To the best of my memory (and a search on Google) there has never been a mutiny on board a US Navy submarine. If there ever has been one, I am sure that one of my faithful fact checking readers will be reaching out to me. That’s cool. I hope I am not wrong since it is a really unique thing to be able to say about a force you have been a proud member of. I know there were quite a few folks that were disturbed when Crimson Tide came out for that reason but I never took the movie seriously for SOOOO many reasons. Not the least of which was Gene Hackman’s little pooch in his stateroom.
If you think about it, the absence of a mutiny in our sub forces is as much a statement about our character as anything else. First, you are putting your hands into the lives of a few people every time you dive below the waves. Everybody has to trust that no one in charge of any of the water tight integrity issues has taken any shortcuts. Even the most mundane rig for dive items must be accounted for and verified. An example of that is what happened one night before we got underway right after the shipyard period for new construction was finished on the San Francisco (SSN 711).
The DCA and I were completing our rig for dive procedures which included the verification of the Emergency Blow system. We had hand checked every valve forward and were finishing up in shaft alley. It had been a really long day and it was close to midnight. The last check that we had was the stowage of the valve hand wheels in their proper place in the overhead. The DCA was a very thorough guy and wanted to make sure they were rigged so that they would not fall out of the overhead at the wrong time. As he checked the last one, he slipped a bit and lost his footing. The reason he slipped was because the valve was supposed to be pinned in place but was a defective pin. That valve hand wheel escaped from its holder, through his fingers and directly onto the top of my foot about 10 feet below the Lieutenant.
At 32 feet per second squared, it did not have much time to reach full velocity at ten feet. The weight was enough though to have a serious impact on my right foot (right behind the place where the steel toe stopped. I am kind of a pain wimp so the blinding and searing feeling I had right at that moment reduced me to a sobbing mess. Now in my defense, we had been working twenty hour days in preparation for the dive and I was a little burned out but frankly, I fell backwards pretty quickly and only remember being strapped in the stretcher and dragged thru the engine room.
When we got to the after escape trunk, it was a little crowded. Someone had made the decision back in shaft alley to remove my foot ware. I had my arms strapped in the stretcher which was actually a good thing since Tisdale was guiding the stretcher and used my now naked foot to clean off any dirt that may have been on the sides of the chamber going up. It kind of made it hurt worse. I got a fast ride to the Naval Hospital and my wife broke a few laws getting down to be by my side. Despite my best efforts (and Tisdale’s help) nothing was actually broken. I returned to the ship and made the dive.
We trust each other to do the right thing. If not, we die. So it really is a mark of pride that we have made so many thousands of dives in all kinds of conditions and wars (Hot and Cold) without a single mutiny.
Other Navies have not been so successful in achieving 100%
The end of World War 1 in late 1918 found the German Navy in a very peculiar position. On land, the German Army had been stretched to its limits and the arrival of the Americans changed the balance of power immensely. The German Navy was still a credible force in many ways and even in the later part of the war, submarines were still able to have some influence. In my research about Mutinies, this story was particularly interesting. From uboat.net:
“In November 1918, SM U 135 (Kptlt. Johannes Spieß) was given what can only be called the most peculiar U-boat mission of all times: actions against ships of its own navy. Together with the 4th Torpedo boat Half-Flotilla, SM U 135 ended a mutiny aboard two German battleships (SMS Thüringen and SMS Helgoland) with the threat of torpedoing the ships. But mutiny was still spreading amongst German ships and even the ace of aces, Lothar von Arnauld de la Periere, returning from his first and last patrol with the new U-cruiser SM U 139, where he was very nearly killed by his last victim *, was forced to hand over his command to the mutineers.
The strange mission of SM U 135, however, was the last U-boat action of the war. From late November 1918 until April 1919, according to armistice conditions, the 176 operational U-boats ** were handed over to Britain and interned in Harwich, partly under abasing conditions for the Germans: The White Ensign had to be hoisted on top of the Kaiser’s Ensign as if the boats were taken as prizes by the Royal Navy and the British sailors looted the boats, stealing all loose equipment they could lay hands on. The U-boats, all in all representing a value of about 207 million Gold Mark, rusted in port until they were dispersed among the allies ***, used for tests and later scrapped. Many nations, among them the USA and Japan, took advantage of the high technological standard of the German boats and built new classes of submarines after their German models – although the copies were never as good and as successful as the originals. In the Treaty of Versailles, which by the whole of Germany was regarded as extremely unjust, the defeated, diminished and humiliated German Empire was prohibited to build or possess U-boats in its minute fleet, which was reduced to a shadow of its former self.”
I am not sure how I would feel if I was a German U Boat commander. On the one hand, you have been trained all of your life to follow orders. But at that point in the war, the Kaiser had proven himself to be a man with limited understanding of the consequences of his actions. The mutineers at that time were “infected” with the disease of communism and saw a justifiable reason to overthrow a government that had so foolishly plunged a nation into war and now disastrous defeat.
I am sure it can’t have been easy. Their guys were some of the bravest and some of the best submariners in the world. So here is the question:
At what point does patriotism and loyalty towards a cause that has proven itself so vile that you feel the need to react?
Does the Constitution still need to be followed? If the leader of the country does not follow the same rules he wishes others to follow, how long is it before people say enough? Where will we find men and women brave enough to say enough?
Just a question. Is it November yet?
With the way things are going right now, I really wish we had another escape trunk to get out of when the boat starts going down.