild and changing at speeds that you can feel but not being able to see where you are going. Pressure is not knowing what is happening to your family for months on end. Pressure is learning to rely on your fellow shipmates for your own and the ship’s safety. Yep, bubbleheads are made under pressure. And it never seems to go away.

Bubbleheads are all volunteers but must go through a selection process. While it has changed through the years, it nearly always includes psychological as well as physical examinations. One of the best explanations of how it was done back in the old days explains a lot about our heritage. From the 1942 Book called The Fleet Today by Kendall Banning:

“Because of the dangers inherent in the submarine service, extreme caution is exercised in even the most simple of operations. This caution extends as far back as the selection of the men themselves. In the first place, they must be dependable men. The crew of a submarine is small and every man has a duty to perform; a single act of negligence might endanger the life of every man aboard. In the second place, a submariner must be blessed with the virtue of calmness and self-possession. The fellow who is subject to temperamental outbursts or who is contentious or who talks too much or who becomes excited has no place on a pig boat. And—to add the human touch—he must not be cursed with those little mannerisms or affectations which, in the intimacies that must necessarily prevail in cramped quarters, might grate on the nerves of his shipmates. Even that intensely personal and often unavoidable quality, designated by the medicos as bromidrosis but more popularly known as “B.O.,” will bar a man; even if his “best friends won’t tell him” the Navy will. The fruit of this selective system is found in the chief petty officers who have been developed over a term of years and who rate among the steadiest, most silent, and ablest groups of men in the Navy.”

Bubbleheads must exhibit redundancy in all they do. Starting with the way they enter the transition they will undergo, all Bubbleheads are required to volunteer twice. Once to serve the nation, and once to join submarine training. There have been exceptions over the years but the majority of bubbleheads are twice as committed as their fellow sailors. (SEALS are one of the notable exceptions but even they like to ride submarines form time to time).

A Bubblehead subjects themselves to the fact that to truly earn the title, the learning never stops. Basic qualification leads to advanced qualification. Each qualification leads to more studying and work in order to advance in their submarine assignment as well as their personal advancement. You have to learn every valve, every circuit, every system, every pump, and every piece of damage control equipment. Every submariner is indoctrinated with the law and the gospel that quick decisions must be followed by immediate action. Emergency drills accustom the men to shut the watertight doors and isolate ventilation and secure all of these in a matter of split seconds. Its life or death.

You are a bubblehead for life.

No matter how old you are, once you have earned your fish, you are part of a unique family. Many only serve for four years. Some serve for a lifetime. But it never ceases to amaze me that when we get together, the years and the age seem to disappear. Memories of a lifetime ago all come rushing back. The sacrifices we all shared in those dark days beneath the ocean’s surface all did one thing: they created a bond that can never be broken.

I am sure there are some purists that will object to the slang term that has been highlighted in my story. Hell, I know some people that still get snotty when the word Submariner is mispronounced. (It’s Sub – Marine*-er). But I am just as proud to call the ones who I care for the most by a special name: BUBBLEHEAD.

Mister Mac

 

Oh and one more thing Phil…

 

Happy Thanksgiving 2018 4

I hope you and your family have a very meaningful Thanksgiving

Five years ago, I posted the story about The First Thanksgiving. Its amazing how many things have changed in just those five years. Here is a repost of the original story with updates

The Blog is doing pretty well this year. Since we began, it will be the second highest visited year of all. Over 667 stories and posts of all kinds and 422,000 visits. I am especially thankful for that.

Happy Thanksgiving

Mister Mac

https://theleansubmariner.com/2013/11/28/the-first-thanksgiving-updated-from-original-post-in-2013/

 

You’re a Nuclear Submariner? How did you get such a cool job? (1963) 3

By January 1963, the United States Navy submarine force was growing at an amazing pace. The Soviet launching of Sputnik had sparked a fire in the Defense Department and the government as a whole to find ways to counter the perceived threats of an unbridled Soviet Union.

The answer of course was to capitalize on the advances that had been gained by the Navy’s marriage of nuclear power to submarine propulsion. The lessons of the Second World War were clear. Submarine warfare was the key to global seapower but submarines needed to be able to operate undetected in the farthest reaches of the ocean. Nuclear power provided the means for the boats to operate in those regions and for longer periods of time. Without the constant need to come near or on the surface to charge batteries, these boats were only limited by the crew’s abilities to deploy under stressful conditions and the amount of food they could carry.

From “41 for Freedom”

“Submarine building proceeded at a furious pace in the early 1960s, as the United States strove to deploy a major component of its Strategic Triad. From 1960 to 1966 the U.S. Navy launched a total of 41 SSBNs, called the “41 for Freedom.” All were named for eminent figures in American history and divided among the 5-ship George Washington class, the 5-ship Ethan Allen class, and the 31-ship Lafayette/Franklin class. Initially, each boat carried 16 Polaris nuclear missiles that could be launched underwater toward distant targets. Conversion to Poseidon missiles began in 1972. Further modification allowed Franklin-class boats to convert to Trident I missiles beginning in 1979.”

But where would the men come from that would man this growing fleet?

The answer in the beginning was to try and use existing sailors and officers that already had experience. Because of the complexity of the systems and the haste in which they had been built, there was a lot of risk involved in operating these new boats. Nuclear power was still relatively new and the launching of missiles from a submerged submarine had only been a dream until the Polaris program was begun.

Experienced Navy men would be the main answer for the time being. New men could be brought on as the pipelines were extended. In fact, by 1972, most of the new members of the submarine community were recruits that went through the pipelines that were developed in the sixties. After nearly ten years of operations, enough seasoned and experienced men had risen through the ranks and were now in the ranks of the senior enlisted and officers operating the boomers and fast attacks.

But in 1963, the Navy needed volunteers. Since submarines were always a volunteer force from the very beginning, every effort was made to recruit from within and entice men to join the ranks of the nuclear navy.

While the article in ALL Hands from January 1963 does not specifically advertise itself as a recruiting tool, in the eyes of this old Navyman, it sure does look like one. I wonder how many sailors in the fleet saw this article and said: I could do that!

JANUARY 1963 ALL HANDS MAGAZINE

How to Become a Nuclear Navyman

THE PARABLE of the seven blind men who discovered an elephant? Because they could not see the strange new animal in its entirety, each visualized it in terms of the one portion he could explore with his hands. The results were deplorable, to say the least.

A similar problem exists in attempting to see the nuclear submarine program of the Navy as a whole—it also is a strange new animal in our midst. Many men are interested but don’t know just what it is, don’t know if they can qualify, or if it would be to their advantage to make the attempt.

One point to consider when evaluating the consequences or the potentialities of the nuclear program upon your career—it’s a wildly expanding field. At the present time, there are approximately 14,000 men in the combined submarine forces. Included in these forces are 11 FBM and 16 attack nuclear subs now in commission. As stated in the November issue of ALL HANDs, six SSBNs, eight SSNs and one DLGN have been authorized for fiscal year 1963. Within two to three years, the Polaris program itself will require some 10,000 men. The FBM repair ships Proteus and Hunley are on station, with more to follow.

ONE ASPECT of the nuclear elephant—to coin a phrase—is frequently overlooked by those considering the nuclear Navy as a career. Nearly a third of the billets in FBM subs are general service billets with little or no connection with nuclear power or the Polaris weapon system.

Here, for example, is the rating structure of one crew of an Ethan Allen class FBM sub:

GENERAL    NUCLEAR    POLARIS

SERVICE     POWER         4 QM

3 SO              3 ET            7 TM

2 FT               15 MM       5 FT

4 RM              4 EN          7 MT

2 YN              9 EM          12 ET

1 SK              5 IC                 35

3 CS              36

5 SN

5 FN

I HM

3 SD

29

All this means a radical change in the occupations of many Navymen. The field is wide open for those who can—and will—qualify. It’s more than probable that you may be eligible to participate in one of the most exciting developments in history.

Let’s assume that you want to become a member of a typical crew in one of the Navy’s FBM subs and see what your duty is like and what qualifications you must meet.

FIRST OF ALL, of course, you must be a submariner. There are three basic programs that produce men qualified for duty on board FBM submarines. They are the Nuclear Power Program, the Polaris Program, and the conventional submarine school program.

Here are the ratings from which applications for submarine training are desired:

* SO, TM, ET, FT, and MT in pay grades E-4, E-5, E-6 and E-7 and designated strikers.

* MM, EN, EM, IC, QM, RM, YN, CS, SK and SD in pay grades E-4, E-5, E-6 and identified strikers of these ratings.

  • HM, in pay grades E-5, E-6 and E-7.
  • SN, SN, FN, TN and TA.

Because the Submarine Forces are growing rapidly, greater numbers of men in all of the above ratings and rates are needed for initial submarine training. MMs should request sub training only if interested in going on to nuclear power training. If you are afloat on Seavey and have not received orders, you may apply for basic sub school. If accepted, you will be ordered to sub school provided you have not yet received orders to shore duty.

With the exception of sub school candidates ordered direct from Class“A” schools and recruit training, it is preferable that men normally serve in their present duty (sea or shore) for one year before they are ordered to submarine school.

