The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 11
Today is Pearl Harbor Day; a day that doesn't get a lot of
recognition anymore (unless you live in Pearl Harbor), but a day set aside to
remember and reflect on the surprise attack on Hawaii by Japanese forces, which
subsequently led to the United States entering World War II.
"On Sunday morning,
December 7, 1941 America's naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii was attacked by
the forces of the Empire of Japan. More than 2,400 Americans were killed and
more than 1,100 were wounded. The attack sank four U.S. Navy battleships and
damaged four more. It also damaged or sank three cruisers, three destroyers,
one minelayer and damaged 188 aircraft." -Wikipedia
Having been in the Navy a long time and stationed in Pearl Harbor,
HI for a number of years, I have witnessed firsthand the scars of battle that
are still present there today, 71 years after the attack that is often
remembered as a date which will live in infamy. I've stood on the memorial that
towers over the remains of the USS Arizona, a behemoth of a ship that became the
eternal resting place for many of the 1,177 crew members who perished during the
attack and the days following.
But I'm not here to try and depress everybody. These men and
women died in the line of duty and we should pay our respects of course, but we
should also rejoice and enjoy life and the freedom which we have been afforded.
And trust me - I will eventually tie this in to video games.
When most people think of Pearl Harbor, they think of the
Japanese planes swooping in and dropping bombs on all the ships in port but
what many people don't know was there were also a number of Japanese midget
submarines involved in the attack (most reports suggest at least five of them).
World War II was the conflict where the submarine force
would shine, but at a steep cost. As a submariner myself, I'm fascinated with
tales like this that Wikipedia summarizes nicely...
"During World War II
the submarine force was the most effective anti-ship and anti-submarine weapon
in the entire American arsenal. Submarines, though only about 2 percent of the
U.S. Navy, destroyed over 30 percent of the Japanese Navy, including 8 aircraft
carriers, 1 battleship and 11 cruisers. U.S. submarines also destroyed over 60
percent of the Japanese merchant fleet, crippling Japan's ability to supply its
military forces and industrial war effort. In addition, the Japanese merchant
marine lost 16,200 sailors killed and 53,400 wounded, of some 122,000 at the
start of the war, due to submarines."
But like I said...at a steep cost...
"During the war, 52 US
submarines were lost to all causes, with 48 directly due to hostilities; 3,505
sailors were lost, the highest percentage killed in action of any US service
arm in World War II."
Submariners had a low survival rate during WWII...some say if
you made more than two combat patrols you were living on borrowed time. So why
does any of this matter, or more appropriately, how does any of this relate to
Hah, I thought you would never ask. I dunno, I guess that
opening was just a way of remembering fallen shipmates, plugging the great
things the submarine force has done (and is still doing) and remembering a few
classic video games from the archives - one I played long before I was even old
enough to consider joining the Navy and the others I played after joining the
Navy (and even while I was underway on a submarine).
I am a submariner.
I earned my "fish" back
in the Spring of 1993 and was going to have them presented by the skipper at
the North Pole, since we were already in that neck of the woods in support of a
research project titled APLIS (all
of this is unclassified by the way). As fate would have it, an unfortunate incident
occurred involving one of our boats hitting a Russian submarine, and we were
pulled off to go do gatekeeper operations in the GIUK (Greenland, Iceland,
United Kingdom) gap.
Ironic, because I'd already done this sort of mission dozens
of times before, only not in real life.
Before I joined the Navy and became a "bubblehead" or
"squid" as we are often called, my first exposure to the Silent Service was
decades ago, when I was barely a teenager playing a game of the same name.
"Silent Service is a
1985 submarine simulator video game. It was designed by Sid Meier and published
by MicroProse for various 8-bit home computers, and in 1987 for 16-bit systems
like the Amiga. Silent Service is set in the Pacific Ocean during World War II,
with the player assuming control of a United States submarine for various war
patrols against Japanese shipping ("Silent Service" was a nickname
for the US Navy's submarine force in the Pacific during WWII)."
My memories of Silent Service aren't as clear as some of the
other games I played on my brother's Commodore 64, but I definitely recall
playing it. I have memories of watching several underway merchants out the
periscope waiting for them to close the gaps before firing a barrage of
torpedoes in their general direction, hoping to score multiple hits on multiple
targets. As soon as you fired, your position was comprised and warships would
move in on you and start dropping depth charges. It was a fun game (rudimentary
by today's standards) and I recall my brother and I always competing to see who
could sink the most tonnage. I vaguely recall being able to surface and fire
your massive deck guns at the enemies, but specific details in that regard are
sketchy. It's cool to think of the game now, seeing it was developed by video
game pioneer - Sid Meier and the once prominent MicroProse. The game would go
on to win a few awards and spawn a sequel, but I'll always remember this
classic and how it was my first ever exposure to submarine warfare and the
688 Attack Sub
The next submarine game I played (years later) was 688
Attack Sub, which was much more to my liking since I was attending submarine
school in Groton, CT and would likely be assigned to one upon graduation (which
would prove true). At that time, we had a handful of Sturgeon class (637)
submarines in the submarine force, but most of them were Los Angeles Class (688s).
