Archive for June, 2017

5 Facts From Our New Exhibit

On June 26th 1917, 14,000 U.S infantry troops landed in France and entered world War I. While the war began in 1914, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the United States entrance into the war. In honor of this milestone, the museum opened a new exhibit called “The Great War- Through the Periscope.” This week we would like to share five submarine World War I facts from this new exhibit. While submarines have been used in earlier wars, this was the first time they had a more powerful presence and set the stage for their future involvement in military conflicts.

  1. Did you know German U-boats came as far up the coast as Connecticut?

Prior to 1917, the United States maintained neutrality and maintained a friendly distance with the German U-boats. Deutschland, a German merchant submarine arrived in Maryland in July of 1916. In

 

From the New Exhibit at the Submarine Force Museum on The Great War

November, she returned to the United States, but this time to New London. Both times Deutschland was able to load up on raw materials that would help the German war effort. All friendly intentions vanished once America joined the war on the allied side in 1917. From April to July of 1918, German U-boats were able to sink several ships off the Atlantic coast from Virginia to New Jersey. In July of 1918, U-156 attacked a town in Cape Cod with a deck gun. This was the first time since the Mexican American War that the United States was attacked by a foreign power at home and the only time in WWI. A total of 91 vessels were sunk off the American coast by German U-boats.

  1. Did you know that the Naval Submarine Base was built in part because of seeing the power of German U-boats?

Naval Submarine Base New London was the United States’ first permanent submarine base and opened in 1916. At Fort Trumbull, just down the river, experiments on how to detect submarines were conducted. Having seen the potential for submarines as a weapon of war prior to joining the war, the United States opened the base and school. Jules Verne, who wrote Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, is quoted as saying, “The next great war may be largely a contest between submarine boats.” Verne’s prediction would turn out to be true as submarine capabilities were expanded after the war.

During WWI, Germany was the only country to use submarines as more of a fleet service than as simple coastal protection. By WWII, submarines would play an integral role in US victories. By studying German U-boats captured during the war, the Navy was able to improve on its developments of standardizing its submarine fleet in terms of size, speed, endurance, and armament. The turn of the century brought with it much needed inventions that would allow submarine development to flourish. Such devices include the gyroscopic compass for navigation, hydrophones for listening underwater, pressed steel for hulls and diesel engines.

  1. The United States almost joined the war in 1915, rather than 1917.

U-20 sunk the RMS Lusitania killing 1,198 passengers including 128 Americans. The Lusitania was an ocean liner that briefly held the title of largest passenger ship until her sister ship was constructed. Germany had abandoned the established rules for sinking a merchant ship, primarily to announce their intentions of sinking a vessel, allowing the crew to abandon ship. Germany claimed that since the ship was carrying war munitions she could be considered a military vessel. Two of the Americans who died in the sinking were Alfred Vanderbilt and Newport News shipbuilding President Albert L. Hopkins. With America approaching a decision to break its neutrality and enter the war, Germany rescinded the policy of unrestricted submarine warfare. With Germany once again following the established rules, America backed off from declaring war on Germany. In 1917, Germany once again became desperate for a

 

From the New Exhibit at the Submarine Force Museum on The Great War

conclusion to the war and returned to the tactic of unrestricted submarine warfare. While the U-boats returning to terrorize the high seas was not the only reason America decided to finally enter the war, it did play a major contributing factor.

  1. The above poster was just one of many propaganda posters that played a major role in enlisting new recruits and boosting moral on the home front.

World War I was the first war to have a global influence, and not just because of the amount of countries involved. Mass printing allowed propaganda posters to be used on all sides and to serve many purposes. WWI was also the first war to be caught on motion picture. The museum exhibit showcases a small video of submarines. This footage is only a small snapshot of what was captured for the first time by filmmakers who were on the frontlines. These films took those posters and brought them to life in a way never before possible. Reordered sound allowed Americans to hear the sounds of the front line and motion picture and posters allowed them to see it. With the sinking of the Lusitania, the war hit home

Poster by artist Frank Brangwyn in response to the sinking of the Lusitania.
https://library.leeds.ac.uk/special-collections-exhibitions-war-propaganda#activate-image9

for many Americans. These elements of communication captured the sentiment of the day and evolved with the changing emotions of the country.

