“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…

 

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

Tigers of the Sea – Nerves of Iron and Steel Reply

I’ve heard submarines called many things in my life but this was the first time I have ever heard the term “Tigers of the Sea”. It’s been over a hundred years since “THE MARVEL BOOK OF AMERICAN SHIPS”, by Captain Orton P. Jackson, U.S.N., and Major Frank E. Evans, U.S.M.C. was published. The term is one that they included in their writing.

There is no preface in the book that explains the purpose for which it was written. Since it was published in 1917, it is almost assured that most of the material was written before the Americans entered the First World War. The book is broken into types of chapters one would expect from a contemporary book about the US Navy. In over 380 pages, the authors cram in a lot of information about the American Navy past and present. But surprising to me was the placement of the submarine section.

Up until 1914, the giant battleships were considered the most powerful weapon afloat. Indeed, even in 1917 when this book was published, that had not changed. Pearl Harbor and the annihilation of the British Battleships by Japanese airplanes was a faraway series of events. So it was surprising that the authors chose to place submarine warfare in the second chapter rather than at the end as an afterthought. Maybe the sinking of the Lusitania and many other ships by the Huns was fresh on their minds and maybe the authors were just enthusiastic about the new weapons and their potential.

For whatever the reason, the story of the American submarine occupies a very significant place in the book they ended up publishing.

Who manned the “Tigers of the Sea?

The character of the men who pioneered the use of submarines has always been described in heroic terms. The sea is a dangerous place to begin with. The testimony is how many ships throughout man’s history have been damaged or lost even in times of peace. The sea is unpredictable, ever changing and possesses more power in its bosom than nearly anything else on earth.

The sea can also be relentless when it is in the wrong mood. I have ridden her waves on everything to a submarine that was nearly as old as I was at the time to the largest carrier of its day (USS Nimitz). Both offered little comfort when the waves were on the rise and we were far from land.

But operating a submarine in the early days was particularly challenging. The construction of the boats limited their ability to dive in very deep waters and the modern safety devices that are taken for granted in this age simply did not exist. The men who sailed on the fledgling “subs” were simply audacious in their courage. The authors called the boats “The Tigers of the Seas” and simply stated that the men who operated them required nerves of Iron and steel.

The US Navy was still focused on the power of its battleships for future influence. But it is interesting to see how some were impressed enough to capture the life of these sub sailors and their craft. It’s also interesting to note that some of the same challenges they face then are still challenges today.

From: The marvel book of American ships, by Captain Orton P. Jackson, U.S.N., and Major Frank E. Evans, U.S.M.C. With twelve colored plates and over four hundred illustrations from photographs. (1917)

OUR UNDERSEA FIGHTERS

OF all the craft that make up the Fleet, from the grim dreadnought and its powerful fourteen-inch monsters to the fussy steam-launch and its one-pounder gun in the bow, there is none that should have the same interest for the American boy as the submarine. Of all the units of the Fleet it is the one distinctively American product of inventive genius. It was an American, Robert Fulton, then living in France, in 1800, who designed the first submarine. It was another American citizen, John P. Holland, who built the first submarine that met its tests successfully, and which carried within its steel skin practically all of the principles of the modern submarine.

As far back as the sixteenth century men dreamed of a boat that could travel beneath the seas, just as men dreamed of a craft that could sail through the skies with the freedom of a great bird. Not until the two Americans, Fulton and Holland, made their practical contributions to this end did the submarine of to-day emerge from the realms of visions to its grim power. Jules Verne, in his remarkable romance, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, only sketched the wonderful possibilities of the craft that he dreamed of.

Of all ships, the submarine is the only one that can maneuver beneath the waves as well as on the surface, and the dreadnought of 27,000 tons is an easy victim to the submarine of one-fiftieth her tonnage when the submarine takes her unawares.

It remained for the European War, more than a century after Fulton’s design, to vindicate the prophecies that the submarine would play a great part in the struggle for the control of the seas. The war stripped the submarine of much of its mystery, for every American boy now knows something of the part it plays in naval warfare, of how it fights and how, in turn, it is hunted to be either captured or sunk.

