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Remembering America's Fresh Water Submarines 225

Posted by samzenpus
from the bravo-zulu dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "As we move into Memorial Day and Americans remember the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces, I wanted to share the story of my Uncle Donald Cress born in 1922 in Bath Township, Minnesota who served as a Radioman, Third Class on the USS Robalo, one of the US Navy's 'Fresh Water Submarines' because they were commissioned in the Great Lakes. On the western shore of Lake Michigan, about 80 miles north of Milwaukee, lies Manitowoc, Wisconsin, a city whose shipyards had built car ferries and ore boats since 1902. In 1939 war broke out in Europe and President Roosevelt declared a limited National Emergency and U.S. Navy shipbuilders were concerned that submarine building capacity was not sufficient to support a long war. The US Navy asked the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company to build submarines, a task far beyond their existing capabilities, but assured them that the Electric Boat Company, with the only shipyard in the country capable of building submarines, would provide plans and whatever assistance they would need. Manitowoc's shipyard grew from 500 employees to 7,000 employees at its peak working three shifts around the clock 365 days a year and by the end of the war had built 25 submarines in time to see action that together sank 132 Japanese ships. 'It appears from the results obtained at Manitowoc that given a set of good plans, competent engineers and skilled workman can follow them and build what is called for even though it might be very much more sophisticated than anything they have built before,' writes Rear Admiral William T. Nelson. But there was one more thing the shipyard had going for it. After Pearl Harbor the entire community was now engaged in vital and important war work, sacrifice was the order of the day, and each boat was their boat. 'With the entire community following the construction with such interest and spirit, success was inevitable.'"
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Remembering America's Fresh Water Submarines

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  • by rossdee (243626) on Monday May 28, 2012 @08:12AM (#40134179)

    Only useful if we are ever attacked by canada.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Or want to attack Canada ;)
      (this one is probably more likely then Canada attacking America).

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Resource wars of the future my friend, resource wars of the future.
        • Few wars aren't resource wars.
        • by couchslug (175151)

          "Resource wars of the future my friend, resource wars of the future."

          The idea of having to invade our Northern Corporate Appendage is absurd, and politicians are cheaper to buy than armaments.

          • by ultranova (717540)

            The idea of having to invade our Northern Corporate Appendage is absurd, and politicians are cheaper to buy than armaments.

            So? It's the taxpayers who pay for the armaments, not the overlords. And invading anywhere starts looking perfectly rational once you have a weapons factory.

      • by lennier1 (264730)

        A rematch for the War of 1812?
        Guess the White House is due for some renovations anyway.... ;)

      • by Phics (934282)

        Yeah, go on... attack. You may take out our two rowboat destroyers and our battle canoe.

        But we have a tank...
        ...and we're not telling you where it is.

    • I live in Ludington, Michigan There is a car ferry that crosses Lake Michigan to Manitowoc. I took my granddaughters on that ship. There is a submarine there that we took a tour on it. I think the submarines were taken to Chicago where they got on some canals to get on the Mississippi river to transit to the Gulf of Mexico and there to the Atlantic Ocean. It was an interesting and educational trip for both me and my granddaughters.
    • If ever try to force us to accept Moosylvania, we'll kick their asses with our freshwater submarines!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 28, 2012 @08:14AM (#40134191)

    Hahaha. You mean "as we remember and celebrate barbecuing and long weekends off from work".

    Besides, the holiday has become nothing more than a day to fill young minds with propaganda about how EVERYONE is a hero no matter what, just for BEING IN the military. That way, we collectively put anyone joining the military on a pedestal. That way, we keep the machine fed so dumb young people are brainwashed by the rest of us into sacrificing themselves -- worthwhile for a good cause and not so much for trivial world-cop activities and guarding international corporate interests and oil-wells. We're all guilty of promoting the government propaganda that keeps allowing elderly fucktard politicians to throw young lives away. Memorial day my fucking ass.

    • by rossdee (243626) on Monday May 28, 2012 @08:43AM (#40134333)

      As far as I know Memorial day is only observed in the US of A.

