LeRoy Collins Commentary 181

Commentary #181
18 June 2008

The Legacy of Submariners

Sam, thanks for including me among your cognoscenti in the distribution of the attached "We Are Submarine Sailors" essay written by Mike Hemming. It brought back many wonderful memories, most of which started with YOU....

As you may recall, the week following my graduation from the Naval Academy on 1 June 1956, I was in Key West for a rendezvous with you, prearranged through your father and mother, who had retired in Tallahassee, and were friends of my mother and father. I wanted to ride a submarine and you had arranged that for the next day aboard USS SEA CAT. I found you standing Duty-Officer-in-Port Watch aboard USS SENNET; that was the first time we met.

I spent the night in the NAVSTA BOQ, and early the next morning I reported aboard SEA CAT, then commanded by LCDR Bernie Smith. Since I knew nothing about submarines, I was paired with a former shipmate of yours on SENNET, who was then serving on the Squadron Staff and was aboard as an observer, like me.

The only evolution I understood was getting underway and coming into port, since that was on the surface. The submerged part of the day was completely baffling, because I did not know where we were, nor what we were doing. I did know there was a destroyer on the surface trying to track us. Before the day was out SEA CAT'S role changed from being the hunted to a hunter. Captain Smith seemed to know exactly what was going on, and he conducted several successful "attacks" on our surface attacker.

But the part I noticed the most was the respect all the crew had for each other from the Captain down to the most junior seaman. All were either Qualified in Submarines already, or pursuing that designation with enthusiasm. Everyone on board displayed a sense of purpose, and that inspired me to apply for Submarine School within the next year. So it started with you!

You also introduced me to your USNA Classmate, Kin, while I was in Sub School, and Kin was in Nuclear Power School. We have stayed in touch ever since, and our respective families have had many occasions to overlap our respective careers,...and it all started with YOU. Thanks, my friend; you have made a major impact on my life, and part of the explanation is in Mike Hemming’s brief essay, here attached. Thanks again...and again, Sam. /s/ Roy

Blue band divider with stars

We Are Submarine Sailors
by Mike Hemming

We are not the first of them and we will not be the last. Our heritage runs back to the first submarine. This heritage line continues forward into an unseen future. Each generation is trained by the one before. This will remain so until there is no more use for submarines, which will be never.

If one of us goes aboard a new or old submarine, we are comfortable with the men there. For they are us and we are them. Stand us in a line in all our dress uniforms or naked in our coffins, we are the same. We are and forever will be submarine sailors. We are one.

We can have everything taken from us, uniforms, medals, our sanity and our lives, but we will always be recognized by others and ourselves as a submariner. This status cannot be removed from us. Our Dolphins worn on our chests then, hung on our walls now, or later pinned on moldering uniforms in our graves mark us forever. We are first, last, and always men that stepped forward and worked long and hard to become what we are. We are unique among sailors for we sail down deep into dark and always dangerous waters. We do this not with foolhardy go-to-hell bravery, but with cool calculation and care. We challenge the dangers with training and practice. We know that the time for bravery will come when two shipmates close themselves in a flooding compartment, knowing that the whole boat and crew depends on them to control the flooding.

We believe in each other, because we must. Alone at sea, the crew and a pressure hull are all we have to reach the surface again. Men with confidence in each other dive and surface submarines countless times. Each man trained by others holds the lives of those shipmates in his hands. Dolphins are the symbol of this tradition.

Submarine hulls have numbers and men have hearts and souls. We carry those numbers in our hearts in life, and they mark our souls in death. Silver or Gold, Dolphins are the symbol of this.

To us Dolphins are it, no other symbol matters or means anything as important as they do.

Blue band divider with stars

/s/ LeRoy Collins, Jr.


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