  1. Even in WWI, despite poor conditions, submarines were known to have the best food in the Navy.

Early submarines were only equipped for short trips. There were no sleeping bunks, toilets, or galleys for cooking. S-boats were not much better. The galleys were small with an electric stove. Meat would last for three days, unless it was winter. If frost built up on the hull, meat could keep for longer. Once toilets were put aboard, sailors no longer had to wait to surface. However, even this could be difficult since at lower depths increased water pressure made it hard to flush. It was common for submariners to use a bucket filled with fuel oil and dump it once they surfaced. Construction of submarines was still being perfected and during storms in the Atlantic, men would report rolls in the vessel- to the point where the periscope was almost hitting the water. If sailors were out for long patrols they would remain submerged for seventeen hours and not come up until 9:00 at night and only to recharge the batteries. Despite these rough conditions, an anonymous sailor still was quoted raving about the food on a submarine.

Battle of Midway

On June 6, 2017, the museum hosted a special ceremony to honor the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway.  One of the guests who participated in the ceremony was Jeweldeen “Deen” Brown, who served aboard USS Trout (SS 202). While the Trout did not play a major role in the battle itself, she did pick up a few Japanese sailors who were taken to Pearl Harbor to be questioned. Despite its small role in the battle, Brown’s story, along with others, creates a fuller picture of the war.  Deen and a few others from the area make it out to events at the museum when they can. It is a great privilege to be able to sit down with these men and hear their stories and relive the past.

Jeweldeen “Deen” Brown knew he wanted to be a submariner from almost the beginning of his Navy career despite starting as a surface sailor. Selected for Radio school, his first introduction to the submarine force was through its food, which is probably no surprise to any submariner. While awaiting transport to Pearl Harbor in San Diego, he found that the best food could be found on the S-Class subs. Having some contacts with friends from radio school, he would go down and eat, and quickly his interests in submarines grew. In a book by Stephen Leal Jackson about the men of WWII, Deen was quoted as saying, “I was rather intrigued with the complexity, and I was somewhat awed that these guys could learn to operate that thing…. You know, instruments everywhere, all of that, of course was mysterious to me. And so, I was somewhat awed by that and thought… just to learn how to operate this thing would be an education

Gold being offloaded from USS Trout. Brown helped unload the Philippine gold before being able to join the crew. March 1942. Image courtesy of Submarine Force Museum and Library.

in itself.”[1] A week after the attack at Pearl Harbor, Deen was sent to Hawaii to his assignment on the surface ship USS Nevada. When he arrived, just like many others, he found confusion, sadness, and horror. The Nevada was the first ship Brown saw as he entered the harbor. It was aground and not going anywhere anytime soon. While in Pearl, Deen convinced the officer in charge to let him go work at the submarine base. From then, Deen worked hard and learned quickly until he found himself a spot on an active Submarine. While working for a support tender named the USS Pelias, Brown was able to strike a deal with the Executive Office of the Trout and make his way on the crew. He was given six months to qualify despite having never been to the submarine school in Groton. Brown qualified in four months. Brown’s first war patrol saw the Trout participate in the Doolittle Raid. While an aircraft mission, the Trout was stationed at the mouth of the Kobe harbor to keep watch on the Japanese’s fleet. If the fleet began to leave, that would signal that the mission had been compromised and the crew report it. Brown may very well have been the first to realize that the bombing had been a success. While monitoring the Tokyo radio broadcast, he realized that it went off air suddenly. Once he was informed of the bombing, he knew the raid had been successful. His second war patrol saw the decisive Battle of Midway which was credited as the turning point in the war. In all, Brown served nine war patrols. Retiring after twenty-two years, he had been promoted to the Master Chief rate, becoming one of the first navy Chiefs and the only radioman chief in the Atlantic submarine force. After his navy retirement, like many in the area, he continued to work twenty-four more years at Electric Boat. He is quoted as saying, “Submarine guys had something real to do. Meaningful. And that’s what meant a lot to me; I wanted to do something meaningful and real. Never mind the spit and the polish.” [2]

