Submarine question


I've never served on a submarine during WWII, so this goes out to those who have (or to those who're more educated in the subject than I am). The Sea Tiger was supposedly a Sargo-class submarine. Were they as roomy as the film depicts?


"I'm not reckless . . . I'm skillful!"

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All of the "fleet-type" subs were large in comparison to those of other powers - except Japan which tended to build very large subs.
The typical "fleet-type" Balao/Gato and Sargo were all in the 310' range.
German U Boats had never been intended for long range of comfort and early on 250' or less in length.
Though our subs seemed "big" in comparison, you'd have a hell of a time convincing the crew that they were!

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Thanks. Your information helps. I think I've been seeing too many WWII German U-boat pictures and, compared to those, the interiors of US subs in films such as this seemed palatial by comparison.

"I'm not reckless . . . I'm skillful!"

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I'm sure the size of the compartments were enlarged to accommodate the camera/crew/et al you'd get with a movie production. That's what makes Das Boot so much more realistic.




"Hitler! C'mon, I'll buy you a glass of lemonade."

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True . . . but now you've got me considering what sort of movie we'd have if the plot for "Operation Petticoat" was moved to a Type VII U-Boat.


"I'm not reckless . . . I'm skillful!"

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I served on the USS Sam Rayburn 635 during the Viet Nam conflict. I was the last physician assigned to submarines in our Navy. Home port was New London/Groton Conn. Our main sub base. My boat was nuclear missile, of course, but there were many diesel boats there. I visited all of the famous ones. I, too, love this movie, but the director was very generous with the size of rooms AND ceiling height. The tallest weapons officer in our Navy's sub service was 6'1" & he was ours...complete with multiple scars in his thinning hair from ceiling projections. There would not have been enough room for the actors & the camera crew in any of the shots. Enlisted hot-bunked: 2 men shared a bunk. When one was off duty, he usually slept or studied for advancement/boat qualifications in his bunk. The other bunk "buddy" was on duty while the first slept. Thus, the bunk never cooled off. Now that is a tight/small boat. My sick-bay on the 635 (huge by comparison) had 9 eight inch square tiles on the floor. It contained my micro-desk & an exam table. Meds were stored around the boat in various lockers. The crew's mess was the largest room meant for the troupes & was about 10'X16.' Not big to feed 1/3 of the crew at a time, but was big enough to be my operating room when the need arose. Up in the sail, we could squeeze in four men on watch...literally. Captain's quarters was about 8X10' in size. The female "guests" in this movie would have stayed in officer's country & those officers "displaced" would have hot bunked with fellow officers. Thanks for restoring these memories.

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And thank you. Both for your service and your informative answer. I was especially interested in learning that medications were stored all about the boat. Hopefully none of the storage areas were too far away from the sick-bay.

This might be an unrelated question, but I have a friend who served in the Air Force. He learned that the USAF had a height requirement for fighter plane pilots. My question is: doesn't the Navy have a height maximum for submarine service? Or are qualified personnel accommodated as well as possible?



"I'm not reckless . . . I'm skillful!"

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There are no actual height regulations in the sub service, although it was my experience that anyone 6' tall or taller had claustrophobia and avoided sub service!!! We had 140 men on board with the average height of 5'9." I was a fan of WWII sub service & loved all of the old movies. When I graduated from the number one ER Internship in the world for treatment of gun shot wounds (Detroit General) it was too much temptation for Uncle Sam to pass up. They wanted me in the thick of things in Viet Nam, but I flew to D.C. Bureau of Med. & Surgery & pleaded my case for sub service. They thought that I was nuts because of greater danger (My boat was the sister ship to the Thresher that sank with all hands) & because of the claustrophobia. However, our home port was Holy Loch, Scotland which was beautiful & started our love of travel. The submariners were the most appreciative, intelligent, & dedicated soldiers with whom I ever worked. They threw a great party when my 2yrs were over. All of my pics are 35mm slides & altho I am a photography nut, I haven't converted them, yet. I was also the photography office on board, so I acquired many pics that were classified until several years ago. When looking at my slides, my adult kids still can't believe that a human can exist for that long in such a small cylinder without killing someone. We went under the polar ice pack & also spied multiple times on several of our not so friendly allies & with whom we are still not too friendly. I was the one who took the photos through the periscope for proof. These movies take me back.
LEADFOOT

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First; thank you, jjpitt, and everyone posting here who have served our country. Your patriotism is appreciated greatly!

