Eyes of a Hundred Years

by Mike Hemming

My own eyes looked in vain over the cold Atlantic waters for a sign. Against all hope I looked and looked, but they were no longer there. The Thresher was gone and would only be seen again in the hearts and minds of those left behind. No future eyes would see her again.

For 100 years, the eyes of submariners have seen many things, good and bad. Many brave men have seen their last on submarines. Cromwell on Growler as he said "Take her down," last saw the green sea close over his eyes. A controllerman on Tang saw the hull opened by a torpedo blast as his last sight. A shipmate on lookout that day saw the cruelty of a Japanese prison camp. An oiler on Puffer watched the hull pounded almost to the coffin covers in the forward engine room by Japanese depth charges and lived to see anther day. Age-fading eyes of combat pin owners see 3,500 young men's ghosts that they will soon rejoin. But thousands of those that followed will see that none will be forgotten.

A funny little man with a bowler hat, walrus moustache and glasses saw the future and built a submarine. Fifty four years later another unfunny little man added a power plant that fulfilled the submarine's potential; If they both could see the latest version of their creation.

Eyes of wives, mothers, sons and daughters have seen their loved ones come home from the deep sea for over 100 years now. Now and then, their eyes see only wave tops and empty slips, the sailors will not return. A baby sister's eyes will see only tears this time.

Laughing eyes see the beautiful sea and wondrous sunsets; Worried ones see angry waves and wind blown spray from the shears. From the Pillars of Hercules to the Sea of Japan, the sea's many moods have been watched by those men that wear Dolphins.

A missile tech sees with eyes that look into the fiery gates of Hell as he spins up his deadly birds, wanting this to be just another drill. A sonarman's eyes watch his scopes for signs of change in the game of blind mans bluff, lest 2 adversaries go bump in the dark. For weeks, skippers and crews see with sleep-deprived eyes as they trail a heard but unseen enemy. Many young men have seen the pure white of the North Pole from the black decks of submarines. Others have seen only the boredom of long Cold War cruises watching gauges and dials, sometimes not even sure of where they are.

Yesterday, a young sailors eager eyes saw his first boat and an old sad pair saluted the ensign for the last time. Today proud eyes see Silver Dolphins pinned on the owner's jumper for the first time, to soon see the whirl of sky and water as they are wet down for luck. Tomorrow, a boy's young eyes will see the spark of the spirit that leads men to what very few can do or even comprehend.

Tonight my grandson sleeps safe, thanks in part for eyes that have watched over and protected this country's freedom for 100 years now. Tomorrow he will see the flag of this great country and know of the men of the submarine force that have seen too much or see no more to help protect our freedoms.