‘ Submarine History ’ Archive

USS Tecumesh

Submarine Highlight- The USS Tecumseh (SSBN 628)

The USS Tecumseh was a James Madison- class ballistic missile. Built by Electric Boat in 1962, she was commissioned in May of 1964. Her crews would complete 21 patrols within her first five years in commission. Originally, SSBN- 628 was named William Penn but was renamed on April 11, 1962. Her new name would be to honor a Shawnee Indian chief- Tecumseh


Tecumseh was a renowned warrior who devoted his life to preserving his tribe and protecting them from the advancement of white settlers. He believe that land in North America, especially the Ohio Valley belonged to its tribal ancestors, thus finding that any sale of territory to be invalid.  Fighting for the British in the War of 1812, Tecumseh would die at the Battle of the Thames in 1813. Circumstances surrounding his death are still unclear with multiple stories and multiple people claiming to have taken the Shawnee chiefs life.  Tecumseh’s life long goal was to keep tribal lands with their rightful owners. He promoted tribal unity and believed that the land belonged to them collectively.  After his death, the remaining land east of the Mississippi River would be ceded to the U.S. government giving up any hope of retaining control of the Old Northwest Territory. His dream of a pan-Indian confederation would not be realized until 1944. After his death, Tecumseh took on folk status. A statue of the Shawnee chief stands today at the United States Naval Academy.  It is said that if a midshipmen is looking for luck, they will provide an offering of pennies to Tecumseh while not stepping on the USNA seal, which Tecumseh’s stature guards. It is said that

Statue of Tecumseh at the United States Naval Academy

The original wooden figure was salvaged from the ship-of-the-line Delaware, which was sunk Union forces in 1861 at the Norfolk Navy Yard to prevent her falling into Confederate hands. Brought to the Naval Academy in 1866, the figurehead was intended to portray Tamanend, the revered Delaware chief who welcomed William Penn to America when he arrived in Delaware territory in 1682.When the wooden bust arrived, midshipmen widely referred to the statue as several other names, such as Powhatan, King Phillip and finally Tecumseh, in reference to the brave and skillful Shawnee warrior.[1]

After being decommissioned in 1993, Tecumseh had her two starboard torpedo tubes transferred to the U.S. Naval Undersea Museum for installation in there torpedo exhibit. As a James Madison- class sub, she held four Mark 65 torpedo tubes. Most weapons are usually launched hydraulically but the Mark 65 had a swim out capability that allowed a weapon to leave the tube under its own power.

The insignia for SSBN-628 was adopted in 1963. According to Naval History and Heritage Command:

Its design ties the life of Tecumseh with the mission of the ship that bears his name. The insignia’s background is in the shape of an Indian arrowhead, and also represents the United States Shield. The panther symbolizes one translation of the name Tecumseh: “Crouching Panther.” The crossed Polaris and Indian items are placed in the shape of the British Union Jack, while the Fleur-De-Lis Represents France. Both nations had great influence on the Northern Indians and are present day allies of the United States. The motto stands for both Tecumseh’s attempts to unite the tribes against the white setters, and the unity of NATO today.[1]

[1] https://www.history.navy.mil/our-collections/photography/numerical-list-of-images/nhhc-series/nh-series/NH-65000/NH-65727-KN.html

[1] http://usnhistory.navylive.dodlive.mil/2016/08/26/annapoliss-relics-of-luck/

The Men With the Unbreakable Code

The Code Talkers of World War II

My wartime experiences developing a code that utilized the Navajo language taught how important our Navajo culture is to our country. For me that is the central lesson: that diverse cultures can make a country richer and stronger. – Chester Nez, Navajo Code Talker

Carl Gorman- Navajo


 Gorman joined the United States Marine Corps in 1942 when he learned they were recruiting Navajos. He went through all the difficult training and was one of the original 29 Navajos who were given the secret mission of developing the Navajo code. Carl answered one of his officers who had asked why Navajos were able to memorize the complex code so quickly: “For us, everything is memory, it’s part of our heritage. We have no written language. Our songs, our prayers, our stories, they’re all handed down from grandfather to father to children—and we listen, we hear, we learn to remember everything. It’s part of our training.” (Power of a Navajo: Carl Gorman, the Man and His Life, by Henry and Georgia Greenberg,1996) Carl served in four important Pacific battles: Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Tinian, and Saipan. In 1942, Carl was stricken by Malaria, a severe tropical disease, yet he continued to fight. In 1944, Carl was evacuated from Saipan suffering both from the effects of Malaria and shell shock. Shell shock is the psychological effects of being in extremely stressful and dangerous situations, such as combat. Malaria is an infectious disease caused by a parasite spread through the bite of a mosquito. Malaria was a common disease in the Pacific islands where much of the war against Japan was fought. He had to be hospitalized and took many months to recover. [1]

Charles Chibitty- Comanche

“Well, I was afraid and if I didn’t talk to the Creator, something was wrong. Because when you’re going to go in battle, that’s the first thing you’re going to do, you’re going to talk to the Creator.—Charles Chibitty, Comanche Code Talker, National Museum of the American Indian interview, 2004

Charles Chibitty was one of 17 Comanche men who served as Code Talkers in World War II. In 1941, when he learned that Comanches were being recruited to speak their language, he volunteered for the United States Army. Mr. Chibitty helped develop the code that the Comanches used and participated in some of the fiercest fighting of the war, including the D-Day landing in Normandy. He attained the rank of Corporal.


Chester Nez- Navajo

Chester Nez was in 10th grade at the time that the military began recruiting Navajo code talkers. He became one of the first 29 men chosen to join the 382 Platoon- the all Native American Unit of the Marines. At the end of the war, Nez reenlisted and served in Korea. He retired in 1974 after 25 years of service. Until 1968, Nez was unable to tell anyone, including his family, about his contributions during WWII. In 2014, he came the last of the original 29 code talkers to pass away, at the age of 93.  Nez said of his time in the war, “When bombs dropped, generally we code talkers couldn’t just curl up in a shelter,” Nez wrote in his book. “We were almost always needed to transmit information, to ask for supplies and ammunition, and to communicate strategies. And after each transmission, to avoid Japanese fire, we had to move.”[1]  He also stated that “Our Navajo code was one of the most important military secrets of World War II. The fact that the Marines did not tell us Navajo men how to develop that code indicated their trust in us and in our abilities. The feeling that I could make it in both the white world and the Navajo world began there, and it has stayed with me all of my life. For that I am grateful.”[2]

