|This is a collective attempt at recollection after the passing of a
half-century so any errors or omissions hopefully forgiven as "senior frailties". Much of this is
collective memory and is a compilation of boats in general. There is no pride of authorship so any
comments, additions, corrections and/or deletions are welcome and appreciated. This is merely a
historical comparison as best one can do and is in no way a negative reflection between "then and
There have been many major changes in the U.S. Naval Submarine Service since the WWII Diesel Boat Era.
It might be interesting historically to note some of them.
Pay and Pay Grades
Initially there were only seven pay grades (actually eight). They ran from one to seven with
Apprentice Seaman (AS) as seven, Seaman Second Class (S2/c) as six, Seaman First Class (S1/c) as five,
Petty Officer Third Class (e.g. MM3c) as four. Petty Officers Second Class and First Class as three
and two. Chief Petty Officers were initially promoted to A for one year (Acting Appointment) and then
to Chief Petty Officer as pay grade one. There was no Senior, Master or Command Chief, etc. The C for
Chief Petty Officers preceded the rate designation, for example CMM not MMC as today. For all of the
seaman ratings there was a comparable Fireman (F)
The Officers' rank structure has remained consistent with minor exceptions. During WWII a five star
Fleet Admiral rank was added and bestowed on Nimitz, Leahy and King. No one promoted to that rank
since WWII. Another thing there was no Commodore rank utilized In the Submarine Force. Officers were
promoted from Captain to Rear Admiral (lower half) and hence to Rear Admiral (upper half). The Rear
Admiral (Lower Half) temporarily replaced the Commodore rank. As it is custom to call any Commanding
Officer Captain it also was custom to call a Submarine Squadron Commander Commodore.
Before WWII an Apprentice Seaman's pay was $21.00 per month. Pays increased in WWII with Apprentice
Seaman to $50.00 per month and $136.00 per month for a Chief. All personnel on Submarines got 50%
submarine money and 20% sea duty pay. When added together added up to about 80% extra pay. The
calculation was done by first applying the 20% sea duty pay to your basic pay and then applying the
50% pay on top of that. Consequently, if a you were getting $100.00 per month he would get $20.00
added for sea duty making his pay $120. And when you added the 50% sub pay on top of that ($60.00) to
that it came our to an actual 80% increase to $180.00 per month. This caused some confusion and many
thought that the other 10% was somehow included and called this dive and/or dungaree pay).
If you were married and/or had dependents your pay was reduced by $28.00 per month the U.S. Navy
supplemented another $22.00 and your dependent was sent a monthly check for $50.00. Consequently, an
Apprentice Seaman would get $22.00 per month. However, enlisted personnel below pay grade four could
not marry without the permission of their Commanding Officer. This breached more often than observed
and obviously many entered the service married.
At one time the Navy Paymasters would pay personnel with $2.00 bills so that when spent it would
indicate to the local economy the impact of the service. Also when being paid by the Paymaster on
board a tender you would line up with your pay chit to draw your pay. When you reached the pay desk
you would salute the Paymaster, put your fingerprint on the pay chit and draw your money. There was a
posted pay list indicating what you had on the books and you could draw all or whatever amount you
Submarine and sea pay were a real boon especially when sea store cigarettes were six cents a pack and
a bottle of beer on Bank St. (New London) was twenty-five cents. Bank St. was wall to wall bars and Army/Navy
Uniform Stores. The largest bar was at the end of Bank St. (The Seven Lampareli Brothers). Later, when
your patrol ended, you came in off
patrol you would have back pay and be really flushed.
Due to rapid expansion of every aspect of the U.S. Navy, if you could cut the mustard, promotions were
rapidly forthcoming. Many a serving enlisted person was commissioned (called mustangs) or advanced in
rating because of the enormous need to fill billets in new construction and replace casualties.
Classes at the U.S. Naval Academy graduated early. Personnel with special qualifications were coming
into the service rated and/or commissioned. You could see a Chief Petty Officer with no hash marks.
These ratings were derided and called slick arms (no hash marks) and/or Tojo ratings by the
old-timers. Some enlisted personnel commissioned as regular line officers, Warrant Officers and
Limited Duty Officers (LDOs) in specific areas. Such commissions initially were considered temporary
with reversion back to their permanent grades at the conclusion of hostilities yet many actually
Ratings and Uniforms
They created many specialty ratings. If their Crow specialty designator was a diamond with a letter
inside, e.g., the letter A would be for a coach or professional athlete who would conduct physical
conditioning, etc. Most, if not all of these ratings, ceased to exist with the end of the war. Some
referred to these as square knot rates.
