Lieutenant Poore’s paper won The Naval Submarine League Essay Contest for Submarine Officers’ Advanced Class 00030. He is currently Engineer in USS FLORIDA (BLUE)(SSBN 728).
In the year of our Force’s 100th birthday, many of us have been reflecting on our history and on the great men and ships of our past that helped build the Submarine Force of today. We reflect on the growth of our fleet from its humble beginnings with David Bushnell’s TURTLE of the Revolutionary War and J.P. Holland’s creation in 1900 that marked the beginning of our service; and we marvel at the capabilities and dominance of the modem seas that our current boats enjoy. We remember with pride the gallant contributions of our fleet boats during World War II, and solemnly honor the 52 crews that lost their boats-and their lives-in the effort. We swell with pride at our all-important role in quietly ending the Cold War, and deftly reconfigure ourselves for the multi-mission tasking demanded by the New World Order.
But why now-or maybe a better question is-why are we just now reflecting on our history? Our force’s history, and our Navy’s history, is obviously valuable to us. Yet, it seems the majority of us have placed relatively low importance on our heritage until recently. Sure, we have our annual birthday balls, and officers take a naval history course at some point in our commissioning path, but how many of us can name even half of the eight submariners who were awarded the Medal of Honor and recount their honorable deeds? Who of us can recall the details of just five famous submarine exploits, or for that matter, any other naval war battles? How many naval traditions do you know the source of! Sure, there are a few of you history buffs out there, and I applaud you. The fact is that most of us have never really taken the time to study our heritage and appreciate the rich history and traditions of our proud service.
Observe our sister sea service, the Marine Corps. Few of us could argue that there exists any other organization more proud of its history than our brother Marines. From the Commandant down to the last private to leave Parris Island, the Corps is ingrained with the heroes and battles that formed their heritage. As a battalion runs down the road, you will hear them sing of Chesty Puller and Daniel Daly. During a combined Navy-Marine Corps birthday ball a couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of watching a videotaped birthday message from Commandant Krulak to his fellow Devil Dogs. I watched as he walked through the battlefields of Belleau Wood, recounting the 20 day siege of the 4111 Marine Brigade against two German divisions in World War I. He stood on the field in his cammies, grasping an M-16 and passionately describing how the Marines stood their ground against incredible odds and, though losing over half their numbers in the effort, seized the region and began the turning of the tide against the Second Reich. I watched the pride on the faces of Marines all around me, most of whom had never seen combat, but felt every bit a part of that winning team. When the General finished, all of them as one rose up and loudly grunted their approval and filled the air with the war cry of the Marines. They were ready for battle right there and then. I realized then that this heritage, held deeply by every leatherneck who wears the blood stripe, is a big part of what holds this tight-knit brotherhood together and binds them as one for the rest of their lives. Tell me history is not important.
We have our own heroes. Men like J.P. Holland, Emory Land, Horace Hunley, Dudley Mush Morton, Sam Dealey, Dick O’Kane, Gene Lucky Fluckey, Mack, and Admiral Rickover are all legends to us. From ingenious innovation and design to courageous tactics in the heat of battle, men like these have built the legacy that is our Force. We have much to be proud of, much to reflect on, and plenty to learn from.
The CNO, in the interest of furthering one of his own goals of preserving our heritage and fostering a greater sense of pride in our history, put out an initiative last year creating two standard celebrations a year-our birthday of October 13 and the Battle of Midway on June 4. Admiral Johnson sees these important dates as the “centerpieces of our heritage,” to help us remember the heroes of our past who gave us the Navy we have today. He realizes that it is often the remembrance of our forerunners and heroes of the past that can bind us together and help us remember why our service is so important. And while we may never see another Midway, or the shoot and dive tactics of our predecessor submarine shipmates of that war, we will definitely produce more heroes for the future who will continue our tradition of valor and sacrifice in the name of freedom.
How can we work to instill a deep pride and understanding of our history within our shipmates and ourselves? Simply put, we do what warriors have done from the beginning of time-when stories of brave deeds were told around the cooking fires and passed down from fathers to sons. We must first inform ourselves and then establish methods by which to pass down what we have learned to every new sailor of the 21st century and beyond. There are a lot of resources out there-from numerous books, films, and websites to fellow shipmates that have actually been there and are still here to tell us about it.
We who are leaders should strive to find ways to integrate submarine history lessons into our training plans. We get so bogged down in required training topics that we cringe at the thought of adding more training, even when it could be so beneficial and yes, even fun! Imagine the use of POD trivia, individually assigned mini-research projects, or just brief recounts at the end of a departmental training topic. On my last boat, our XO used to read a passage from an old WWII submarine diary at every dolphin pinning. It definitely lent an air of nostalgia and pride for everyone there-especially those brand new submariners. If wouldn’t take much to create a growing pride in who we are and the elite group of sailors to which we belong.
Similar tactics can be taken in our accession training programs. From individual self-study plans to lectures on famous battles and submariners, our accession programs can go a long way in building that initial foundation of pride in our heritage. Those wanting to join our Force should feel from the very beginning that they are becoming part of a proud community with a rich and exciting history.
It is my belief that the Submarine Force needs to adopt a deeper appreciation for the history of the Force and of the men who made it what it is today. We should celebrate our heroes and events that have shaped our Force and helped build the greatest submarine Navy in history. We should reinforce our foundations within every submariner; from the day they report to Submarine School to the day they leave the Navy. As we continue to look forward into the next century of submarining, let’s not fail to look back at the paths we have taken to get where we are today. If we are able to do this, we will only serve to strengthen the bonds that exist between us as submariners.
The Dolphin Scholarship Foundation announces its tribute to the first 100 years of the Submarine Force with a cookbook Diving Into Dolphin History.
This publication features:
- Recipes and ship’s seals from the 100 submarine crews operating in the fleet
- Selected recipes from vintage Submarine Officers’ Wives’ Club Cookbooks
- ArtWork especially designed by Dan Price of East Lyme, CT.
The book is $20.90 ($20 + VA sales tax), plus $2.50 for shipping and handling. Make check payable to the Dolphin Scholarship Foundation (DSF) and mail to:
Dolphin Scholarship Foundation
5040 Virginia Beach Blvd., Suite 104-A
Virginia Beach, VA 23462
(757) 671-3200 (757) 671-3330 (fax)