Naval Warfare

USS San Francisco submarine electronics technician recalls when a sailor went comatose after learning his submarine’s depth

Living in the Deep

As already explained, being on a submarine is not for everybody. As US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Khamani Conklin, Torpedoman’s Mate, aboard USS Maine (SSBN-741) Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine explains in the article Living in the Deep appeared on US Department of Defense website, you have to be able to 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,” he said.

Given the unique environment aboard submarines, as already reported [CLICK HERE to read the article about the sailor who had a mental break aboard a US Navy submarine during covert ops and ripped off parts of one of the cabinets that provided backup control of the nuclear reactor] submariners can lose their mind while they are stuck underwater for months at a time.

Comatose after learning his submarine depth

Glenn Johnson, former electronics technician and electronics systems manager ET1(SS) aboard USS San Francisco (SSN-711) Los Angeles-class attack submarine, told to The Aviation Geek Club;

‘We had a group of replacements report aboard and just put to sea for their first time. I was sitting with one of the “newbies” eating dinner.

‘The young lad was very inquisitive and asking questions when he pointed at a dial asking what that was. I told him it was a depth gauge, he leaned over to read it, looked at me and ask we’re at whatever depth. His eyes glazed over and went stiff and completely unresponsive, even when I snapped my fingers merely inches in front of his face.

‘I reached up behind me for a sound powered phone. Called up “Control – Crews mess have corpsman lay to crews mess.” The Doc poked his head into crew’s mess, with a few hand gestures I conveyed to the Doc the guy just tripped off line. The Doc disappeared for a few moments reappeared with a straitjacket laying on his shoulder and was drawing a sedative in a hypodermic. We put him in his rack and was heavy sedated until we returned to port.’

Johnson concludes;

‘It is very startling to have someone go comatose in front your eyes.’

U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Mark A. Leonesio

The attack submarine USS San Francisco (SSN 711) is escorted by two harbor tugs returns to Apra Harbor, Guam, after a five-month deployment.
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

  • I believe the technician likely said "straitjacket" rather than "stray jacket".

  • Sounds far more like Felony Assault and Battery then it does medical care to me. What do you expect from the mental cases they love in the military these days though.

  • Is it customary to be stationed on a submarine and not know about like depth and devices which measure depth

  • It sounds harsh,
    Not felony assault though you have to understand one guy losing his mind and doing something out of pocket down there can and will endanger the entire crew. Your at a depth of extreme pressure carrying around a nuclear reactor and there is a lot of things can go wrong.

  • You cannot have some dummy lose his or her mind when doing recon. What did he really think was going on I wonder? Did he really think the ship had just dipped a teeny tiny bit?
    Did he pay for the damages? I swear some people do not belong in the military. My dad was navy. If he were here now I can hear him cussing the guy out. I chuckled when I read the doc came in with a straightjacket and sedative, serves him right.

  • Strange story. Sound powered phones call Control from Crews Mess ( what about the 4MC .)?
    Sound powered phones are used for Battle Stations or communications when power is lost or flooding compartments.

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