There were right and left arm rates. Right arm rates were considered as Sea Going Rates@ (BM, QM. GM.
SM, FC, TM, MN, etc) and the Crow was worn on the right arm. Left arm rates were ancillary MM, Y, EM,
RM, MoMM, ET, etc. Right arm rates were senior to left arm ratings. There was no Boatswain Mate Third
Class they were called Coxswains.
Seamen and Firemen wore a watch stripe round the shoulder, right shoulder and white for seamen, left
shoulder and red for firemen. There were other colors of Watch Stripes for aviation, CBs, etc.
Indication of rate was on uniform cuffs. One white for AS/FA, two for S2c/F2/c and three for S1/c and
F1/c. The present diagonal 1, 2, or 3 stripe(s), in color, worn on the left upper arm, was originally
for WAVE uniforms and after WWII were adopted for the present enlisted uniform and the watch stripe
The T-Shirt was a part of the enlisted uniform. Originally, it had colored stripes and has long left
the U.S. Navy, but you can note it is still existent in some foreign services. It served two purposes.
(1) It was to be worn without the Jumper on work details, especially in tropical locations. (2) It was
meant to have the high white neckline to show in the V of the jumper. Some personnel, to enhance the
appearance would cut the tab off and wore the AT-shirt backward for a better appearance especially if
with age and washings the neck line seemed to sag. The popularity of the T-Shirt expanded into wide
public acceptance after WWII and in now utilized, not only as an undergarment but as outerwear with
various designs, logos, etc.
There were no Silver Metal Dolphins for enlisted personnel. Dolphins for enlisted personnel consisted
of embroidered patches. (White for blues and blue for whites) sewn on the right forearm. Silver Metal
Dolphins for enlisted personnel were authorized after WWII. (9/21/50)
All enlisted personnel wore embroidered patches as distinguishing marks e.g., if you were a designated
striker you could wear the insignia for that specialty on the upper left sleeve as appropriate.
Other distinguishing marks for enlisted personnel were patches on uniforms, e.g., an Expert Lookout
patch binoculars, a diver a diver's helmet (M for Master. with other degree of qualification indicated
on the chest plate section of the helmet. These worn on the right upper sleeve and there were many of
them. One perk that has persisted is the wearing of gold rating insignia and hash marks for those
Petty Officers with 12 years of good conduct.
Chief Petty Officers merely pinned their fouled anchor hat insignia to the front top of their hat
covers. The black band and background for the insignia was initiated after WWII.
Officers did wear Gold Metal Dolphins as they do today.
Unknown today was also the fact that prior to WWII there was a dress white uniform for enlisted
personnel. The collar and cuffs were blue and were adorned with piping. The trousers had slash pockets
and had a cotton lacing feature on the back waistband. What is worn today are undress whites. Pictures
of dress whites can be seen in old Bluejacket Manuals.
Officers wore swords for ceremonial and dress occasions, as they do today, but little known is that
back before WWII Chief Petty Officers had a cutlass for ceremonial and dress occasions.
Another uniform item that is now passť is the flat hat. Once the ribbon had the name of your ship but
this discontinued for security reasons and all flat hats merely had U.S. Navy in gold on the ribbon.
In boot camp all of your uniform items were stenciled with your name and service number. There were no
doors on lockers and each item had a prescribed method of folding and stowing. It was even prescribed
as to how you would pack your sea bag.
Tailor Made dress blues were the uniform of the day for liberty. The jumper was skin tight with a
zipper in the side so that it could be taken off. Accentuated bell bottoms were mandated. The inside
of the cuffs were decorated with embroidered color decorations, usually dragons, etc., and were only
visible when the cuffs were turned up (which was custom on liberty) along with the white or flat hat
on the back of your head.
