Our Navy currently possess 135 submarines for making war on future enemies of the United States. A major concern of our Navy’s top commanders is the acquisition and retention of young officers with warrior-like traits who can be developed into top-notch submariners, — and, with the technical, tactical and leadership capabilities which will enable them to rise to command of a submarine.
A young officer who is already a member or, or thinking of joining the submarine service must have a strong aspiration for becoming skilled as a submariner and qualifying as a warrior. The question then arises, what is a “qualified submarine warrior?”
A dictionary definition states that a warrior is “a man engaged or experienced in war.” It does not say that he is a man who wears a uniform or performs military duties in peacetime — an important distinction. An even more exact definition of a warrior is, “a person who has demonstrated in battle that he can intelligently and effectively perform his military duties under the sustained life-threatening conditions of battle.”
A qualified submarine warrior then, is a man who has demonstrated his performance effectiveness as a member of the crew of a Submarine engaged in battle — where weapons were used and enemy counter-action was probable. No distinction is made here between officers and enlisted men since both are essential to a submarine combat team’s effectiveness. Some of the men exposed to combat will never be warriors and are usually transferred to a tender or ashore after a patrol or two.
It is highly unlikely that any or today’s submariners have fought in a battle. Yet, before qualifying as a submarine warrior, submarine battle experience must be gained as to the term “battle tested.” Until tested in battle, no sub-mariner can determine whether he has the essential characteristics and capabilities for effectively carrying out submarine duties under battle conditions.
Battle is a matter of life or death. It is the ultimate challenge and ultimate performance test imposed on a military man. Every man aspiring to become a battle-qualified submarine warrior must thus accept the fact that he may someday face the risk of death in battle. Musashi, the 16th century samurai, wrote that “a warrior is resolute in his acceptance or death.” If he is not will-ingly to face that possibility he should pursue another profession. Even if he is willing to accept the risks inherent in combat, that still doesn’t qualify a submariner as a warrior. In fact, there will be very few, if any, qualified warriors in the submarine service until a future war has progressed for a few months. The battle experience necessary for developing and qualifying submariner as a warrior cannot be simulated in peacetime.There is no substitute for battle experience.It is essential to submarine warrior qualification. But a willingness to take risks in peacetime service is likely to produce a warrior submariner as opposed to merely a manager of a submarine.
The Importance of Battle Experience
Emphasis is placed on battle experience be-cause of differences in the nature and importance of reliable job performance under submarine combat versus civilian working conditions. With regard to the latter, the time sequence of actions in the civilian work-place is relaxed compared to battle conditions. Human errors can normally be detected and corrected long before disasters occur. The relatively leisurely pace of civilian work is rarely encountered in submarine operations, and even more rarely in battle. A submarine crew must perform as a team, and the team – like a chain – is only as strong as its weakest link. For weeks on end, with no days off for recreation, each man fulfills a vital role. He has no substitute on the beach to step in at a moments notice to replace him. In short, each crew member is required to be able to do his assigned job at all times.
An even more important consideration is the nature of the human nervous system. It has limited, but varied capabilities among human beings for handling the effects of stress, strain and shock, and the emotions of fear and terror. The shooks of battle imposed on top of the stress and strain of prolonged exposure to imagined or actual enemy threats can produce significantly adverse effects on human performance. Human minds, muscles and organs may perform erratically or not at all under combat and battle conditions. In particular, an individual’s first encounter with a life threatening condition may leave him unable to think rationally or control his movements and body functions. Examples of erratic behavior by a few individuals when first exposed to battle conditions will serve to illustrate this and show the importance of battle experience.
The Disappearing Lookout – On a dark and stormy night in the late fall of 1942, a u.s. fleet submarine on its first war patrol was cruising off the south coast of Honshu. The two lookouts stationed on the periscope shears diligently scanned the horizon with their binoculars in search or targets. Suddenly the port lookout noticed a dark smudge on the horizon. The blurry image gradually developed into a small ship heading directly toward his boat. In his mind he pictured it to be a Jap subohaser closing for an attack. A wave or panic overcame him. Without hesitation he hurled his binoculars over the side and dropped to the bridge deck. There, he silent-ly elbowed the Junior Officer-of-the-Deck aside and quickly disappeared down through the Conning Tower hatch into the supposed safety below. The shock of this first direct encounter with an enemy had an unpredictable effect on this man. The effect, a fear reaction to danger, was revealed only by the threatened attack on himself.