It must be a matter of national pride that Americans gave to that war one of its mightiest engines. American-built submarines, too, showed to the world that the tiny undersea craft, assembled in this country, were heard from in the fighting at the Dardanelles, having, traveled five thousand sea leagues away.

SECTIONAL VIEW OF A SUBMARINE

Ever since the United States Government accepted the first successful submarine, the Holland, in 1898, all navies of the world have built, and are building, fleets of submarines. They have increased in size, power, and seagoing abilities until Germany produced the super- submarine, the Deutschland, with its displacement of 2,300 tons submerged, in the summer of 1916. The Deutschland was the first demonstration of the part that the big undersea craft are destined to play in the development of commerce as well as its destruction. Unarmed, she ran the formidable British blockade from Bremen to Baltimore and back, her hull loaded with priceless contraband, and returned, making Bridgeport, Connecticut, on the second trip.

The ordinary type of submarine used by the United States Navy has about 500 tons of submerged displacement, much smaller than the seagoing submarines used by the European nations in their raids on commerce and in their blockades. It was left to them to prove that the submarine was even a more formidable weapon, in some respects, than those who knew it best under peace conditions had claimed. There had been practically no chance to test out its efficiency except under peace conditions. Naval officers not only had had no practical opportunity to prove out their theories of attack, but there had been no practical chance to build up a defense against the untried weapon.

Like the torpedo, without the use of which the undersea boat would have remained little better than a toy, the submarine is so shaped. In reality it is a submerging or diving torpedo-boat, driven on the surface by oil engines, below the sea by electric power, and discharges torpedoes at its enemy.

The torpedo tubes of a submarine vary in number according to the size of the boat. Some types carry their tubes aft, some on the broadside, but the majority carry them forward. The torpedoes used are the same as those fired from destroyers and from battleships.

The torpedo itself is astonishingly accurate because of the gyroscopic mechanism which, acting on a vertical rudder, holds it true to its course. The difficulty in aiming the torpedo in submarine work is great and this alone has saved many ships from destruction.

Because the submarine does the greater part of its deadly work while partially or totally submerged, and because its only protection against an enemy ship lies in diving, it is built to meet the great pressure on its hull. Unlike other craft it is therefore usually built in circular sections, because this form gives it the strength needed.

When the submarine runs on the surface it is driven by oil engines with a speed which ranges around 15 knots. When the “sub,” as its crew calls it, dives and runs submerged, it is propelled by electric motors which are fed by storage batteries. At target practice they run submerged at about 8 knots, and one improvement for which all navies are striving is to increase this speed below water.

The new submarines that are now building for our Navy will average about 800 tons displacement when submerged, be about 250 feet long and will have a speed on the surface of about 19 knots, and a maximum speed below of nearly 14 knots. The “subs” of this type will cost $1,200,000 without figuring on the armor and the armament. To build them longer would increase the danger in diving, but they will be as seaworthy, speedy, powerful, and comfortable as any submarine afloat.

At one stage of the submarine’s development carbonic acid gas was a danger to which running awash the crew was exposed and it was customary to carry white mice as pets on the “subs,” for they quickly collapsed at the first trace of it. Now mechanical devices show the formation of any gas, such as hydrogen, which is odorless. As the current developed while running submerged is quickly used up at high speed, the undersea fighter usually runs at slow speed, using the high speed only for short spurts. The current can only be replaced by coming to the surface, operating the oil engines, and recharging the batteries; so that the maximum speed can only be made while on the surface.

Like the torpedoes that have made the submarine the most dreaded of all sea fighters, the modern submarine is divided into watertight compartments. These are the torpedo, crew, battery, diving, and engine compartments; spare torpedoes are carried in the crew quarters.

Life on a submarine is no bed of roses, but the Navy never lacks for volunteers for the flotilla. It carries extra pay to make up in part for its discomforts, but more than all the lure of danger attracts the American bluejacket.

