Black Sub Vets: The Untold Silent Service
Navy News | PO1 Ira J. Elinson | February 16, 2007
Groton, CT. -- It’s a story that’s been told for more than 50 years, mostly across the dinner table or on back porches. Although it was never a secret, this tale of the “silent service” hadn't reached a wider audience.
Now, thanks to someone’s childhood fascination with submarines, and especially a specific crew member, everyone has the opportunity to hear the story.
“Despite the fact that black men served valiantly in the submarine force during World War II and beyond into the age of nuclear submarines, and continue to do so to this day, their accomplishments have gone largely unnoticed. It is now time to get them back onto the radar screen of history,” declares author Glenn A. Knoblock, in his book, “Black Submariners in the United States Navy, 1940 - 1975.”
Knoblock presented a comprehensive lecture on his latest work at the Submarine Force Library and Museum in Groton, Conn., before an audience of more than 100 current and veteran submariners Feb. 9. Many of the SUBVETS who attended were highlighted in his book. Knoblock’s slide show depicting Navy life for black submarine Sailors in the 1940s evoked warm memories for many SUBVETS.
Retired Master Chief Melvin Williams Sr., who, despite graduating at the top of his technical high school class before joining the Navy in 1951, was limited in his career choice to the Steward rating (SD). The Navy, he said, moved slowly in regards to racial equality, but it was better than in the civilian world. Williams traveled from Maryland to attend the event. His son, Melvin Williams Jr., carried on the Navy tradition as a vice admiral serving as deputy, Fleet Forces Command, and wrote the foreword to Knoblock’s book.
James Mosley served 20 years in the Navy after joining in 1948. During his career he said he’s seen many changes in the way blacks were treated. He stuck with it and went on to be the first black to attend, not only the Submarine Medical Technical School, but the Navy’s Nuclear Power School.
Rear Adm. Cecil Haney, commander, Submarine Group 2, said these men are described in the book as trail blazers "who paved the way for change."
“The Navy today has folks of all colors involved in all aspects of operations. It is the difference between day and night," he said.
After the presentation, Knoblock signed copies of the book. It seemed as though there were as many people interested in getting their books signed by the submarine veterans as the author.
A special display honoring the service and sacrifice of black submariners is on exhibit in the museum’s main hall throughout the month of February.