13 Replies Latest reply on Dec 22, 2021 9:13 AM by Rachael Salyer

    Seeking process to be qualified in submarines

    Tom Boyer Adventurer

      I'm looking for information regarding the process for enlisted and officers to be "qualified in submarines" during WWII. I qualified in submarines by going through a rigorous learning and testing process cumulating in an oral walk through test by the COB or maybe XO. But that was in the 1970's. I have the official Navy after-action report on Submarine Commands published just at the end of WWII in which is discussed the evolution of award boards to award officers for their war patrol results. Things like how many tons were sunk to qualify for a Navy Cross, or Silver Star, etc. There is about one or two paragraphs about earning the Submarine Combat Insignia but nothing about dolphins. There were not that many submarine sailors at all at the beginning of WWII. The submarine school in Groton, CT was established in 1916. Did prospective submarine sailors get to wear the embroidered dolphin patch on their right sleeve after completion of sub school?

        • Re: Seeking process to be qualified in submarines
          Tom Boyer Adventurer

          I found this reference:


          Announcement was made this week by the Bureau of Navigation, Navy Department, prescribing the qualifications for officers and enlisted men for wearing the submarine insignia, which was approved by the Secretary of the Navy last March.”(a) Officers qualified for submarine command in accordance with chapter 3. Paragraphs 203-209, Submarine Instructions, November. 1919,”are authorized to wear this insignia.


          The following enlisted men are authorized to wear this insignia: (a) Men found qualified for submarine duty in accordance with chapter 3. Paragraphs 214-215. Submarine Instructions, November, 1919, whose certification of qualification appears on their service records.

          (h) Men who prior to the issue of Submarine Instructions, November 1919 were found qualified for submarine duty and whose certification of qualification appears on their service records.



          It was in:


          Evening star. [volume], September 28, 1924, Page 11, Image 57

          Army and Navy News by M. H. McIntyre


          Now I'm looking for Submarine Instructions, November 1919.

          • Re: Seeking process to be qualified in submarines
            Elliot Schneider Guide



            Here is something pertaining to the Dolphins insignia you are referencing.


            Here are current uniform definitions and wear they can be put on uniform. https://www.mynavyhr.navy.mil/References/US-Navy-Uniforms/Uniform-Regulations/Chapter-5/5201-Breast-Insignia/


            The insignia of the U.S. Navy's Submarine Service is a Submarine flanked by two dolphins. Dolphins, the traditional attendants to Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea and patron deity of sailors, are symbolic of a calm sea.

            The origin of the U.S. Navy Submarine Insignia dates back to 13 June 1923. Captain Ernest J. King, USN, Commander, Submarine Division Three (later Fleet Admiral and Chief of Naval Operations during World War II), suggested to the Secretary of the Navy, via the Bureau of Navigation (later known as BUPERS), that a distinguished device for qualified submariners be adopted. He submitted a pen-and-ink sketch of his own showing a shield mounted on the beam of a submarine, with dolphins forward and aft of the conning tower. The suggestion was strongly endorsed by Commander Submarine Divisions, Atlantic. During the next several months the Bureau of Navigation solicited additional designs from several sources. Among the designs were a submarine and shark motif, a submarine and shield, and submarines with ancient dolphins.

            A Philadelphia firm, Bailey, Banks and Biddle, which had done work for the Navy previously, was requested to design a suitable badge. In 1928, Mr. George Meale, representing the firm, mentioned to Ensign William Crawford Eddy that they were looking for a design for "Submarine Wings" to denote qualifications in Submarines. Using his original sketches of the 1926 Naval Academy class crest that he had designed, Eddy came up with the present submarine insignia which was adopted by the Navy and is in use today (shown above), abow view of surface submarine, with bow planes rigged for diving, flanked by dolphins in horizontal position, their heads resting on the upper edge of the bow planes. Future Navy Captain Eddy then recommended to the Secretary of the Navy that the design be adopted. The recommendation was accepted by Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., Acting Secretary of the Navy. The submarine insignia was to be worn at all times by officers and men qualified in submarine duty attached to submarine units or organizations, ashore or afloat, and not to be worn when not attached.

            In 1941 the Uniform Regulations were modified to permit officers and enlisted men to wear the submarine insignia after they had been assigned to other duties in the naval service, unless such right had been revoked. The officer insignia was a bronze gold plated metal pin, worn centered above the left breast pocket and above the ribbons or medals. Enlisted men wore an embroidered silk insignia on the outside of the right sleeve, midway between the wrist and elbow until 1947 when it was shifted to above the left breast pocket. In 1943 the Uniform Regulations were modified to allow enlisted men, who were qualified for submarine duty then subsequently promoted to commissioned or warrant ranks, to continue wearing the enlisted submarine insignia until they qualified as submarine officers when they were entitled to wear the officers submarine pin.