The living quarters, built for crews ranging from ten to thirty men, are damp, cramped, and the air is usually foul with oily vapors and stale air. At best the amount of fresh air in a submarine is one- third that which a man enjoys on a surface-operating ship. In rough weather, whether running above or below water, the percentage of seasickness is high even with men who never have felt its pangs on board a battleship in the worst of storms. On the surface, in nasty weather, everything is closed but the conning tower hatch and then conditions within the “sub” are almost as bad as when running submerged.

In the regular channels it is hard to sink to a depth that will bring any relief, but out in the open sea, when a gale rages, she can sink to a depth of one hundred feet. Even then there is an up and down motion, which the crew calls “pumping,” that cannot be escaped. It is only on cruises of a fortnight or so, however, that a submarine crew gets no relief from these conditions. Between runs, and while in port or at the submarine base, the crews live in airy barracks or sling their hammocks in tenders that are detailed with each flotilla as a mother ship.

Little shows above the deck of the submarine on the surface but the conning tower, which stands about six feet above deck. The surface navigation is done exactly as with other vessels, the captain and helmsman using the conning tower for their station. Below the water the periscope takes the place of the conning tower. A rapid-fire gun, running in caliber up to one that fires a fourteen-pound shell, and the radio for signaling purposes, are housed in the superstructure or recessed in the hull when the submarine makes its dive. The gun is used both for halting merchantmen that try to escape and in blockade duties. A submarine bell for use while submerged has been added to the modern submarine’s signal equipment; and another great improvement ite the use of electric stoves for cooking, the current being taken from the storage batteries.

When the submarine finds it necessary to submerge preparatory to an attack, to escape an enemy ship, or for practice, all openings in the hull are closed by watertight hatches. The Holland type has diving rudders, and the Lake boat—our two leading types—flat projecting fins forward and aft, called hydroplanes, and both sink nearly on an even keel. Water is then admitted to destroy the natural buoyancy of the craft, by way of the ballast tanks. The diving rudders, forward at the bow, and aft at the stern, are deflected, and the water closes over the sea tiger, leaving but a few bubbles to mark its going.

A gauge registers the depth to which she sinks. The greatest depth at which she operates is ordinarily one hundred feet, but submarines have operated as far down as from two hundred to two hundred and fifty feet. Here the pressure of the water is so powerful that there is danger of crushing the sides and being unable to rise to safety. To test the strength of a new submarine’s hull they must submerge to one hundred and fifty feet, if they are of the large type, as this has been found to leave the right margin of safety.

When running submerged the swish of a ship’s propellers in the vicinity can be heard inside the submarine; and when the captain is thus warned of the enemy’s presence he can rest in peace on a clean bed of sand while the submarine hunters cruise vainly above.

Without the periscope the submarine would be a blinded fighter. It’s most deadly work is done at a submerged distance which shows but a foot or two of the periscope’s tip. The periscope is a long vertical tube of small diameter, with prisms at either end and the necessary lenses. Eighteen feet above the deck it runs; and below, where the other end pierces the hull, is the eyepiece for the observer.

It can be turned in any direction, and when an enemy ship, or a merchantman trying to run the blockade, comes within its field, the submarine is suddenly transformed into a formidable and stealthy sea tiger. The periscope becomes its eyes, and the dials, compasses, and other instruments of the fire-control its brain. The engines that carry it to effective range are its swift, tireless legs, and the destructive charge of 250 pounds of gun-cotton in the unleashed torpedo the death- dealing jaws and rending claws of the great cat that has seen its prey and steals up on it with the skill of a tiger stalking a buffalo.

The submarine chooses to fight at as close quarters as can be had with safety, to cut down the chance of missing its big quarry, and because an unlimited supply of the $8,000 torpedoes cannot be carried. As soon as its target is discovered—it may be miles distant—the captain takes his bearings and down goes the “sub” and with it the telltale periscope that, once seen, draws a shower of shells which would crush its skin as though it were but an eggshell. Then he dives and steers by his bearings to a range as close as is wise. Up goes the periscope for a final aim, just high enough to make it certain, and the submarine swings about to bring its torpedo tubes in line with the target. In the time that the torpedo covers a thousand yards a dreadnought will steam twice her length; and this, and the conditions of the weather, must be quickly and accurately considered by the “sub’s” skipper. The war has shown that when a submarine is discovered the only safety for a vessel is to steer a zigzag course and crowd on enough steam to let the torpedo go tearing by. The slightest error in aim is fatal to a submarine’s chances of a telling hit.

