Ah, school days. As I sat in line waiting for the busses this morning on my way to an appointment, I was reminded about my own school days many years ago.
I’m sure I have mentioned this before, but I joined the Navy because I was tired of sitting in classrooms for twelve years. I believe I had the capacity to learn but I never really had the motivation to do so. If I couldn’t pass a test with the minimum amount of work, I just blew it off and vowed to try harder the next time. I rarely did. By the time I was a senior in High School, academics was nothing more than a chore to complete in order to gain a diploma. I signed up in the Navy’s delayed entry program in April of 1972 with the clear understanding that the Navy would be my escape from this endless grind of classes and homework.
It wasn’t long before the reality of my new life set in. Boot camp was a series of classes separated by exercise and marching and punctuated by more classes. The difference was that failure had a whole new meaning. I did not want to embarrass myself to my friends and family so I grudgingly learned to listen and study. It was not easy. I seemed to have the attention span of a dog watching a game of catch between his owner and a friend. I knew it was important but found my mind wandering more than once.
The Petty Officers in charge of our training made sure we had our study notebook with us at all times. It a spiral bound notebook was folded in half and we were issued Navy ball point pens to record all of the critical information on BBC Warfare, ship handling, damage control, first aid and so on. By the time boot camp was over, I was ready for the real Navy so they decided my punishment was not complete. Off to Machinist Mate A school. Then Submarine School. At the end of that adventure, surely they would let me go and face the dangers of the sea but surprise… another long school. The Navy flew me all the way to the Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarine Training Center in Charleston South Carolina. While I was there, my boat sailed in to the sunset on its way to Pearl Harbor.
I scraped through all of those classes and finally headed to Pearl only to find out that the boat and crew had already sailed for Guam and I would have to wait for them to return. While I waited… more schools. Some were repeats. Over the next twenty plus years, I would accumulate over 65 classes in nearly every school command the Navy operated. I even ended up teaching for nearly four years. So getting a degree in Adult Education seemed to be the perfect fit. I have been grateful for the chance ever since.
Submarines and Technology
When submarines came along, the need for technical education seemed to emerge pretty quickly. The early boats were simple with gasoline engines and rudimentary storage batteries. As time progressed, they became much more complicated. The missions started to evolve and it must have been evident to anyone that in order to operate them with any efficiency, schools would need to advance. There were also more of the built since the Navy was starting to see their value.
The real game changer was Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels. He was a reformer and a visionary. He was also the one who finished killing off rum in the wardroom but the good things he did surely tipped the balance in his favor.
As early as 1915, formal training was envisioned. While the official start of the “Submarine Base” has a number of starting dates, the arrival of the Monitor Ozark in October of 1915, acting as a tender serving a small division of submarines.
Here are some stories about the advancements in Submarine Training up to World War 1
An Early Submarine School in 1915 The Leavenworth Echo, July 30, 1915,
CRUISER COLUMBIA – A SUBMARINE SCHOOL
Crews Will Be Taught to Manage Twelve New Boats, Washington.-
Secretary Daniels has announced that the cruiser Columbia, now in reserve at Philadelphia, will be commissioned to serve as flagship for Captain A. W. Grant, commanding the Atlantic submarine flotilla, and also as a schoolship for the training of additional men for submarine service. Since
his appointment as commander of the submarines Captain Grant has been closely studying the flotilla and the best means to provide for the manning of submarines now nearing completion.
In this connection Secretary Daniels said:
“In order to man the twelve submarines now rapidly nearing completion orders have been given for the Immediate establishment of a school on board the flagship of the Atlantic submarine flotilla for the instruction of personnel, officers and enlisted men. From this school crews competent to man the new vessels will be detailed to them as they may be delivered by the contractors and accepted by the government.
“The Instruction referred to will be both theoretical and practical, submarines now in commission being used for the practical work, and will cover such period of time as may be necessary to familiarize fully the personnel of a submarine with the vessel to which they may be detailed.”
When the Columbia Joins the flotilla the Prairie, now acting as the flagship, will be utilized as a tender for the submarines in commission. The Columbia was designed as a commerce destroyer, and she and her sister ship, the Minneapolis, were two of the fastest vessels in the world at the time of their commission.
The Columbia was one of the ships forming the flying squadron in the Spanish-American war. She has a length over all of 412 feet and a beam of fifty-eight feet. Being commodious, she is an ideal vessel for the purpose for which she is about to be used. Her displacement is 7,300 tons and her
speed 22.80 knots.
December 20, 1915
SUBMARINE SCHOOL A SUCCESS
West Orange, NJ. December 19 – After receiving examination papers from the third group of officers and members of the submarine flotilla to study at the Edison Factories under the plan arranged by Mr. Edison and Secretary of the Navy Daniels, Dr. Miller Reese Hutchinson of the Naval Consulting Board, who was the man in charge, announced tonight that he believed the plan a great success
Of the thirty-three officers and seventy-one men who have so far undertaken the work, not one has passed an examination below 95 percent. They have studied electrical motors, the ordinary storage battery, Mr. Edison’s new storage battery, by which he hopes to eliminate the dangers of chlorine gas, and the work in the research and testing departments.
The submarine men are particularly entertained by Mr. Edison, who takes a close personal interest in the work, supervising much of it himself. They are taken to a Newark theater and to dinner each Wednesday night, and on Thursday night a dinner and dance are given in their honor at the Essex Country Club.
Evening capital and Maryland gazette. (Annapolis, Md.) 1910-1922, June 07, 1916,
Special Training of American Naval Officers to Begin at New London – A SIX MONTHS’ COURSE.
Secretary Daniels Suggestion—New Departure in the Navy.
Special training of American naval officers for submarine duty will be initiated by Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels next month.
A school for the instruction of officers in both the theoretical and practical work of submarines will be opened by the Navy Department at New London. Conn. The first class will report for a six months’ course. Upon the termination of this course another class will be designated.
Secretary Daniels has followed the suggestion of Rear Admiral Grant-commander of the submarine flotilla, in initiating this new departure- Rear Admiral Henson, Chief of Naval Operations- and Rear Admiral Griffin, Chief of the Bureau of Steam Engineering, heartily endorses the idea.
“When I became Secretary-” said Mr Daniels, “there were twenty-three submarines completed—three in reserve and two out of commission—only eighteen being in active service, and to these eighteen boats there were only nineteen officers assigned, of whom thirteen wore ensigns.
“These ensigns had been less than three years out of the Naval Academy. The submarine flotilla was consequently organized with Admiral Grant at its head- and a number of experienced officers assigned to it for duty. Shortly after assuming command of the flotilla Admiral Grant felt that both officers and men should be specially trained before assuming submarine duty, and such a school was established on board the Columbia- his flagship. “But to prepare officers in advance for the large number of submarines nearing completion, as well as for those that will he authorized in the current
naval hill, it became apparent that larger facilities would be required, and the Department has therefore, approved his recommendation that the school be established at the New London submarine base.
“With the exception of the A- B and C boats (the first and smallest built by the Government) two officers are now assigned to each submarine. It is planned that officers when graduated from the submarine school shall be appointed to subordinate positions on the boats and be placed in commission only after they have proved their aptitude for submarine work.”
Washington Evening Star, June 23, 1916
July 1, 2016: United States Navy Opens Submarine School in New London Connecticut
The Navy has never looked back from its early days of learning. The amount of training over the years has to be staggering. The result has been an amazing record of success. I am grateful every day that I finally found out that I really like learning. I have some very patient Navy Trainers to thank for that.
Master Training Specialist