Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Some Immutable Truths of Submarining

M.E. has made a point of reminding readers often that submarines are always silent and strange.

Those truths have been constants since the archeo ore-transport sub (elippu tebiti), proto subs (e.g. Turtle and Hunley), and especially SSNs of the cold war and after.

How can submarine truths be so subtle? We have a few examples of submarine missions of which many in the crews were unaware (e.g. here).

Yet, there is another subtlety that is commonly overlooked if only because most people are not accustomed to thinking more critically. That is to say, ordinary people tend to accept the first thought that sounds as if it has any ring of truth. If the underlying topic happens to be silent and strange, further thought is impaired by unfamiliarity with the subject matter.

Submariners have heard opinions that submarining is a relatively safe military occupation except, perhaps, in times of war. This has a certain ring of truth for those who cannot or have not given the subject much critical thought.

If safety is the primary criterion for military service, nothing beats service in the J.A.G. Corps Can anyone even think of a J.A.G. (any military branch) who won the Medal of Honor? (Prediction: A new MOH imitation, expressly for the JAG service, will be authorized within the next 8 years). It will not even be close, of course.

If submarining were really so safe, however, why have not more wartime military draftees and volunteers who have uttered that ridiculous opinion volunteered for the silent service? Perhaps some had voluntered, but were rejected. Perhaps others knew they could never endure the claustrophobia, cope with the prolonged isolation from ciliization, or live up to the stern expectations of their fellow crew with the presence of mind to confront the most dire dangers calmly (no shouting, please) and effectively.

Submariners are cast from a different lot alright. Their rate for post traumatic stress, even among WWII depth charge survivors, was almost non-existent. Despite the hazards under which submarine crews lived and fought, the actual psychiatric casualty rate was amazingly low. Of 126,160 man patrols there were 62 psychiatric casualties--an incidence of only 0.00041 per man patrol. source: Joseph L. Schwartz, Captain (MC) USN (Retired).

The myth of submarine safety has spread in the current craze, totally devoid of meaningfiul comparisons, for personal submarines. As every submariner well knows, however, it is just a matter of time before certain tragedy and wreckless folly end this shallow craze.

Finally, the darkest secret of submarining escapes the consciousness of most submariners altogether. It is the most subtle of all. It took M.E. decades to discover, and it will never be revealed in this blog, in e-mails, or over the phone. Please do not even ask, in other words.



At 12 October, 2008 17:31, Blogger reddog said...

One of the saddest truths about our military establishment is the changing proportion of those at the tip of the spear and those who aren't part of the spear at all.

I bet that for it's first century and a quarter or so, the Navy got along fine without any lawyers at all. I also bet there are 10 times more now than there were even a few decades ago. I never even met anybody from JAG or knew anyone that did. All of my transgressions were handled non judicially. I never felt slighted.HeHe!


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