Joe Housteen Kellwood- Navjao

Kellwood was born in Arizona in 1921 and would later be sent to a school on an Apache reservation run by the US military. He would enlist in the Marine Corps after reading about the efforts in the Battle of Guadalcanal. He was unaware of the top-secret code talkers’ programs when he enlisted. During his training he learned Morse code, radio and of course the Navajo codes.  After the war, Kellwood would settle in Sunnyslope, Arizona. He was extremely close with his brother Roy who also served – in the US Army Air Force. Joe passed away only three days after his brother Roy in 2016. Roy’s son said of his father and uncle “They were Navajo warriors – that’s what everyone calls them. They defended the country, not just for the US, but for the Navajo nation and the Navajo people.” [1]

Frank Sanache- Meskwaki

The eight Meskwaki code talkers – Edward Benson, Dewey Roberts, Frank Sanache, Willard Sanache, Melvin Twin, Judy Wayne Wabaunasee, Mike Wayne Wabaunasee and Dewey Youngbear

Frank Sanache was one of eight Meskwakis trained to use code in World War II. The Meskwaki tribe is based in Tama County and was among the 18 tribes that contributed code talkers in the war. Sanache unfrotantly had little opportunity to use his language skills after being shipped to North Africa were there were few Meskwaki code talkers for him to work with. He was captured after just five months at war and would spend 28 months as a prisoner of war. Describing his time as a POW, Sanache said A cup of hot water in the morning for coffee. A little bowl of soup at noon, then two potatoes at night. That’s what you live on. That’s what I lived on for three years.—Frank Sanache, Meskwaki Code Talker (discussing the meals provided for him as a prisoner of war), National Museum of the American Indian interview, 2004[1] In 2013, the eight Meskwaki Code talkers were posthumously awarded the  Congressional Gold Medal.

This is only a small list of those that served.

[1] https://americanindian.si.edu/education/codetalkers/html/chapter4.html

[1] https://www.cnn.com/2016/09/07/us/navajo-code-talker-joe-hosteen-kellwood-obit/

[1] http://inamerica.blogs.cnn.com/2011/12/04/decoding-history-a-world-war-ii-navajo-code-talker-in-his-own-words/

[2] http://inamerica.blogs.cnn.com/2011/12/04/decoding-history-a-world-war-ii-navajo-code-talker-in-his-own-words/


[1] https://americanindian.si.edu/education/codetalkers/html/chapter4.html

The Code Talkers of WWII

November is Native American Heritage month and the Navy is celebrating the achievements of American Indians and Alaskan natives within its ranks. As of June 2018, they make up 2.3% of the Navy’s total force. In World War II, 44,000 served in the armed forces, 15,000 in Korea and more than 42,000 in Vietnam. One of the most notable stories about their contributions is that of the code talkers in World War II. These code talkers and their code remained secret until 1968.
During the height of the war in the Pacific, Japanese troops were intercepting messages sent by American forces. It wasn’t until after the war that the Japanese admitted that they were unable to break the Navajo code used by the Marine Corps. Navajo code talkers took part in every major assault that the Marines conducted in the Pacific. The idea to use native code talkers came from a son of a missionary to the Navajos, Philip Johnston. Raised on a Navajo reservation, he was one of a few outside of the tribe who spoke the language fluently. While many believe that the Navajo code talkers were the first, Johnston knew of Native American languages used during World War I to encode messages.
Why was the Navajo code so unbreakable? Its syntax and dialects make it unintelligible to anyone without extensive training and exposure. There is no alphabet or symbols and at the start of WWII, less than 30 non-Navajos could understand the language. Within two weeks of being given permission to do a trial run, Johnston had assembled four Navajos to meet his superiors to perform a demonstration. Johnston told his commanding officers that despite many Navajo’s to recruit, their reservation was isolated and largely inaccessible land. Their language was preserved with theme truly unbreakable to outsiders. According to archives.gov, prior to the demonstration on February 28, 1942,” General Vogel had installed a telephone connection between two offices and had written out six messages that were typical of those sent during combat. One of those messages read, ‘Enemy expected to make tank and dive bomber attack at dawn.’ The Navajos transmitted the message almost verbatim.” A week later, Vogel recommended the initial recruitment of two hundred Navajos for the Pacific Fleet. Vogel was impressed by the fact that the language was completely unintelligible by other tribes and the larger public. He was also impressed by the fact that it was also one of the few tribes that had not been infiltrated by Germany posing as students and art dealers.

Figure 1 First 29 Navajo U.S. Marine Corps code-talker recruits being sworn in at Fort Wingate, NM, in 1942. (National Archives Identifier) 295175
Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/world/last-of-original-group-of-navajo-code-talkers-dies/article/385626#ixzz5WCzRzEHT

The Navajo code talkers were required to attend basic training and meet strict linguistic qualifications in English and Navajo. On May 5, 1942, the first twenty-nine Navajos arrived in San Diego for basic training. After training, they moved to Fleet Marine Training Center at Camp Elliott where the first Navajo code was created. The code was 211 words- Navajo terms that were given new military meanings. There was also a system that signified the twenty-six letters of English alphabet. The program would go on to be so successful that an additional two hundred Navajos were recruited. As the program grew, so did the code. The original 211 vocabulary would eventually expand to 411. Into 1943, an additional 303 Navajos were recruited at 50 men a month for six months. The primary strength of the code talkers was the amount of secrecy and versatility with which they could be used. Capt. Ralph J. Sturkey called the code “the simplest, fastest, and most reliable means.” It is estimated that between 375 and 420 Navajos served as code talkers. Official Marine Corps records contain very few battle reports related to the code talkers, due in part of keeping their code secret. The code talkers served in all six Marine divisions earning praise for their work in the Solomons and the Marianas and on Peleliu. Operations in Iwo Jima were completely directed by Navajo Code. Fifth Marine Division Signal Officer Major Howard Conner said that “During the two days that followed the initial landings I had six Navajo radio nets working around the clock…They sent and received over 800 messages without an error. Were it not for the Navajo Code Talkers, the Marines never would have taken Iwo Jima.”

