Submarine Casualties that Could Surprise You

Submarine Casualties Booklet

I am doing some research on older submarines and stumbled across this little gem. I’ll include the link to the whole article at the end of this page. The Booklet was written before 1966 so does not include any accidents that may have happened after that time (including the loss of the Scorpion)

I am cherry picking from the report but was particularly amused by the story called “Collision between a nest of submarines and a floating restaurant”. I have to admit that the close runner up was another story “Collision between submarine and telephone booth on pier.”

Submarine work is some dangerous stuff.

I just had no idea we were in danger from floating restaurants and phone booths.

FOREWARD: The safety record of U.S. submarines in peacetime operations is probably unmatched by any other conveyance of modern warfare. Indeed, the millions of hours of such operations have been marred by so few accidents that it is quite probable that submarines have a better safety record than has the family bathtub. There have been some casualties and near-casualties, however, each of which contains valuable lessons for the prevention of similar incidents in the future. This Casualty Booklet is written to fill a long felt need to provide young officers and men entering the submarine service with the stern lessons of the past. These lessons not only provide the background and reasons behind many well-established methods and procedures, but also the misfortunes, often tragic, of departing from proven procedures and basic fundamentals that are essential for safe operations. The following narratives were derived from various sources, including reports of official investigations, when available, and from information submitted by persons who were on the scene when the casualty occurred. The “Opinions and Findings” are paraphrased versions of the remarks made by any investigating or reviewing officers; no change has been made in the substance of these opinions. The comment paragraph represents the lesson to be learned and other helpful or associated information, composed in the cold, clear light that is so characteristic of “hindsight”. These comments in themselves are mute testimony to “Hindsight is damned easier than foresight”, and it is hoped that they will be viewed in the objective light in which they are intended: to stimulate more foresight.

Collision between a nest of four submarines

and a floating restaurant


  1. A trained alert topside watch is essential.
  2. Attention to tidal conditions and moorings when berthed in unfamiliar harbors is essential.
  3. The duty section must be organized to provide a section maneuvering watch capable of getting the ship underway.


Four submarines were moored to a pier in Wilmington, N.C.; just ahead was a floating restaurant. They were advised for a relatively strong current, the tables placing it at about 3 knots. The inboard ship had 4 breast lines doubled” and =/fr2. and #3 were doubled as springs. In addition the outboard ship had a line through the bullnose to the pier. The moorings were inspected by the four Commanding Officers, the owner of the restaurant, and a local Navy Liaison Officer, all of whom considered them adequate. The pier had been used previously with no complications.

At 0630, after two complete changes of tides, the second flood tide (the ebb was listed in the tables as the stronger) created havoc. The cleat holding the #4 breast line of the inboard boat was pulled out, bolts and all. The topside watch who was inspecting the lines at that very moment immediately sounded the alarm and attempted to put over another #4 breast line. This line was not enough. The nest, which was rapidly swinging away from the pier, pulled the cleat over; then the line parted. #2 and #3 lines were around 12″ pilings and they broke the pilings. At this point the nest was swinging around the #1 line of the inboard boat and into the restaurant. The line was cut free with an ax and as all four ships backed on eight screws, the nest was able to clear the restaurant with only minor damage to it. The boats then dropped their anchors in midstream and rode to the current. Later they broke the nest and returned to other moorings.


  1. The lines were adequate.
  2. The current was greater than that predicted in the Current Tables for that area.
  3. Prompt and effective action was taken.


From the time of the cleat pulling loose until the submarines were anchored in midstream was approximately fifteen minutes. The prompt and effective action taken by everyone concerned, from the topside watch, alert at his post, to the conning of eight propeller shafts was a credit to the Submarine Force. Much praise and gratitude was expressed by the citizens of Wilmington and the owner of the restaurant for the skillful and alert action by the boats.

The key man here was the topside watch • Without his warning and the immediate response thereto by the duty sections, a very serious casualty would have occurred. Below docks the training paid huge dividends. Stations were manned in a matter of seconds. Teamwork and coordination was outstanding. As one engineman was starting an engine, two more were lining up the fuel and water systems. Men aroused from sleep were topside immediately, handling lines without taking time to dress. This is a good example for the need of continual training to prepare for the casualties that happen in spite of all precautions. It has been and always will be the forte of the Submarine Force to maintain a readiness to cope with any difficulty and gain control before the situation becomes critical.


As promised, here is a link to the entire document

Mister Mac

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