Sunday, October 17, 2010

The 'Thoroughbred Of The Fleet' did not have to be put down (at least not very long)

Due to the critical missions of our submarines, the importance of their crews and the fact that these entire vessels are essentially atmosperically confined spaces, it would not do for terrorists or other enemies to include certain powders in mail addressed to sub crews. Hence, all letter mail and packages must be opened elsewhere before arriving on board, or it must not arrive belowdeck. Apparently, the offsite letter opening/package inspection process is called screening. For more insights, Bubblehead has a post with interesting as well as entertaining commentary (Language warning).

On 19 March 1998, south of Long Island, New York, the submerged USS San Juan (SSN-751) collided with the fleet ballistic missile submarine USS Kentucky (SSBN-737). No injuries occurred on either ship. Although Kentucky suffered damage to her rudder the Thoroughbred of the Fleet did not have to be put down (at least not very long). San Juan's forward ballast tank was breached, but she was able to surface and return to port.

Exactly 9 years less 6 days later, on 13 March 2007, San Juan was the subject of an intense search and rescue mission by elements of the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group when she virtually disappeared to the strike group. Communications were established by the early hours of the next day when San Juan surfaced, and no problems were indicated.[1]

Wikipedia reports that the submarine San Juan has been a primary testing platform for new, advanced systems being developed by the Navy. Obviously, submarine e-mail must be censored.

The more things change, the more they stay the same ("plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" ) - Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, Les Guêpes, January 1849.
In 1941 (during WW2), Secretary of the Navy Knox clarified that the Navy would not mind if the press published certain ship news provided nothing be said:
1) until the Navy released the information (not within seven days of the ship's arrival),

2) about a ship's length of stay, date of departure or destination,

3) about any damage it had received,

4) about its route to the U.S.,

5) about how the ship took part in any battle,

6) that might be of value to the enemy.
During WW2, military members' mail worked in much the same way as self-censorship of the press through a process called letter censorship.

Letters opened after being sealed were often resealed with a tape that stated opened by censor, or just opened by.
In some cases, the name of the officer who signed the censors stamp was the same as the person who wrote the letter. Obviously and understandably, some officers had authority for self-censorship of their own letters.
Submarines are always silent and strange.



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