The Bluejackets Manual has been the mainstay for educating sailors since 1902. Prior to that time, the sailors were considered to be too illiterate to merit having a manual with instructions on how to be an American Bluejacket. For a hundred and twelve years, the manual has undergone a number of revisions to reflect changes in the fleet and in tactics. I have talked many times before about the interwar attitudes concerning the pride of the fleet – the Battleships. To be fair, I have had a lifelong affair with the idea of big ships ranging the ocean and pounding it out in epic battles.
The very first manual I ever held in my hands belonged to my Grandfather, Robert W. Parkins (the man I was named after). His Tenth Edition was published in June of 1940, over a year before the American Navy was savaged at Pearl Harbor. Grandfather served as a River Patrol leader in Western Pennsylvania and although I never asked him, I am sure the book was used to train his Coast Guard crew (and maybe himself) in the arts of seamanship.
The book is divided into Seven Parts marked by 59 Chapters.
Part 1 is for the new recruits and discusses the merits of a career in the Navy. Rules, regulations and basic skills in all things nautical round out the section. The remaining Six Parts go into more specific detail on everything from health care to marlinspike seamanship. This how to book was critical for each sailor in developing the mental, moral and physical attributes that would help them become American Bluejackets.
In 1940, submarines were still considered a minor part of the fleet. There had been many advances since the First World War and the Sugar Boats (S Boats) of the Asiatic fleet had proven that squadrons of submarines could operate far from America’s shores supported by a minimum of resources. Fleet type submarines were being built to replace the older boats, but they were still considered an extension of the real fleet. Events over the next five years would build a path that would change that view forever. But in 1940, Submarine life as a career was not high on anyone’s priority list.
In the ship description section, whole pages of information are provided praising the attributes of the monstrous capital ships of the line. There is a picture of the Skipjack on page 195 but little more than a brief description of what a submarine does accompanies the picture.
The last section of the book is called Miscellaneous. Here is where the Bluejacket finally learns about submarines and life on board the boats.
From the Manual:
“The modern type submarines, which are now named after fishes, are about 310 feet in length, displace 1500 tons when on the surface, and carry a crew of 5 officers and 55 men. They are equipped with torpedo tubes in both the bow and the stern, and mount a three inch gun which may be used against either surface targets or aircraft. Their maximum speed on the surface is about 21 knots, using Diesel engine electric drive, and about 8 knots submerged, using storage batteries and motors.”
The book then describes where submarines are located (leaving out about 90 percent of their actual home ports) and talks about training and opportunities to learn modern advances in electricity, storage batteries, and Diesel engines.
Enlisted men who serve on board submarines receive additional pay for service on actively commissioned submarines at the rate of $10.00 a month for a non-qualified man, $25.00 per month for qualified men, and $30.00 per month for Chief Petty Officers and Frist Class Petty officers one year after qualifying. This rate remained the same throughout World War 2.
Even in 1973, Hazardous Duty pay was a whopping $55.00 per month for all submariners which is proof that we did not do it for the money.
Qualifications were described in short detail and the opportunity to learn more about technical matters is the way the paragraph ends. A page and a half of very generic information in a section called Miscellaneous seems like a very short tribute to the boats that would prove to be an overwhelming force in the war to come.
The cost was very high.
“To those whose contribution meant the loss of sons, brothers or husbands in this war, I pay my most humble respect and extend by deepest sympathy. As to the 374 officers and 3131 men of the Submarine Force who gave their lives in the winning of this war, I can assure you that they went down fighting and that their brothers who survived them took a grim toll of our savage enemy to avenge their deaths. “
MAY GOD REST THEIR GALLANT SOULS.
From a speech given in Cleveland, Navy Day 1945, by Vice Admiral C.A. Lockwood, Jr., Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet January 1943-January 1946.
But the cost was much higher for the enemy
The Japanese Merchant Marine lost 8.1 million tons of vessels during the war, with submarines accounting for 4.9 million tons (60%) of the losses. Additionally, U.S. submarines sank 700,000 tons of naval ships (about 30% of the total lost) including 8 aircraft carriers, 1 battleship and 11 cruisers. Of the total 288 U.S. submarines deployed throughout the war (including those stationed in the Atlantic), 52 submarines were lost with 48 destroyed in the war zones of the Pacific. American submariners, who comprised only 1.6% of the Navy, suffered the highest loss rate in the U.S. Armed Forces, with 22% killed.
Considering the achievements of the submarine force, “Miscellaneous” seems a bit of an understatement.
As the men of the Silent Service continue to approach the gang plank for their last liberty call, never miss a chance to say thanks for their courageous service.
Teddy Roosevelt was the first American president to go aboard a submarine and participate in a dive. The USS Plunger dove beneath the surface of Long Island Sound on March 25th 1905 with the President on board.
President Roosevelt not only achieved this historical first but was the man directly responsible for establishing submarine pay. The naval Admirals and bureaucracy of the day thought that submarine duty was neither unusual nor dangerous, and classified it as shore duty. For that reason, submariners received twenty-five percent less pay than sailors going to sea in destroyers, cruisers and similar surface ships.
From a story researched by Robert Loys Sminkey, Commander, United States Navy, Retired:
“Roosevelt’s two hour trip on Plunger convinced him that this discrimination was unfair. He described submarine duty as hazardous and difficult, and he found that submariners “have to be trained to the highest possible point as well as to show iron nerve in order to be of any use in their positions…”
Roosevelt directed that officer service on submarines be equated with duty on surface ships. Enlisted men qualified in submarines were to receive ten dollars per month in addition to the pay of their rating. They were also to be paid a dollar for every day in which they were submerged while underway. Enlisted men assigned to submarines but not yet qualified received an additional five dollars per month.
Roosevelt did not dilly-dally once he made a decision. He issued an executive order directing the extra pay for enlisted personnel. This was the beginning of submarine pay!”