Figure 2 President George W. Bush presented the Congressional Gold Medal to Navajo code talkers on July 26, 2001. (White House Photo Office)

After the war, the Navajo code talkers went unrecognized. Unlike other veterans, they returned home on buses without parades and were sworn to secrecy in case the Navajo code was ever to be needed again. In 1992, an exhibit was created at the Pentagon in order to recognize the contributions of code talkers. Thirty-five code talkers attended the dedication of the exhibit which includes photographs, equipment, and the original code. In the summer of 2001, twenty-nine Navajo code talkers received the Congressional Gold Medal with others receiving the Congressional Silver Medal. A large committee from the Navajo nation came to support those who were receiving the awards. Many of the recipients were wearing their Navajo Code Talkers Association regalia. Five of the original twenty- nine code talkers were still alive at the time of the ceremony. Family members represented those that had already passed. Those present were Allen June, Lloyd Oliver, Chester Nez, and John Brown, Jr. Members of Congress shared their gratitude to the code talkers with President Bush saying that these men “who, in a desperate hour, gave their country a service only they could five.”

Excerpts from the Navajo Code, Part 1; Folder 6, Box 5; History and Museums Division; Records Relating to Public Affairs; USMC Reserve and Historical Studies, 1942 – 1988; “C” Course to Wash. Daily News; Records of the US Marine Corps, Record Group 127, National Archives at College Park.

English Letter   Navaho Word        Meaning
A                       Wol-la-chee            Ant
B                        Shush                     Bear
C                       Moasi                       cat
D                          Be                         Deer
E                         Dzeh                        Elk
F                        Ma-e                        Fox
G                      Klizzie                       Goat
H                       Lin                           Horse
I                         Tkin                          Ice
J                      Tkele-cho-gi            Jackass
K                     Klizzie-yazzie              Kid
L                     Dibeh-yazzie             Lamb
M                  Na-as-tso-si               Mouse
N                   Nesh-chee                   Nut
O                   Ne-ahs-jah                  Owl
P                     Bi-so-dih                     Pig
Q                    Ca-yeilth                   Quiver
R                       Gah                         Rabbit
S                     Dibeh                        Sheep
T                    Than-zie                     Turkey
U                   No-da-ih                      Ute
V               A-keh-di-glini                Victor
W                Gloe-ih                        Weasel
X                Al-an-as-dzoh                Cross
Y                   Tsah-as-zih                 Yucca
Z                Besh-do-gliz                   Zinc

English Word           Navaho Word          Meaning
Corps                           Din-neh-ih                Clan
Switchboard               Ya-ih-e-tih-ih            Central
Dive Bomber               Gini Chicken             Hawk
Torpedo Plane            Tas-chizzie               Swallow
Observation Plane        Me-as-jah                 Owl
Fighter plane               Da-he-tih-hi        Humming Bird
Bomber                           Jay-sho                Buzzard
Alaska                              Beh-hga            With-Winter
America                        Ne-he-Mah             Our Mother
Australia                       Cha-yes-desi            Rolled Hat
Germany                  Besh-be-cha-he            Iron Hat
Philippines                Ke-yah-da-na-lhe       Floating Land



The Legacy of Master Chief Carl Brashear

This story was originally posted in January on Naval History and Heritage Command site. It was written by Phillip Brashear the son of master diver Carl Brashear. 

Throughout mankind’s history, there have been stories of individuals who have overcome extremely difficult odds in order to showcase the true strength of the human spirit with amazing results.

Carl Maxie Brashear is one of those individuals who demonstrated unyielding tenacity to overcome his circumstances only to achieve his ultimate goal of becoming a United States Navy Master Diver.

Image courtesy of the U.S. Naval Undersea Museum.

My father is a true example of the American dream in the fact that whoever you are, or wherever you come from, anyone can achieve their dreams if they work hard and believe in themselves. I often say my father overcame his “Five Hurdles” to prove to the world that dreams do come true. My father overcame racism, poverty, illiteracy, physical disability, and alcoholism during his lifetime only to pass away with no malice in his heart and a feeling of accomplishment for his work.

Carl Brashear joined the military in 1948, only a few years after President Truman ruled that the military would not deter anyone from joining based on race. Even though President Truman officially desegregated the military, racism was a continued practice in society and the military. My father could only be an officer’s valet or some other menial-task person in the Navy. He joined with a limited education also. He was a seventeen year-old with an equivalent of an eighth-grade education at best. Being the son of a poor share-cropping family in rural Kentucky, his socio-economic class was an extra detriment to his success. With these obstacles already against him he still continued to press in the Navy.

One day he witnessed a diving exercise off the coast of Florida and instantly his desire was to become a Navy Diver. Of course this was unheard of during his day because the Navy would never send a minority to the Navy’s prestigious diving training. My father was not defeated by this apparent attitude of exclusion and wrote dozens of requests to enter diver training. One remarkable day, he did receive approval to attend the training, but before he was off to fulfill his dream, reality hit him in the face when he failed to qualify academically and had to wait to apply again. During his waiting period he studied and excelled in his knowledge in preparation of returning to the course. When he got the opportunity for a second chance, he was able to complete the course standards and was awarded the designation of Navy Diver despite going through a course of instruction that included death threats, isolation, name-calling and fistfights. He was the first of his race to attain that goal, but the struggles continued.

Image courtesy of the Brashear family.


Carl Brashear was an accomplished Navy Diver in the late 1950’s and made a name for himself as his career continued (Note: As he proved his skills as a diver, the respect fellow divers started to show him opened the door to creating bonds of friendship and inclusion with his peer group and the officers appointed over him), but in 1966, an incident occurred that would again alter my dad’s life and challenge his dreams.

Image courtesy of the U.S. Naval Undersea Museum.

Two Air Force planes were practicing in-flight refueling procedures off the coast of Spain when a mid-air collision destroyed both aircraft. One of the aircraft stored nuclear weapons onboard and one of the weapons was lost at sea. My father was part of the official Navy diving operations team sent to recover the lost warhead. During shipboard operations a cable snapped and ripped across the deck of the salvage ship, severing my father’s left leg, nearly killing him on the spot.

My father would endure his massive wound, numerous blood transfusions, ship transfer in rough seas and a helicopter trip just to get him stabilized for a trip home to Virginia. It was there at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital where he decided to get the leg amputated below the knee and continue his career.

Again my father was greeted with negative attitudes and disbelief, but with strength and patience he proved once again that a belief in something greater than himself would conquer any obstacle. This was the pivotal moment that would make him an American military hero and give him world fame as he regained his Navy diving privileges as an amputee. Rising to the top of his goal as a Master Diver in the Navy in 1970 was the icing on the cake.