MEN Now ASHORE including those on Shorvey who have not received orders may apply for enlisted basic sub school by requesting orders direct to sub school. If you are assigned to shore duty, you must serve at least 12 months of your shore tour before you can expect detachment to sub school. This is not to say that you may not apply before your completion of the year ashore. On the contrary, it is preferable for all concerned that your applications are submitted as early as possible to permit ordering reliefs.

Here are the eligibility requirements to Basic Submarine Training:

  • Have 24 months’ obligated service commencing with the conveningdate of the class to which ordered.
  • Be a volunteer for sea duty in submarines.
  • For those in other than ET, MM, EN, EM and IC ratings: Have a minimum combined ARI and MAT or ARI and MECH score of 100, or a minimum combined GCT and ARI score of 100. For those in ET, MM, EN, EM and IC ratings, you must have a minimum combined GCT and ARI of 110. (This requirement is the same as that in effect for nuclear power training.)
  • Men in the ET, MM, EN, EM and IC ratings must be high school graduates or have a GED equivalent.
  • Be physically qualified for submarine duty in accordance with BuMed Manual, Article 15-29.
  • Have demonstrated evidence of emotional and mental stability and maturity. The absence of these qualities is often disclosed by a poor service record.
  • Be no more than 30 years of age.

Waivers will be considered if you are in other than source ratings for nuclear power training.

IF YOU MEET these requirements, you may submit your request on the Enlisted Evaluation Report (Nav- Pers 1339) via your commanding officer direct to the Chief of Naval Personnel (Attn: Pers B-2131). You must indicate your willingness to extend your enlistment or to reenlist, if necessary, to have the required obligated service.

If accepted, you will be ordered to the U. S. Naval Submarine School, New London, Conn., for an eight week basic course of instruction.

Unless you hold a rating of MT, YN, Cs, SK, HM or SD, you should expect additional training when you have completed the basic course. Approximately 60 per cent of those eligible receive additional training. Therefore, if you are eligible for extra training, you should be prepared to spend at least 13 weeks at sub school.

Your orders will read for “temporary duty under instruction and further assignment by BuPers (Pers B2115) to duty in submarines in the Atlantic or Pacific Fleet.”

During your seventh week at the Naval Submarine School, you will receive your orders for duty.

ALL THIS IS, of course, merely the preliminary. Your ultimate goal is assignment to a nuclear ship and that’s what you’re going to get. As FBM subs have the greatest construction priority for the next few years, we’ll discuss here the means by which you become an FBM submariner.

If you are an MM or EN, you have an excellent chance of going directly to nuclear power training from sub school.

However, most basic sub school graduates are ordered to duty either in conventional submarines, or to a non-nuclear billet in a nuclear submarine. If you are in this category, you should become a qualified submariner about six months after re-porting aboard. Once qualified, you may (depending on your rating) submit your request for Nuclear Power or Polaris training.

The majority of men now being ordered to FBM submarines are already members of the submarine service. If you are now a submariner, serving in either a conventional or nuclear-powered submarine, you should submit your request for FBM submarine duty to either the COMSUBPACREP at EPDOPAC or the COMSUBLANTREP at EPDOLANT.

If you are eligible for duty in an FBM sub, your name will be placed on a waiting list at one of those two locations. You will then be ordered to a new construction submarine approximately 10 months in advance of its tentative commissioning date, or you may be ordered to an operating FBM sub as a replacement.

Source ratings for FBM submarines are: TM, QM, FT, MT, ET, SO, RM, MM, EN, EM, IC, YN, SK, CS, SD, FN and SN. Although there may not be billets in all pay grades, men in all pay grades are encouraged to apply should substitutions be necessary.

Before reporting to their assigned ship, men in the QM, ET, FT, TM, MT, RM and so ratings are normally ordered to attend courses of instruction ranging from three weeks to six months.

Men ordered to SSN or SSBN new construction will not be transferred before they have spent one year on board after commissioning.TO BE ELIGIBLE for duty aboard an FBM submarine, you must:

  • Be eligible for Secret security clearance.
  • Have obligated service of 24 months from commencement of course of instruction, or date of re-porting to the supervisor of ship- building in the case of men not receiving instruction.
  • Be in one of the source ratings.
  • Be designated SS (except for non-rated men).
  • Not on current Seavey. (Men extended off Seavey by COMSUBLANT or COMSUBPAC are eligible for such duty.)

Let’s now assume that you meet all the qualifications for eventual assignment to an FBM submarine, are a graduate of basic submarine school, and a qualified submariner.

If you are in one of the ratings that make you eligible for Nuclear Power School, you will go to either Vallejo, Calif., or Bainbridge, Md. There you will learn something about the field of basic nucleonics.

The curriculum at the schools include courses in math, physics, reactor principles and thermodynamics. Plant information is also studied, including reactor technology and engineering materials and equipments.

From THE BASIC school you and other potential nuclear-Navy sailors will move to Idaho Falls, Schenectady, or Windsor, Conn., for a 24- week operational course. There you will study and train on a live reactor. From this school you will be assigned to an FBM crew.

(It might be mentioned here that instruction for surface personnel is identical to the submarine program. Operational training on surface ship propulsion prototype plants is conducted at either Idaho Falls, Idaho, or Schenectady, N. Y.)

Men who operate the special navigation equipment, Polaris missile launching and guidance control equipment, and other special equipment necessary for missile launching are trained through the Polaris Program.

These men, although not graduates of nuclear-power school, do begin as qualified submariners, and they do receive special training at several locations.

With the exception of SOs and RMs, men of this group start their training for the FBM program at the Navy’s Guided Missile Schools, Dam Neck, Va. Men trained together in these schools generally serve together as a crew of an FBM submarine.

Some courses include more than one rate, but for the most part, single rates train together.

HERE, FOR EXAMPLE, is the background you will get if you are an ET. You will first attend a three week navigation sub-system familiarization course at Dam Neck. An eight-week special technology course follows. It is in the special tech course that you will first come in contact with new terms, techniques and devices associated with the program.

After these two courses, which are a general, over-all indoctrination on the FBM submarine and the Polaris missile system, the ETs move on to more specialized training. At this point, the group is split up to receive different training. You will become an expert in one phase of the program. Then, when you are assigned to a crew, you will learn about additional special equipment through on-the-job training.

One group of ETs start a 19-week course learning about the Ship’s Inertial Navigation System (SINS). This training is done at either Dam Neck or the factory where the gear was developed.

Another group of ETs spend a 19-week period at Dam Neck learning to operate and maintain different types of navigation data simulation computers.

A third group spends 19 weeks training on various other special navigation equipment at Dam Neck.

FROM ONE OF THESE schools you may go for further training aboard USS Compass Island (EAG 153), which is equipped with navigation equipment similar to that aboard the FBM submarines.

Quartermasters also are introduced to special navigation equipment at Dam Neck, where they take a five- week course in navigation familiarization. From there, the QMs also go aboard Compass Island for additional training in the operation of special navigation equipment.

Fire control technicians also start at the Guided Missile School. They first take a one-week course in weapons system orientation, and then an eight-week special technology course at Dam Neck. The special tech course is the same as that presented to many other ratings. From Dam Neck, the FTs move on to Pittsfield, Mass., for a 31-week course in SSBN fire control systems. Missile technicians, although already trained in guided missile theory, also are given an eight-week special tech training course, followed by 25 weeks of training in the missiles and guidance course at Dam Neck.

Torpedoman’s mates also have an active part in the Polaris missile pro-gram. These men spend one week in the weapons system orientation course at Dam Neck and then move on to another course at the same school on ordnance preparation.

Still at Dam Neck, the TMs complete six to nine weeks in missile ordnance and launching. They are taught how to handle Polaris between ship and pier, or between ships. They also study the missile launching system.

Another group of men who undergo special training is the radiomen and another small group of ETs. They are trained to operate and maintain new type communications equipment which has been developed solely for the FBM program. A combination of short courses takes about 12 weeks.

Sonarmen may find themselves in a 31-week BQQ-2 course at Key West, or a 12-week subjective analysis course at either Key West or San Diego.

DOES ALL THIS have any effect on you? It all depends. The Navy needs men urgently for this program and is willing to make any reasonable concession. For example:

  • SS personnel serving outside the Submarine Force because they are in excess, and who want to investigate the possibility of returning to submarines via Polaris may address their inquiries to the Chief of Naval Personnel (Pers 2133) for sympathetic consideration.
  • Anyone who wants to get into the Polaris Program, either the SSBN portion if eligible for submarine duty, or the support program if not, has an excellent chance via the SCORE program, no matter what his rating.
  • Anyone else who is in the right rate can be considered for direct entry by submitting a NavPers 1339.

If you are a YN, SK, SD or Cs, you may attend advanced training in your rating before joining an FBM crew, although this is not required.

These ratings may be assigned to an FBM submarine upon becoming qualified in submarines.

So there you are. That’s how you enter the nuclear Navy. It’s worth investigating further.

—Jim Lewis, JO2, USN.

A Gangers

One thing that is missing from this entire article is the evolution of something called a Submarine Auxiliaryman. By the time I joined the Navy, another pipeline had been added because of the need for trained men in non-nuclear mechanical equipment operation and repair. Most of the ones I served with were either Conventional Machinist Mates or converted Enginemen from the old diesel boats. We ran the atmosphere control equipment, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration systems, High Pressure Air, Trim and Drain Systems, Hydraulics, and the auxiliary diesel on many of the boats.