      Most of the rest of the allies commemorate the fallen of the wars on the 11th day of the 11th month (to mark the end of the first world war)
      Except for those of us from down under who remember our fallen troops on ANZAC day (25th April) the anniversary of the Gallipoli landings

    • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Monday May 28, 2012 @08:44AM (#40134337)

      Besides, the holiday has become nothing more than a day to fill young minds with propaganda about how EVERYONE is a hero no matter what, just for BEING IN the military.

      We drafted soldiers into WWI, WWII, the Korean War and Vietnam. Tens of thousands of them were killed, and many more were injured. I thank them and honor them for their service to our country. Subsequent military actions were staffed by men and women who volunteered to serve and protect our country. Thousands of them have been killed, and many more have been injured. I thank them and honor them for their service to our country.

      I don't agree with all our government's policies regarding war, nation building, military spending, etc, but I can certainly distinguish between those in power that hatch these policies from those that fight, suffer and die because of them.

      • by aaarrrgggh (9205)

        The problem with placing too much "honor" on the soldiers for their work is the vast majority go on to support the politicians that push the military agenda at the expense of sustainable policies.

      • Well said!

      • by Boronx (228853)

        It's easy to separate the politician from the soldier, but that doesn't totally absolve the soldier. Save a little bit of blame for the man that pulls the trigger.

        Honor in soldiering is pretty hard to come by. Contrast this with most other jobs. Maybe that's why the honor of the soldier is valued so much.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Eil (82413)

      As a military veteran with friends and family who also served in the military (some who have been in combat), I'd like to offer you the most sincere heartfelt sentiment I can think of: Fuck You.

      You don't even understand the thing that you're bashing. Memorial Day is about honoring those who died in battle, not everyone in the military. It doesn't much matter whether you agree with war, or the government, or the military, or whatever your favorite institutional boogeyman is, today is for those who volunteere

      • If it was a peacenik's holiday, memorial day would recognize EVERYONE who died in war, not just the fools that rushed into it.

        And it doesn't take much intellectual courage to toe the party line, in otherwords to continue to blindly support a flawed ideology, because you don't want to face cognitive dissonance.

        if you want real courage, try looking at someone like Ghandi, Dalai Lama, Oskar Schindler, not a bunch of masochistic egomaniacs.

      • You don't even understand the thing that you're bashing. Memorial Day is about honoring those who died in battle, not everyone in the military.

        As much as it pains me to do so... I have to say that you're wrong and he's correct.
         
        The historical reason for Memorial Day was to honor those who fell in service, but over the years it has expanded. Over the years it grew to encompass all service members who have died including veterans and retirees that passed quietly in their beds decades after their service. In particular, over the last decade is has further expanded in the public mind to include living servicembers and veterans as well.
         
        (And, FWIW, I'm a vet too.)

        • by Eil (82413)

          Appreciate the reply and I do agree that Memorial Day honors (and should honor) the veterans who have served but died for non-combat reasons or after their service for other reasons. But we have a holiday for veterans and other military service members and it's Veteran's Day. Memorial Day, as the name implies, ought to honor those who have died, in my opinion. Thanks to those who have come before me, anyone in the U.S. is free to disagree, however. :)

    • by argStyopa (232550)

      Is it irony or coincidence that this was posted "anonymous coward"?

    • by couchslug (175151) on Monday May 28, 2012 @10:31AM (#40134895)

      "Besides, the holiday has become nothing more than a day to fill young minds with propaganda about how EVERYONE is a hero no matter what, just for BEING IN the military."

      As a vet, I agree with that statement!

      While it's nicer than being vilified, the truth is more complex.

      Having entered service BEFORE the Bullshit Pump was turned on in it's most recent incarnation, I remember when being a "good Soldier/Sailor/Marine/Airman" was a compliment and there was no perceived need to call everyone a "hero".

      If everyone is a "hero", the term loses all meaning. There are heroes, there are shitbags, and there are the great majority of Soldiers/Sailors/Marines/Airmen who get shit done pretty well.