As the rest of my father career winded down, the constant stress of putting his family second, coupled with the many obstacles he overcame with sheer determination proved to expose a weakness in his character. He began drinking heavily and at one point drove his car off of the pier at Little Creek Naval Base in Virginia Beach. After this incident, he entered a Navy substance abuse course for alcoholism and completed it shortly before his retirement in 1979.

In November of 2000, he was honored as the subject of a major Hollywood movie, “Men of Honor” starring Cuba Gooding Jr. in the leading role as Carl Brashear. Also in the movie was Robert DeNiro, Charlize Theron, Hal Holbrook and a host of other Hollywood notables.


Image courtesy of the Brashear family.


My father has many notable tributes and honors attached to his name like the USNS Carl Brashear (TAKE-7), the Carl Brashear Conference Center at Joint Base Little Creek/Ft. Story, a special edition luxury watch from Switzerland, and a newly dedicated Veterans Center in Radcliff, Kentucky. These and many other honors recognize the remarkable achievement of a man who proved to the world that with a grain of faith, mountains can be moved!!!

Editor’s Note: Phillip Brashear is a former Chief Warrant Officer 4 and Blackhawk Maintenance Test Pilot in the Virginia Army National Guard. He is a combat veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom from January 2006 through February 2007, and as part of Stabilization Force Ten in Bosnia-Herzegovina from October 2001 through April 2002.

WASHINGTON (Feb. 10. 2012) Army Chief Warrant Officer Phillip Brashear, son of Master Chief Carl Brashear, holds his father’s prosthetic leg as he speaks with a group about his fathers’ legacy. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Arif Patani/Released)

Original Story link: http://usnhistory.navylive.dodlive.mil/2018/01/16/overcoming-hurdles-the-legacy-of-master-chief-carl-brashear/?fbclid=IwAR1S9ZD7xj7haA6PEv_ILt19wmC1oDUdpzbGebv1l25xks4-qF16lscpsGs


WWII Veteran returns to service

This story originally appeared in the Cherokee Tribune and Ledger-News written by Margaret Waage (https://www.tribuneledgernews.com/local_news/call-of-duty-world-war-ii-veteran-returns-to-service/article_5e5a3cc2-c7d2-11e8-b52a-9b543fcfbf83.html)

At the age of 99, a Canton man was recalled to active duty with the U.S. Navy last week and reported to Port Canaveral, Florida.

Center, Captain Gerald Peddicord, a retired United States Naval officer and a proud veteran of the USS Indiana, is accompanied by his son Lieutenant Colonel Craig Peddicord, US Army (retired), at right, during the commissioning ceremony of the new Navy Virginia class submarine at Port Canaveral, Fl., on Sept. 29. The USS Indiana (SSN 789), the newest Virginia-class attack submarine which is the most modern and sophisticated in the world, was commissioned on Saturday, Sept. 29 at the Navy port at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Over 5,000 people attended. Florida Today/Tim Shortt

Capt. Gerald ‘Jerry’ Peddicord, who is looking forward to celebrating his 100th birthday on Nov. 16, was asked by the Navy to return to active duty and proceed under orders to attend the commissioning of the new Navy Virginia class submarine, the USS Indiana (SSN 789) held last Saturday.
“It’s a new ship and it’s never been operated until now,” Peddicord said. “I was surprised to hear from them and I think they contacted me when they found out I am the oldest living survivor of the battleship USS Indiana (BB-58) where I served and attended the commissioning of on April 19, 1942.”
The September 29th commissioning ceremony marks the acceptance of the submarine USS Indiana as a unit of the operating forces of Navy and is where its new crew takes over the ship.
Peddicord was accompanied by his son Lt. Col. Craig Peddicord, who is an Army retiree. Father and son live together in Canton. The latest Naval Academy’s monthly magazine Shipmate showed Peddicord listed as the fourteenth oldest living member of the Naval Academy.
From its initial naming June 22, 2012, to its commissioning last week, the submarine USS Indiana is the fourth ship to bear that name over the past 70 years.
Peddicord was 18 when he joined the Navy and served for a total of 33 years. “I was enlisted that’s how I got into the Navy. From the enlisted ranks, I joined the Naval Academy as a midshipman student.” Peddicord said. “They sped up our graduation because of World War II and we went to summer school. That put us to graduation six months early in Dec. 19, 1941.”
From there Peddicord went to M.I.T. and the naval research lab to learn basic radar. “Radar at that time was becoming operational. We haven’t always had radar,” Peddicord said. Peddicord was then ordered to the USS Indiana battleship which was also built at Newport News Shipbuilding, where he remained to April of 1994.
He went on an “island hopping” campaign to Japan, where he was in an active combat zone. “The water canal operations started in August of 1942 at Tarawa and Kwajalein, plus raids on three other islands,” Peddicord said.
Peddicord had flight training in Dallas, Texas, and then Pensacola, Florida for intermediate training, and then finished training at Daytona Beach, Florida.

PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. (Sept. 29, 2018) Capt. Gerald Peddicord (ret.), a plank owner on USS Indiana (BB 58), presents Lt. Keenan Coleman, the ships’ Weapons Officer and first Officer of the Deck, with the Long Glass prior to USS Indiana (SSN 789) setting the first watch. U.S. Navy’s 16th Virginia-class fast-attack submarine and the third ship named for the State of Indiana. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeffrey M. Richardson/Released)

“Every pilot had to make eight qualifications landings aboard an aircraft carrier ship before earning their wings,” Peddicord said. “I had to land on a converted ferry boat for my qualifications. You’ve heard the expression ‘God is my co-pilot,’ well God was my co-pilot my whole life. He was with me all the way. I came so close to being killed so many times.” On March 25, 1945, Peddicord received his wings becoming a naval aviator. During the commissioning ceremony Peddicord, assisted in setting the first watch by passing the “long glass” – a telescope – to Indiana’s first Officer of the Deck, Lt Cmdr. Jeremy Leazer.

The crew of the USS Perch (SS-176)

USS Perch (SS-176) was a Porpoise-class submarine and the first ship in the US Navy to be named for the Perch. She was commissioned in 1936 in Groton CT. She became a member of the Pacific Fleet in November 1937 joining Submarine Squadron 6.
In 1942, the USS Perch was dispatched to the Java Sea. In the middle of the night on March 1, she was spotted and hit by depth charges. Despite the quick crash dive, she was badly damaged. Crewmembers found electrical grounds, battery issues and a severe leak in the engine room. A test dive was attempted on March 3 but the leaks forced the crew to return to the surface. The damage was too severe to route and escape. Spotted again by Japanese’s destroyers and unable to launch torpedoes, the decision was made for the diesel submarine to be scuttled. The crew was ordered off the boat and the Perch was lost to the sea. The entire crew of the Perch would be picked up by Japanese ships and become POW’s for the remainder of WWII. In Stephen Jackson’s book “The Men” the ordeal of the crew of the Perch is documented by one of its survivors Ernie Plantz.