When the exact position is determined comes the word: “Stand by to fire a torpedo! . . . Fire!” Straight as an arrow speeds the cigar-shaped missile and its deadly gun-cotton, traveling ten to fifteen feet below water to make its hit beneath the vulnerable waterline of its target. The compressed air that is its motive power shows in the torpedo’s wake in a sinister track of light air-bubbles. The impact of the torpedo’s head on the hull of the luckless ship explodes the shattering charge of gun-cotton and this first explosion is felt slightly within the hull of the waiting submarine. Often there is a second explosion if the torpedo finds the ship’s boilers or her powder magazines.

Then the diving rudders are reversed, the ballast tanks pumped out by compressed air, and the long, shark-like body creeps warily to the surface for a “look see,” as the sailors have it. The critical moment, whenever a “sub” rises, begins when the periscope has climbed to a point where it reaches the depth of a ship’s keel. It ends only after the periscope’s tip shakes off the water and the captain can sweep the surface with its aid.

All this time his craft is like a great, blinded fish, helpless against attack. As the tip clears the surface the dark shade of the sea fades to the grass green of the undersurface, and then white air-bubbles can be seen as the silver touch of daylight signals the return to the surface. With the nerves of the crew at high tension, iron men though they are, comes the search for the enemy. A seething white cloud of steam pouring from the open hatches and ports of the crippled vessel tells its tale. A few minutes later there is nothing but a huddle of wreckage to show where the submarine has added another to its grewsome toll.

Just as the European War brought the possibilities of the submarine to a skill never dreamed of, so has it brought to the front the methods of hunting down and destroying or capturing it. On blockade duty trawlers, towing between them grappling lines, sweep suspected areas for them. To protect the clumsy trawlers torpedo craft patrol outside with unceasing vigil and tow explosive-laden sweeps behind them. At other points where submarines have been reported are stretched stationary nets with mines above. The explosive sweeps and the mines, when detonated by the touch of the submarine, explode with deadly effect.

Many submarines in the course of the war were caught in nets of wire. Their propellers fouled in the meshes, and as the submarines were closed tight against the water, it was impossible for them to cut the net away. When trapped in this manner their fate was sealed. The initial air carried inside a submarine lasts but little more than half a day. Then air had to be used from the air flasks or “banks” and the foul air could not be pumped out, as then would come a vacuum in which the crew could not live. Three days or possibly four and the trapped sea tiger held only a dead crew.

Seaplanes, when the sea is calm, the bottom light in color, and the air conditions good, can spot and follow submarines when they are within fifty feet of the surface.

It calls for men of iron nerves and quick decision to man our submarines either in peace or in war. Submarine experts look upon the factor of nerves as the most important of all, and they have given to it the title of calculation. Within the cramped walls that are the home of the crew are housed the most intricate mechanisms that man has invented for warfare. Outside its steel walls are mines, great nets of wire, explosives, shells, and seaplanes, all devised for its destruction, and the sharp keels of ships that slice through a submarine as a knife cuts cheese. The smallest shell can penetrate the steel skin, and nets can hold the submarine as helpless as a child in the grasp of a giant.

Danger lies everywhere for the tiger of the seas. The ocean in which it lives is a powder tank that needs but a spark. Only nerves of iron can cope against such an array of enemies. The slightest hesitation of its captain in the face of any one of them means the end of his ship and his crew. As one expert has put it, the whole A B C of submarine warfare is the ability to meet any situation at an instant’s warning and then to act with nerves of steel.

I have often wondered how long ago someone came up with the term “Steel Boats and Iron Men”.

Seems pretty close.

Mister Mac

Winning the Dollar Bet – Every Submariner Understood What Losing Meant 7

Buried Treasure

One of the great things about researching old books and documents is finding the odd story buried in one of them. Taken by itself, the fact or story would not mean much but pulled out and given perspective, it gives an insightful vision to something that happened along the way that would have greater consequences.

