Qualification Books

From PigBoats.COM

Submarine Qualification Notebooks

Serving aboard a submarine in the USN is a vastly different experience than on any other warship. All warships require teamwork, but on a submarine the unique nature of what you are doing requires a level of technical and mental competency unlike any other. A mistake made during one unthinking act can kill the entire crew. Thus, every crewman, from the youngest Seaman Recruit to the Commanding Officer, is required to learn every valve, switch, lever, and button. They must know what its function is and understand how it operates. They must understand the system and its complex interactions with other systems. This new sailor must be thoroughly trained and drilled in emergency procedures so that they can not only save themselves but save the lives of their brothers. In addition, their character must be tested, so that the rest of their brothers can trust that he will not fold under pressure, and that he has the motivation and the loyalty needed to form the close bonds needed to survive under the sea and take the fight to the enemy.

This process is called "qualifying". From the moment that a new sailors crosses the brow for the first time the clock is ticking. The time period they are given can vary, most often it is one year. During that time the sailor will spend nearly all of his off-duty time studying, learning the systems, taking notes, and studying diagrams to the point of being able to hand draw them from memory. His accumulated knowledge is collected in his Qualification Notebook. When he thinks he is ready, a board of experienced and Qualified shipmates is put together and he is put through an excruciating, hours long oral board. If he passes, he is handed off to a senior officer or the Chief of the Boat for a final walkthrough, as a double check on the sailor's aptitude. There are those who do not pass, and they are sent to the surface fleet, never to set foot aboard a submarine again. The Commanding Officer will then review everything, for the Captain is ultimately responsible for this man and the quality of his training.

Photo in the private collection of David Johnston
Photo in the private collection of David Johnston

There is only one step left. The crew is gathered together at quarters, and the new sailor stands in front of them. The Captain will review the man's efforts, praising his hard work and dedication. He then reads the words on the printed citation, words the young man has been longing to hear, that bring him into the elite Brotherhood of Submariners. He is proclaimed to be Qualified in Submarines. The young sailor beams, his shipmates roar with approval, and the highly coveted Submarine Warfare Insignia, i.e. "Dolphins" badge (Gold for officers, Silver for enlisted) is pinned to his chest, leaving a figurative mark that will last to the end of his days.

The webmasters are not entirely sure of what the final process was in the early PigBoat days, but we have seen several instances where an entry was made on the submarine's crew roster, signifying that the noted member was now "Qualified in Submarine Torpedo Boat Work". In the minds of the men who sailed in the boats this was a coveted designation, as it brought them into the elite, and earned them the extra pay that status was granted.

In the Pigboat era, the Silver Dolphins metal breast badge for enlisted sailors was not yet in use. Enlisted sailors wore a white embroidered version on their right sleeve. It was no less distinctive, valued, or coveted. In 1947 these embroidered dolphins were moved to a place above to the left breast pocket and in 1950 the well-known silver metal dolphins replaced the embroidered version.

Running across these notebooks is a pretty rare thing. PigBoats is fortunate in having acquired copies of three Qualification Notebooks. Please peruse the links below to get an understanding of what needed to be learned to earn your Dolphins. We will add more as we get them.

The USS F-2 (SS-21)
The USS O-1 (SS-62)
The USS R-14 (SS-91)

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Ric Hedman & David Johnston
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