            A 1950 change to Uniform Regulations authorized the embroidered insignia for officers (in addition to pin-on insignia) and a bronze, silver plated, pin-on insignia for enlisted men (in addition to the embroidered device).

            1 person found this helpful
            • Re: Seeking process to be qualified in submarines
              Alex Daverede Scout



              I cannot point to any official documentation on the qualifications process; however, there are mentions in personal accounts that give one an idea of what was involved.


              I turn to Admiral Ignatius J. Galantin’s personal account of his World War II submarine war experience in 1987’s “Take Her Deep: A Submarine Against Japan in World War II”.  On page 13 of the Pocket Books edition I have, Galantin mentions:


              "Graduation from sub school was only the first step in a submarine career.  To earn the designation “Qualified in submarines,” which gave the right to wear the gold dolphins insignia, would require a year of satisfactory service in an operating sub, completion of a notebook in which all ship’s systems were sketched and described, demonstration of proficiency in diving the ship and operating its machinery, as well as the ability to make a successful torpedo attack.  To earn their silver dolphins, enlisted men went through a similar but less rigorous procedure.”


              Galantin’s description is somewhat backed by CAPT Edward Beach’s classic novel “Run Silent, Run Deep”.  On page 13 of the Naval Institute’s Classics of Naval Literature edition, Beach, speaking through the character Edward Richardson, mentions:


              "It had taken me a full year to complete my submarine notebook and qualify in submarines, and gruff old Joe Blunt, my skipper in Octopus at the time, had pinned his own dolphins on my shirt.  Jim (Bledsoe) had needed no notebook, had put on his dolphins within six months of graduating from the submarine school.”  Beach’s account may indicate a modification of the qualification process to meet wartime demands.


              So the seeds of the current submarines qualification process can be found in the pre-World War II Navy.  There are probably other personal stories in printout there that could provide more detail—these two examples are the only ones I had at hand.  Just remember that in research, X never marks the spot!

              Good luck in your research.  I hope I have been able to help a little.


              A. J.

              1 person found this helpful
              • Re: Seeking process to be qualified in submarines
                Tom Boyer Adventurer

                PLEASE!   I appreciate what you all have provided but...


                I know about the insignia and its history and I know about qualification in submarines...I am qualified in submarines myself.


                What I'm asking is how enlisted people became eligible for wearing the sewn on patch on their right sleeve just as WWII commenced. In the 1939-1942 years. There were few personnel on "submarine torpedo boats" as they were called in the 1930's but with the war, the number of submarines and crew grew. There was a rigorous process to be accepted into submarine school itself to make sure the person was capable of the stress of submarine duty. Like ears popping.


                My question is ONLY about the "right" to wear the insignia in 1940. My theory: after submarine school, you were assigned to a boat and then you wore the dolphins. (Officers different.) Submarine school in and around 1940 was mostly at-sea on old R or S class boats part of SUBDIV 43 or SUBRON 7. At least according to my father-in-law's personnel records, he was "on" several S boats for short periods of time (months) then went to a shore school for his rating (yeoman) then back to several R boats out of Bermuda at the start of the war before finally assigned to a fleet boat and subsequent war patrols in the Atlantic. No where in his records does it say "Qualified in Submarines" or authorized to wear "dolphins." His records do show authorized to wear the Submarine Combat Insignia.


                The uniform regulations also state the dolphin insignia (enlisted and officer) was only to be worn when assigned to a submarine. So if they were not on a submarine or in a submarine command like a submarine squadron, they were not to wear the insignia.

                  • Re: Seeking process to be qualified in submarines
                    Elliot Schneider Guide



                    Did you see my last thread above on the 1941 Naval Uniform regulation.


                    Here it is again.


                    Please se pg.40 of the PDF or 36 of the original document for description of submarine wear 1941:


                      • Re: Seeking process to be qualified in submarines
                        Tom Boyer Adventurer

                        Yes, I saw that. It says in part:


                        10-30. Submarine Insignia: Enlisted men who have qualified for submarine duty and whose certification of qualification appears on their service records shall be entitled to wear the above insignia., embroidered in silk, in white on blue clothing, and in blue on white clothing. The submarine insignia shall be worn at all times by enlisted men qualified to wear it.


                        My question is: how did they become "qualified for submarine duty?" And was that qualification process different in 1939 than in 1941? There was a big change in submarine duty in those two years and the subsequent four years of the war.

                          • Re: Seeking process to be qualified in submarines
                            Elliot Schneider Guide



                            Found this interesting please read.


