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From the Submarine Research Center
June, 2005

Bulletin 42 posed the question, "Why are there so few famous men in recent American history who were former submariners?" It seems reasonable that an organization having high standards for intelligence and drive should be a fore-runner to men who do great things. It identified Ned Beach and Jimmy Carter, but asked submariners to let SRC know if there are others out there that have been overlooked. The following are the major contributions to this casual inquiry.

John Crouse of the St. Mary's Submarine Museum in Georgia adds a few names to our list of submariners who have become well-known to the public.

Topping the list is Tony Curtis, a movie actor of fame - "Some Like It Hot", "The Hucksters" and many others. He talks of his own history in submarines:

"As a youth, I remember seeing Cary Grant in "Destination Tokyo" and Tyrone Power in "Crash Dive." I knew right then and there that I wanted to be a submariner. I used to take broom handles and make submarines out of them. I would stick a nail in the top and used a rubber band to drive a propeller made from a tin can. Here I was the little kid down at the park, trying to make my homemade submarine float.

"But I knew from the very start that I wanted to be in submarines. There was never a doubt in my mind."

He went to Basic Recruit Training, Signalman School in Great Lakes and Submarine School in New London. After graduation he went to Guam and picked up the USS Proteus (AS-12) as part of Submarine Relief Crew 202.

He continued, "Whenever a submarine came in after a war patrol, they would tie up alongside the tender and the crew would go on liberty. We would go aboard then and clean it up and scrape the barnacles from the sides. It was hard work, sure, but it didn't matter. This was great work for those of us waiting to be assigned to a submarine. It was great practice to get those submarines ready to go back out on patrol."

Curtis never actually served aboard submarines. The war ended and he watched from the Proteus' deck as the surrender document was signed aboard the nearby USS Missouri.

Another personage brought to our attention is Robin Williams, but our investigation failed to reveal Williams' military history. Mr. Crouse also identifies the senior production person for the television show, "JAG" as a former submariner, but once again, we were unsuccessful in gaining any information on this person's military service.

Doug Smith tells us that L. Patrick Gray, the head of the FBI during Nixon's Watergate years was a former submariner. We discovered that he had attended the Naval Academy and graduated in 1940. After his period of service in the Second World War and Korean War he attended George Washington School of Law. His reputation as director of the FBI was tarnished by the Watergate investigation. His possible service in submarines was not confirmed by the information at our disposal.

Joel Staggs nominates Chester W. Nimitz, Hyman Rickover and Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr. These men made their mark on history while serving in the military. Even though they are certainly well-known they are not within the parameters of this inquiry. Joel identifies George P. Steele, the author of "Sea Dragon; Northwest Under The Ice", a novel of nuclear submarines in the cold war. Joel also cites Clay Blair who wrote "Silent Victory" and "Nimitz." While SRC failed to identify what submarine crews these authors were a part of, it is obvious from the subjects that they had submarine experience.

Fred Wagner tells us that Robin Cook who wrote several medical mysteries, two of which were made into movies ("Coma" and "Outbreak") was a submarine medical officer before becoming famous as a novelist. Dean Obray, the mayor of Kuna, Idaho is well-known in Idaho, but we were not able to define his prior submarine experience.

All in all, it looks like those submariners who later made their mark on history did so with pen and ink, or in more modern parlance, with the word processor.
Submarine Research Center