I am proud to have served as an A-Ganger from the oldest boomer to one of the newest. While our rate has been changed again so much in this new Navy, we were there to fill a gap when the country needed us the most, along with all of our comrades that wore dolphins.

Mister Mac

Have you driven a Ford (submarine) lately? (Probably not and there’s a good reason for it) Reply

1915 – The world at war

In September of 1915, the war in Europe was over a year old. The combatants had long ago determined that the war was not going to be brought to a quick conclusion. The British Fleet successfully blockaded Germany and her allies while the German U-Boat war was fully implemented with devastating effects to shipping in the Atlantic. The British were stubborn in adopting a system of convoys and the plucky little German U boats were taking a serious toll.

America was not to remain isolated for very long

Despite the willful determination of many in high places to stay neutral in the war that had spread across Europe and the world, America was still dependent on international trade. The sinking of the Lusitania in May was a harbinger of things to come in an unfriendly sea.

Since even before the first shot had begun, American Naval leaders had been sounding the alarm bells about not being prepared for any war. The glorious days of Theodore Roosevelt had been replaced by years of austerity and limited growth. There was a strong peace movement within the country that felt like entering the war was just a perpetuation of the many wars Europe had fought for centuries.

But the summer of 1915 brought with it doubt. Enough doubt that all aspects of defending the country were under review. President Wilson was still publicly saying that he would keep us out of war. But he also had assembled some of the best minds of the day to examine the situation. One of those was Henry Ford.

Mr. Ford had been toying with an idea of a smaller gasoline powered submarine that was small in nature and strictly defensive. In the fall of 1915, he and others floated the idea of a fast submersible powered by petrol. Veteran submariners must have balked at taking a large step backwards. But the Navy is run by the civilians and when it was announced that Henry Ford would be making an inspection trip to look at some of the recent boats, they just followed the orders of their chain of command.

This article was in the New-York tribune on the evening of September 24, 1915

Ford Explores Submarine; 16 Times Too Big He Says

Inventor Sees Undersea Craft for First Time. Shakes Head Over Cost After Inspecting K-5 and E-2 at Navy Yard Docks.

Henry Ford, who proposes to revolutionize submarine warfare, had his first experience board a submarine yesterday. He visited two of the submersible craft of the United States navy at the New York yard, in anticipation of turning out one of his own invention.

No fewer than ten tout hawsers held each of the submarines to the wharf while the automobile man made his inspection. It had been rumored that he would be taken for an underwater trip about the harbor, but none of the sailors made a motion to release the craft.

Mr. Ford did not care to crowd his sensation

Fresh from a conference with Secretary Daniels and President Wilson, he came to New York from Washington Wednesday evening.

Emerging from the conning tower of the E-2, the second craft visited yesterday, Mr. Ford said:

“I think they are sixteen times too large and cost sixteen times too much.”

“Has your inspection of a submarine for the first time given you new ideas that will lead to a revolution in their construction or from which you will evolve a new type?” someone inquired.

Although he is a member of the President’s advisory board of naval defence, Mr. Ford is nevertheless a pacifist.

“I would like to abolish their manufacture,” was his answer.

Collection of images related to ships in New York city (various piers and Hudson River), 1915, including: USS Virginia, USS Tonopah, USS New York, USS Wyoming, USS Texas, and submarines K-6, K-2, K-5, & K-1

Considering his recent statement that a small type of submarine operated by a gasolene engine and manned by one or two men was the logical undersea defence of the future, Mr. Ford yesterday hardly seemed enthusiastic. He admitted that he picked up some new ideas – he never went anywhere without doing that, he declared and that he might submit them to the naval advisory board for what they were worth.

Mr. Ford arrived at the navy yard shortly after 11 o’clock. He was accompanied by his son, Edsal and Gaston Plantiff, manager of his plant at Long Island City. Lieutenant Ralph Craft, aid to Rear Admiral Usher, Commandant of the yard, met him and introduced him to Lieutenant Commander Karl P. Jessup, chief of the machinery division. Lieutenant Jessup took the visitors to one of the plants where a diesel engine, the largest in this country, was assembled. The huge motor, which will drive a now submarine, was set in motion. In response to a question, Mr. Ford said that automobile engines in which heavy fuel oil was burned would undoubtedly be manufactured.

The party was joined by Captain George E. Burd, industrial manager of the yard; Commander George H. Rock, Chief construction officer; Lieutenant C. W. Nimitz, in charge of submarine construction at the New York navy yard and Lieutenant R.C. Grady, commander of the submarine K-5. Mr. Ford elected to visit the latter vessel at once. Later he went inside the E-2.

Miller Reese Hutchinson, right-hand man to Thomas A. Edison and Walter Miller, another of the Orange inventor’s staff, were also at the yard, greeted Mr Ford. Then Elmer A. Sperry, another member of the advisory board, came along, and he and the automobile manufacturer went to luncheon at the Hamilton Club in Brooklyn.

Before leaving the navy yard the inventor spoke of the futility of war at the evils of war parties which dominated Europe in 1914.

“I will do anything I can for the President or for Secretary Daniels.” He added. “If we have to have a navy, believe we should have the best, most efficient and up-to-date of them all.

Regarding Secretary Daniels, he said:

“It seems to me that he is the most advanced man we have ever had at the head of naval affairs in this country. His only aim is efficiency, and when he achieves that state the parasites are not pleased. By the parasites I mean the militarists and preparedness parties, like those that rule the nations of Europe. They will not be pleased, because the government will build everything itself and build it properly.”

He declared that the war would probably last a year longer, until the industrial classes revolted. He denied that he had offered $10,000,000 for peace, but said that he would use whatever means he possessed to bring it about. Also, he was emphatic in denouncing the proposed loan to the Allies. “If any of the banks where I have money on deposit have any part in such a loan I shall draw my money out,” he said. After visiting the laboratories and factory of Mr. Sperry, Mr. Ford returned to the Hotel Biltmore.

Ford’s pronouncements were heard around the country:

The Bemidji daily pioneer. (Bemidji, Minn.) 1904-1971, September 24, 1915, Image 8

FORD BELIEVES HE CAN REDUCE COST OF U. S. SUBMARINES

New York, Sept. 24.Henry Ford of Detroit was in New York yesterday to take a trip in one of the submarines at the New York Navy yard in furtherance of his promised attempt to perfect a gasoline motor for use in such craft. Mr. Ford said that he did not intend to be submerged in a submarine, but intended to look them over. Secretary Daniels had authorized the commandant of the navy yard to place a submarine at Mr. Ford’s disposal for the day. Navy submarines do not now use gasoline power, but are propelled by oil engines when on the surface and by electric batteries when submerged.

Mr. Ford was insistent today that an efficient undersea craft could be built at one-sixteenth the cost of the present vessels. When he was asked how many of them he would suggest building, he replied “none.”

There were other voices that wanted to be heard regarding the size and propulsion of submarines. Shortly after Ford’s pronouncements were printed, additional inventors surfaced with ideas that challenged his assumptions

Cross-Section Plan of Prof. Parker’s 2-Man Submarine

Navy Magazine October, 1915 JITNEY SUBMARINES

STRANGE FISH IN STRANGER WATERS

Professor Herschel C. Parker, of mountain-climbing fame, and Mr. Henry Ford seem to be having a little difference of opinion as to which one deserves the credit for the miniature submarine of which a sketch, reproduced from the “New York Times,” is presented above.

Had Professor Parker not set forth in such detail the various particulars of this boat, we would have been unwilling to flatly deny that something of this sort might not be done, but when he proposes, though it be only as an outline sketch, to construct anything of the sort here illustrated, it is really hard to take him seriously. His outline description of his craft as given in the “New York Times” of September 24, should commend itself to one of the comic journals. Unfortunately we must expect to get a good deal of this sort of thing from inventors, both voluntary and authorized, suddenly transferred to new and unfamiliar fields. Mr. John Hays Hammond, Jr., in the fallowing letter from the “New York Times” of September 25, ably points out the fallacies that surround the Parker-Ford idea.

New York, Sept. 24, 1915.

In these days where the lesson of the European war is being taken to heart by the intelligent and thinking American, it is natural that many suggestions for the improvement of our national defense should be brought to the attention of the public. It is, however, necessary that for the public interest the chaff be separated from the wheat, so that an intelligent understanding be obtained by the general reader of what should and should not be done.

I have been working for the last four years on the problem of producing a high-speed type of submarine boat of the minimum possible displacement to achieve the purposes which I have in view. This boat resembles very much what Henry Ford and Professor Parker have been discussing lately in the press. In the research which I have carried on along this line I have had the very best advice from the leading engineers on the question of submarine architecture in this country. For any man to make the statement that under present conditions it would be possible to drive a submarine at the rate of forty miles an hour, and to, moreover, drive a submarine at this rate whose displacement is such that it would be capable of carrying several men, torpedo tubes, torpedoes, and the necessary equipment to enable it to function as it should, is, as far as I can see, nonsense. From the earliest days of development of the submarine boat attempts have been made to produce a small type of submersible craft under the control of one or two men and to handle these craft from the decks of battleships. The able French inventor, Goubet, spent his life to develop a satisfactory portable submarine.