In 1906, the US Navy and many of the world’s Navy’s were still focused on projecting power through the building and utilization of battleships and other supporting ships that supported them. Coal was still king in 1906 and the Navy still possessed a number of sailing ships that were modified with some steam systems but still made largely of wood.

The very first US Navy submarine of the modern age was purchased in 1900 so it was still going through its birth pangs. Small, uncomfortable and limited in its operating scope, the Navy probably still saw the submarine in the same jaundiced eye it viewed air ships. They were a distraction that syphoned money away from the real Navy and of limited use in the doctrines of the day.

The “Old Navy”

The book I discovered today was written from the perspective of an enlisted sailor named Thomas Beyer. The first edition was published in 1906 and he paid for it to be published by himself. Later editions were published by the Navy but his attempt to show life as a sailor was a very unique view of the Navy of his day.

Some of the old traditions of the Navy were surely lost in the subsequent wars and periods of expansion and contraction of the fleet. This book captures a snap shot look at what it would have been like to live and travel with the fleet as it grew under Theodore Roosevelt’s guiding hand.

“The American battleship in commission as seen by an enlisted man, also many man-o’-war yarns.” Pub. By the author. Beyer, Thomas, 1906

The entire contents of this book concern the Navy.

I, the author, am an enlisted man. This preface is not to make excuses for my book; the work speaks for itself. Many sailors keep a log in which all important events are recorded. Were it not for the log which I have kept, I would undoubtedly have been unable to write this book, since much of the contents were derived from this record. My main object is to furnish the general public with as much information about the Navy as possible, and by having a plain education it has caused me to write the contents in a style of my own, but the book, however, contains the material. Although the book is entitled “The American Battleship in Commission,” it does not signify that the contents pertain only to battleships. It has taken me two years of steady work to complete this book. I am writing about the Navy from an enlisted man’s point of view, and not in a single instance have I intentionally misrepresented the service in any particular. What I have written represents the actual conditions as I have found them to be.

Thomas goes into great detail on describing the parts of the battleship, the men who were assigned to various duties on board and travel around the ports that the fleet visited. In 1906, many of the countries that would later grow into allies and opponents were still quite primitive by today’s standards. The description of Japan and Guam certainly hit home to me as I was able to imagine the streets and people that unfolded before their eyes as they went on liberty.

For most of the boys that joined, the Navy offered them a chance for substantial amount of pay. In exchange for the arduous duties, many of them would be paid in amounts that were very generous for the day. Advancements were difficult but still achievable. A man with limited formal education could rise to the rank of Chief Petty Officer and earn as much as $75.00 a month in 1906. Lower rates were given lower pay but even the lowest seaman was probably earning more cash than the average farmer of the same period.

“In regard to the benefits that an enlisted man derives from service, there are a great many. A bluejacket is well taken care of, and, best of all, he is well paid. The opportunities for advancement in the Navy are far greater to-day than at any previous time.

Recently the rates of several different new petty officers have been created, and more will be added from time to time. These new rates, with the old ones, have promoted a great many of the crew to the rank of petty officers. The initial pay of a petty officer varies from thirty to seventy dollars a month. This, however, does not include his extra pay, such as gun-pointer, continuous service benefits, etc.

A large number of new battleships and cruisers are being rapidly completed and commissioned. The majority of these ships carry a complement of over eight hundred men, and there are a great many openings for advancement. When a member of the crew is rated a petty officer more work is not expected of him because his pay has been increased. He is rated a petty officer for the fact that he has acquired sufficient knowledge to enable him to command a more responsible position. As a general rule, the higher an enlisted man advances the less manual labor he is required to perform. A petty officer, however, is clothed with considerable authority, and many responsible duties are assigned him. Naval life is very congenial to the enlisted man, and he gains a vast fund of knowledge and experience in his travels. Most important of all, however, he is well disciplined.”

Buried in the story about regular pay was a detailed breakdown of how a sailor could earn Extra Rates (pay). This is a copy of the chart that detailed exactly how much extra pay:

EXTRA RATES

There are many extra rates in the Navy which entitle the holder thereof to extra pay in addition to his regular monthly pay.

