It was December 1941, and the United States Navy had taken a severe beating at Pearl Harbor and the Philippines. 

The United States was reeling from the surprise attack by the Empire of Japan. The submarines were one of the few choices available to carry the fight directly to the Japanese in their home waters early in the war. 

Three-and-half-years later, with the loss of 52 American submarines and several thousand sailors, the war ended. This heroic group had one of the highest casualty rates of any branch of the U.S. military. They also had one of the highest success rates and punished the Japanese Navy and merchant shipping across much of the Pacific. 

These underwater boats left a gallant standard for today’s submariners to live up to. Boats like Wahoo, Tang, Barb, Pintado and Tautog would add their individual chapters to this legacy. 

Sailors like Fluckey, Ramage, Dealey, O’Kane, Cromwell, Gilmore and Street would receive our nation’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor. Numerous others would receive the Navy Cross, the Silver Star and the Bronze Star. 

The “Silent Service” was born. 

Although most of those WWII sailors are now on eternal patrol, many submarine veterans from other eras still gather to pay homage to the brotherhood that binds them so tightly. One of these gatherings is about to happen May 6-7 at the American Legion in Big Timber. They will gather over a few beers, a few sea stories and a few tears. 

Many of the stories have to go untold as many of the Cold War missions and current deployments are highly classified. But these aging blue water GOBS know that their fellow active duty submariners are still adding new chapters to the “Silent Service.” 

You rarely hear about the submarine part of the Navy unless there is a major casualty, like the Thresher or Scorpion; or maybe the Nautilus as the first nuclear sub or the Skate surfacing at the north pole. But for more than 100 years the Navy and her quiet submarine sailors have gone about their business silent and unseen. 

So if you happen to be around Big Timber in early May and see an old sailor with twin dolphins on his chest, stop and shake his hand and ask him (or nowadays it could be a her) about life in the depths of the sea. 

If you happen to be a submarine sailor please contact Terry Moore at and consider attending this or future Montana Submarine Veteran gatherings of deep water sailors.

By John Chaffey / RM1(SS) USN

Photo courtesy of John Chaffey

CUTLINE: The USS Tautog, dubbed “The Terrible ‘T’,” was a Tambor-class submarine and the first ship of the U.S. Navy to be named for the tautog, a small edible sport fish also known as a blackfish. The Tautog was one of the most successful submarines of World War II, credited with sinking 26 Japanese ships for a total of 72,606 tons.




Great job. Article wonderfully written . Thanks for stepping up to the plate. May the Lord bless you for it.

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