      • by martas (1439879)
        The word "hero" is just another victim of the rampant rhetoric inflation in the US political discourse. When and why it started I cannot say, but I really don't think it has anywhere to go but down at this point. I mean, how much more exaggerated and ridiculous can the language of congress and Fox News and MSNBC get, right?! (Said he, knowing full well it can always get worse...)
    • by DesScorp (410532)

      Memorial day my fucking ass.

      Think I'll fly extra flags today. Because giving more honor to those that put their lives on the line for us... and those that have lost it for us... has the dual benefit of being both a great thing to do... and the right thing to do... and annoying the likes of you. You're right in that too many people focus on the holiday aspect of this day, and not enough on the "memorial" part. You're pretty much wrong about everything else.

  • War is a Racket! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by starworks5 (139327) on Monday May 28, 2012 @08:15AM (#40134197) Homepage

    "War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small 'inside' group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes."

    • Re:War is a Racket! (Score:5, Informative)

      by starworks5 (139327) on Monday May 28, 2012 @08:35AM (#40134291) Homepage

      Smedley Darlington Butler[1] (July 30, 1881 – June 21, 1940) was a Major General in the U.S. Marine Corps, an outspoken critic of U.S. military adventurism, and at the time of his death the most decorated Marine in U.S. history.
      During his 34-year career as a Marine, he participated in military actions in the Philippines, China, in Central America and the Caribbean during the Banana Wars, and France in World War I. By the end of his career, he had received 16 medals, five for heroism. He is one of 19 men to twice receive the Medal of Honor, one of three to be awarded both the Marine Corps Brevet Medal and the Medal of Honor, and the only man to be awarded the Brevet Medal and two Medals of Honor, all for separate actions.

      In his 1935 book War is a Racket, he described the workings of the military-industrial complex and, after retiring from service, became a popular speaker at meetings organized by veterans, pacifists and church groups in the 1930s.

      In 1934, he became involved in a controversy known as the Business Plot when he told a congressional committee that a group of wealthy industrialists were planning a military coup to overthrow Franklin D. Roosevelt. The purported plot would have had Butler leading a mass of armed veterans in a march on Washington. The individuals identified denied the existence of a plot, and the media ridiculed the allegations. The final report of the committee stated that there was evidence that such a plot existed, but no charges were ever filed. The opinion of most historians is that while planning for a coup was not very advanced, wild schemes were discussed.

      • by DesScorp (410532)

        Butler came to hate his own country. I can see your attraction to him. And the so-called "business plot"? Even the New York Times... certainly no friend of big business even then... called Butler's whole story a wild fantasy.

        • by Boronx (228853)

          The patriotism of those who won't brook criticism of their country is shallow.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      No shit!

      The law of conquest is the greatest law. Countries are made and unmade by war. Small wars are rackets with limited benefit, while large wars sometimes enormously benefit victorious populations.

      The US benefits me, and it was borne and expanded by conquest. It was created by killing enough Brits that they (after two wars) lost interest in keeping it.

      Man exists to fight. It's our nature. That's why it takes so little to get us to kill each other.

      EVOLUTION rewarded such behaviors, and political evolutio

  • The US could have easily been the supplier to the world for small coastal patrol and research diesel-electric subs but the US government has blocked such efforts.

    • Not surprising (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Kupfernigk (1190345)
      Though the drug dealers and pirates are doing quite nicely with their own efforts, thank you. Cheap submarines are potentially as big a threat to world peace as nuclear weapons.
      • Really? What's your reasoning? Increased smuggling?
        • Because much of the flow of commerce and supply is done through the water, where submarines can effectively dominate with some ease. This is why one of the first places japan invaded during WW2 was malaysia, because the strait of malacca carried the bulk of the shipments coming across the pacific, otherwise you had to go around Australia, or risk running aground somewhere.

          • Err, so how do you go from that to 'as big a threat to world peace as nuclear weapons?'