His work ended in final disappointment and failure, although through it a great deal of valuable information was contributed to the art.

The whole tendency in submarine development has been toward the enlargement of the submarine, its increase in power, displacement, and length. A good deal of the fallacy in the small submarine idea is due to the fact that people imagine that because a torpedo can accomplish certain things it is possible for a submarine, or man-carrying torpedo-carrying device, to accomplish the same results. This whole illusion can be quickly dispelled by taking a vessel of the type, shape, and displacement of the torpedo and increasing it to a size which would enable it to carry several men and one or more torpedoes. On investigation it will be found that, in order to drive such a craft at the speed of the torpedo, a power would be necessary which would be out of all proportion to the carrying capacity of the craft. The torpedo achieves its results in having an ideal form of power plant for its work. With air pressure at two thousand pounds per square inch as a driving medium it is possible to cut down the engine to very small proportions. The range, however, is limited. The only other type of suitable prime mover that we have which can give us great power for a minimum of weight and size is the internal combustion engine. The internal combustion engine is almost as sensitive as a human being with regard to the question of having plenty of fresh air to operate with. The more powerful the engine the greater amount of air necessary per minute to enable it to run. It is incredible what amount of air is consumed in the explosions of an ordinary automobile engine, but it can easily be seen that this fact is true when one remembers that each time there is an explosion it is chiefly air that fills the cylinders of the gas engine and that the more cylinders the engine has and the greater number of revolutions that it makes, the greater the amount of necessary air is consumed in its operation.

I do not consider that the question of getting rid of the exhaust gases would be nearly as difficult as the question of supplying the machine air when running submerged. It must be remembered that if the submarine were supplied with tanks under pressure to give this necessary amount of air there again it is necessary to increase its carrying capacity, its size, and to multiply by a tremendous amount the power plant to drive it at the necessary speed. Thus the problem is very much like that of a dog chasing its own tail, and at this point it may be said that for the optimistic inventor only ignorance is bliss.

Outside of these general problems, on account of the uncertainty of torpedo fire, it is essential that more than one torpedo be carried, and these torpedoes cannot be diminished in size beyond a certain point, inasmuch as they must carry sufficient high explosive to achieve a definite destructive effect on striking the target.

Then there comes the all-important question of the necessity of the submarine maintaining what is known as an even depth line, that is, that it shall travel at a constant and practically unvarying depth below the surface, otherwise it becomes a dangerous proposition to control. It has been noticed that the shorter submarines are more prone to erratic diving movements than those of great length. If a short vessel were traveling at the tremendous speed of forty miles an hour any sudden dive would carry it immediately to a depth at which the pressure of the water would be sufficient to crush in the sides. This is a point brought out in the work of no less an authority than Commander Sueter of the British service. The inventor will again probably pooh-pooh this idea by suggesting that the hydrostatic depth regulator used in the torpedo be applied to the submarine. Any one familiar with the way in which torpedoes go clam digging, for no apparent reason, in the bottoms of harbors would be loath to risk his life on the dependability of such mechanisms.

On the whole, it is only necessary to acquaint one’s self with the development of the submarine art and to go into the actual cold figures relating to power and submerged propulsion to see that the small submarine of high speed is a fallacy.

While it is very commendable that there should be a nation wide contribution of thought to the question of national defense, it is nevertheless to my mind nothing but lost motion to advocate the impracticable. It should be understood that the adequate defense of our country can only be brought about by a national movement to back the recommendations of the army and navy experts in Washington. The great question of training officers and men to fill the thin ranks of our army and navy is of vital importance. The construction of material which present conditions of war have shown to be absolutely necessary is a matter that should be undertaken at once. The inventive ability of our citizens should be encouraged and monopolized by our Government; but while this is so, the people must remember that preparedness is a national movement, and that the genius of one man and the effectiveness of one weapon does not constitute more than an element in the great barrier of defense that will protect our home and country.

What of Henry Ford’s Submarine Idea?

Henry never built a single one. He actually made a lot of money in the War that he opposed so much in 1915 by being one of the principle builders of the Eagle Boats, a fast moving submarine hunting surface ship (among other things he sold at a great profit). His empire would continue to grow well into the next war.

Teddy Roosevelt once said that because Henry Ford was a genius at auto production, most people believed he was an authority on everything, which was a mistake. He was a complex person who was capable of inventiveness and persistence, but also of great hatred and mean spiritedness. Most importantly, once he left his immediate world, Henry Ford was often spectacularly, though proudly, ignorant.

I wonder what Lieutenant (later Admiral) Chester Nimitz had to say about Ford the day after Pearl Harbor.

Mister Mac

 

There are no GBF pins to be found anywhere (but I could be wrong) Reply

DBF – but not for you sailor

I was a sailor on board five nuclear powered submarines. Like many young men of my day, I had asked for an assignment to a diesel boat out of Key West Florida (or at least San Diego) but the Navy needed my skills (and those of most of my fellow submarine school graduating class in early 1973) on one of the many nuclear powered boats that had been pressed into service in the 1960s and 1970s. While the nuc boats were being built, the old diesel boats were slowly being decommissioned or given away to our “Allies” around the world.

Since that time, many of the men who did serve on the older smoke boats rightly earned a distinction for that demanding service. The amenities were rare and life was a lot harder than what those of us who rode these “Neptune’s Cadillac’s” were exposed to.

So it seems fair that the pride they exhibit would show up in many ways including the fabled “DBF” pins. For the uninitiated and those that are perplexed by letters, DBF stands for Diesel Boats Forever. After all, until the Nautilus was built, the main source of power for boats around the world was the ever reliable diesel engine coupled with electric motors. Those are the boats that sailed the seven seas and developed the type of warfare that would later help to end the War in the Pacific.

But before the smell of diesel penetrated the clothes of every submariner in those seven seas, there was another smell that came from the primary source of power.

By 1905, the British began to overcome their aversion to submarines and were building a small group of boats to counter the efforts of the potential enemies in Europe. By 1908, the rumblings of a future war between Great Britain and the Kaiser’s Navy were already being felt.

Submarining in those early days was a dangerous game. The low speed, limited technology and shipbuilding capabilities were always a factor in operating the small boats. A boat of the A Class, A8 was sunk on June 8, 1905 due to a loose rivet in the bow during exercises in Plymouth Sound, off Plymouth, England. While the boat was raised and repaired, the accident cost the lives of 15 crewmen killed while only 4 survivors were picked up by the trawler Chanticleer.

Other notable accidents included the loss of the A-1 and A-7 which occurred during mock torpedo attacks. Seven of the A class sank during their career, three with their entire crews. All but one (A-7) were raised. A-1 sank a second time.

What made all of the submarines of that class (any many of their contemporaries) fraught with danger  was the main mode of power: gasoline engines.

Yes, that volatile fluid that emitted vapors which in and of themselves could kill was the main source of energy for most of the submarines including the Holland. In fact, the A1 boat was based on the Holland design and many of its features remained throughout the rest of the A class.

For surface running, the boats were powered by a single 16-cylinder 600-brake-horsepower (447 kW) Wolseley petrol engine that drove one propeller shaft. When submerged the propeller was driven by a 150-horsepower (112 kW) electric motor. They could reach 11 knots (20 km/h; 13 mph) on the surface and 6 knots (11 km/h; 6.9 mph) underwater. On the surface, A9 had a range of 500 nautical miles (930 km; 580 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph); submerged the boat had a range of 30 nautical miles (56 km; 35 mi) at 5 knots (9.3 km/h; 5.8 mph).

But using petrol (gasoline) was adding a lot of risk to an already risky business. So it was in July of 1908 that the A9 joined the record books with a near miss that could have been fatal if not for the extraordinary actions of the officers in charge.

August, 1908 THE NAVY

GREAT BRITAIN – THE A9 ACCIDENT

What might have been a serious and fatal accident was narrowly averted aboard the British submarine A9 on July 14, and was converted into merely a minor mishap by the heroism of the craft’s officers. This submarine belongs to a series of ten of the most modern underwater vessels of the British Navy, designated A1 to A14, respectively, each of which displaces 204 tons submerged, the last of the type being completed early this year. The submarine was one of a flotilla of seven such boats which were on their way from Portland to Dover, accompanied by the second-class cruiser Aeolus as their parent ship.

While they were passing Folkestone about noon of the day of the accident it was observed that there was something wrong with A9, which was gradually falling behind.

When the Aeolus went back to ascertain the cause, it was discovered that there had been an escape of gasoline and that out of a crew of eleven men, including two officers, six were overcome by fumes, while five were affected but did not become unconscious. The men below were the first to feel the effects of the fumes and dropped at their posts. When the officers, Lieutenant C. H. Warren, who was in command, and Lieutenant E. M. Groves, second in command, realized what had occurred, they left the conning tower and attempted to reach the engines. The latter officer was successful in bringing them to a standstill, but his fellow-officer was overcome. Upon the arrival of the parent ship the officers and men were speedily removed to the Aeolus, restoratives and artificial respiration were tried, and all have since recovered. There seems little doubt but that for the gallantry of the officers all aboard the craft, including the officers themselves, would have lost their lives. The accident is understood to have been caused by a slight crack in a petrol tank.