“The prisoners were offloaded and marched, many barefoot, through the streets of Makassar. This city is almost on the equator, and the blacktop streets were hot enough to burn, blister, and bleed, and their feet suffered in the column of marching men…..The remaining enlisted men marched to a former Dutch army training came that the Japanese had made into a detention facility for Allied prisoners. The Perch men were not the only Americans to be interred here. Survivors of the USS Pope (DD 225), a World War I-era four-star destroyer, were also brought to the camp. The Pope had been sunk of March 1 as part of the same battle that claimed the Perch, a battle that was later called the Battle of the Java Sea.”

“How does one go about describing such and experience? When privation, loss of liberty, starvation, disease, cruelty, and torture are the norm, the only experiences that significantly deviate from that norm are noteworthy. The prison camp experience for these sailors was one of the slow erosion of physical health and mental stability punctuated by moments of violence, brutality, and rarely, pleasure. The men who found themselves trapped in this nightmare kept alive and kept together because they kept the faith with each other. They made the best of it, bartered with the locals when they could, stole from the Japanese when the opportunities arose, and stayed true to their shipmates, their prison mates, and their country.”

“Then one day, a day like any other of the one thousand, two hundred and ninety-seven days that had preceded it, the prisoners were called to assembly by the Japanese’s guards. Plantz recalled the joy and the irony of that day : They called us together and announced to us that the war was over and that the Americans had won. And they wanted to shake hands, ‘Now we’re friends.’ These were the same bastards that beat you and starved you for three and a half years, because we kept the same guards from beginning to end. They wanted to shake hands and be friends. Needless to say, nobody did. Plantz and the men would spend another month in the camp due in part the logistics of removing the remaining number of prisoners from the remote island, but initially because nobody knew they were there. Absent the report or confirmation from another Allied ship, the Perch had been assumed lost with all hands back in 1942.”

“Of the over three thousand men initially imprisoned at the Makassar camp, only about a thousand remained when the war ended….The crew of the Perch made out quite well, losing only six shipmates during their incarceration out of a crew of fifty-nine.”

U.S.S. Perch (SS-176)
Crew List
Alboney, Francis
Arnette, Elbert H.
**Atkeison, Warren Ingram
Berridge, Robert C.
Boersma, Sidney H
Bolden, Sidney
Bolton, Vernon
*Brown, Charles N.
Byrnes, Thomas F., Jr.
Clevinger, Gordon B.
Crist, Daniel
Cross, Charles L., Jr.
Dague, Lawrence W.
Deleman, Bernard
*Dewes, Philip J
Earlywine, Roland I.
Earlywine, Virgil E.
*Edwards, Houston E.
Evans, Roger W.
Fajotina, Alejo
Foley, Joseph A.
Gill, Benjamin S.
Goodwine, Calvin E.
**Greco, John
Harper, Earl R.
Henderson, Henry C.
Hurt, David A.
Kerich, Thomas L.
Klecky, Rudolph
Lents, Robert W.
McCray, James G.
*McCreary, Frank E.
Monroe, Elmo P.
Moore, Thomas
*Newsome, Albert K.
Normand, Joseph R.
Orlyk, Stephen M.
**Osborne, Robert Willis
Pedersen, Victor S.
Peters, Orvel V.
Plantz, Ernest V.
Reh, Theodore J.
Richter, Paul R., Jr.
Robison, Jesse H.
Roth, E.J.
Ryder, John F.
Sarmiento, Macario
Scacht, Kenneth G.
Schaefer, Gilbert E.
Simpson, Samuel F.
Stafford, Frankland F., Jr.
Taylor, Glenn E.
Turner, Marion M.
Van Buskirk, Beverly R.
Van Horn, Edward
Vandergrift, Jacob J.
Walton, Felix B.
Webb, James F.
Welch, Freeman
Wilcox, Myron O.
*Wilson, Robert A.
Winger, Ancil W.
Wright, Ray N.
Yates, Henry S.

Note: *Brown, Dewes, Edwards, McCreary, Newsome and Wilson died as Prisoner of War and **Note: Atkeison, Greco, and Osborne were mistakenly included in the 1963 edition. All three survived the loss of the boat and were taken, prisoner. Atkeison and Osborne were liberated from a prisoner of war camp on 17 September 1945, and Greco was liberated on 21 September 1945. (https://www.history.navy.mil/research/library/online-reading-room/title-list-alphabetically/u/united-states-submarine-losses/perch-ss-176.html)

This is only one story of the thousands of American men who were captured during WWII. Their stories and names will always be remembered.

Stephen Jackson’s book The Men and Trial and Triumph (An interview with Ernie Plantz) can be purchased at the museum gift shop’s online store. 




The third Friday in September is recognized as POW/MIA Day. The following is from Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division
The POW/MIA flag, made official by Congress in 1990, may be flown six days a year, smaller and always below the United States flag: Armed Forces Day (third Saturday in May); Memorial Day (last Monday in May); Flag Day (June 14); Independence Day (July 4); National POW/MIA Recognition Day (third Friday in September), and Veterans’ Day (Nov. 11).The day of recognition was created in the 1998 Defense Authorization Act, stating the annual event “honors prisoners of war and our missing and their families, and highlights the government’s commitment to account for them.”And yet thousands remain unaccounted: World War II has at least 73,000 missing plus those lost at sea; 7,500 from the Korean War, 1,600 from Vietnam, 126 during the clandestine operations of the Cold War years, and two from Desert Storm. Both of those missing are Navy pilots whose planes went down in the Persian Gulf: Lt. Cmdr. Barry T. Cooke, flying an A-6 aircraft on Feb. 2, 1991, followed by Lt. Robert J. Dwyer, in his FA-18 aircraft on Feb. 5, 1991.
If you’ve ever been to a military ball, stepped inside a chow hall, or attended an event at a military veterans association in your local community, you’ve likely noticed the small, round table that is always set but never occupied—the prisoners of war/missing in action (POW/MIA) table.
The tradition of setting a separate table in honor of our prisoners of war and missing comrades has been in place since the end of the Vietnam War. The manner in which this table is decorated is full of special symbols to help us remember our brothers and sisters in arms. Those symbols are spelled out in OPNAVINST 1710.7A.
The POW/MIA table is smaller than the others, symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner alone against his or her oppressors. This table is separate from the others and can be set for one to four place settings to represent each service participating in the event.
The white tablecloth draped over the table represents the purity of their response to our country’s call to arms.
The empty chair depicts an unknown face, representing no specific Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine, but all who are not here with us.
The table itself is round to show that our concern for them is never ending.
The Bible represents faith in a higher power and the pledge to our country, founded as one nation under God.
The black napkin stands for the emptiness these warriors have left in the hearts of their families and friends. A Purple Heart medal can be pinned to the napkin.
The single red rose reminds us of their families and loved ones. The red ribbon represents the love of our country, which inspired them to answer the nation’s call.
The yellow candle and its yellow ribbon symbolize the everlasting hope for a joyous reunion with those yet accounted for.
The slices of lemon on the bread plate remind us of their bitter fate.
The salt upon the bread plate represent the tears of their families.
The wine glass, turned upside down, reminds us that our distinguished comrades cannot be with us to drink a toast or join in the festivities of the evening.