            Have you seem a modern port? You think you could do all that from some smugglers beach?
          • If so you are kidding yourself. Never mind them not being armed with any anti-ship weapons (which are rather complicated to design, manufacture, and make work), they aren't facing up against their real military counterparts. These little narco-boats are not being hunted by US Navy subs and ASW ships. They are just dealing with the DEA and coast guard.

            Also they have a much easier job of staying undetected than an attack sub. When you are just trying to get from point a to point b, subs can be fairly sneaky.

            • The point is that cheap submarines are a threat to world peace, as they could be loaded with explosives and lobbed at large cargo ships. There aren't enough US ships to protect all the cargo ships, and its part of the reason why iran's control of the strait of hormuz is so important, even without the fancy battleships.

              • There aren't enough US ships to protect all the cargo ships, and its part of the reason why iran's control of the strait of hormuz is so important, even without the fancy battleships.

                US ships don't have to be everywhere, just like police don't have to be everywhere all the time.

                If Iran really started causing serious problems in the Straights of Hormuz, they would sooner or later have to tangle with the US Navy and probably the navies of the EU as well. I don't think Iran's leaders are really quite so dumb give the recent object lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan. The US doesn't want armed conflict with Iran but there is little doubt the US could crush Iran's military without much difficu

      • by Dunbal (464142) *
        Submarines are so easy to kill and better yet, offer plausible deniability. "What submarine?"
    • by couchslug (175151)

      No shit. One torpedo can destroy more equipment by sinking a ship than would be lost in a large land battle.

      Coastal patrol is defensive, and marine interdiction/border control best done by surface vessels.

      There being no reason besides amusement not to use ROVs for underwater research, I see no great benefit in propagating advanced manned sub tech.

  • It did cost approximatelly 1 to 3 Billion us$ to sink less than 150 boats or about 10 Million us$ per boat....
    well somebody must have made it real good there...

    • by couchslug (175151) on Monday May 28, 2012 @11:06AM (#40135105)

      The impact(s) of sinking and damaging Japanese shipping were enormous!

      http://www.navy.mil/navydata/cno/n87/history/pac-campaign.html [navy.mil]

      "Disproportionate Costs Imposed on Japanese

      I have attempted to roughly calculate costs of each side's effort in order to determine whether the U.S. campaign was "efficient." The cost of merchant ships and warships lost to U.S. submarine attack were calculated using actual Japanese prices and added to the cost of all Japanese ASW frigates and corvettes (but not fleet destroyers or ASW aircraft).(48) Using U.S. Navy figures I calculated the cost of the entire fleet of 288 U.S. submarines that served or were built during the war (regardless of whether they served in the Pacific). The result is impressive although not surprising: the Japanese spent at least 42 times more on anti-submarine warfare and in losses attributed to submarines than the U.S. spent on her Submarine Force. When one considers the fact that the Japanese economy was only 8.9% of the size of the U.S. economy in 1937, the submarine campaign was clearly both an extraordinarily cost efficient and effective means to employ U.S. forces against Japan.(49) Regardless of the cost effectiveness of the U.S. submarine campaign, the military effects were stunningly clear. Fully a year before the end of the war, and before the extensive bombing of mainland Japan, the war against Japanese lines of communication resulted in decisive impact on the Japanese war economy and on the Japanese military logistical system. "

  • Pardon my ignorance (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kinthelt (96845) on Monday May 28, 2012 @09:17AM (#40134495) Homepage

    But wouldn't building submarines in the great lakes be a violation of the Rush-Bagot treaty?

