Pearl Harbor, 4 April 1998
Thank you, Admiral Ellis. Ladies and gentlemen, friends and fellow submariners … Let me begin with a disclaimer: There is no bigger supporter of jointness than I am. I stand in awe of the power and the beauty of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines working together.
But I am also a big believer that each Service, and each community within the Services, must hone its own unique skill, must constantly strive to be the best at what it does. Imagine a football team made up of 11 All-American quarterbacks: not much chance of wining there. To win, you need a quarterback to throw with precision to the split end who has gotten to the prearranged empty spot because of strategic blocking by interior linemen who … And on defense, you’d better not show up with 11 safeties. You need tackles and linebackers-and a punter who can boom! In short, you need the whole team, with all members performing their unique skills to the best of their ability.
Likewise, we in the Navy need our Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps-just as they need Navy Air, and Surface Warriors, and SEALs, and medical …
But tonight I’m here in my submarine finest. I come before you without shame, without guilt, to talk to and about the world class U.S. Submarine Force.
Because tonight we pause around the globe to celebrate the many achievements of one of our Navy’s most distinguished and elite groups of Sailors. And to commemorate the heroism and sacrifice of those submariners who have gone before us.
Officially, we count submarine service birthdays from the day when USS HOLLAND (SS 1) was commissioned in 1900. But what we all think of as the submarine service really didn’t come into being until World War II. It was then that we learned our trade, developing many of the strategies and tactics still in use today.
So there is not a more fitting place to celebrate this anniversary event than here in Hawaii, the home of the Pacific Submarine
Force, where the very spirit of the Submarine Force was forged in the raging fires of combat. It was from Pearl Harbor that our submarines sailed forth on their legendary war patrols-as welI as from our forward bases, including Midway Island, Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians, and Brisbane and Fremantle in Australia.
The war in the Pacific began with the crushing surprise attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor-a devastating blow. For a considerable time it was very doubtful whether our forces could recover. The Battle Line, the backbone of the Pacific Fleet, lay for the most part at the bottom of the harbor, surrounding Ford Island with the twisted wreckage of our proud Navy. The runways of Schofield and Hickam were littered with the charred remnants of our airplanes, destroyed without even the opportunity to fight.
Those slim hopes mustered when the day was done included four critical elements of our fleet’s assets which the Japanese failed to destroy: the shipyard, the carriers (which were fortuitously underway that day), the fuel supplies (which would be needed to carry the fight to the enemy), and the submarines.
The exploits of the Submarine Force in World War II are legendary and many of you know the stories. But they bear repeating because the submariners who are coming up now need to know them. They are all about our legacy-the foundation, the principles upon which we continue to operate our submarines. We need to understand our roots, because they are our greatest continuing strength and our very reason for being.
We are now almost three generations beyond that great conflict. The memory and understanding of what really went on then is beginning to fade. The events that took place are becoming clouded in the ongoing pace of life today. When I talk with our young sailors-including our young submarine officers-I find that many of them don’t know about Commander Red Ramage’s courageous 46 minutes of blazing surface engagement with an enemy convoy at night; about the exploits of BARB, HARDER, PAR CHE, and the other legendary submarines and submariners that were so critical to our nation’s survival. We have brought the Battle Flags with us-but can we even read these flags? Much less tell the stories?
Even those of us in my generation who grew up in the years just after World War II often fail to grasp how pivotal those events really were. We Americans have had our share of trials in the years since that war, but we are accustomed to thinking of our nation as a perennial power, always succeeding, with some days just turning out better than others. Many do not appreciate the fact that Imperial Japan truly threatened to defeat us-they were winning I They had the resolve and the capability to win, and they were doing just that, having seized the advantage at Pearl Harbor.
Our Submarine Force survived that blow and immediately took the fight to the enemy. Then and there was born the principle that, to a submarine and his boat, there is no such thing as enemy-controlled waters. Our submarines hounded the Japanese Empire, holding their forces in check until our nation could recover from Pearl Harbor and mount the indomitable effort that turned the tide and won the War in the Pacific.
Admiral Nimitz later said:
“When I assumed command of the Pacific Fleet on 31 December 1941, our submarines were already operating against the enemy, the only units of the Fleet that could come to grips with the Japanese for months to come. It was to the Submarine Force that I looked to carry the load … It is to the everlasting honor and glory of our submarine personnel that they never failed us in our days of great peril.”
Submariners represented less than two percent of Navy personnel during World War II, but accounted for more than 55 percent of our enemies’ maritime losses.
Post war records show that they sank 214 naval vessels and 1178 merchant ships -5-1/2 million tons of enemy shipping.