                            On February 19, 1943 the U.S. Navy Department Permanent Naval Uniform Board discussed a directive from Admiral Ernest King for the design of a Submarine Combat Patrol insignia for crew members of submarines participating in successful combat war patrols. On March 26, 1943 Acting Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal approved the insignia and the Submarine Combat Patrol Insignia was established. Regulations provided for award of the insignia to officers and men assigned to submarine duty who completed (since December 7, 1941) one or more patrols during which the submarine sank or assisted in sinking at least one enemy vessel or accomplished a combat mission of comparable importance.[8]

                            The Submarine Combat Patrol insignia could be awarded to crewmen prior to their designation of Qualified in Submarines. Full pride in the insignia was not realized until it was worn with dolphins. However, the Commanding Officer of a submarine which conducted a successful war patrol for purposes of awarding the insignia was key in the chain of command for the awarding authority. As such, he could recommend withholding the award of the insignia by advising the appropriate force or type Commander concerning any officer or enlisted man who he felt was 1) incapable of obtaining the designation of Qualified in Submarines or 2) who failed to display proper efforts to become qualified. If such officer or enlisted man failed to Qualify in Submarines or show proper effort, the force or type Commander would, after full consideration of the attending circumstances, withhold the award of the Submarine Combat Patrol insignia.[9]

                      • Re: Seeking process to be qualified in submarines
                        Rachael Salyer Ranger

                        Dear Mr. Boyer,


                        Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!


                        Generally speaking, the problem with Qualification for Submarines records is that training records are not retained as permanent records - but that only covers the aspects of the "training" as it occurred. The records of the policy for "training" could be in the Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel (Record Group 24) (or its predecessor the Bureau of Navigation) or in the Records of the Chief of Naval Operations (Record Group 38).


                        For example, we searched the National Archives Catalog and located the series Administrative Records, 1917-1935 in Record Group 38 contains some Naval instructions, and the series Formerly Security Classified General Correspondence, 1929-1943 in Record Group 38 includes a file related to the Submarine Training School in New London, CT. These records have not been digitized. Please contact the National Archives at Washington, D.C. - Textual Reference (RDT1) at archives1reference@nara.gov for access to these and similar records.


                        We also located the series Muster Rolls of US Navy Ships, Stations, and Other Naval Activities, 1/1/1939-1/1/1949 in Record Group 24 that contains 222 references to submarine training and 138 references to "submarine school" that might be of interest to you. The series World War II War Diaries, Other Operational Records and Histories, ca. 1/1/1942 - ca. 6/1/1946 in Record Group 38 contains 4 references to "submarine school" and 44 references to "submarine training" as well. These records have been digitized and can be viewed online using the Catalog.


                        Next, we located the series Bureau of Navigation Circular Letters, News Bulletins, and "ALNAV" Messages Received, 1924-1930 in the Records of the U.S. Naval Academy (Record Group 405) that contains directives that generally relate to naval personnel and include such subjects as qualifications for ratings and announcements of submarine training. These records have not been digitized. Please contact the United States Naval Academy, William W. Jeffries Memorial Archives (an affiliated archives) (XUSNA) at Lavalley@usna.edu for assistance with these and similar records.


                        Due to the continued impact of COVID-19, you may experience a delay in receiving an initial acknowledgment as well as a substantive response to your reference request from RDT1 and XUSNA. We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding and patience as we balance mission-critical work and the safety of our staff during the pandemic. Please check NARA’s web page about COVID-19 updates for the latest information.


                        According to this History of US Submarine Warfare Insignia - "DOLPHINS", the Dolphin insignia was established sometime in the mid-1920's at the suggestion of then Captain Ernst King (future CNO during World War II) to the Secretary of the Navy.  It is possible at that point or a bit later in the 1930s that the practice of qualifying submariners and eligibility for the insignia was set down. Plus, a record of the Dolphin insignia would be kept in an individual’s service record, and during World War II, would be part of the patrol report (names of newly-qualified would vary) - most of the time it was statistics.

                        Finally, we suggest that you contact the Navy’s Submarine Force Museum and the Naval History and Heritage Command for further assistance.


                        We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your research!


                        [Some information provided by Nate Patch, Subject Matter Expert.]

                        1 person found this helpful
                        • Re: Seeking process to be qualified in submarines
                          Tom Boyer Adventurer

                          Thanks to all of you. I'm learning more about qualifications. One of my associate's father was a WWII veteran who had explained to him the process he undertook in 1939 to become "Qualified for Submarine Torpedo Boat Duty." It was a process similar to today's process.


                          Can any of you help find this instruction that I found:


                          Submarine Instructions, November, 1919