  • by DrDitto (962751) on Monday May 28, 2012 @09:33AM (#40134559)
    I've been on a lot of tours of WWII vessels-- everything from the USS Arizona in Hawaii to the USS North Carolina in North Carolina to the submarine exhibit at the Deutsches Museum in Munich, Germany. I have to say the very best tour I've done was the USS Cobia sub tour in Manitowoc, WI. http://www.wisconsinmaritime.org/ [wisconsinmaritime.org] The tour was given by an old WWII submariner (yes, he was old!). It was a far better experience than any other sub exhibit. The sub is in the water and it is quite the feeling to go beneath the water line of a WWII sub. If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend it! Granted that was 12 years ago and nowadays the old tour guides may have either passed or are too feeble...
  • id hate to echo the (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nimbius (983462) on Monday May 28, 2012 @09:49AM (#40134653) Homepage
    cynisism in this thread but its true. Memorial Day has been perverted by the government over time to enforce blind patriotic obedience. A sizeable number of service members have come home missing limbs, or rocked by bomb blasts to the full scale IQ of about 85. No one can remember what it was we fought for in iraq, and if they can they dont feel very accomplished or proud about it unless they were told to by a superior officer. We finally accomplished the goal of killing a "six foot tall diabetic" in afghanistan and whle that was supposed to usher in the end of the war on terror; it didnt. We have warrantless searches near borders, warrantless wiretaps, and we cant get on a plane or train without a physically degrading pat down or full-body x-ray that has begun to show potential as a cancer suspect agent. Our country beats a war drum every four years like clockwork, and every four years we're lulled into a state of cringing terror as the next theatre is prepared. we havent anything to commemorate today but the striking effectiveness by which private think tanks and policy centers incense us in favour of war.

    On the other spectrum we have private corporations that are trying their goddamned best to make sure you forget the consequences of war like economic depression, poverty, mental illness, death, and the never ending destruction of the constitutional rights by which every american lives freely. So long as you buy your budweiser and 1200 pack of hamburgers from walmart, and dont forget to let the kids wash down their potato chips and hot dogs with a 2 liter of your favorite black bubbly sodapop, most multinational corporations will openly and warmly continue gifting you an alternate reality from that of americas recent wars from viet-nam onward. its one of flags and fireworks, proud bipedal service members and smiling families celebrating whatever the exact opposite of this holiday commemorates.

    The only way to see exactly what this holiday is commemorating is to put down the remote, pull yourself off the couch and drive down to the VA hospital. I firmly believe if every american made the trip once, just once, then the next president to even mutter a sentiment about potentially starting war would find himself amidst impeachment.
  • This story hits close to home since I grew up 25 miles from Manitowoc and my dad grew up there. He's told me stories about how his parents would take him down to see the shipyard side launch the subs into the river. They also have a pretty nice maritime museum in Manitowoc (http://www.wisconsinmaritime.org/index.php).
  • Not just EB. (Score:5, Informative)

    by DerekLyons (302214) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [retawriaf]> on Monday May 28, 2012 @11:37AM (#40135305) Homepage

    The US Navy asked the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company to build submarines, a task far beyond their existing capabilities, but assured them that the Electric Boat Company, with the only shipyard in the country capable of building submarines, would provide plans and whatever assistance they would need.

    This isn't completely true... Electric Boat was the only private shipyard building submarines, but Mare Island Naval Shipyard and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard were building them too.
     

    'It appears from the results obtained at Manitowoc that given a set of good plans, competent engineers and skilled workman can follow them and build what is called for even though it might be very much more sophisticated than anything they have built before,' writes Rear Admiral William T. Nelson.

    Admiral Nelson considerably oversimplifies a complex situation. EB provided more than just plans... They also provided experienced engineers and trained workmen to bootstrap Manitowoc's efforts. In the early stages, they sent parts and components from EB to Manitowoc as well. Manitowoc also sent people to EB for training and experience. Engineers and experienced Naval Constructors came from BUSHIPS in Washington D.C and Portsmouth and Mare Island Naval Shipyards.
     
    We now return you to your regularly scheduled rants about the military-industrial complex and anti-military sentiment.
    /submarinehistorypedant.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    to have seen ships burning after being torpedoed off the Delaware coast; dived in both WWII era sub, a Balistic Missle sub and a modern attack boat; played war games against Russian subs (they were remarkably friendly and knew our exercise rules and would help us with data to assist our scoring). We used to exchange officers between our subs and the anti-subs so we each could better understand the limitations each operated under, the effectiveness of their weapons, sensors and the like. Those guys were goo

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