The significance of the POW/MIA table is called to attention during the toast of the evening. This is an important part of many military banquets to remind us that the strength of those who fight for our country often times rests in the traditions that are upheld today.


LA Class Submarines

Submarine classes are simple designations. They are a group of ships built to the same base blueprint with few differences between the ships. Classes are usually named after the first ship in the class. Changes will happen over time to the design, but they are usually modifications of the base model. A new class of submarines occurs when a completely different base blueprint is used to design a submarine rather than a simple modification. But what brings a new submarine design to life? In the case of the Los Angeles class, an event between a surface ship and a Soviet submarine led to a new class of submarine- the 688.
In January 1968, the USS Enterprise was coming out of San Francisco Bay on its way to Vietnam. Just outside of U.S waters, a Soviet trawler was patrolling. Thankfully for the Enterprise, Navy intelligence had warned her of its presence.

Figure 1 USS Enterprise https://www.history.navy.mil/browse-by-topic/ships/enterprise.html

As the Enterprise inched closer, the Soviet trawler sent out a signal that was intercepted by intelligence. That could only mean one thing – a Soviet nuclear attack submarine was in the area. This encounter, while inexplosive or newsworthy, was a sign of a new type of warfare. When the Washington Post described it, they said, “Unlike the war going on in Vietnam, at sea there was no daily carnage, no body bags, nor even any causal ties. It was a war not covered by the media, blacked out as it was by layers of classification, but it was a war nonetheless, one in which nuclear submarines hunted each other throughout the oceans —stalking, aiming and firing imaginary torpedoes as practice for the day when it all could be real.” But this simple encounter paved the way for a new submarine design, one that could outweigh that of the Soviet Navy. While the Los Angeles Class of submarines proved to have numerous problems, it doesn’t change the fact that Admiral Rickover and his nuclear navy was always striving to make a stronger, more stealth submarine force.
Rickover was one of the first to hear the report of the Soviet submarine off the coast of California that January. Rickover knew that the United States would have to do something about the Soviets. They were building nuclear subs at an unprecedented rate. While their submarines might have been faster, the quick delivery of the fleet was leading to faulty ships and numerous problems. Nonetheless, it was a concern to Rickover and the United States. At this time, speed was the name of the game. In order to do this, development of compact high-energy nuclear reactors would be needed. Since 1964, Rickover had secretly been working on adapting a large surface-ship reactor and propulsion plant for submarine use. The Enterprise encounter gave Rickover his opportunity to show the importance of increasing submarine speeds to his superiors. The Enterprise was given the order to race the Soviet submarine. As she gained speed, the Enterprise believed she would outrun the Soviet sub at top speed in no time. Two days later, the Soviet sub was still in pursuit of the surface ship. At this point, the submarine was breaking all known speed records for its type. This race was confirming some of the U.S. worst fears- the old submarine class in the Soviet Navy was faster than any of the U.S. Navy’s newest ones.
The opposition was quick to Rickover’s high-speed design. It was too large, too noisy and too expensive. A little over a month after the Enterprise incident, seven submarine commanders met in secret with Rickover to come up with America’s next new nuclear submarine. The SSN 688 was developed by this secret group in 90 days. The new design could set speeds of 32 knots. However, to gain this speed, diving depth was sacrificed. This was an issue that the committee thought would eventually be solved – it wasn’t. The idea was approved, and full design conception was awarded to Newport News. Despite depth sacrifice, the Los Angeles class improved the fleet’s acoustic performance and led to a new knowledge of sound and speed. This led to the development of the Seawolf class.

Figure 2 Figure 3 http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-7EH3bXqk2_8/VFfF-qLy5PI/AAAAAAAAFJA/RUCat9WWakM/s1600/Los%2BAngeles-class%2Bsubmarine%2BFlight%2BI.jpg

As of 2018, 40 of the Los Angeles class submarines are still in service. The class has more active nuclear submarine than any other. The boats are all named after American towns and cities except for the USS Hyman G. Rickover. These namings were a departure from the tradition of naming attack submarines for ocean creatures. The actual top speed of the Los Angeles class is classified with official records saying over 25 knots. The maximum operating depth is 650ft but of course, this information is also classified, with the diving depths probably being greater. The class carries about 25 torpedo tube launched weapons. Thirty of the boats are equipped with 12 vertical launch systems tubes for firing Tomahawk cruise misses. Two watertight compartments are used, the forward compartment being where the crew lives and equipped with weapons handling spaces and control spaces. The aft contains the engineering system, power generation turbines, and water-making equipment. In the modified 688 design, the 688i, the forward diving planes were moved from the sail to the bow. The sail was strengthened for ice penetration, a mine laying capability was added, and the combat system was improved. While the Los-Angeles class is the backbone of the submarine force, as they age out, they are being replaced by the Virginia class which is a more affordable platform while retaining the acoustic qualities of the Seawolf class.