The Reluctant co. WW II produced stories of COs who saw a heavily escorted group or ships heading for their submarine and who then ordered deep submergence rather than face the consequences of a pitched battle. In a specific case, a CO was directed to shell an enemy communication station. Apparently reeling that such action would mean a heavy response from the enemy’s shore batteries, the CO laid 20 miles off the coast for over 4 days, not wanting to close to gun range and engage the enemy in a battle action.
On the Bottom Without Power – A U.S. fleet submarine on patrol in December 1942 had the mission of laying a field of influence-activated bottom minesn in shallow waters off the Japaneseport of Nagoya. The plan was to launch the mines one at a time from both forward and after torpedo tubes while operating on the surface during darkness. Water depth was about eighty-five feet. As the last few mines were being laid, radar detected a destroyer departing a nearby harbor and standing out toward the submarine. As soon as the last mine was dropped, a course was taken to head for deep water on four engines. The destroyer was then about four miles astern and rapidly closing. The only choice of action was to submerge and employ evasion tactics. Launching a torpedo attack was impossible since there was no opportunity to reload the emptied tubes.
When a water depth of two hundred feet was reached, and with the destroyer two miles astern, the order was given to dive. As soon as the submarine had submerged, a radical course change to the left was made to open out from the destroyer’s track. The dive was well executed, but moments later the Maneuvering Room reported that a fire had started in the main electrical control cubicle. The room was then engulfed in smoke, making it necessary to cut off power to the screws. Further evasive maneuvers were impossible. The submarine was heavy and would soon hit bottom. But the destroyer passed astern, apparently having lost contact. As the destroyer continued on its way to sea, the submarine settled on the bottom in a level condition.
“Maneuvering” at General Quarters was manned by two qualified controllermen and the Chief Electrician’s Mate. It was later determined that the stressful conditions of mine laying in shallow waters, and “pursuit” by a destroyer were to blame for the personnel errors which caused the casualty. One of the controllermen in shifting propulsion power from the main generators to the battery upon diving had failed to carry out the proper procedure in shifting control levers. Thus, one of the main electrical busses in the control cubicle had been subjected to full battery voltage for a relatively long period and had become red hot. This bus was located near the top or the cubicle and close to the cork insulation on the hull. The cork soon caught fire, generating clouds of acrid smoke. Because or poor visibility and badly ~atering eyes, the men in the Maneuver-ing Room failed to quickly determine the nature of the casualty. As a result the submarine lay on the bottom without main power for a considerable time.
The main points to be observed are that under stressful war conditions: (1) a most serious operating error was made. That error could easily have resulted in the loss of the submarine, and (2) none of the three experienced controllermen, including the one responsible, had detected and corrected the error.
Fortunately, the fire was soon extinguished and the Maneuvering Room cleared sufficiently or the smoke to allow an inspection to determine that the cubicle was undamaged. The submarine was soon able to surface and resume operation.
Caught on the surface – In the fall of 1943 another fleet submarine on her first war patrol was on station within about seventy miles of Truk, the main Japanese stronghold in the mid-Pacific. The submarine was patrolling on the surface at 12 knots. It was pitch dark when the Executive Officer came to the bridge. Two lookouts were on their platforms above the bridge and a third stood aft on the cigarette deck. All dutifully scanned the surrounding skies and horizon with their binoculars. The Officer-of-the-Deck and his JO, who were inexperienced in war, were seemingly standing a taut watch at the forward end of the bridge.