I played the 688 game on an Amiga 500...which I guess was
technically the first computer I personally owned. I was still kind of new to
submarines, so the video game provided an interesting perspective. I
distinctively remember it had different areas like the Sonar Room, Radio Room
and of course the Conn where you could issue navigation and fire control
"688 Attack Sub is a
submarine simulator game designed by John W. Ratcliff & Paul Grace,
published in 1989 for MS-DOS systems and 1990 for Amiga computers by Electronic
Arts. The player takes command of a US Los Angeles-class or Soviet Alfa class
nuclear powered attack submarine and plays 10 missions ranging from into either
Cold War scenarios or combat missions in a hypothetical global conflict. This
was one of the earliest games that allowed two players to play against each
other over a modem (or null modem cable)."
I remember the game was fairly challenging as it employed
real world tactics of tracking and firing at ships and other submarines with
advanced weapons; gone were the days of going to periscope depth and launching
a "fire and forget" torpedo that just shot in a straight direction. You also
had to worry about counter detection and would use thermal layers in the ocean
to try and help conceal your location. I work in communications and I remember
being surprised how authentic this was portrayed in the game. I also remember
one time a few of my classmates and I went down to the waterfront and got a tour
of an actual submarine...and I remember asking the sailor who was our tour guide
all sorts of crazy questions until he asked me..."How do you know all of this
stuff?" and I responded, "From playing a video game." It wasn't exact, but it
gave me enough knowledge to be dangerous, with features like emergency
surfacing and shearing the towed array, which is a really long cable you trail
behind the submarine that acts like a microphone. I remember in the game, I
would lose mine all the time because when you had it deployed, it had a speed
restriction. I remember exceeding the speed limit and losing it. Well, I asked
this guy if that would really happen and he said it would...so there were lots of
little details like that.
I remember enjoying the game, but I'm sure that was largely
due to the fact this was my future...and it seemed exciting. Like I mentioned
earlier about gatekeeper operations in the GIUK, 688 Attack Submarine takes
place during the Cold War and there were plenty of missions involving
gatekeeper operations in that region. Who knew I would one day really do the
exact thing I had been playing in a video game?
688 (I) Hunter/Killer
The last game I'm going to talk about is 688 (I)
Hunter/Killer. I "owned" the game but never really played it. It was extremely
realistic and had a fairly steep learning curve.
is a 1997 submarine simulator game developed by Sonalysts Inc. and published by
Electronic Arts. It is named after the 688 (Improved) Los Angeles class of
United States (SSN) submarine, and was a successor to the earlier game 688
Okay, well...the game was good and all but I didn't play it a
whole lot for a few different reasons. As I recall, the manual was the size of
a college text book as it discussed the complex features found onboard real
submarines. From water fall displays used by the sonar techs to detect contacts
to the positioning of the ship when firing torpedoes at bad guy submarines
using Target Motion Analysis (TMA) techniques, the game was just so real. Too
real, if that's possible. I recall my first skipper (CO - Commanding Officer)
used to play it and have the junior officers play it for "training".
The other reason I didn't play it? Well, when you're living
it for real it isn't as exciting and seems more like work than fun. My first
submarine was actually the first 688(I), so I guess you could say I was already
playing the game...literally. Besides, if you've read my other blogs,...you
might recall I was too busy playing the original X-COM. But 688(I) was still a
great game and did a fantastic job recreating the whole experience of being a
submariner (or an underwater astronaut as my buddy used to say).
"Submarines are underhand,
unfair, and damned un-English. Treat all submarines as pirates in wartime...
and hang all crews." -Sir Arthur
Wilson VC, Admiral of the Fleet (1901)
Dedicated to the Pearl Harbor survivors and the memory of
those who perished that fateful day.
Fair Winds and Following Seas.
Well written, and for a good cause. Let us remember this for all time as Americans, and never forget what we lost and the hopes we gained in our darkest hours...
I can relate to this blog because my father was a submariner as well. He worked on a nuclear submarine and served during the first Gulf War. Excellent blog, Saint. Being away from the US, I often forget about days of remembrance such as this one.
Sir, thank you for your service.
Speaking of videogames and those who serve, I wonder if any of those seven million-plus owners of the lastest Call of Duty title ever pause to reflect on those who have actually answered that call?
Great article, and thank you for your service. I've actually been to the memorial,its always quiet there.