General Characteristics, Los Angeles Class

Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding Co.; General Dynamics Electric Boat Division
Date Deployed: Nov. 13, 1976 (USS Los Angeles)
Propulsion: One nuclear reactor, one shaft
Length: 360 feet (109.73 meters)
Beam: 33 feet (10.06 meters)
Displacement: Approximately 6,900 tons (7011 metric tons) submerged
Speed: 25+ knots (28+ miles per hour, 46.3 +kph)
Crew: 16 Officers; 127 Enlisted
Armament: Tomahawk missiles, VLS tubes (SSN 719 and later), MK48 torpedoes, four torpedo tubes

USS Bremerton (SSN 698), Pearl Harbor, HI
USS Jacksonville (SSN 699), Pearl Harbor, HI
USS Dallas (SSN 700), Groton, CT
USS San Francisco (SSN 711), San Diego, CA
USS Buffalo (SSN 715), Pearl Harbor, HI
USS Olympia (SSN 717), Pearl Harbor, HI
USS Providence (SSN 719), Groton, CT
USS Pittsburgh (SSN 720), Groton, CT
USS Chicago (SSN 721), Guam
USS Key West (SSN 722), Guam
USS Oklahoma City (SSN 723), Guam
USS Louisville (SSN 724), Pearl Harbor, HI
USS Helena> (SSN 725), Norfolk, Va.
USS Newport News (SSN 750), Norfolk, VA
USS San Juan (SSN 751), Groton, CT
USS Pasadena (SSN 752), San Diego, CA
USS Albany (SSN 753), Norfolk, VA
USS Topeka (SSN 754), Guam
USS Scranton (SSN 756), Norfolk, VA
USS Alexandria (SSN 757), Portsmouth, NH
USS Asheville (SSN 758), San Diego, CA
USS Jefferson City (SSN 759), Pearl Harbor, HI
USS Annapolis (SSN 760), Groton, CT
USS Springfield (SSN 761), Groton, CT
USS Columbus (SSN 762), Pearl Harbor, HI
USS Santa Fe (SSN 763), Pearl Harbor, HI
USS Boise (SSN 764), Norfolk, VA
USS Montpelier (SSN 765), Norfolk, VA
USS Charlotte (SSN 766), Pearl Harbor, HI
USS Hampton (SSN 767), San Diego, CA
USS Hartford (SSN 768), Groton, CT
USS Toledo (SSN 769), Groton, CT
USS Tucson (SSN 770), Pearl Harbor, HI
USS Columbia (SSN 771), Pearl Harbor, HI
USS Greeneville (SSN 772), Pearl Harbor, HI
USS Cheyenne (SSN 773), Pearl Harbor, HI

List from US Navy website. https://www.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=4100&tid=100&ct=4Last updated April 2017

Washington Post quote from https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1986/09/21/the-rise-and-fall-of-the-ssn-688/dc657615-8270-4c71-89c8-e546f596e3ae/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.cd4c2dfa361a

Benitez and the Cochino

September 15th marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month. In honor of recognizing the feats of Hispanics in the Navy, we start with the story of CDR Rafael Benitez and his courageous crew on board the USS Cochino in 1949.

On the morning of 25 August 1949, during a training cruise north of the Arctic Circle, the submarine Cochino (SS-345), in company with Tusk (SS-426), attempted to submerge to snorkel depth in the Barents Sea, but the crashing waves played havoc with these efforts. At 1048, a muffled thud rocked Cochino and news of a fire in the after battery compartment quickly passed through the boat. A second explosion soon followed and CDR Rafael Benitez, the commanding officer, ordered all of the crew not on watch or fighting fires topside. During this orderly evacuation, however, Seaman J. E. Morgan fell overboard. The 48° water and the swells created by the 20 to 25 mph winds rapidly exhausted the sailor, so Chief Torpedoman’s Mate Hubert H. Rauch dove into the chilly sea to keep him afloat before Culinary Specialist Clarence Balthrop pulled him to safety.
At 1123, another explosion badly burned LCDR Richard M. Wright, the executive officer, and left him temporarily in a state of shock, as he moved to sever the connection between the after and forward batteries on board Cochino to stem the generation of dangerous hydrogen gas. Thanks in part to a safety line run by LT (j.g.) Charles Cushman, Jr., by 1208, 60 men huddled, cold and wet, on the bridge and deck of the submarine. Almost all of them had not had time to dress properly for the stormy weather. It was no better for those who remained below, as men began to pass out from the gas and toxic smoke. At 1230, Tusk attempted to come alongside, but the swells and wind made this nearly impossible, but she did manage to send needed medical supplies to Cochino by raft.

CDR Benitez decided that he needed get word of the dire conditions on board to Tusk and the Commander, Submarine Development Group Two. Aware of the perils that awaited him, ENS John Shelton agreed to make the attempt as did a civilian engineer on board, Mr. Robert Philo. After receiving confirmation of Philo’s desire to make the journey, CDR Benitez ordered the men lowered into the angry sea, but their raft immediately overturned. Sailors from Tusk pulled Shelton and Philo alongside as they desperately clung to the raft, but the waves that swept across the submarine prevented them being brought on board. Seaman Norman Walker jumped into water to help both men onto Tusk, but not before the waves slammed Philo’s head against the hull. By this time, fifteen men from that submarine stood on the deck handling lines and attempting to resuscitate Philo, when an unusually large wave broke one of the lifelines and swept eleven members of the Tusk crew and the still unconscious Philo overboard. In addition to Philo, the sea claimed the lives of six of Tusk’s crew including Electrician’s Mate John Guttermuth whose inflatable life jacket had burst upon hitting the water which left only his boots inflated as he attempted to save the unconscious Fireman Robert F. Brunner, Jr. He fought desperately to keep his head above water, but eventually drowned in the frigid sea with his boots still visible above the water. A kinder fate awaited LT (j.g.) Philip Pennington when LCDR George Cook dove over the side to pluck him from the unruly waves. Of two life rafts thrown to those who been swept overboard, one was recovered empty, but the other contained Torpedoman’s Mate Raymond Reardon who suffered gravely from exposure to the elements. Engineman Henry McFarland entered the water but could not reach the raft then Seaman Raymond Shugar overcame the raging waters long enough to attach a line to Reardon who was subsequently rescued.
By 1800, Cochino had regained power and signaled Tusk that she could make ten knots but had no steering. It appeared the crippled boat might make it back to Norway. However, at 2306 she suffered a fatal blow in the form of yet another battery explosion. Tusk loosed her ready torpedoes then transferred the 76 officers and men from the stricken submarine. CDR Benitez, the last to leave Cochino, departed only minutes before the boat slipped beneath the waves. These selfless acts of heroism provide an example of the dedication and comradery that animates our submariners. Only their bravery and professionalism kept the tragic toll from being far higher. (Story taken from https://www.navalhistory.org/2010/08/25/the-loss-of-the-uss-cochino-ss-345)

Benitez, just like any captain, made sure the rest of his crew went to safety before saving his own life. According to a New York Times article about his death, Benitez, before jumping to safety, said, ”I’m not abandoning ship.” The plank they were using to escape to the Tusk was about to shatter when he crossed. Two minutes later and 15 hours after the fire had broken out, Cochino would be lost to the ocean. Both crews did everything they could that day. The trip to port after the accident was a somber one as they remembered those that were lost. When finally on land, the crew of the Cochino was asked to fly home or ride cramped, with the crew of the Tusk back home. The crew, submariners through and through, went home with the crew of the Tusk. Benitez, a native of Puerto Rico, would continue to serve in the Navy until 1959. The heroism of both crews will forever be remembered as well as those who lost their lives on that fateful day.

