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The Submariner

by Dr. Joyce Brothers

    The tragic loss of the submarine Thresher and 129 men had a special kind of impact on

the nation .....a special kind of sadness, mixed with universal admiration for the men

who choose this type of work. One could not mention the Thresher without observing, in

the same breath how utterly final and alone the end is when a ship dies at the bottom of

the sea..... and what a remarkable specimen of man it must be who accepts such a risk.

Most of us might be moved to conclude, too, that a tragedy of this kind would have a

damaging effect on the morale of the other men in the submarine service and tend to

discourage future enlistment. Actually, there is not evidence that this is so. What is it

then, that lures men to careers in which they spend so much of their time in cramped

quarters, under great psychological stress, with danger lurking all about them?

Bond Among Them

    Togetherness is an overworked term, but in no other branch of our military service is it

given such full meaning as in the so called "silent service". In an undersea craft, each

man is totally dependent upon the skill of every other man in the crew, not only for top

performance but for actual survival. Each knows that his very life depends on the

others and because this is so, there is a bond among them that both challenges and

comforts them. All of this gives the submariner a special feeling of pride,

because he is indeed a member of an elite corps. The risks, then, are an inspiration

rather than a deterrent. The challenge of masculinity is another factor which attracts

men to serve on submarines. It certainly is a test of a man's prowess and power to know

he can qualify for this highly selective service. However, it should be emphasized

that this desire to prove masculinity is not pathological, as it might be in certain daredevil pursuits,

such as driving a motorcycle through a flaming hoop.

 Emotionally Healthy

     There is nothing daredevilish about motivations of the man who decides to

dedicate his life to the submarine service. He does, indeed, take pride in demonstrating

that he is quite a man, but he does not do so to practice a form of foolhardy

brinkmanship, to see how close he can get to failure and still snatch victory from the jaws

of defeat. On the contrary, the aim in the submarine service is to battle the danger, to

minimize the risk, to take every measure to make certain that safety rather danger, is

maintained at all times.

    Are the men in the submarine service braver than those in other pursuits where the

possibility of sudden tragedy is constant?  The glib answer would be to say they are. It

is more accurate, from a psychological point of view, to say they are not necessarily

braver, but that they are men who have a little more insight into themselves and their

capabilities. They know themselves a little better than the next man. This has to be so with

men who have a healthy reason to volunteer for a risk. They are generally a cut healthier

emotionally than others of the similar age and background because of their willingness

to push themselves a little bit farther and not settle for an easier kind of existence.

    We all have tremendous capabilities but are rarely straining at the upper level of

what we can do, these man are. The country can be proud and grateful that so many

of its sound, young, eager men care enough about their own stature in life and the welfare of their

country to pool their skills and match them collectively against the power of the sea.