I was the heavy weapons sergeant (18B) on Green Beret Operational Detachment (ODA)-155, 1st Special Forces Group. We were the combat diver team for our GB battalion. It had taken me two attempts to pass the Special Forces Underwater Operations (SFUWO), as it was titled in the day. I was on ODA-155 with just a couple of years of dive operations under my belt, but they had been years of difficult dive operations in the frigid waters of the Puget Sound in Ft. Lewis, Washington State. We dove tactically at night wearing a bulky Viking dry suit and a LAR-V closed-circuit breathing apparatus.

Then it happened. An invitation made its way to ODA-155: “NAVSPECWAR extends an invitation to U.S. Army 1st Special Forces Group to attend underway submarine operations with U.S. Navy West Coast SEAL Team Five (ST-5).” The boss chose me to attend. I hesitated, but the boss didn’t bat an eye. He had staunch confidence in me to represent the Army dive community.

Our dive team had gone to Bangor Submarine Base several times and done dock-side training on various subs, had gone to Key West on several occasions to conduct escape trunk operations, and to Coronado on even more occasions to conduct more escape trunk operations under the guidance of Navy SEAL instructors.


At Key West, the escape trunk trainer was an old-school diesel trunk from the WWII era; it was cylindrical in shape. At Coronado, the trunk was a more modern trunk from a nuclear-powered boat; it was spherical in shape. In both locations, the escape trunks were attached to large water reservoirs of thousands of gallons of water. The trunks were approximately 35 feet down from the surface of the water reservoirs, so when you flooded the trunk with water right about at nose level and undogged (opened) the hatch to the “open ocean,” you were already at a tactical depth underwater. In any case, it is a very realistic training venue.

I travelled to Coronado Naval Air Station, California, home of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training, and checked in with the proper HQ that would put me in contact with the men of ST-5 the next morning. That night in the dormitory, I switched on the TV to relax and call it a night, and guess what movie popped up? “Das Boot”! You can’t make this stuff up, folks. The Internet IMDb website summarizes the movie in this single line: “The claustrophobic world of a WWII German U-boat; boredom, filth, and sheer terror.” If you haven’t seen the movie yet, it is indeed a “must-see,” but just don’t watch it the night before you launch on an actual submarine voyage.

Das boot

The thought crossed my mind that it would be a great idea to not watch this movie, not this night anyway, but as a glutton for punishment, I couldn’t turn my eyes away. When the movie was complete, my stomach felt a tad queasy, but I slept in spite of the horrors of “Das Boot.”