But the Submarine Force paid a heavy price for success against a determined enemy, bearing the brunt of our own wartime losses: 52 of our 288 submarines~at·s nearly one in five-were lost, and 3505 World War II submariners remain on eternal patrol.
Many of you have heard these numbers before maybe some of you haven’t-but I’d like you to think about them for a moment and see if you don’t find them as absolutely astounding as I do.
These 52 submarine crews are not very different from the crews in which many of us have served and are serving today. Every one of these 3505 men was a man very much the same as we are.
Some of you tonight are veteran submariners from that conflict. I have spoken with many of you and with your shipmates over the years and I must tell the rest of the guests here tonight that, to a man, these heroes maintain that they were just ordinary men who did what was required when they were called upon in extraordinary times. Ordinary men, indeed!
Men proud to be Sailors, and even more, prouder to wear the dolphins of a qualified submariner.
Men who loved their country, their work, and their ships, and whose homes and families were never far from their thoughts, wherever they were in the world.
Men who grew bored at times underway-and lonely, too-just like we do. Men who sometimes got frustrated with the lack of showers, the lack of privacy, and the endless drilling and watch standing and training-just like we do.
Men who understood that when the chips were down, they could count on their shipmates-just like we do.
Men who, like us, did not set out to be heroes. But not quite ordinary men.
They were young men. Some had slipped into the Navy at less than the legal age, eager to do their part to accomplish what needed to be done. Even the skippers were young-some younger than 30. And they were energetic. They were ambitious. They were resourceful, and they were courageous.
Many of you have read the accounts written by those who were there. If you haven’t, you should. If you have, you should read them again, and then teach them. The books are those by men with the names we should know and should be teaching to our new submariners today-Beach, O’Kane, Fluckey, Street, and others-and they contain the names and the stories of many others we should know. They are our story.
A quick example: A story about Lieutenant Commander Dudley Mush Morton, who commanded WAHOO and was revered by his fellow submariners, then and today, for his willingness to take the fight to the enemy-a revolutionary change from the submarine tactics practiced in World War I.
At one point during the war, Morton decided to invade Wewak Harbor, an enemy anchorage he’d heard about, but that didn’t appear on any Navy charts. A junior officer (who hadn’t served with Morton before) suggested it might be better to reconnoiter the harbor from a safe distance out by using the periscope.
But the other JOs and the crew (who knew Mush well enough to know they were going in, with or without charts) jury-rigged a projector from a Gratlex camera and a signal light and produced a homemade chart on tissue paper … from a drawing in a high school geography book that one of the Sailors had bought while on liberty in Australia-for a quarter!
In true Hollywood fashion, they entered Wewak Harbor submerged-homemade chart on the table-and in full daylight torpedoed a Japanese destroyer, the first of several ships WAHOO would sink in her short, but illustrious, career.
Great stories like this are ones we all need to keep retelling. They speak volumes about why our silent service is about daring, about innovation, about teamwork-and they’re about today.
Some look at our submarine operations today and wrongly attribute many of our sound practices to the successful and meticulous culture developed in bringing nuclear propulsion to our submarines. Practices like using a two-man rule dealing with nuclear weapons, going over our pre-critical checks to start up our reactors, and so on.
They are not new behaviors developed by Admiral Rickover or any of his people, however. These are lessons learned from our World War II Submarine Force-lessons written in blood. They are lessons reinforced and correctly applied by Admiral Rickover to his operation, but they apply throughout the ship. The sanctity of the procedures we inherited and use today for our Rig for Dive are as fundamental as you get-and those procedures came from our World War II heroes.
Our reliance on rigid qualification and continuing training comes from our World War II legacy as well, again not just from Admiral Rickover. After reading Admiral Dick O’Kane’s Clear the Bridge! I sat back and reflected on his accounts of the legendary war patrols of his boat, USS TANG. And I realized that Clear the Bridge! is one of the greatest testaments to training we have.
O’Kane disproves the wrong-headed impression some have of the good old diesel boat days when we didn’t have to drill and train-scourges brought about by the nuclear Navy.
TANG’s wardroom began each patrol’s training before departure (just like we do), sometimes working through tactics and intentions during discussions out here on the reef at Waikiki Beach, over by the Royal Hawaiian. (The Pink Lady, as it was known, was the Submarine Force’s home, where the crews stayed during their short but well-deserved rest periods between war patrols.)
When TANG departed Pearl (or Midway) on patrol, the crew would drill endlessly, day and night, resting only as needed, until every man knew what to do in every contingency imagined, or lived, during previous patrols. Only when the skipper was satisfied that the crew could operate the ship expertly and like a team did he secure the drilling.
