Naval Warfare

Nuclear Submarine Officer recalls when his submarine’s periscope hit a small one-man fishing boat knocking the fisherman overboard

‘I’m sure that he’s still telling the story of “something” hitting his boat, knocking him overboard, but then never appearing,’ James Mowrey, US Navy Nuclear Submarine Officer.

Mention the word “submarine” to anyone, and a host of images will spring to mind. The sleek, low, black silhouette pier-side or sliding through the ocean. The drama of an “emergency blow” as the boat broaches the surface in a volcanic eruption of water. And of course, the sinister image of the tip of a periscope feathering the surface, hinting at what lies lurking below.

Specifically the periscope is the eye of the submarine. It was invented and developed solely for the purpose of providing a means to view the surface without fear of detection by surface craft.

Have submarines coming to periscope depth ever hit someone?

James Mowrey, former US Navy Nuclear Submarine Officer, recalls on Quora;

‘Funny story.

‘We were in the Philippines in the mid-1980s. I was in the Control Room, but a friend of mine was the OOD. We were coming to periscope depth, and as usual, waiting for the OOD to call out “No Close Contacts” prior to speaking again. Or “emergency deep”, whichever was appropriate. It was a beautiful day on the surface, and as the scope broke the surface, there was a muffled “bong” sound and the OOD was saying “Oh, s**t!”. He called out a rudder order to swing the back end of the boat out right then.

‘Turns out, the scope had hit a small one-man fishing boat (we called them bonka boats – not sure if that’s really the name), and the OOD had a low power view of the fisherman’s back as he fell overboard. The man swam back to the boat, grabbed the gunnels, and looking around a little scared and very confused, climbed back into the boat.’

Mowrey concludes;

‘I’m sure that he’s still telling the story of “something” hitting his boat, knocking him overboard, but then never appearing.’

The Los Angeles Class Attack submarine USS Chicago completes a training maneuver off the coast of Malaysia.

Photo credit: Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Kevin H. Tierney / U.S. Navy and Stik boat

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

View Comments

  • That would be something I would keep to myself if I were the fisherman. After all if he didn't see what hit him what could you say that people wouldn't think you were either drunk and fell overboard or you weren't paying attention and a wave rocked the boat throwing you over . But with no find breaking the water it's not a shark and it doesn't sound like whales you would think they should blow if at the surface and hit a small boat.

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