Navy Tattoo Culture

One image that often comes to mind in popular culture about sailors is tattoos. This popular image is rooted in centuries of nautical traditions. Beginning with the British Royal Navy in the 1700’s during their Tahitian voyages, British sailors were intrigued by the body art that the native Tahitians displayed. Eventually, the body art would travel to American sailors, where being tattooed became a permanent part of the maritime culture. During the American Revolution, the British often destroyed American citizenship papers, so sailors would tattoo their identification information to avoid illegal recruiting by the British Navy. By the mid-19th century. Many sailors would become amateur tattoo artists, using India ink to keep busy during down times in long voyages. “Shops” were set up wherever and whenever it was possible. Port towns became havens for tattoo businesses. It is said that Franklin Paul Rogers, known for his development of modern tattooing machinery, learned the trade from August Coleman who made a living in Norfolk, Virginia tattooing sailors.

A sailor getting a tattoo during WWII on the USS New Jersey https://pugetsoundnavymuseum.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/nara-2sailorswwiinewjersey.jpg

Early maritime tattoo designs were usually initials, names, and nautical symbols. Many of these symbols represented unique aspects of life on the high seas. For example, a sailor with a tattoo of a full-rigged sailing ship had completed the journey around Cape Horn. During the Civil War, tattoos of the clash between USS Monitor and CSS Virginia could be found being on sailor’s arms. After WWI, tattooing lost some of its social acceptance in America but remained popular in the military. They came to represent the places sailors had been. Dragons for Asia or Hulu girls for Hawaii. Some got a swallow for every 5,000 miles sailed.

In addition to indicating that a sailor had sailed 5000 miles, swallow tattoos are also associated with the idea of return. This “return” symbolism is rooted in two ideas. The first was the swallow’s famous migration pattern, always returning home to San Juan Capistrano. Second, it was believed that if a sailor dies at sea, birds carry his soul home to heaven. https://sailorjerry.com/en/tattoos/

In addition, it would not be the Navy without some superstition and tradition. Some sailors believed that tattooing a pig and a rooster on each foot would prevent them from drowning. During WWII, popular tattoos were symbols that reminded the sailors of the homes they had left behind. Names of girlfriends and wives or a hometown symbol. It was during this period that the popular pinup girl tattoos and mermaids became common. According to statistics, 65% of WWII sailors had tattoos, the highest of any of the military branches. The connection between the Navy and tattoos became so widely known that a song in the film There’s No Business Like Show Business references it:

Sailor’s Not A Sailor (’till A Sailor’s Been Tattooed) sung by Mitzi Gaynor and Ethel Merman
[Merman] I’m an old salt
[Gaynor] I’m a young salt
[Both] In the Navy we’ve been working very hard
[Merman] I was part of the Flotilla with Dewey in Manila
[Gaynor] I’m a new recruit at the Brooklyn Navy yard
[Both] Tonight we’re on a spree and feeling flow’ry
We’ve got a date with gals and drink and food
[Gaynor] Across the Brooklyn bridge and to the Bow’ry
[Merman] And I’m gonna get the kid tattooed
[Gaynor] Tattooed?
[Merman] Tattooed!
[Both] A sailor’s not a sailor ‘til a sailor’s been tattooed
[Merman] Here’s an anchor from a tanker
That I sailed upon when first I went to sea
Here’s another of my mother
Takes me back to when I sat upon her knee
Here’s a crimson heart with a Cupid’s dart
Here’s a Battle Cruiser and when I sit down
On that, too
There’s a tattoo
Of my hometown
[Gaynor] To the Bow’ry
[Merman] To the Bow’ry
[Gaynor] ‘Cross the Brooklyn Bridge and I’m just in the mood
[Merman] He’ll be filled with diff’rent mixtures
And covered up with pictures
[Gaynor] I can’t wait to be, ‘twill be great to be tattooed
[Merman] Tattooed?
[Gaynor] Tattooed!
[Both] A sailor’s not a sailor ‘till a sailor’s been tattooed

The superstition behind this tattoo has to do with the wooden cages where roosters and pigs were kept in on ships. When ships wrecked, the lightweight wooden frames became personal flotation devices, giving them a surprising survival rate. A sailor hoping for good luck would get a rooster tattoo on top of the right foot and a pig tattoo on top of the left.

Today’s booming tattoo culture has its maritime roots to thank. The connection of tattoos and sailors is so popular that in 2016, the US navy amended its policy on tattoos, considering 1 in 3 individuals were already sporting ink before joining. The new policy allowed neck tattoos, sleeves, and markings behind the ears. The only place off limits – a sailor’s head. When put in place, this policy was the most lenient of any of the branches. The change made many sailors happy, saying that higher officials were recognizing and accepting its own culture. In 2016, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Mike Stevens said, “We just got to the point where we realized we needed to be honest with ourselves and put something in place that was going to reflect the realities of our country and the needs of our navy. We need to make sure that we’re not missing any opportunities to recruit and retain the best and the brightest because of our policies.” Despite this easing in policy, tattoos that are Obscene, advocate discrimination or sexually explicit are still not allowed. The history of sailors and tattoos was documented in an exhibit at the Puget Sound Museum from 2015-2017 called “Skin Deep: The Nautical Roots of Tattoo Culture.” Tattoos will always be a part of Navy culture. Whether a sailor has ink or not- there is no denying its place in Navy traditions.

At sea, the anchor is the most secure object in a sailor’s life, making it the perfect representation of stability. This is why you’ll often see anchor tattoos emblazoned with “Mom” or the name of a sailor’s sweetheart (the people who keep them grounded). Anchors have become popular within general tattoo culture over the years, but the symbolism is still the same. It’s a reminder of what keeps you steady. https://sailorjerry.com/en/tattoos/