Rate Pay per month

Coxswain of Steam Launch $5.00

Messmen 5.00

Signal-man, first-class 3.00

Signal-man, second-class 2.00

Signal-man, third-class 1.00

Ship’s Tailor (large ships) 20.00

Men on submarine boat duty 5.00

Tailor’s Helper (large ships) 10.00

Heavy Gun-pointers, first-class 10.00

Heavy Gun-pointers, second-class 6.00

Intermediate Gun-pointers, first-class 8.00

Intermediate Gun-pointers, second-class 4.00

Secondary Gun-pointers, first-class 4.00

Secondary Gun-pointers, second-class 2.00

Men detailed for submarine boat duty receive five dollars a month extra; also one dollar a day additional thereto when submerged.

The Dollar Bet

To show the way the Navy viewed the submariners of the day, look at the chart again. Submariners were paid less than Tailors helpers on a large ship. Apparently getting stuck with a needle was considered more hazardous than serving on a submarine. To be fair, the extra dollar a day for each day submerged probably inflated the paycheck of the aver submariner. But considering how many of the early boats went down and never came back up, it was like making a bet each time the hatch closed with a dollar being the winning wager.

Theodore Roosevelt was the main person responsible for submarine pay. That is probably why I still celebrate his birthday every year. He was also one of the few American Presidents that ever rode a submarine until modern times which gave him a sense of the possibilities for these little craft.

Note: By 1913, the Paymaster received some additional instructions

A landsman’s log, by Robert W. Neeser; with an introduction by Rear Admiral Charles J. Badger. New Haven, Yale university press; 1913 records that there were some limits on how much a Submariner could actually earn.

Service on Submarines. All enlisted men of the Navy shall receive $5 per month in addition to their pay while serving on board of submarine vessels of the Navy. Besides the $5 per month extra pay allowed them for submarine service, enlisted men serving with submarine torpedo boats, and having been reported by the commanding officers to the Navy Department as qualified for submarine torpedo boat work, shall receive $1 additional pay for each day during any part of which they shall have been submerged in a submarine torpedo boat while underway. Provided, however, That such further additional pay shall not exceed $15 in any one calendar month.

A dollar doesn’t seem like much these days. Of course it was worth much more back then. But in comparison, for my first two tours on boats in the 1970’s, we earned an extra fifty five dollars a month. If you break that down to a 365 day year, that is about $1.81 per day. All of that to ride a boat that was built by the lowest bidder (as submarines always have been).  It did increase significantly in the 1980’s and I was glad to have my sub pay for the remaining part of my career. But the exchange still seems to be a bit one sided even today compared to what could happen to the boat.

In time, the use of the submarine expanded as the technology improved. In today’s modern Navy, a submarine is capable of performing feats that even Jules Verne would have been surprised by. The nuclear powered boats are capable of staying submerged for months at a time and the only limits seem to be the supply of food and the endurance of the crew. I wonder what it would be like to be able to bring one of the early boat sailors into the future for a ride on a modern boat. I can only imagine their reactions as the boat advanced to flank speed silently flying in the deep recesses of the ocean.

Then again, I wonder if some young submariner will someday wonder that about my generation.

Mister Mac

 

The unluckiest day Reply

Sailors by and large are a very superstitious lot.

The things that set a sailing man or woman on edge are as ancient as the sea itself. I am not sure if it is the dangers they know they will face once they are divorced from the shore or just a strong feeling that fate will reach out and touch them in return for all they did on their last liberty.

One of the oldest traditions that causes sailors to be concerned is setting sail on a Friday. In a few old books (including Lovette’s Naval Customs and Traditions) this is alluded to a number of times. It’s just bad luck to sail on a Friday. As someone who spent more than a few weeks at sea, I can assure you that being underway on any Friday had its down side but on a rare occasion, you would add weight to the day when it happened to fall on the 13th day of the month.

From Legends and superstitions of the sea and of sailors. Bassett, Fletcher (1885):

Ancient Irish chronicles record that a certain king was not allowed to sail on a marauding expedition on Tuesday, or to go in a ship the Monday after Bealtaine (May-day).

