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“The submarine is an unusual weapon.” (Video Interview, 16:41)

   John W. Close
Collection image
John Close [2003]
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Navy
Unit: Submarine Service; V-12 Program; Advance Submarine School
Service Location: Great Lakes, Illinois; Newport, Rhode Island; San Diego, California; Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; Warrensburg, Missouri; Iowa
Rank: Torpedoman's Mate Third Class
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As a 19-year-old in September 1942, John Close tried to enlist in the Navy, but his father would not sign the papers for him until John threatened to join the Merchant Marine. Once in the Navy, he volunteered for submarine duty and was accepted on his third attempt. Eventually, he was stationed in Pearl Harbor, maintaining submarines which had come in from patrol. His expertise was in cleaning, painting, and adjusting torpedoes, and though he never got go out on patrol, his descriptions of how submarines and their favorite weapons work are concise and invaluable.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (6 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (47 min.)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (6 items)
Volunteering for submarine school in Newport, Rhode Island; easier to get in than to stay; learning about torpedoes; doing well in training also helped transform his introverted personality. (01:44) Sub school in San Diego was six weeks, three in the classroom, three at sea in old S boats from the 1920s; difference between older subs and the new models, which for starters can dive much deeper; recommends the book Blind Man’s Bluff for information on the Cold War underwater chess games between American and Soviet subs. (02:18) Maintaining the old submarines required being a contortionist to get into and out of very small spaces; getting stuck once when his body swelled up because of the heat; a fan was brought in to cool him down. (02:28)
After attack on Pearl Harbor, except for submarines, destroyers, a couple of carriers, a few cruisers, that was it, our entire attack force at sea; ironic that the attack on Pearl Harbor ignored the subs, which wound up responsible for over 50% of Japanese ships that were sunk;in early 1944, Pearl seemed packed with ships and then one morning, they were all gone, off in a flotilla to take the Gilbert Islands. (02:37) Stationed in Hawaii, refurbishing subs as they came in from patrol; eager to get on a sub but accepting his status; explaining the mechanics of a submarine's ability to dive; rehabbing subs for different purposes: range vs. ability to dive quickly; hazards of working with creosote; how torpedoes are set for direction and depth; torpedoes used in greater numbers earlier in the war than later, when there were fewer targets. (06:40) In favor of compulsory national service for all; would instill discipline that he sees is lacking; submarines illustrate need for discipline and responsibility; believes the disappearance of the S-28 off Hawaii with all hands on July 4, 1944 was connected with someone not doing his job correctly. (02:15)

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  October 26, 2011
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