Civilians on the USS Greeneville

What purpose were the civilians on the submarine that collided with the Japanese fishing vessel serving? I haven’t been able to find a reason why they would have been at the controls much less on the submarine at all. What am I missing here?

I don’t know the specifics in this case, but civilian contractors and the like do sometimes go out on military ships for one reason or another. You know - the people who built the thing testing something or other. That would be my guess.

Some of them are contributors to naval causes (donating money to museums, etc.), or friends and family of naval officers.


Civilians are on ships, aircraft, government facilities all the time. Tech Reps, Designers, Consultants, etc… In this case, I believe they were basically being given a ride, courtesy of an Admiral, for whatever purpose. Civilians, when in a visiting capacity, are routinely given certain courtesies like sounding an alarm, pressing a trigger, holding the controls etc… The press is doing their damndest to make this appear as if civilians being aboard a Navy vessel is a new thing, and the cause of the incident. As someone who has routinely babysat civilians and allowed them their “courtesies”, they are watched and regarded with extreme distrust, and aren’t allowed to do anything without being safely controlled. IF there is any fault at all on the part of the sub, it is with the person that “green lighted” the ascent… not the poor bastard, be it a civilian or an E-1, who pulled the “UP” handle.

What Turbo Dog(which is an excellent beer, BTW) has to say is on the money. As a schoolteacher, my mother was part of a group of local dignitaries and other folk invited to make an excursion on the city’s namesake sub (the U.S.S. Phoenix) a few years ago.

Her experience sounds much like the one that the civilans on the Greeneville were on; the sub demonstrated surfacing and descending, and then they were taken out a few miles off the Florida coast and the crew went through a few maneuvers (including, the emergency blow - she told me it was actually a fairly violent maneuver). IIRC, they let civilians sit at some of the controls for some of the maneuvers then, too, but from her description it seemed very clear that it was a tightly controlled and monitored thing.

All in all, from what she told me it sounded like the navy’s version of an air show - civilians sit get to take a tour, look at some of the fancy blinking lights, and see a few cool maneuvers.

I served on submarines and the first duty you had was a helmsmsn. It took about 10 minutes to get the drift. We were also under constant supervision. It’s obvious in the case of the Greenville that the Officer of the Deck screwed up big time. The USN will cover their a$$es by keeping civilians off the controls.

I was involved in a submarine collision off the coast of Spain many years ago. There was a back page tidbit in the New York Times and that was it. The media today is lethal.

My ex was stationed in Holy Loch, Scotland (nuclear sub base closed about 10 years ago) and there were collisions with fishing boats and near misses several times. I think it was in Stars and Stripes but you cannot get the European edition here in the U.S. I just can’t remember now where I read it. It may have also been the local paper, the Dunoon Observor. Also, there have been collisions off Juneau. I always wondered how the Navy got away with this never getting into the media. I doubt it had anything to do with the civilians; the Navy will probably be glad to lay the blame on that, take a slap on the hand, and continue as before. Since I know it has happened before, there is obviously another problem. Any submariners out there?

There have been several cases where small trawlers have sunk and there has been strong suspicion that their nets were snagged by subs, certainly nets have been lost this way before without sinking the boat.

Trouble is that subs are designed to hide in the sea so unless the navy admits to the incident there is little theat trawlermen can do.

IIRC there was one serious incident with loss of life which prompted campaigners to take photos of every returning sub and one or two were caught with heavy scratch marks which were assumed to have come from nets but the navy simply changed their time of returning to port to when it was dark.

Occasionaly the odd story leaks out where ex-sailor so-and-so will say that he was ordered to remove snagged nets from the sub but there is little media interest and I’d guess that the military would like to keep it that way.

From the International Labour Organisation

As a former submariner, Turbo Dog has it right. I can’t even pretend to recall the number of times we’ve had Mom’s, Dad’s, wives, etc (dependents cruises), congressmen’s staff, congressmen’s relatives, VIP dignitaries, MEDIA TYPES, you name it ride on board. I’ve seen civilians driving the boat, manning the periscope, shooting water slugs (firing the torpedo tubes when empty) and throwing the chicken switches during an emergency blow.

During each and every evolution there was a senior, qualified sailor standing over the civilian prepared to yank them out of the way or take over the evolution if they even pretended to screw up. There is no way that the crew was distracted, or that the civilians could have influenced that tragic mishap off the coast of Hawaii (now if the civilians were Playboy playmates, but that’s another story).