Wednesday was consecrated to Odin, who, as Hnickar, was the Northern mariner’s chief deity. Hence it was a lucky day to undertake a voyage. And so with Thursday, which was also dedicated to a favorite deity (Thor) with the Northern warlike mariner.

Saturday seems also to have generally borne a good character. But we are told in an old English work,* ” Certayne craftsmen will nocht begin their worke on Satterday; certain schipmen or mariniers will not begin to sail on the Satterday — quhilk is plane superstition.”

But Friday is of all days the one proverbially unlucky for sailors. Its bad character on shore is well known, and we should not wonder that it also obtained such at sea.

As Marryat says of one of his heroes: “His thoughts naturally reverted to the other point, in which seafaring men are equally bigoted, the disastrous consequences of sailing on a Friday; the origin of which superstition can easily be traced to early Catholicism, when, out of respect for the day of universal redemption, they were directed by their pastors to await the ‘morrow’s sun.’ ”

Southey says, “Many a ship has lost the tide which might have led to fortune, because the captain and crew thought it unlucky to sail on Friday.”

The earliest account of this superstition that I find is in the “Itinerary” of Fynes Moryson (1553), who, speaking of the king of Poland at Dantzig, says: “The next day the king had a good wind, but before this, the king and the queen, whilst sometimes they thought Monday, sometimes Friday, to be unlucky days, had lost many fair winds.”

Cooper says of a certain hero: “As for sailing on Friday, that was out of the question. No one did that in 1798, who could help it.” Brand tells that a London merchant said, in 1790, that no one would begin any business or voyage on Friday.

Thatcher writes, in 1821: “Seldom would a seaman then sail on Friday.” And Cheever, in 1827: “He (the sailor) will never go to sea on Friday, if he can help it.”

0lmstead also writes, in 1841: “There has been a singular superstition prevalent among seamen about sailing on Friday; and in former times, to sail on this day would have been regarded as a violation of the mysterious character of the day, which would be visited with disaster upon the offender. Even now, it is not entirely abandoned; so if a voyage, commenced on Friday, happens to be unfortunate, all the ill luck of the voyage is ascribed to having sailed on that day. An intelligent shipmaster told me that, although he had no faith in this superstition, yet so firmly were sailors formerly impressed with superstitious notions respecting the day, that, until within a few years, he should never have ventured to sail on a Friday, for the men would be appalled by dangers which they would think light of on common occasions.”

For the United States Navy, one of the worst Friday the 13th’s occurred on November 13th, 1942.

Pearl Harbor’s horrendous attack was less than a year before that fateful day. The battleships that were meant to repel any Japanese incursion into the Pacific were either laying on the floor of the harbor or in various stages of repair. The Battle for Guadalcanal had been raging since August and a superior Japanese surface fleet was wreaking havoc on the Marines trying to defend a tenuous position on this little island in the Solomons.

The US Navy could muster some cruisers and destroyers but the new battleships were still being held in reserve for a later attack. On November 12th, a battle group under Admiral “Fighting Dan” Callaghan on the USS San Francisco came to the defense of the battle weary Marines. They had accompanied supply ships and reports reached them of a superior Japanese fleet coming down the slot that would try and pound the airfield into the Stone Age.

Callaghan hastily prepared his forces to try and counter attack the incoming force of surface ships. What he was unaware of at the tie was the size and scope of the opposing forces. The Japanese Commander was bringing the Battleships Hiei and Kirishima along with her escort of a cruiser and destroyers to bombard the island in a night attack.

A bad way to begin

The day before the main battle did not start out well for the San Francisco. The Japanese air forces were still within range and they saw an opportunity to sink the American supply ships and weaken the garrison. The cruisers and destroyers put up a brave fight but one of the Japanese planes was able to hit the San Francisco causing damage and many deaths. Her new Captain, Cassin Young had only been on board for a few days and was already receiving his baptism of fire. Young had been awarded the Medal of Honor after the Pearl Harbor attack but had to feel the weight of a thousand anchors as he helped his ship battle the fires and get back into line for a night action that was still to come.