Shortly after the Exec arrived on the bridge be heard what sounded like the start-up of an engine. But his queries to the OOD and subsequently to “Maneuvering” received a”negative” reply. Also, an “All clear” on the SD air-search radar was received on the bridge. The engine noise persisted and grew louder. Seconds later an aircraft sped out of the darkness from the port side of the submarine, crossed over the bridge and disappeared into the darkness to the starboard side. The lookouts automatically headed for the Conning Tower and disappeared below. The OOD and the JOOD followed them down. The Exec watched the exodus, paused a few seconds to hear the diving alarm, and hearing nothing, took charge. He pressed the bridge diving alarm button, dropped into the Conning Tower and pulled the hatch closed behind him as he ordered the helmsman to put on left full rudder and increase speed to “all ahead full.” Proceeding to the Control Room, he direct-ed the planesmen to “take her to two hundred feet.” As the submarine passed 160 feet the Jap aircraft completed its circle and released several bombs which exploded close aboard — causing only minor damage.
The reactions of the bridge watch and the Exec illustrate two things. First, unexpected enemy action can make those without prior battle experience completely disregard their duties, and second, that a person with prior battle experience can often size up a dangerous situation in an instant and initiate corrective action in time to avoid disaster.
The Submarine Commanding Officer
The submarine service is quite unique in that submarines normally operate as independent units under broad instructions from geographically re mote commanders. For that reason, the submarine commanding officer is a particularly key player in wartime. There is no duality of command aboard u.s. submarines. The executive officer and the department heads support the Commanding Officer, but it is the Commanding Officer who decides what, when, where and how to undertake submarine actions. Therefore, the success of a submarine in war depends in large measure on the skipper’s aggressiveness, daring, fearlessness, and intelligence, plus his knowledge of his own ship and enemy capabilities and his use of effective tactics. Perhaps most of all, the success of the submarine depends on the respect and trust his officers and men place in his leadership.
Just as a person cannot become a pro-golfer solely by reading books on bow to play golf, so a submarine officer cannot become a qualified warrior submariner just by reading books. A submarine officer intent on becoming a truly professional CO must pursue a combination of book knowledge, instruction and practical experience in operating submarines. Thus, it behooves one aspiring to command to learn all be can from books and more experienced personnel as he diligently performs his variej on-board duties so as to be well prepared for an ultimate command of his own submarine.
Since there is no way of gaining submarine combat experience during peace time, one may wonder if there are not some other means for qualifying as a submarine warrior. There is none, but don’t be discouraged. Most of today 1 s Commanding Officers can be prepared to go to war with a full intent of sinking any enemy warships they might encounter.
It can be observed that battle experience in II was valuable since there were usually about seven officers and 60 or more enlisted men in each submarine who could become submarine warriors early in their careers. As such they contributed greatly to the success of their submarines and over the next two to three years many rose to command as qualified submarine warriors .
Some Noted U.S. Naval Warriors
One can learn a great deal by reading about our naval heroes and emulating their warrior-like qualities, characteristics, capabilities and methods of fighting battles. In the period between the American Revolution and the end of the nineteenth century a number of u.s. naval officers earned the right to be called “warriors.” Among these were John Paul Jones, Thomas Truxtun, Isaac Hull, Edward Preble, Stephen Decatur, James Lawrence, Oliver Hazard Perry ,David Porter, Thomas McDonough, and David Farragut. None of these were, of course, submarine officers because no practical submarines existed in those days, but they were warriors, and one can learn a lot from their conduct in battle.
Battle experience builds an individual’s self-confidence in being able to face the toughest of submarine situations. Dick O’Kane’s battle experiences on WAHOO as noted in the January REVIEW prepared him to be the most successful warrior co. Frank Lynch’s serving with Sam Dealy in submarine battles, developed the warrior characteristic to its highest form. George Street, Eli Reich, Red Ramage, Freddie Warder, George Grider, Gene Fluckey, Hank Munson, and Gordon Underwood are a few or the WW II submarine skippers whose patrols can be studied to under-stand how battle experience produces the consum-mate submarine warrior. There are many others, of course, who contributed to the decimation of Japanese sea power. Thus, there is no intent to not describe the efforts of those fine warriors — only the limitations on length of this article prevent better credit.
The Future of Submarines
The advent of long range nuclear armed missiles, satellite ocean surveillance and communication systems, and computer aided Command Control and Intelligence systems foretellsthe rapid obsolescence of massive surface fleets. The future belongs to the submarine. The need for submarines and for officers and men to man them will increase with time. There is a bright future for submariners with the daring, dedication and skill to learn submarining and eventually become qualified warriors during actual combat.