U.S. Navy

US Navy submariner recalls that time a sailor had a mental break aboard his boat during covert ops and ripped off parts of one of the cabinets that provided backup control of the nuclear reactor

‘He ended up cracking the “local control” switch for the control rods before I was able to intercept and subdue him,’ James Thompson, former Electronics Technician aboard US Navy submarines.

America’s submarines have come a long way since the first hand-cranked wooden rigs. Today’s state-of-the-art vessels are able to support hundreds of sailors working and living together under the sea for months at a time.

Serving on a US Navy submarine crew takes courage, stamina and deep expertise — literally.

“I don’t think being on a submarine is for everybody. I think you have to be somebody that can be comfortable with no sun and no outside communication. Submariners are different from everyone else in the Navy. There is also a different kind of camaraderie down here,” Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Khamani Conklin, Torpedoman’s Mate, aboard USS Maine (SSBN-741) Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, says in the article Living in the Deep appeared on Department of Defense website.

Because of this unique environment has anyone in a Navy submarine ever lost their mind being stuck underwater for months at a time?

‘Oh, yes. I have even been a witness to that firsthand,’ James Thompson, former Electronics Technician aboard US Navy submarines, says on Quora.

‘During a 6-month deployment, we had a sailor that had a mental break during covert ops (basically we were supposed to remain as quiet as can be for weeks/months in a row to do surveillance). I happened to be on watch in the engine room when this sailor came back in the engine room and grabbed a wrench and started bashing the cabinets that controlled the engine room equipment. When I came across him, he was ripping parts off of one of the cabinets that provided backup (local) control of the reactor. He ended up cracking the “local control” switch for the control rods before I was able to intercept and subdue him.

‘Long story short, we had to divert for repairs as soon as we were able to do so (we also had a bad bearing in one of the Main Sea Water pumps, that resulted in a reduced ability to maintain higher propulsion speeds), so we had to go “off station” and get parts to conduct repairs. As soon as we were in port for repairs, that sailor was taken off due to his mental issues.’

Thompson concludes;

‘Having a sailor have a mental issue that resulted in temporary or even permanent reassignment was pretty common during that CO’s tenure on my submarine.’

Photo credit: U.S. Navy

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

  • Not to jump to conclusions right off the bat but hearing that serving under a CO that has a track record of putting people into psychotic rage gives me the impression that the SOB should be in Levinworth not being either an Xo Co or COB of our nuclear deterrent!
    In nam my dad who was a surgeon said just now that if they were in the shit or canopy they would have fragged I his ass! Whoops a round cooked off when my weapon was jammed and his head happened to be in the line of sight. I was pointed in a clear direction he just stood up and his head was in the life of sight. Something simpler than that though because the devil is in the details and you don’t want complexity. AK 47 got
    Him right through chest like at the end of Platoon! On a sun you would have to have something like in the beginning of The hunt for Red October! Simplicity is the key! Not that I HAVE EVER DONE ANYTHING LIKE THIS EVER BUT I AM WELL EDUCATED in some forensic science and biochemistry and medicine of course. There have been hated officers forever and they do tend do not last very long under serious circumstances and battle! My dad was a major in Vietnam a general trauma surgeon and he knew when a person was unliked and was probably killed by his own guys but he never reported it because who was he to tell a platoon or a squad or whatever whom they should let their lives be in the hands of or make critical decisions that get people killed for no good reason or just a mean son of a bitch because he can be! There are bad ones out there! Less now but there are still the bad ones but like I said they don’t tend to be a bother after they have pissed of the wrong people! Whoops he slipped on a banana peel or some tea like in a Hunt for RO! I never served but I served in a caste system of physicians and the only reason I got treated well is because my dad was chief of surgery if not those underlings were given rations of shot that they had to eat on an 80 hour shift! Those hours and those people are gone thankfully!

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