Until recently every British submarine carried a case of white mice in her well. When any leakage of gasoline occurred the heavy, sickly fumes settling to the bottom of the vessel was supposed to make the mice shriek shrilly as they gasped for breath, and thus to warn the crews of impending disaster. Shortly before the A9 accident an order was issued by the British Admiralty directing the removal of white mice from submarines, and this action created some uneasiness among officers and men taking part in submarine operations during the recent maneuvers.

While some thought the removal of the white mice was calculated to endanger the safety of those working the submarines, others claimed that even if the mice were used, their presence would not be very valuable, because the noise of the machinery would make it very difficult to hear anything, much less the squeak of a mouse.

The A-13 was the first diesel submarine in the Royal Navy. She was fitted with a six cylinder Hornsby-Ackroyd diesel. They continued to operate petrol engines in the follow on B and C class boats. It wasn’t until the D class was launched as a purely diesel submarine that the British finally divorced themselves from petrol powered boats.

The evolution of the early submarines reflects the technological advances of their age. But you have to give great credit to the brave sailors of all nations that sailed on these small boats with all of their challenges.

And I am pretty sure there were no GBF pins to be had once the old boats were laid up for scrap in 1920.

Mister Mac

‘Here take us; you have won the game only too brilliantly.’ German Naval Surrender November 20, 1918 Reply

The day the German High Seas fleet was surrendered – November 20, 1918

From the diary of a German Naval Officer “Monday, Nov. 19 – The undefeated German fleet is going out to meet the enemy who anxiously avoided it for four years and says to him, ‘ Here take us; you have won the game only too brilliantly.’ … I wept and I am not ashamed of it.”

It has been a hundred years since the guns fell silent on that cold and bitter November day in Europe. The sound of silence had to have been deafening to the men who survived the last desperate bombardments that churned up the French countryside for the last time. The War to End All Wars was coming to a close but only on the land.

What about the powerful forces of the German Navy?

This story captures the end of the naval war and the end of the submarine campaign. Up until this day, German submarines had wreaked havoc in the Atlantic. The German fleet was largely intact even though it was affected by the same suffering of the people at home.  The submarine force was still a potent threat.

U- Boat is the abbreviation of ‘unterseeboot’, which when translated into English means ‘undersea boat’.

When the First World War began the German Navy possessed 29 U-Boats. The Imperial Navy had rejected submarines as a distraction in 1900 and were more inclined to follow the traditional growth patterns of the navy’s of their day. The main focus was on large gun bearing ships that would be able to slug it out with their English counterpart in dramatic open ocean battles. In fact, one of the most dramatic surface engagements of all time was a fulfillment of that vision.

But the little U boats would have a profound impact on the conduct of the war and were the main weapon that nearly brought England to her knees. England is highly dependent on other sources for food, fuel and raw materials and the German U-Boats were responsible for destroying around half of all the food and supplies transported by the British Merchant Navy.

  • In the first 10 weeks of the war they sank five British cruisers.
  • Between October 1916 and January 1917 a grand total of 1.4 million tons of allied shipping was lost to the U-Boats.
  • These losses were eventually curtailed when the allies introduced escorted convoys with merchant ships surrounded by military vessels.
  • During WW1 Germany built 360 U-Boat submarines, 178 of which were lost. In total they were responsible for the loss of more than 11 million tons of allied shipping.

The German Navy’s U-boats were also instrumental in the sinking of the passenger liner and auxiliary cruiser, the RMS Lusitania on 7 May 1915, which was one of the main events that led to the United States joining the war two years later in 1917.

As the war drew to a close, the German Naval High Command wanted one more chance to change the outcome. They developed in top secrecy Naval order of 24 October 1918

This operation resulted from the exchange of diplomatic notes, beginning on 5 October 1918, between the new German government under Prince Max of Baden and President Woodrow Wilson, in which Germany asked the President to mediate an armistice. One of Wilson’s preconditions was the cessation of Germany’s submarine war. Despite the objections of Admiral Scheer, the Chief of the German Admiralty Staff, the German Government made this concession on 20 October. The U-boats at sea were recalled on 21 October. In response, on 22 October Scheer ordered Admiral Hipper, commander of the High Seas Fleet, to prepare for an attack on the British fleet, utilizing the main battle fleet, reinforced by the newly available U-boats. Hipper’s order was promulgated on 24 October; Scheer approved it on 27 October. The Fleet then began to concentrate at Schillig Roads off Wilhelmshaven to prepare for the battle.

The German fleet still possessed a large capacity to inflict damage. The new availability of the U boats to support the operation was of great value to the commanders of the fleet. The boats would be able to penetrate English territory, broadcast their movement and create havoc by sinking the deploying fleets as they came into the channel.

The plan called for 25 U-boats to be deployed in six lines in the southern North Sea, in the hope of ambushing British ships sailing to counter-attack the German Fleet raiding forces. Other U-boats were to undertake special operations involving British Naval Bases. On 23 October seven U-boats at large in the North Sea (U-108, UB-86, UB-121, UB-125, UB-96, UC-58 and U-60) were diverted by wireless signals to take up positions off Rosyth, in order to give the alarm when the British Fleet sailed, and hopefully launch attacks. In addition, U-43, also at sea, was directed to take up a watching position near the Tyne. Starting on 24 October, the other U-boats began departing from their base at Heligoland to their patrol areas.

Two of these U-boats were lost. The first, U-78 (Oblt. Johann Vollbrecht), sailed on 27 October from Heligoland for a minelaying mission off the Scottish East Coast, but she was torpedoed and sunk the same day by the British submarine G2 in the central North Sea, roughly 280 nautical miles (520 km; 320 mi) east of the Firth of Forth. All 40 crewmen were lost.

The other submarine to be sunk was UB-116, which sailed from Heligoland on 25 October with special orders to attack the British fleet anchorage at Scapa Flow. She was commanded by the 26-year-old Oberleutnant zur See Hans Joachim Emsmann who, since first becoming a U-boat captain in February 1918, had sunk a total of 26 ships. She attempted to enter Scapa Flow submerged by the southern passage, Hoxa Sound, on the evening of 28 October. Hydrophones mounted ashore at Stanger Head, Flotta, alerted the British defenses, and the sea-bed magnetometer loops, designed to detect the magnetic signatures of incoming vessels and thus trigger remote-controlled mines, were activated. Emsmann raised his periscope at 11:30 pm, presumably to check his position, and was spotted by look-outs on shore; the mines detonated shortly thereafter, leaving the submarine disabled on the sea bed. She was finished off by depth charges from defense trawlers shortly thereafter; all 37 crew members were lost.

Two other submarines, UB-98 and UB-118 were damaged in collision with each other on 28 October, and had to return to port. Two others, UB-87 and UB-130 also aborted their missions due to breakdowns.

The remaining fleet faced difficulties of its own. Sailors on most of the German ships were in a rebellious mood. The news of the defeats on land and the entry of America into the war had made their plight untenable. Families at home relayed stories of mass starvation and privation and the thought of this desperate attack this late in the war was madness. There were mutinies on many of the ships and in the end the plan was cancelled.

Less than two weeks later, the war came to an end with the signing of the armistice;

From the book Bluejackets of 1918; being the story of the work of the American … Navy in the world war (Abbot, Willis John, 1863-1934.)

“It was on the 11th of November, 1918, at 11 o’clock A.M. — eleventh month, eleventh day, eleventh hour the newspapers pointed out — that the World War was brought to an end by the signing of the armistice at General Foch’s headquarters at La Capelle.

German delegates had been brought, blindfolded, through the Allied lines the night before, for requests from Germany for a cessation of hostilities during the peace negotiations had been sternly refused. Foch had the enemy on the run and was in no mood to yield any shred of his advantage. It was an army peace, of course, and in the negotiations the navy had no share, although Vice Admiral Sir Rosslyn Wemyss, First Lord of the British Admiralty, and Vice Admiral William S. Sims were present.

Briefly summarized the conditions of the armistice affecting naval conditions were as follows:

The immediate surrender to the Allies and the United States of all German submarines, including mine-layers. The internment and disarmament of practically all the German surface men-of-war to await the action of the peace conference and their final disposition by treaty.

All German aircraft to be concentrated and demobilized at specified places.

Indication to the Allies and the United States of the location of all mines that the seas might be cleared of mine-fields.

Opening of the Baltic to all nations.

Evacuation of all Belgian ports and surrender of all vessels of every class therein.

The announcement by the Germans to the world of the abandonment of submarine warfare, and the conclusion of the war upon the sea.

In accordance with these terms of the armistice the chill and desolate harbor of Scapa Flow in the Orkneys was fixed as the place of internment for the German surface fleet.

The surrender was ordered for November 20, 1918.

Before the main fleet was turned over to the combined naval forces of England, France and the United States the first twenty submarines were delivered to Rear Admiral Tyrwhitt off Harwich at sunrise on that day. The British force that received the surrender of these sinister underwater boats consisted of five light cruisers and twenty destroyers. A big observation balloon hung over the fleet and as the ceremony took place at early dawn the picturesqueness of the occasion was added to by the sun rising in the east, while a great white moon still shone in the west.