The media’s handling of this is quite appalling, IMHO. As indicated by my cap’s in the opening paragraph, these guys get to ride and do this stuff all the time. The startling revelation(?!?!) that civilians were at the controls is just pure sensationalism, and served no real purpose except to make the Navy look worse.

The CO of that boat is pure toast. But now instead of a controlled investigation into a tragic accident (that I’m sure the Japanese will be paid for, even though that doesn’t bring back the missing nine), its going to turn into a frenzied witch hunt were lots of people are going to lose their careers to satisfy the finger pointers.

You seem be implying that the public is incapable of handling complete and accurate information about this tragic incident. Surely a screwup this big merits a little more attention than a few closed door hearings at some naval base ? It seems to me that having a policy of letting the military kill people on a regular basis without letting that information become public knowledge is a BAD idea.
Something more than paying off the familes of the dead and toasting the commander is needed here.

[Jack ON]You can’t HANDLE the truth…[/Jack off (tee-hee)]
Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Oh, get off your high horse. The information’s been public for…Well, for longer than I was a sailor (submarines). This is just one of those times the media decides to hang someone in the military (they’ve been doing that for as long as there’s been a military and a reporting media). You appear to have bought into the whole ‘it’s all a conspiracy’ line. Go dig into the morgues of a few newspapers, and you’ll find what I’m saying is true. I particularly recommend the remnants of the Hearst papers: Hearst was especially vicious.

While there have been, unfortunately, a small handfull of incidents wherein civilians were killed by military activity in the last few decades, it’s NOT on a regular basis, and it’s NEVER been policy. Your insinuation is insulting. Shame on you.

High horse ? I simply pointed out that BF was using a navy screwup as the basis for attack on the press. While it may be true that the free press in this country messes up as often as the navy, they are NOT responsible for this particular problem.
Groundless attacks and expressions of personal prejudice belong in great debates or the pit, not here where people are at least attmpting to determine what the FACTS about something are.

I heard about this one of the national news reports [ABC, CBS, or NBC - one of them]. The guy reading the report mentioned “in the interest for fair journalism” [that caught my attention] that he had operated the controls during an emergency assent. That station did not try to make an issue of civilians being the problem. They just reported the facts.

I agree with suziek that the navy, not the media, will be happy to blame it on the civilians at the controls.

I certainlt haven’t heard anymore about why the sub was 3000 yards outside of the designated manouver area. Yes, in an area measured in miles, that is close, but the sub was not where it was supposed to be.

That’s about what I saw as well. Maybe some of the more politically motivated press organizations, such as Hearst are being irresponsible, but the most outrageous suggestion I’ve heard (Playboy playmates) comes from BH’s post; and he’s an ex submariner.

Um, I think you said a bit more than that, but never mind. The press certainly didn’t cause the collision, but they are making a bad situation far worse.

I think that was tounge-in-cheek, maybe?

BH? BH??? You need to get with the program, son. (Name that movie too), anyhoo…

My point was that as an ex-bubblehead, the minute I heard the news story, I knew that the CO and XO’s career was over, and that the FT of the watch, the guy responsible for tracking ships in the area; the Sonar watch officer and team, had screwed up big time. Consequently, I know that these guys are going to get fried. Now whether that means end of career, or a court martial with time spent at Ft. Leavenworth, remains to be seen. You see, it’s not that they sank a civilian ship possibly causing the loss of life of 9 innocent people. Oh no. It’s because they risked the possible sinking of a 2 billion dollar submarine and about 132 crewmen, whose training, etc., cost the US gubmint about $50K per head. These guys deserve everything they get, because, let me reiterate, they F@@@-ED UP BIG TIME.

So, the fact that this tragedy occurred is not lost within anyone in the Navy. It’s the fact that the MEDIA is gonna flog this dog to blame anyone, from the Admiral who runs this squadron, to the President, who just told the Joint Chiefs of Staff, duh, no more civilians until we sort this out, to the putz who scheduled these guys to ride on the damn boat. For what? Piss off the Japanese more-so than they already are? Cause more grief for the parents of the missing students? Next thing you know, they’re gonna report that one of the civilians was a right-wing militia member who was just trying to payback the Japs for bombing Pearl Harbor. Geez-a-wheez.

As far as the playmate things go, I apologize, that was done with tongue firmly in cheek.

Thank you for catching that Tranquilis…

The OP is asked and answered. I’m closing this thread. Please feel free to open another thread in an appropriate forum if you want to continue your debate.