PUGET SOUND, Wash. (Sept. 11, 2017) Cmdr. Melvin Smith, commanding officer of the Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23), looks on as the submarine transits the Hood Canal on its way home to Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor. Jimmy Carter is the last and most advanced of the Seawolf-class attack submarines, which are all homeported at Naval Base Kitsap. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Michael Smith/Released)

PUGET SOUND, Wash. (Sept. 11, 2017) Cmdr. Melvin Smith, commanding officer of the Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23), looks on as the submarine transits the Hood Canal on its way home to Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor. Jimmy Carter is the last and most advanced of the Seawolf-class attack submarines, which are all homeported at Naval Base Kitsap. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Michael Smith/Released)

 

There are lots of traditions in the US Navy pertaining to combat operations. One of the most well known, at least to World War II submarine buffs like me, is the tradition of affixing a broom to the periscope mast to indicate a “clean sweep,” that is, a successful combat patrol.

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This symbol hearkens back to the era of sailing ships. It was first used by Admiral Maarten Tromp, a Dutch admiral who soundly thumped the Royal Navy at the Battle of Dungeness during the First Anglo-Dutch War and sported the broom lashed to a masthead upon his return home to show he’d swept the British from the sea.

A similar sign is flying the Jolly Roger. This is a British tradition that began in World War I and has been used by some US submarines. So the internet perked up today when the USS Jimmy Carter returned home to the US Navy’s submarine base in Bangor, Washington. Bangor provides submarines to the US Pacific Fleet.

The USS Jimmy Carter (SSN-23), is one of only three Seawolf-class submarines–the others are the USS Seawolf (SSN-21) and USS Connecticut (SSN-22)–built before the enormity of their construction cost sunk in and the class was cancelled. They were designed as fast attack boats to succeed the Los Angeles-class boats that had been the mainstay of our non-boomer submarine force for a good chunk of the Cold War. The USS Jimmy Carter is a one of a kind boat that has been converted to a “Multi Mission Platform.” It can launch and recover SEAL submersibles, among other duties.

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(Credit plus a great story about the USS Jimmy Carter)

The combat exploits of submarines in the Cold War remains one of the great untold stories of that era. A good buddy of mine (he claimed to be the only airborne Ranger infantry officer who also wore the submariner’s dolphins) had one classified Navy Expeditionary Medal acquired during his time on fast attack boats facing the Soviet Red Banner Northern Fleet–as best as I could pump out of him it involved a calculated glancing blow delivered to a Soviet fast attack that may have had catastrophic consequences for sections of that boat.

Unless the commander of the USS Jimmy Carter is just having us on, more exploits that will never be revealed are happening right now.