No chances were taken on the British vessels. The paravanes were rigged outboard to divert any mines that might be drifting in the neighborhood. Officers and men put on their life-belts, and as the enemy appeared in the offing the gun crews went to their stations as though it were a battle, not an abject surrender, for which preparations were making. No flags flew over the enemy vessels as they steamed sullenly out from their coast, but strips of bunting flying from the British flagship gave them the peremptory order to fall in line and follow the British lead. They obeyed. From every vessel of the victorious squadron sharp eyes watched the defeated foe. Once two carrier pigeons were seen to rise from the tower of a submarine, and instantly a signal was flashed forbidding any repetition of this effort to communicate with the land they had left. Off Harwich the whole fleet came to anchor.

Two German light cruisers had accompanied the enemy fleet and to them the German sailors from each submarine were transferred. As the boats were thus abandoned white flags were run up on each with the German ensign below, and they were towed into the tidal basin at Harwich. The whole ceremony was conducted without any manifestation of triumph, and indeed in almost complete silence.

So ended the German effort to enforce the will of the Kaiser by undersea war.”

THE SURRENDER OF THE GERMAN HIGH SEAS FLEET, NOVEMBER 1918 (Q 19319) German submarine crews transferring to a motor launch to await repatriation, Harwich. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205193797

The German submarines that were surrendered were meant for destruction but not before the victors in turn took a chance to see the technology that had wreaked so much havoc. Five of the boats ended up in American hands for a while. Improvements based on those discoveries were blended into American submarine technology. Despite the intent of the British to ban all submarine warfare in the naval treaties that were about to be written, submarine warfare survived. The technology, operations, and innovation would lead to a leap forward for the American Navy that prepared it for a surprising role in the Second World War.

 

Mister Mac

1899 – 1900 The Epidemic of Submarines 1

1899 – 1900 The Epidemic of Submarines

Chief, Bureau of Construction and Repair, Commodore Philip Hichborn –

July 1893-March 1899,  Rear Admiral Philip Hichborn – March 1899-March 1901

If you have never heard of Admiral Hichborn, don’t be too surprised. He had a long and glorious career but has faded into obscurity over the last 100 years. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has ever done something important that was not looked upon with favor while you were doing it.

In his role as the Chief of Construction and Repair, he was a powerful voice that helped the United States Navy obtain and develop the modern submarine. He did this in the face of overwhelming forces that were trying to minimize the submarine and prevent it from taking its place I the long line of naval inventions.

The late 19th century saw a Navy still reeling from the latest chaotic intervention of technology. Steam power was eclipsing the power of the sail and machines were suddenly the driving force of progress for a Navy steeped in tradition. As the new century began, the leadership of the Navy was just becoming adjusted to the lack of sails on board their prized battle fleet. Bigger and stronger ships bristling with new guns of monstrous calibers was the order of the day. The very idea that a smaller “boat” would someday take its place alongside these behemoths was, as one Admiral put it, crazy.

In the midst of all the bluster, some voices were still determined to experiment with a new type of warship. The submarine had been around in various configurations for a long time but its usefulness and dependence on operating on the surface for much of its time made them less than desirable. Many of the Admirals considered them a distraction at best but a waste of precious funds for battleships. Some in Congress agreed but some also saw that if a submarine craft could be built at a lower cost and offer a way to protect the country, the savings would be really pleasing to the folks back home. That last reason alone was enough to frighten the Navy brass.

Around the world in 1900, most of the major players were already experimenting with submersible craft of their own. This post has a number of stories form a publication known as the Army Navy Journal.

During its time, this journal was a sure fire way to keep up with the latest trends and activities of all of the world’s navies. It was also a sounding board for those in power and out to try and influence the direction of the armed services. So it’s not a surprise that al lot of articles showed up with the excitement of the new Holland Boat.

Not everyone was a fan though. Whether here or in the many countries involved with this “submarine epidemic”, the opportunity was sorely weighed against the threat. If the growth of these pesky little craft was not managed well, there could be real consequences to the participating fleets in any future war. Since success was still being measured by “tonnage” and gun caliber and size, these craft posed a threat before they had even fired their first torpedo in way.

I celebrate the birth of the submarine Navy every April.

I had no idea how close we were to not having a submarine Navy at all.

Admiral Hichborn was a bit of a visionary. His vision was rare in a time when most men were looking backwards, not forwards as they tried to protect the nation.

Here is the story:

The story is told in sequential order through the eyes of the reader of the Army Navy Journal. It captures the submarine challenges of the United States, Great Britain, Germany, and France… noticeably absent is any talk of the Japanese who were also developing a submarine capacity on their own)

 

November 11, 1899 Army and Navy Journal – TRIAL OF THE HOLLAND SUBMARINE BOAT.

The Holland submarine torpedo boat underwent a successful test over a course between Little Hog Neck and Great Hog Neck, Long Island, on Nov. 6, in water 20 feet deep. The test was made before the following Navy officers, members of the Board of Inspection, and Survey: Rear Adml: Frederick Rodgers, Capt. Robley D. Evans, Comdr. William H. Emory, Comdr. Charles R. Roelker, Naval Constructor Washington L., Capps and Lieut. Richardson Henderson, recorder. The first run was one mile under water, submerged to a depth of ten feet over her deck. The run was made in exactly nine minutes.

On coming to the surface she discharged a torpedo which weighed 840 pounds, , ten seconds later. The torpedo shot past the mark, which was a stake with a flag on it, and came within 25 feet of the stake, although it was discharged nearly 400 feet distant. The torpedo traveled 800 yards.

Under water the Holland turned completely around in one and one-half times her own length, which is 54 feet. A second trip was made in which the boat was at times under water, then, with deck awash, and again with her upper parts completely out of water. While completely submerged a torpedo was again discharged simply to show that it could be done. Running against a strong ebb tide and a strong wind blowing across her the boat ran, with decks awash, a quarter of a mile at the rate of 8 knots.

The Holland was launched from Lewis Nixon’s yard, at Elizabethport, N. J., in March, 1896. She is 54 feet long and 10 feet in diameter. , Her hull is a perfect sphere amidships, the so-called deck being merely a flat superstructure designed to give the crew a foothold as they step from the conning tower. The Holland will be taken to Washington for any further inspection that the Navy Department may desire. The trip will be made through the Raritan Canal.

November 18, 1899 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL. – THE HOLLAND BOAT A SUCCESS.

The Inspection and Survey Board, which recently made tests with the submarine boat Holland, reports the trials were highly successful. Chief Engr. John Lowe was specially ordered to witness all trials and the official tests. His report is of great interest, as it highly commends the Holland. He says:

“I report my belief that the Holland is a successful and veritable submarine torpedo boat, capable of making a veritable attack upon the enemy unseen and undetectable, and that, therefore, she is an engine of warfare of terrible potency, which the Government must necessarily adopt into its service.”

Mr. Lowe says it is his opinion “that this Government should at once purchase the Holland and not let the secrets of the invention get out of the United States, ”and that the Government ought to create a submarine torpedo boat station for the purpose of practice and drilling of crews, and says: “We need right off and right now, fifty submarine torpedo vessels in Long Island Sound to protect New York, preserve the peace, and to give potency to our diplomacy.” The Holland will be sent around to Washington, the early part of December and will give an exhibition in the Potomac River for the benefit of Congress and the Navy Department officials.

December 9, 1899 ARMY AND NAVY .JOURNAL. – SOME FOREIGN ITEMS.

Before the Society of Naval Architects, at Charlottenburg, Dec., 8, Geheimrath Busley read a paper on “Submarine Boats” in which he said they offered no good prospects for the future, and congratulated the German Admiralty on, abstaining from “costly and protracted experiments.”

January 27 1900 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL – TORPEDO BOAT REPORT

The Naval Board on Construction on Jan. 19 (1900) decided by a vote of 4 to 1 against recommending the purchase of the Holland submarine torpedo boat. The majority report says that the proposition was to buy the boat for $165,000 as she stands, or two larger boats for $170,000 each. The report says: “The Board does not recommend the purchase of the Holland.” Then it goes on to cite the delinquency of the company in the case of the boat Plunger, and says when that craft is out of the way and settled for it will be time to discuss further contracts. The signers of this report are Rear Admls. O’Neil, Melville, Bradford and Comdr. Clover. They take pains to point out that they refrain from any criticism or discussion of the merits of the Holland and merely consider it a bad business transaction to buy it when larger and better boats can be got for nearly the same money.

The minority report is signed by Admiral Hichborn, and takes the ground that the question of possible improvements in the Plunger have been in the hands of a Naval Board for some months, the report of which has itself been held in abeyance, it is believed, pending the result of official tests of the Holland. The express intention of the company to proceed, as soon as authorized, with the necessary alterations to the Plunger, without expense to the Government, seems in every way satisfactory, and will, the Admiral believes, be promptly carried out. Considering the comparatively small cost of submarine boats, he believes that the Government should encourage their development, in view of their possibilities in time of war, and, furthermore, that it should have the boats in its possession for purposes of experiment and drill. Admiral Hichborn holds that the Department would be fully warranted in contracting for two boats of the Holland type; the Holland itself being acceptable, in his opinion, although less desirable than the proposed boats of slightly greater dimensions.

