Radio Operations Aboard Submarines

By Robert E. Straub - KC2AIO <>


     Standing watches in the Navy were the conventional "4 hours on" and "8 hours off." This required three duty sections. However, on the submarine I was on this did not hold true for the radio gang. We had only two duty sections. The day section stood watch from 6 AM until 4 PM. The second section, which was my section, stood watch from 4 PM until 6 AM.

    Basically, the submarine was submerged for most of the time covered by the day watch. Those two operators spent most of their watch time operating the QC and JK Sonar in the Conning Tower. If the submarine surfaced for any reason during the day watch, one of the two operators would report to the Radio Room from the Conning Tower.

     The submarine was normally submerged when I reported for watch duty. This meant that I would relieve one of the operators on the QC/JK Sonar in the Conning Tower until the submarine surfaced, which may be about an hour later. Immediately I would report to the Radio Room and take over the duties there. About an hour before the end of my watch in the Radio Room (about 5AM) the submarine would dive and I would report immediately to the QC/JK Sonar in the Conning Tower. My 14 hour shift was completed.

     During my time off I was required to study all the systems throughout the submarine and construct a notebook with drawings of all the systems. Also, I had to be quizzed on each compartment by the leading petty officer and the department officer. The final test was then given by the Executive Officer. At this point I was then "qualified in submarines" and authorized to wear the distinguished "dolphins."

     The 10 and 14 hour watches, as described, were for "normal conditions" at sea. These conditions did not always exist and watch conditions would change accordingly.

     Maneuvering Watch - this is the watch that would be in effect when leaving or entering a port. The submarine would be on the surface and my duty station would be the Radio Room.

     Battle Station - Deck Gun Action - the submarine would be on the surface and my duty station would be the Radio Room.

     Battle Station - Torpedo Attack - the submarine could be either on the surface or submerged. If on the surface I would be in the Radio Room. If the submarine was submerged I would man the JP Sonar in the Forward Torpedo Room.

     It did not matter which duty section was working when these battle conditions arose. Each crew member had a specified duty station to report to when these orders were given - and moved "on the double" in reporting to the duty station.


     Each crew member had a "cleaning station." Mine was the wash room in the after end of the After Battery Compartment and after accruing some seniority it was changed to the Radio Room.

     I was also a member of the torpedo loading and unloading crew for the Forward Torpedo Room.

     The loading of stores and supplies was the responsibility of all crew members.

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