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With A Little Humor
(1998)  by Sid Harrison ETCM(SS) USN/Ret
Show me a guy with no sense of humor and I'll show you someone I don't want to be sealed inside a submarine with.

One of the things I remember about life on the boats is the humor. The pranks, the practical jokes, the very inside humor of guys who worked and lived so closely that sometimes you could almost hear their thoughts. Outsiders and Hollywood movie-makers either over do the silliness and the result is the public gets a "Gomerized" false impression that the military is comprised of illiterate bumblers, or on the other hand the opposite impression is given of dark, intense portrayals of everyone verging on a bad case of high blood pressure where all the characters are dripping "attitude" and are motivated in everything they do by the sounds of distant trumpets and flags in the breeze.

We who know better, will let them think what they want because when all visitors were gone and she was rigged for dive, that's when we got down to business. Away from the world and locked into our own with its blend of serious professionalism and slapstick goofiness.

A great example comes to mind of the "magic" of humor and how the lines from one movie entertained our boomer crew and fell flat with our counterpart crew. There was a flick called Steel Yard Blues and through two patrols we in the the Gold crew nearly wore the thing out. From the skipper on down we had memorized entire scenes and lines of dialogue and were using them on one another both on and off watch (not IAW the IC manual***). During crew turnover to the Blue crew we raved about that movie so imagine our great disappointment when at the next change over we found no one in the other crew thought it was at all funny. That was OK, as it got us through many a watch with some grins, chuckles and guffaws.

I rarely tell non-submariners of the pranks and JAPs*** we pulled; they either would think we had been wasting the taxpayers money in grand style, or else the listener would just "not get it".

Memoirs rarely include a thorough treatment of the slapstick. Most writers I suspect have an intuitive understanding that those antics are best left to retelling among those who truly understand the role humor played in the submarine experience. That humor ranged from raunchy to infantile and sometimes bordered on viciousness but it was never, ever dull.

And we always played to a tough critical audience...our shipmates. "Alvays mit a little humor": Col. Klink

*** IC Manual:  Very specific guidelines for Submarine communications interior to the boat
*** JAPs: Prior to "PC" these were practical jokes that caught the target totally unaware. Usually planned in great detail and with imagination. See The Sting