The immediate possession of the Holland, however, in the event of a sudden emergency, is to be considered an advantage. The fact of our having possession of the Holland, in her present state of efficiency, in the spring of 1898, would have been very marked in its effect.

Other countries do not appear over-sanguine regarding the submarine boat. Germany seems to have decided altogether against it. Recently Geheimeath Burley, at a naval meeting held in Charlottenburg, spoke with disdain of submarine boats, and averred that the German Navy had nothing to fear from anything of this kind which might be built by foreign powers.

In France, from which have come very favorable reports of trials, there are indications of a reversal of opinion. The “Yacht,” that Parisian nautical authority, referring to recent trials at Cherbourg, says: “There is too great a tendency to exaggerate the importance of submarine and submersible boats, and that they are at present purely serviceable for coast defence.” Taking the experience of all nations that have tested submarines, the chief objection appears to be the difficulty of maneuvering them under water, which has been found insuperable in practice up to the present time. It would be unwise, of course, to assume, because all previous attempts to devise a boat capable of practical and really effective action beneath the surface of the water have proved abortive, that therefore the submarine vessel may be regarded impracticable. The submarine vessel may ultimately become a source of real danger to the warship, but so far as it is possible to forecast the future of any invention, that day appears to be yet far distant.

February 10, 1900 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL  – Great Britain’s Point of view

The two problems now agitating the engineering world of Great Britain and the United States seem to be of the same type, and they relate to the feasibility of petroleum for fuel on the torpedo boats, and the value of the submarine torpedo boat. Neither question has advanced much beyond the experimental stage, and the results thus far are far from satisfactory in either matter. The position of the submarine torpedo boat has received somewhat of a setback by the lately promulgated adverse report of the Board appointed by the United States Navy Department, and the future of sub marine warfare remains about where it was at the beginning—a matter of opinion.

April 14, 1900 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL – Purchasing Holland

The recent tests which have been made by, the United States and France with types of submarine ships of war have caused considerable comment among military and naval experts of Europe. The problem of the submarine torpedo boat seems so far solved that attention is being directed to the means of meeting their attacks. Our Government has decided to purchase for $150,000 the Holland with the understanding that, the Holland Company deposit in, some national bank the sum of $90,000 as a surety that it will complete the construction of the submarine boat Plunger, already contracted by for the Government. Few officers of the Navy have, until recently, realized just what, the Holland and ships of like construction are capable of performing. The tests made this spring in the Potomac River have been witnessed by naval experts of this, as well as other, governments, Congressmen and representatives of the press. After seeing, the little craft dive all have been greatly impressed with the invention.

April 21, 1900 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL – Holland’s Capabilities

The Holland, which has just been bought by our government, is, strictly speaking, a torpedo; but a torpedo controlled in all its workings by human agency inside the craft, instead of being automatic in its operations. It is claimed that the vessel can go 1,500 miles on the surface of the water without renewing its supply of gasoline. It is further claimed that it can go fully 40 knots under water and that there is enough compressed air in the tanks to supply the necessary number of men for running the craft with fresh air for thirty hours, if the air is not used for any other purpose, such as emptying the submerged tanks. It was demonstrated in one of the recent tests that the Holland is capable of diving to a depth of twenty feet in eight seconds. It can stay at sea under an emergency for a week. Such has been the interest excited in this submarine vessel that Japan, as usual one of the leading nations, has directed her military attache in Washington to carefully examine into the merits of the vessel. On April 7 he was allowed to be present on the Holland during one of the official tests. Attaches of other nations also are taking great interest in the little craft. Mr. Goschen, 1st Lord of the Admiralty, in reply to a question by the House of Commons with reference to submarine boats, disparaged them except as weapons of defense, and said: “It seems certain that a reply to this weapon must be looked for in other directions than in building submarine boats ourselves, for, clearly, one submarine boat cannot fight another.”

April 28 1900 Army and Navy Journal – Army and Navy Appropriations Hearings

In regard to sheathing of ships Mr. Cummings (Congressman) said: “The Navy Department is peculiarly constructed. One year its board decides it is best to have sheathed ships. That was done a year or two ago. Afterward England built some unsheathed battleships; ships intended for use on her own coast, and not to be sent to foreign harbors. Of course, our Navy was compelled to follow the example set by England. Whether the Secretary of State was consulted or not I cannot say. The new board decided that sheathed ships were not needed. Boards are at times necessary contrivances, but not necessarily useful. Take the case of the Holland. Here was a board that were to make a report on the submarine boat Holland. They came back and reported in her favor but at the same time expressed the opinion that submarine boats were useless—England was not building any of them. The Navy Department, however, has bought the boat, and I have had the honor of introducing a bill providing for the purchase of 20 more of them. I am strongly of the opinion that the provision to have been inserted in this appropriation bill and I think those who have seen the Holland’s surprising performances will agree with me. I will answer for Admiral Dewey.”

May 19, 1900 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL.     News: 1900 NAVAL APPROPRIATION BILL APPOVED

The Secretary of the Navy is hereby authorized and directed to contract for five submarine torpedo boats of the Holland type of the most improved design, at a price not, to exceed one hundred and seventy thousand dollars each: Provided, That such boats shall be similar” in dimensions to the proposed new Holland, plans and specifications of which were submitted to the Navy Department by the Holland Torpedo Boat Company November twenty-third, eighteen hundred and ninety-nine.

The said new contract and the submarine torpedo boats covered, by the same are to be in accordance with the stipulations of the contract of purchase made April Eleventh, nineteen hundred, by and between the Holland Torpedo Boat Company, represented by the secretary of said company, the party of the first part, and the United States, represented by the Secretary of the Navy, the party of the second part.

The Secretary of the Navy is hereby directed to cause construction of vessels fitted to transport two. four, and plans and estimates of cost to be made for the construction of six submarine torpedo boats of the Holland type, respectively, and to lower and hoist them with the utmost expedition, said vessels to carry also such guns as may be best suited to their uses as armed craft to be used also as transports of submarine torpedo boats. The Secretary of the Navy is also directed to cause plans and estimates to be made for the conversion ” one or more transports now belonging to the United States and which he may deem best suited for the conveyance of submarine torpedo boats of the Holland type.

May 26, 1900 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL – Another view from London

The London “Engineer” says: “The assumption that the French submarine navy is a form of lunacy is very comfortable, but one cannot forget that fifty years ago our Admiralty doubted French sanity because they went in for screw warships across the Channel—a fact that makes the doctrine of official infallibility difficult to hold. Theories against submarine boats are just as bad as wild theories in their favor—we want facts on both sides. The sous marine are hardly as yet potent factors maybe; but they appear to be pretty much where torpedo boats were about 1876; and they have displayed quite enough in the way of “possibilities” to make the antidote worth thinking about.” It adds that, if one-quarter of the reports of successful submarine navigation in the French press are true, the British Admiralty occupy a “tolerably criminal position” in not experimenting with this method of warfare.

June 30 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL – ADMIRAL HICHBORN ON SUBMARINES.

Rear-Admiral Philip Hichborn, Chief Constructor, US. Navy, in “The Engineering Magazine” for June discusses “The Demonstrated Success of the Submarine Boat.” The findings of the so-called “Endicott Board” in 1886, he says, first called his attention to the matter. This Board, composed of prominent Army and Navy officers with the then Secretary of War as president, expressed the opinion that submarine boats had not passed the experimental stage. An exhaustive and complete history of this type of naval vessel was appended to the Board’s report by a sub-committee of which General Abbot of the Engineers, and Commander, now Admiral Sampson were members. To one accustomed to the actions of Boards and to reading between the lines of a report. it was apparent that General Abbot and Admiral Sampson desired to accentuate the probable value of submarines, although the Board as a whole could only be brought to an expression in regard to them which was the merest platitude.

His attention thus drawn to the matter Admiral Hichborn continued a study of the submarine. It appeared that the art of brain-directed submarine navigation has been in process of development for at least three hundred years, and that many of the attempts to make it practicable would have been near enough to success to insure continued effort toward improvement, had it not been for the ultra-conservatism of seafaring folk. William Bourne, an Englishman has the credit of operating the first submarine boat, as such, in contradistinction to a diving bell. The records of Bourne’s operations have, however, been lost as his labors ended more than three hundred years ago.

In 1624 the Hollander, Cornelius Van Drebbel, took twelve persons for an under-water run in his submarine boat worked by twelve pairs of sculls, and carried “quintessence of air” for them to breathe——probably compressed air. During the succeeding twenty years the main principles of submarine navigation were well grasped. And in 1633 a Frenchman, whose name has been lost, built and operated a submarine boat at Rotterdam.

Later in the century an Englishman named Day is reported to have lost his life in a submarine boat of his own invention, through the crushing in of her hull by water pressure due to depth on her second attempt at submersion. After a long hiatus, in the records at least, Bushnell, of Connecticut, projected in 1771 and made operative in 1775, a small one-man-operated boat devised for work against ships at anchor. The boat possessed many of the features recognized to-day as essential for submarine navigation, notably buoyancy.

Fulton, in 1707, was pushing submarine navigation in France. Borrowing the ideas of Bushnell and applying them to more powerful craft, he made a long stride in the methods of under-water work. Fulton’s Nautilus was, for her time as efficient as the Holland of to-day- and met with the same kind of encouragement.