Deen Brown can be found walking the halls of the museum from time to time. With a smile on his face, he usually tells the girls in the museum store not to work too hard. They talk with him a bit and they learn some new tidbits about the war. On the day of the Battle of Midway ceremony, Brown was there with his usual smile and sweet demeanor, happy to participate and share his story. Just like most of the veterans who walk through these doors, he wants the submarine legacy to endure, both for those outside the service and for those who currently serve. Many sailors who came to the ceremony that day took the time to stop and shake his hand. They wanted to share their gratitude for his service and he thanked them for theirs. Last year during a book signing for “The

Naval Base New London Commanding Officer Captain Paul Whitescarver and Master Chief Deen Brown place a wreath in remembrance of those lost in The Battle of Midway on June 6, 2017 at the Submarine Force Museum. Image courtesy of The Day

Men”, Stephen Jackson had some of the men featured in the book come along for a presentation. Of course, Deen came. He had been involved in the planning process of the book signing. He said hello to lecture goers and alongside Jackson, signed copies of the book which featured his profile along with others. Deen Brown’s story is like many from the WWII era. Ready and eager to go and fight for what he believed in, Brown chose the road less traveled at a time when living on a submarine for two months was compared to living in a basement. We thank him for that choice and eagerly await the next story he chooses to share.

[1] Jackson, Stephan Leal. The Men. (Indianapolis, IN: Dog Ear Publishing, 2010) 94.

[2] Jackson, pg 105

 

Flag Day and the Beginning of The Nuclear Navy

We all know June 14th as Flag day. On this day in 1777, the Second Continental Congress adopted what would become the flag of the United States. On this same day, many years later, we would adopt a new form of submarine. The birth of the Nuclear Navy saw its beginning on June 14, 1952 in Groton, Connecticut with the keel of SSN 571- USS Nautilus, being laid by Harry S. Truman. In his opening remarks, Truman said, “As we celebrate this Flag Day, it marks one of the most significant developments of our time.”[1]

Figure 1 Truman signing the keel of USS Nautilus http://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/six-new-england-presidential-visits-stories-behind/

Truman was right. The development of the first atomic submarine led the way for a faster, more efficient submarine force. It also marked a turning point in scientific and industrial development. The keel laying ceremony was only the beginning, but served as a marker to celebrate the advancement of this technology. The Nautilus would surpass all of her predecessors with new capabilities and advancements. Once finished, she stretched 319 feet and displaced 3,180 tons. Truman, in his speech on that June day, made multiple references to the profound impact that nuclear power was having not only on military developments but the world at large. Truman passionately went on to say, “I know that all Americans will join me in this. For we are a peaceful people, not a warlike people. We want peace and we work hard for peace. This is a great day for us, a day to celebrate—not because we are starting a new ship for war, but because we are making a great advance in use of atomic energy for peace. We want atomic power to be a boon to all men everywhere, not an instrument for their destruction. Today, we stand on the threshold of a new age of power.”[2]

A keel laying ceremony is a long-standing tradition and the formal recognition of a ship’s construction. The keel laying is the first of four celebrated events in a ship’s life, followed by their commissioning, launching, and decommissioning.  The atomic energy being harnessed for use in the Nautilus gave special meaning to this ceremony. It was only a few short years prior that the world saw the devastating effects of the atomic bomb. With the development of SSN 571, that power was being harnessed and used for development instead of destruction. On that June 14th, no one could have known the long-lasting effects that the Nautilus and this new technology would have on the submarine force and technology. On that Saturday, especially to those in Groton, this was another ceremony. Groton was and is proud of its submarine history and this was just another

Figure 2 Crowd at keel laying of USS Nautilus. Image courtesy of Harry S. Truman Library & Museum

part of it. Down the river from Electric Boat were five submarines anchored and “manning the rails” in honor of Truman’s visit. One Submariner recalled that most of the crews were upset about giving up a Saturday’s liberty without much thought to the historical ramifications of the moment. It wasn’t until later – after Nautilus had reached the North Pole – that those in attendance would realize what they had witnessed. So tomorrow as we celebrate Flag Day, we also celebrate the start of our nuclear navy and the history it created.

 

[1] Harry S. Truman: “Address in Groton, Conn., at the Keel Laying of the first Atomic Energy Submarine.,” June 14, 1952. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=14162.

[2] Harry S. Truman: “Address in Groton, Conn., at the Keel Laying of the first Atomic Energy Submarine.,” June 14, 1952. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=14162.