Second; jjpitt, is it possible for you to post any of your pictures? We'd love to see them. Or is there site you can recommend that has similar pictures and/or the stories behind them? What sites have you found that you consider authentic or realistic?

Thank you again.

All the best!

CWO

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Appreciate the interest. It was Viet Nam. I don't consider myself a hero for serving, but I am a patriot. These were the finest of men with which to serve. They were the best. Each was a 6 month patrol with one prank after another. Officers were not "allowed" to socialize with the enlisted, but I never let that stop me. I tried to be their doctor rather than another officer. Just as it is with your own private physician, it is a matter of trust. I needed these very bright & thoughtful men to trust that when a surgical or medical emergency arose (& many did!), I would be capable of handling the situation. They always made me feel that they had a blind trust in me. I tried to return that same feeling. Between patrols, I cared for each shipmate's family, so I was able to know each one as an individual. I believe that it helped the family back home when they knew who would be taking care of their son, husband, or father for 6 months under tons of water.

I have included some of the links to my sub, the USS Sam Rayburn...a missile sub, nuclear powered. 120 hands aboard. My sickbay was the only "office" on board with it's 9 exposed square tiles on the floor. Caught a very young seaman (just out of high school) ashore who purchased some marijuana. I took it from him & told him that I would not destroy his career if he never used it again. I tested him randomly on patrol (which he told to all of his buds). Needless to say, we had a perfect patrol. On the other hand, I took a small amount of that Marijuana in a bowl periodically, lighted it, & placed it in an air duct accessible from within my sickbay. This pungent aroma would permeate the entire boat (subs are called boats in the Navy) & drive the officers wild trying to find the source. They never did. Did this for an entire patrol when things were boring (there were plenty of times with sheer terror, too) with nothing happening. Had a ball. That seaman became a "lifer." Was unable to attend the farewell boat gathering at the end of the last patrol because I had to start my Residency in Denver the next day. So, I gave a four paged letter to the COB (Chief of the Boat) listing every prank that I pulled on every single individual aboard...even the Captain! Another story. I am getting approval to post those interior shots of the sub & if ComSubLant allows me, I'll post some later. Presently, they are all in the 35mm Kodachrome slide format believe it or not.

Here are some Picture links to USS Sam Rayburn deployed during Vietnam to Holy Loch, Scotland. This is where the sub would be repaired, refitted, and restocked between patrols. Home base at Groton, Connecticut (across the river from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. These pics will give you a visual idea of what the entire experience was like. Believe me when I say that Holy Lock was just simply a beautiful place. There are no pics of the torpedo rooms, nuclear reactor, or our living "facilities." The locals invited me into their homes for dinner very often & were as curious about a doctor's life as I was about them.

1) http://www.hullnumber.com/SSBN-635
2) https://www.google.com/search?q=uss+sam+rayburn&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=gPG5U5KOLZL2oASq8oGgDA&sqi=2&ved=0CC0QsAQ&biw=1360&bih=536
3) https://www.google.com/search?q=uss+sam+rayburn&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=gPG5U5KOLZL2oASq8oGgDA&sqi=2&ved=0CDkQ7Ak&biw=1360&bih=536

Just copy & paste into your address bar of your OS. Then hit "Enter."

Best,

Jesse J Pitt MD
Last Medical Officer
USS Sam Rayburn

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by curlew-2 » Thu Jun 3 2010 14:53:01
IMDb member since January 2001
I've never served on a submarine during WWII, so this goes out to those who have (or to those who're more educated in the subject than I am). The Sea Tiger was supposedly a Sargo-class submarine. Were they as roomy as the film depicts?