By drilling his crew, Commander O’Kane developed the ability to rapidly clear the bridge while transiting surfaced, and submerge the ship-skills TANG used to avoid becoming victim of Japanese warplanes. He tested the crew’s ability to operate at great depth-and then used it to survive depth-charging by an enemy who set the charges for a shallower depth.
Training, qualification, and drilling-to develop the ability and teamwork to conduct routine things in a routine manner-are as essential to our survival today as they were SS years ago. Even when you ‘re not getting shot at, submarining holds significant inherent risk, which can only be held to an acceptable level through sound fundamentals and hard work. There are no shortcuts. That’s why Admiral Jerry Ellis was so right to emphasize a return to the basics. That hard work over the last couple of years will pay off.
Ours is a heritage of teamwork, of mutual trust and mutual obligation, that keeps us safe and makes us strong-and, yes, lets us take risks when the situation calls for it and when it makes sense to do so.
We must never abandon this heritage, because to meet the challenges of the 21th century, we will need innovators, not robots.
You who are fortunate enough to call Pearl Harbor your home port have a wonderful advantage in that our heritage surrounds you. Be a part of it and share it with your people.
I went back to Lockwood Hall the other day, and I have to tell you, I still get emotional as I pass those large plaques with the names of the Navy Cross and Silver Star winners. The Clean Sweep doesn’t get as much use as it used to, but it overflows with submarine heritage.
When I went into the Skipper’s Lounge, I stood in awe again as I looked at the pictures of our heroes-the Medal of Honor winners on the one wall, and all the rest, too. I have been greatly affected
by them in the same way, ever since I was an ensign.
Just across from Lockwood is the bridge of Admiral Ramage’s PARCHE-the actual bridge that passed at night within 50 feet of a Japanese warship in close, mortal combat.
And you have those 52 brass plaques on that wall-one for each of our boats who were lost-inscribed with the name of every submarine sailor who was aboard those boats.
Go there, by yourself and with your people, and remember who we are. Make this a part of our dolphin qualification. Teach the legacy and talk about it.
I know of some boats whose practice it is when the skipper pins dolphins on his sailors, to read a short passage from our history-from Theodore Roscoe’s Submarine Operations of World War II, fur example. That’s a good practice, I think, and it creates a powerful impression on our Sailors.
Some boats do dolphin presentations and reenlistments at the PARCHE memorial or aboard BOWFIN. That’s a good idea.
Go through BOWFIN and visit the submarine museum there. It’s right near where we moor today. Look closely when you go through BOWFIN. It may strike you how much has changed-but what is really striking is how much is the same. Go look and see-and feel-what I’m talking about, and then teach our legacy and talk about it.
I said earlier that our Submarine Force is one of the Navy’s most distinguished and elite groups of Sailors. Now, the dictionary defines elite as “the choice or distinguished part; those thought of as the best”. To characterize the Submarine Force as elite would therefore seem to some an arrogant thing to say. We often try to avoid saying things like “we are thought of as the best”.
But in considering that definition, I think I accept the charge of elitism. Because I do think of our Submarine Force-past and present-as the best. Our Force is elite. We should be proud of what we are and what we as a team have done. Everyone of you is a part of this great legacy. Teach it. Talk about it. Be proud of our heritage and be proud of our role today. Stand tall and let your chest swell with pride, adorned by your precious dolphins. What you’re doing is vitally important.
So here’s the deal: Skippers, take your wardroom on a field trip to see, to touch, to study this legacy. Use an EOOW /EWS seminar to discuss the legacy of teamwork, technical exactness, and our
elite role in the Navy. Engineers, division officers-same offer-departmental or divisional training. And yes, Skippers: Count it. Report it in your letter. Let me know what you think.
Because 30 years from now, someone will stand in a place like this and talk about the exploits of many of you here. He’ll talk about when we stood eyeball to eyeball with the Soviets, saying words like Admiral Nimitz’s words I told you about earlier: “It was to the Submarine Force that I looked to carry the load … It is to the everlasting honor and glory of our submarine personnel that they never failed us … ” We know the irreplaceable role our submarines had in deciding the Cold War. Our submariners never failed us.
And he’ll talk of the leadership, teamwork, and pride of the submariners of the early 21″‘ century and how they ensured our nation’s continued security against those who would do us harm.
You are writing that history right now.
It has been an honor to stand before you and speak to you this evening. I salute all of you veteran submariners who have gone before us, and I enjoin today’s Submarine Force to go forth with great pride-and with a great responsibility to carry on. God bless our Submarine Force and God bless you all. Thank you