Submarine Base & Submarine School, New
London (Groton, CT)
Originally, the entire submarine base was literally below the railroad tracks. Later as the base
expanded it was called lower base. Most of the upper base buildings, i.e., Morton Hall, Dealey Center,
etc., were constructed for WWII. The road from the present main gate past the golf course was the
Groton-Norwich road. About half way up the road was an overhead railroad bridge. On the river side of
the railroad tracks a 12' high fence with barbed wire on top ran the length of the base. The entrance
to the base was under the bridge and the Marine guard stationed there in a guard shack. During WWII
besides the Main Gate Guardhouse the one to lower base was also manned by a U.S. Marine. The base
commander's office was housed in a small brick building about half way between the training tower and
the Torpedo Shop.
Submarine School - six weeks enlisted and three months for officers. The enlisted school was built
into the side of the hill below the barracks area. The Officer's school was along side the base
hospital across from Morton Hall.
Of some 250,000 men who applied for submarine duty less than 10% made it to Sub School and many of
those washed out. Submarine School was the sole tyrannical domain of one Chief Torpedoman, Charles
Spritz. Submarine School was called "Spritz's Navy". He ruled with an iron hand and was feared by
instructors and students alike. He had little regard for rate whether you were a Seaman First Class or
a Petty Officer First Class. To call him eccentric was a gross understatement. He did not smoke, did
not drink and was single It is open to debate as to if he ever even pulled a liberty. His total
devotion was to the Submarine School. It was universally conceded that he had gone Asiatic, not 100%
stable and perhaps as a youngster he might have been dropped on his head.
He insisted that personnel, at all times, be properly and neatly attired in the regulation Uniform of
the Day without exception. No "tailor mades", proper rolled neckerchief down to the V in the jumper
with immaculate white T-Shirt showing, shoes well shined, etc. He did not permit smoking or any type
of horseplay. He demanded that all personnel move at a fast pace. Navigating the steep stairs
alongside the Enlisted Submarine School Building constituted a hazard.
Chief Spritz had the uncanny ability to be everywhere at all times and pity the poor individual who
crossed his path. His discipline was swift and sure. He felt it was his personal mission to ascertain
that anyone leaving sub school for submarine duty was in every respect ready. He had many axioms but
his favorite was "there is room for anything on a submarine except a mistake". Sub school students
were not boots, many, if not most, had time in the U.S. Navy and were rated.
There is an article in POLARIS issue of August, 2000 (Submarine Saga segment) which delves into more
detail relative to Chief Spritz and is briefly plagiarized and incorporated here as it is a definite
part of the Diesel Boat Era.
Sub Vets of WWII in recognition of respect and a fealty obligation to this once feudal lord and master
wear a "Spritz's Navy" patch on their vests.
It would seem that the screening at Sub School served us well. Friction between members of the crew
was unbefitting and unacceptable. If an individual demonstrated an inability to "get along" he could
be transferred to another boat. If the same conduct prevailed there he would be transferred out of
The training tower caused many a wash out for both physical and mental reasons. If a person could not
pop his ears it could cause pain, ruptured ear drum(s) and even bleeding from the ears. You voice
changed dramatically to a high pitch under pressure (we all sounded like Donald Duck). All personnel
had to qualify from the two intermediate locks and finally the 100' lock with the Momsen Lung.
Right after the war it was noted that some German submariners had made emergency escapes using free
ascents. A number of crews from boats went to the tower and made free ascents from 100'. Later all
submarine school personnel were required to make a free ascent from 100' as well as in the past with
Momsen Lungs. It was imperative that you exhale all the way up to avoid lung damage or the bends. Much
to the dismay of many of the "old timers" the Escape Training Tower was dismantled. It was a landmark
and considered a right of passage into the submarine force. Recently, it has been rumored that the
tower is to be rebuilt.
We had less pomp insofar as the ceremony observed when a member of the crew qualified than is apparent
today. The individual, thrown over the side then sewed dolphins on his uniforms and wore them with
pride. They have always been, and always will be, a badge of honor regardless of ceremonial manner in
which bestowed. Going through Sub School and getting on a boat was merely the first step it did not
allow you to wear "Dolphins".
Qualification was a real ordeal. You had to prepare a notebook with schematic drawings of all systems
in the boat and as the final test you would go through the boat with a "Qualification Board". You had
to be prepared to assume the duties of any rating on board and know the location and function of all
systems, valves, etc. You were allowed one year to become qualified.