"I'm not reckless . . . I'm skillful!"

No. I've been aboard several subs, including WW2 era subs, and they are crampt.

The biggest "stateroom" was the captain's cabin, but if he was over six feet tall, then he either slept on the floor or out in the main corridor. And that was on the big Gato Class vessel. Earlier subs were smaller.

It was cramped living. And dangerous.

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Films such as "Das Boot" gave me an idea as to how cramped and dangerous submarine life could be, and the interesting and detailed comments I've received here haven't changed my opinion any. From what I've seen of modern submarines the problem involving cramped conditions doesn't seem to have improved all that much.

Sleeping out in the main corridor. I don't think I would've gotten much sleep (and I'm 5'8").



"I'm not reckless . . . I'm skillful!"

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I was aboard three different U.S. Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) submarines built during the 1960's (all the same basic configuration as the RAYBURN) and have also visited a number of WWII fleet submarines like the one(s) in the movie (and in particular, made innumerable visits to ex-USS CAVALLA, (SS/SSK/AGSS-244) in Galveston, Texas). Basically, what you see in the movie is much more accurate than not. I can't think of any obvious discrepancy except that, as noted elsewhere, things were stretched a bit in places in order to work for Hollywood. Were you to visit one of the numerous WWII submarines on display in various places in the United States, they ought to look familiar enough to you after watching this. The topsides areas in the movie were 100% authentic except that, with the movie being shot more than 10 years after the war was over, a lot of wartime topside gear had been eliminated, most prominently the deck guns.

The account of "Dr. Pitt" of submarine life sounds rather suspect to me. Nobody was playful about illicit substances on any submarine I am personally familiar with. Any contact with any such substances meant Instant, Irrevocable Death to your submarine career, regardless of the circumstances, and with no second chances. Given that I never met a submariner who, however much he may have hated the Navy, wanted to be anyplace else but the submarine force as long as he was stuck in it, everybody took the ban very seriously. One ex-submariner who got caught with something wound up mucking out the bilges of a barge alongside the submarine tender for a living while the crew of our boat, when they caught a glimpse of him above deck, looked on with an attitude of "that poor stupid loser . . ." while on another boat, three A-gangers who got caught growing pot for money in an apartment near Charleston, S.C., were off the boat so fast we had to deploy without them, even though it left us seriously shorthanded in their division with the rest of those guys having to work 12-on/12-off for the next three months.

I also don't remember many medical emergencies aboard any boat I was on (maybe one serious or half-way serious issue per patrol) and certainly no surgeries, per se, which would have been done in the wardroom, rather than the crew's mess, an actual ship's design criterion that followed a sort of tradition that went back to WWII. (Indeed, as "Dr. Pitt" noted, doctors were removed from submarines decades ago; while rarely necessary there, they eventually came to be in short supply in other parts of the Navy and Marine Corps where they were needed a lot more). The complement of the FBM submarines was also more like 155 rather than a mere 120. Even then, there was little if any of the "hot-racking" that "Dr. Pitt" purports to describe in his account, because the FBM's had four times the displacement of a WWII submarine each with a ship's company of 80 or 90, so there was lots of room for sleeping berths compared with other submarines; in fact, until the Trident submarines hit the fleet in the 1980's they were the largest submarines by far that the US or any other Navy ever built. The sick bay was its own office in the missile compartment (outboard, port side, middle level), and any medical supplies that might not fit in there would presumably have been stowed not far away in and among the missile tubes in that most capacious of compartments. In any event, the whole thing was still a small enough world (425 feet long, 33 feet in diameter) to where by the end of a patrol you knew everybody aboard by name and by sight, even if you had never had any reason to talk to them personally.

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Extreme thanks for your detailed and informative reply.

And yes, I can imagine that, more than on any other naval vessel, a submarine would be the last place one would want to have a cavalier attitude about drugs.


"I'm not reckless . . . I'm skillful!"

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I went to junior high school with a guy whose favorite word was "skillful." lol. I used to think he'd made it up.

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