As nightfall on the 12th arrives, there are storms north of the island in which the approaching Japanese fleet is hidden. Callaghan initially has no idea of the size and makeup of the forces he will oppose. It probably didn’t matter. He was a fighting Admiral and he was going to use his forces in whatever way he could to help the Marines.

After midnight on the 13th, the two forces converge. Utter chaos ensues. As one officer would later record, it was like a ballroom brawl with the lights turned off.

Before the battle is over, the American force is bloodied but not completely beaten.

Admiral Callaghan and Captain Cassin Young, among many others on the bridge of the San Francisco are killed by the blasts from Hiei’s fourteen inch guns.

The battle proper only lasted around twenty minutes with sporadic fighting occurring well into the daylight hours.

At 1101, Commander Yokota Minoru’s submarine I-26 fires three torpedoes at retiring San Francisco. They miss, but one continues on and narrowly misses Helena. Another continues on and hits JUNEAU port side amidships near where she was hit the previous night. A minute later, a magazine explosion blows Juneau in half. She sinks in about 20 seconds.

On board the Juneau are the Five Fighting Sullivan Brothers. None would survive the sinking.

The Japanese retired that night and the Marines got a precious reprieve. For them, Friday the 13th ended up being one of the luckiest days they would ever know. The Naval Battle continued on for a few more days and the Japanese would end up losing their two battleships. That battle marked the turning point in the overall campaign and even though the Japs fought on tenaciously, they were never again able to mount a serious attack that could topple the forward progress of the allies through the Pacific.

What happened to the Sullivan’s?

Eight days after the sinking, ten survivors were found by a PBY Catalina search aircraft and retrieved from the water. The survivors reported that Frank, Joe and Matt died instantly, Al drowned the next day, and George survived for four or five days, before suffering from delirium as a result of hypernatremia (though some sources describe him being “driven insane with grief” at the loss of his brothers); he went over the side of the raft he occupied. He was never seen or heard from again.

Security required that the Navy not reveal the loss of Juneau or the other ships so as not to provide information to the enemy. Letters from the Sullivan sons stopped arriving at the home and the parents grew worried, which prompted Alleta Sullivan to write to the Bureau of Naval Personnel in January 1943, citing rumors that survivors of the task force claimed that all five brothers were killed in action.

This letter was answered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 13, 1943, who acknowledged that the Sullivan’s were missing in action, but by then the parents were already informed of their fate, having learned of their deaths on January 12. That morning, the boys’ father, Tom, was preparing for work when three men in uniform – a lieutenant commander, a doctor and a chief petty officer – approached his door. “I have some news for you about your boys,” the naval officer said. “Which one?” asked Tom. “I’m sorry,” the officer replied. “All five.”

After this unlucky day, the Navy adapted a policy where brothers were no longer able to sail together. It remained in effect for many years.

USS San Francisco SSN 711

When I reported on board the USS San Francisco (a nuclear fast attack submarine) she was in the Newport News Shipyard being constructed. My brother Tom was a Machinist Mate on board a destroyer that was stationed in nearby Norfolk Virginia. The 711 boat was my third submarine and I had learned to love the submarine life. After a number of conversations, Tom finally volunteered for sub duty and upon completion he was assigned to the boat with me.

My Mom, who was old enough to remember the Sullivan Brothers incident, was a bit concerned. But we convinced her that being together on the same boat we would be able to keep an eye on each other. I have had many men who were qualified that I still call Brother, but this one was both a submariner and a Brother. We had a lot of great adventures together and at one point the 711 boat had four sets of brothers on board.

We are all either retired or closing out our working lives but I can assure you that the bond will never be broken.

It was an honor to serve on board a submarine named after the famous USS San Francisco that was the centerpiece of that fateful action. While it was the unluckiest day for them, it helped to shape the fortunes of the country on its way to Tokyo Harbor in 1945. Their sacrifices must never be forgotten. I think of them every time I hear the Navy Hymn.

Eternal Father, strong to save…

Special Note: I am putting the finishing touches on my book this week that tries to capture the Amazing Life of Captain Cassin Young. I will be telling you more about that in the coming weeks.

Mister Mac