Awards and Advancement
There was less reverence on some other occasions also, e.g., when a "Good Conduct Medal" was awarded
to a member of the crew it would be given by the Captain (or perhaps the Exec) at quarters amid hoots
and hollers with cries of "Undiscovered Crime", etc. There was also a bonus system for awards ranging
from $1.00 per month for the Good Conduct Medal to $5.00 per month for the Congressional Medal of
When made Chief you initially bought the cheapest hat you could find since it was also considered
appropriate and properly respectful to have all of the crew urinate in your first hat.
Sad to note in this day and enlightened age all of the military services of the United States were
segregated during our era. The practice abolished by President Truman over 50 years ago. Stewards, at
that time, recruited from America territories and from American minorities. Even in such a tight knit
group as American Submarines two racks in the Forward Torpedo Room hung off the overhead beneath The
Torpedo Loading Hatch were reserved for the Stewards. They were called the "Honeymoon bunks" or
"bridal suite". Rated Stewards wore uniforms similar to Chiefs.
The Submariners and Life on the Boats
The submarine sailor was a very irreverent individual with an avid distaste for regulations, etc. The
average life span of a submarine sailor was four patrols (about a year). Despite bravado, that thought
prevailed to varying degrees depending upon the individual. That premise however, was unsaid but used
as an excuse for hell-raising. Rarely mentioned in tales of WWII submarine lore was the fact that
going through minefields was as apprehensive as being depth charged.
Submarine Officers and crews were very young - anyone past thirty was a very old man. Admiral Charles
Lockwood (Uncle Charley) ComSubPac was most forgiving, as were Skippers and Execs, of transgressions
of both officers and men.
Returning from patrol crews were treated extremely well. "Relief crews" came aboard and all work and
refitting in preparation for the next patrol was handled by them and base/tender personnel. Ship's
Company was sent enmass for R&R.
Another perk of the submarine force was that any record of minor disciplinary action that a member of
the crew suffered would be entered into the page 9 of his service record. Virtually all disciplinary
action was handled internally on the boat. However, both the original and carbon copy (BuPers Copy)
were retained in his personnel jacket. When transferred, the original and copy were removed by the
Yeoman to be deep sixed. Unless there was a serious offense personnel transferred with a clean record.
Many friendships were formed in sub school, plus other training, schools and transfers were not
uncommon due to the needs of new construction, promotions, etc. Consequently, the force became even
more closely knit. It was the rare boat that did not have personnel who you knew.
Submariners were very independent and resourceful, both individually and as a group. Needs (and
desires) of the boat as prescribed by the U.S. Navy, did not always coincide with what was considered
proper or adequate. Therefore, a system of "midnight requisitioning" and "midnight small stores"
developed to enhance efficiency. This avenue of acquisition was considered a solemn duty in promoting
the war effort. Those proficient and innovative in this endeavor were greatly admired. It was an art
as well as a science executed individually or as a group cooperative effort. Some of these escapades
took great ingenuity as well as "brass balls". As a term of affection they were called scroungers
and/or dog robbers. If a Skipper or Exec made an innocent passing remark that some particular thing
might be nice it would appear mysteriously in due time. Also, if anything would be deemed convenient,
add to efficiency, or enhance comfort, etc., it would be acquired. All for the "Good of the Service".
On board an informal, but professional, attitude prevailed. Although we had an evaporator to make
fresh water, battery watering was primary. In the design and scheme of things, personal hygiene or
washing of clothes did not seem to be considered. One Engineering Petty Officer, called the Water King
ran the evaporator. Personal hygiene or washing of clothing was an afterthought. The use of
after-shave lotions, deodorants (called Foo-Foo juice) and especially talcum powders prevailed. Large
cans of Lilac were the norm, purchased inexpensively in local 5&10 stores and sprinkled liberally.
Since there were might not be adequate bunks for all of the officers and men there was a situation
called "hot bunking" whence when an individual went on watch another took the bunk.
The Forward Battery was Officer's Country. Only the Skipper had his own "Stateroom" which would have
passed for a small closet. There were the Spartan Officer's quarters, Wardroom, a Steward's Pantry, a
small compartment for the Chiefs and a small office for the Yeoman. There was a head in the Forward
Torpedo Room for the Officers.
