You know, I had the pleasure of attending a “tolling of the boats” ceremony once. It’s when submariners new and old gather and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. We toll the bell and announce every submarine ever lost, and the total lost with her. There’s a great deal of “All Hands Lost” announced because, as we all know, when it hits the fan you fight to get the boat to the surface or wear it as a peacoat.
The best part was hanging out afterwards with the WWII vets. Heroes all. It really puts things in perspective when your stories are about taking it in the face and standing vulcan death watches prepping for ORSE and theirs are about staying up for 3 days because they kept getting depth charged and “couldn’t shake the damn Japs.”
Yeah, you win. I’m going to hit the chocolate dog machine on the way to the shower now.
Sadly, as we transitioned over from diesel to nuclear power, I think something was lost in our traditions. We’ve kept some, let some others go that probably needed to, let others fade in the name of correctness. I think something is lost when you let go of traditions born of triumph through a shared struggle. You forget that the job your there to do is to gather intel on those who would do our nation harm, and blow them out of the water if need be.
The smokeboat guys never forgot that, but as we transitioned to nuclear power, I think we forgot them and what they’d done. For the nation, for the future of the submarine force, and for each other.
I stumbled across this great website with a ton of stories from the end of the diesel boat era.
It’s chock full of gems like this:
The forgotten lads of our peacetime, cold war diesel sub force… Who had silently endured the hardships of cramped service in outdated, neglected ships, finally faced the final insult… The awarding of the Nuclear Long Range Inconvenience Pin… A continuing unrecognized embarrassment and joke among wearers of the World War II Submarine Combat Patrol Pin and the wearers of the homemade, unauthorized, concocted diesel boat ‘screw you’ DBF pin.
Ahhh yes, the DBF Pin…gotta love it.
You just don’t see stuff like that anymore.