The first Napoleon appreciated submarines, just as he appreciated breech-loading small arms. But in both cases he submitted the designs to Boards, and the devices were promptly condemned. The French did not wholly abandon the submarine idea. In 1810 a committee of the Institute reported, after trials of the Coessin_ boat, that “there is no longer any doubt that submarine navigation may be established very expeditiously and at very little cost.”

From 1810 to the time of the United States civil war submarine boats were designed every few years, nearly all of them driven by manual power and most of them following the ideas of Bushnell in forcing them down by an application of power apart from the diving rudder.During the civil war both the Federal and Confederate Governments tried to develop submarines, and failed of success only because the “state of the art” was not studied, and crude devices were tried.

In 1863 the Brun boat, the Plongeur, was built at Rochefort, France and was one of the first to have mechanical motive power. She lacked diving rudders, attaining her depth solely by variations in weight. As a result there was no control in the vertical plane. Horizontal rudders were fitted, and the boat worked very well—-with the usual result, Admiral Hichborn adds that she was declared useless by a Board, and made into a water tank.

The importance of horizontal rudders was not grasped in spite of experience with the Plongeur. In fact one of the curious circumstances connected with the development of submarine navigation is that in very few cases does any evidence appear of the study of the art. Almost all inventors began de novo with the consequence that that our late patent files show designs had been reached a couple of centuries ago. During the last forty years attempts to solve the problem of submarine navigation have been almost constant and the progress has been generally forward, and these years may he considered the era of the power-driven boat

One of the last hand-worked submarine craft was the Intelligent Whale which attracted much attention because she was bought by our Government and became a United States vessel, although she possessed no feature superior to Fulton’s design a half century earlier and in many principles of design was inferior. She was an example of the power of conservatism, which practically prevented her use for studying the laws of immersed bodies, and was responsible on the one occasion she was operated, for manning her with an incompetent crew and trying her under ridiculous conditions which worked up a fright about the danger connected with her. A press account appeared crediting her with a total of forty-nine victims. As a matter of fact, no life has been lost in her from the time she was built in Galveston, just after the close of the civil war to the present day.

Since 1880 Europe has been experimenting with submarine boats, and in France, Spain and Italy the governments have encouraged the experiments. In France alone has there been government encouragement through a series of years; progress has been so great as to call forth official estimates and requests for the building of a submarine flotilla of 38 boats. The French type developed by the trials with an electric-storage motor boat, the Zede is a good one, deficient in import but sufficiently good for the economical French to be impressed with the great service submarines will bring to their mobile coast…

June 30, 1900 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL – The doubt lingers on In the America Naval Leadership

Of Admiral Hichborn’s article, of which we give a synopsis on another page, the “Army and Navy Gazette” says: “We cannot think that the Admiral has made out his case either in regard to the satisfactory nature of the Holland, or of her use, but in any case the same conditions do not rule for us as for the United States. We are inclined to believe also that the Narwal has proved herself a better boat than the Holland. But, as we have said before, it is the duty of the authorities in this country to find an answer to the ‘submarine,” and everything points to the fact that such an answer will not be found in a boat to operate under water.”

August 1900 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL – THE FRENCH NAVY.

A certain number of naval experts in France incline to the opinion that it might be better to substitute smaller vessels, of 6,000 to 8,000 tons, for the 15,000-ton battleships, these smaller ships to have equal powers of offence and defence, but a slower speed. To this idea M. Normand lends the great authority of his name, and he supports his views by extracts from the latest work of Captain Mahan.

Analyzing the French naval programme the “Engineer” says: M. Chautemps told his colleagues that the commercial war was a mirage, since there will be no such war. If the occupation of the commerce destroyers is gone, the French have found other reasons for abandoning their policy of relying entirely upon swift cruisers. The strongest of these is that, once blocked up in a port, they never could get out again. Moreover, France is the only country which has persisted in giving attention to this type of vessel, and as all other countries are pinning their faith in the battleships, the French naval authorities are beginning to see that they are perhaps wrong in not doing likewise. The failures of the new cruisers to come up to expectations are also largely r sponsible for this change of opinion. The Guichen is regarded as a disastrous experiment. Everything has been so far sacrificed to speed that her armor is inefficient, and she only carries two heavy guns. French naval critics are now wondering what is to be done with her.

This question of speed has also given rise to a disappointment. Vessels which, in trials, go up to 23 knots will not do more than an average of 18 knots or 19 knots in long runs. Not only do M. Lockroy and his followers find their predictions with respect to the cruisers entirely falsified, but they are even more severely hit by the results of the trials carried out with squadron torpedo boats and the submarine boats. The torpedo boat is at the mercy of the quick-firing gun, and in future it will be reserved solely for coast defence.

The Government has abandoned any idea of building squadron torpedo boats, but will replace them with destroyers.

As for the submarines, the Minister would scarcely care to shock public opinion by condemning them, but he damned them with faint praise, so faint, indeed, that no one could have any illusions as to their value. It is obvious that the trials carried out with these vessels, which are to terrorize a hostile fleet, have not been a success. The submarine boat has got its famous “eye,” but it appears that the moisture condensing upon it renders it blind, and in any event the speed under water is so slow that there is little chance of reaching a vessel which refuses to remain still to be hit. The Minister, however, looks hopefully to the carrying out of improvements, which will make the submarine boat a formidable weapon. With this end in view a sum is to be set apart for organizing competitions of plans similar to that which produced the Narval a few years ago. Meanwhile, the place which the submarine boat is to occupy in future strategy is to attack blockading ships in the daytime, while the torpedo will be employed for the same work at night.

August 18, 1900 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL – FOREIGN ITEMS

Forest, a well-known French Naval Constructor, familiar with submarine boats and an enthusiastic admirer of them, has joined M. Noalhat, a civil engineer, in the publication of a work on submarine boats. Their history is traced to an apparatus described by Aristotle, as employed at the siege of Tyre. Cornelius Van Drebble, a Dutch physician, 1620; Merseune, 1634, and Simons, 1747, are given preference over Bushnell, whose design for a submarine boat dates from 1773. Fulton’s Nautilus and the submarine suggestions of the Frenchmen, Marquis de la Feuillade, Dr. Payerne, Phillip an American, Bauer a German, and James Nasmyth are also included in the early history of subaquatic, warfare, and Admiral Aube is given a prominent place. M. Forest contends that submarine vessels have now reached the stage of successful experiment, and must be reckoned with hereafter in the calculation of naval strength. He believes that the Narval will prove a complete success, and that the type of vessels, she represents will, impose peace upon the world. , Ericsson also reached the conclusion before he died that submarine attack in some form, would bring low the pride of great navies and equalize the conditions of naval warfare, by giving the weaker nations a, powerful means of defence within their possibilities.Battleships Ericsson was accustomed to speak of as “torpedo food.”

August 18, 1900 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL

The “Journal de la Marine” of France discussing the Holland submarine says: “Admiral Dewey holds that there could be nothing better for the defence of coasts and ports than submarines, but doubts their ” for service on the high seas. We do not share this latter belief and we believe that the use of extra swift under water craft would have if nothing else a great moral effect and in certain circumstances would play an important role. There would have to be special arrangements made, but these could be made.” Our French contemporary hopes that instead of the “epidemic of submarines” coming to an end as the English would like to see it, it will develop more and more, for we have in our hands a weapon which though not yet perfect can produce terrible effects and in certain cases annihilate the most powerful fleets.” The assurance of this French writer may be called extravagant considering that no submarine has yet been tested in actual warfare. Plenty of other weapons have in times of peace prospectively wrought great destruction, but have proved of little value in real war.

The last word:

In the February 2, 1901 ARMY –NAVY Journal article on the Congressional Hearings about the Holland’s first year, Admiral Hichborn probably save the day for submarines but sank what was left of his career.

Shortly before he testified, three senior ranking Admirals had just stated that continuing with the submarine experiment was not advised. One even stated that a few supporters of the mere idea were “crazy”.

Congressman Hawley of Texas was direct when it came to asking Hichborn his opinion.

Mr. Hawley: “Do we understand that your judgment with respect to these boats is that they are of such a character, and will play such a prominent and important part hereafter, that it will inevitably become the policy of this Government to construct this or a similar-boat’!”

Admiral Hichborn: “Without any question. It is also my opinion that the English Government will be following it up in a very short time: and I have more than just an ordinary reason for saying that, because I have communications from some of the leading architects of the English Government who take the liberty to write me and ask my advice. I can judge from the tone of their letters; and their whole disposition is to very soon have submarine bouts. No nation can be without them. You have got to have in war what every other nation has. It is no new thing for inventions of this kind, or changes of this kind, to be made in modern warfare to meet great opposition. if you will look at the history of our Government, you will find that all new undertakings have been opposed by the Navy Department, opposed by the people connected with it, and have always met with great opposition, and they have to develop themselves. I heard the Monitor referred to in that connection. If anyone follows up the history of the Monitor, he will fin that it took President Lincoln’s order to build that vessel, the opposition was so great.”

 Congress approved the growth of the submarine force. While there would be many struggles in the years to come, Admiral Hichborn’s willingness to take a personal risk ensured the Navy would have the submarines that in a few decades would make the difference in the Pacific while the sunken and damaged battleships were left aside.

Mister Mac