Some enlisted personnel were relegated to bunking in the Forward and After Torpedo rooms (There was a
head in the After Torpedo Room.) The majority however, had their bunks in the rear section of the
After Battery. The forward section of the After Battery held the Galley, heads, showers (2) and the
Mess. The Mess had four tables sitting 3 to a side for a total of 24 accommodations on the 8 bench
seats. Therefore meals were served in shifts to accommodate all hands. Space was at a premium and one
would have to see how efficiently it was utilized to believe it e.g., the bench seats were hinged and
the interior was utilized as space for mess gear. There was a shelf over each of the tables to hold
the dishes of what was being served. I understand that the Navy utilized information and ideas from
the Pullman Railroad Co. in designing.
The Pharmacist Mate "Doc" had a medical locker in the crew's after battery berthing area.
Using the heads took a number of mandatory steps of levers and valves to blow the Sanitary Tank. One
learned this quickly, as failure to "flush" properly resulted in "blow back".
The growing of beards was common practice amongst the crew and officers.
To the unacquainted it could appear that the rapport between Officers and men was quite informal, and
to a large degree it was, but it in no way detracted from efficiency, military courtesy, tradition or
discipline. There was a strong mutual respect. Aye-Aye Sir, Very Well and Well Done were accorded as
appropriate. The vast majority of the crew was rated and competent in their skills. Obviously so were
our officers. There was no such thing as stenciled ratings on dungaree shirts, if worn, so a person
coming aboard a submarine at sea would have a difficult time determining any individual's rate. Also
there was an axiom that in submarines "you left your rate on the dock". Ability was the hallmark. To
add to the perceived informality was the fact that the uniform of the day generally was dungaree
shorts, sandals and perhaps a T-Shirt.
When conditions approached that of a Chinese garbage scow junk with an over flowing head and with the
crew in dire need of fumigation the Skipper might decide to allow showers piecemeal by sections. You
lined up to enter the shower, the Chief of the Boat turned on the water for 2 seconds and shut it down
while you soaped down. You were then allowed a correspondingly brief rinse. This was called a "sea
Each member of the crew was allotted one locker which measured about 12" high, 18" wide and about 18"
deep. You kept your uniforms under your mattress. Your rack had a plastic zip around cover. Your
mattress was encased in a mattress cover which was akin to an oversized pillow case. Able to be turned
over once and some even turned them inside out and got two more uses. Less the uninitiated be stunned
by that you must be cognizant of lack of water for regular laundry.
Internal communications on board were conducted by the 1MC and 7MC phones and speaker systems. (Phones
were sound powered.)
To reenter a submarine after handling lines etc. when returning to port was a shocking revelation. It
was impossible to believe that you had survived that malodorous environment. Politely put the
atmosphere was conducive to a shanty town house of ill repute that also was inundated by a back up of
its sewer system. Pity the poor relief crew that had to come on board and make the boat shipshape
You could immediately identify an Electrician on a submarine. He was the individual with the most
shredded moth eaten rotten dungarees from battery acid. Watering the batteries, located under both the
forward and after battery compartments, was imperative and the
Electricians had to crawl around on top of the cells to do this regularly.
Ribald humor was the tenor of the day. No topic or human frailty was off limits. Nothing was sacred.
Horseplay and trickery were the order of the day. The antics and demeanor of the crew, both at sea and
ashore, would not be socially acceptable or politically correct nowadays. I fear that Admiral Rickover
would be aghast.
One real advantage was food, especially in port and when you first went out. Although they were ridden
without mercy the cooks did an excellent job of feeding the crew. We ate family style off china
plates. Our officers ate exactly what the enlisted personnel did. The stewards would come back to the
After Battery Galley and fill their serving plates and bring it to the Forward Battery Galley for the
Wardroom. A double "chow" allowance was accorded submarines.
When leaving for patrol the boat was stocked with the best possible rations which were stored in every
conceivable space (including the shower since it wouldn't be needed). As a matter of fact we had to
walk on some of the stores until they were used. However, as supplies diminished the cooks were hard
pressed to come up with varied favorable menus. All boats had open icebox so you could prepare and
cook anything you wanted at any time as long as you cleaned up after yourself. The coffee urn was
always at the ready. The After Battery Mess was for chow, off duty recreation, meeting space and a
This is a collective attempt at recollection after the passing of a half-century so any errors or
omissions hopefully forgiven as "senior frailties". Much of this is collective memory and is a
compilation of boats in general. There is no pride of authorship so any comments, additions,
corrections and/or deletions are welcome and appreciated. This is merely a historical comparison as
best one can do and is in no way a negative reflection between "then and now".