Sunday, November 26, 2017

Until the Sea Shall Give Up Her Dead...

The sea is a harsh mistress. For over a week I have been following the story of the ARA San Juan, the Argentine submarine which failed to report in on the 15th of November. As the clock ticked, various nations offered assistance in the search for the 44 souls aboard that ill-fated boat. Numerous reports came out in the media, most of which have been proven false, or incomplete, most of which left me wondering, just where were these bits of information coming from?

Insider leaks to the press? Speculation put forth as hard fact and then expanded upon by journalists with no background or experience in the things they were writing about? Rumors spread for malicious reasons?

Who knows?

The only people who know exactly what happened aboard San Juan, were aboard San Juan. In all likelihood those same people now lie dead in their submarine at the bottom of the South Atlantic. A cruel reminder, once again, that even in peacetime, naval operations carry a certain risk which the average civilian will never understand.

Only they who go down to the sea in ships, only those who have business in great waters will understand.

Prayers are offered for the lost. Prayers are offered for those left behind.

Forty-four families left to mourn for the dead.

Then word came of the C-2 Greyhound lost on approach to USS Ronald Reagan, a ship I have been to sea on, a ship which both daughters have served on. Eleven aboard, eight rescued, three lost, one of whom was a pilot, two of whom were young sailors probably heading out to their first assignment at sea.

Three more families who now know that their sailors won't be coming home from the sea.

Again much speculation about what happened, much of it ill-informed. But in this case, some of the crew survived to tell the tale. We will eventually learn what went wrong.

But again, all we can do is offer prayers for the lost, prayers to ease the suffering of those left behind.

Meanwhile, the sea rolls ever onward, mysterious and uncaring.

O MOST powerful and glorious Lord God, at whose command the winds blow, and lift up the waves of the sea, and who stillest the rage thereof; We, thy creatures, but miserable sinners, do in this our great distress cry unto thee for help; Save, Lord, or else we perish. We confess, when we have been safe, and seen all things quiet about us, we have forgotten thee our God, and refused to hearken to the still voice of thy word, and to obey thy commandments: But now we see how terrible thou art in all thy works of wonder; the great God to be feared above all: And therefore we adore thy Divine Majesty, acknowledging thy power, and imploring thy goodness. Help, Lord, and save us for thy mercy's sake, in Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord. 


  1. "WE therefore commit their bodies to the deep, to be turned into corruption, looking for the resurrection of the body, when the Sea shall give up her dead, and the life of the world to come, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who at his coming shall change our vile body, that it may be like his glorious body, according to the mighty working, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself. Amen."

    Civilians don't understand the tempo of military operations at sea (war and peacetime sailing) nor of how hard the salt water and the necessary and proper operation of ships is on the vessels and the crew. Prez. Obama certainly could have given a rat's ass about any of it. They don't understand the needs of building qualified manpower and the churn of manpower and the vast training requirement necessary to keeping things military in service. From an Air Force perspective, there is no appreciation of platforms like the B-52 where grandchildren are literally flying the same aircraft that grandparents flew. To them it's all an abstract calculus.

    However to those 44 families who know that their loved ones won't return to Argentina and to the 3 US Navy families of those on the COD that went down near Okinawa, the pain is real. To those of us who served and survived, there is a pause, a breath of understanding and a sadness shared but unfelt by those families because of friends lost, or friends who died in our arms literally. There is a cost to freedom and there is a cost to operating a Navy and a military forward of national boundaries and it's paid in blood, toil and treasure.

    To the pompous Congress critters, who uncaringly throw those lives around, I can only say that I hope they one day 'pay up' in the great beyond.

  2. O God, Thy Sea Is So Great And My Boat Is So Small... Prayer of Breton fishermen that John F. Kennedy kept upon his desk in the Oval Office. Those who have been to sea know only too well that the sea can be a cold and dangerous environment. Our prayer will always be, Oh hear us when we cry to thee, for those in peril on the sea.

    1. I didn't see this comment before I posted the first verse below. I thought of it immediately when I saw Sarge's title. Fitting, and sad, and solemn.

  3. I suggest reading Commander Edward Ellsberg's book, "On The Bottom."
    It is the non fiction account of the raising of the the US Navy's submarine S-51.
    The S-51 sunk after a collision with the civilian ship, "The City Of Rome" and only three survived.

    Our hearts go out to those who lost loved ones.

    1. I forgot to add that the book is available for the Kindle on Amazon, and the hardcover is available from Flat Hammock Press.

    2. I have two copies, paper and Kindle. The man could write!

    3. Scott. I read his book "Thirty Fathoms Deep" in the sixties when I was in high school and I have read most of his non-fiction and fiction. I agree, he really could write.

  4. What the others have said, above. Life at sea is fun & games until the winds start to blow, and the seas to toss. Few apart from the sailors themselves know how fragile life can be, when the ocean turns ugly.

  5. Alas, as we've been reminded by both the Fitzgerald and McCain, even a calm night at sea can turn deadly all too quickly. Preparation and vigilance are required for all who go down to the sea in ships and do business in great waters.


  6. I once read, many many moons ago, some famous admiral said, "First we fight the sea, then we fight the enemy."

    There is a special place in heaven for those lost at sea.

  7. On such a moment, one has to express, pray for their comfort. Again, o bashing won't help them.
    The president only sets the agenda. It's the people of the puzzle palace who do the rest. Need money? Critters, how to spend it pp.
    I often think of our better past. Such as using Sat feeds on Google earth, and why we cannot do that anymore, just because we could see the subs?

  8. When the seas are angry there is nowhere to hide.

  9. I was a ground pounder but after the Army had a brief stint teaching a college course on an aircraft carrier. I can't imagine many deaths worse than being trapped in a vessel at the bottom if the sea.

  10. A noble sentiment and an honest prayer.
    It's not how we run things.

    The Armada Argentine has a pretty good idea what was wrong with the submarine as does the NSA, et al. The submarine surfaced with a problem that drove it to the surface and REPORT to its headquarters that it had a problem and was ordered to head to port, according to the press release. The CO then reported, having fixed the problem, he intended to submerge and proceed to port. In other words, they knew they had a major problem, thought they could make it underwater on battery or snorkel and proceeded to do so. They probably felt driven under by the wind and wave but, was it wise to give up the relative safety of the surface for the depths? We may never know. Others may discover if this was so.

    Again, with the fall of the C2, the pilot surely notified the ship of an imminent failure. The Navy knows or has a very good idea what happened. We may never know.

    The thing is, in our Navy we investigate these kinds of failures in order to find out why they happened and how to prevent them from happening again. It's our way. We are not big believers in inshallah.

    We don't put our ships and our men in harm's way on the sea on a prayer. We do it somewhat differently.

    As with USS FITZGERALD and USS MCCAIN, we will investigate the loss of the C2 and I expect that the Armada will do the same for the loss of their submarine, to the very best of their ability.

    May all those lost, abide with God.

    1. Sounds like the Argentines were holding on to crucial information. That the sub had seawater coming in via the snorkel, that a battery fire had been ignited by shorts, and anyone who knows submarines knows that seawater and batteries are a bad, bad combo. The surface conditions must've been really bad to preclude surfacing. That they may have thought they got the situation under control, but it apparently flared up again resulting in an explosion not long afterwards doesn't surprise me a bit. The Germans build good U-boats, but the South Americans don't have so good a reputation at keeping with maintenance, especially with their perennial economic crises.

  11. Eternal Father, strong to save,
    Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
    Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
    Its own appointed limits keep;
    Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
    For those in peril on the sea!

  12. Amen. My grandma lost a cousin on the Titanic.


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