Analysis of Maneuvers

| February 23, 2021 | 12 Comments

The following is our very own AW1Ed’s assessment of the various and sundry scenes in that classic and very boisterous movie “Down Periscope”. It is available on demand now, and if you’re still stuck indoors and need a good laugh, the movie will do it for you.

You may remember this scene, where CAPT Dodge orders the crew to bottom out the boat.  See comment re: below thermal layer for more info. The attempt to fool the hunter sub is not unusual.


Per AW1Ed:   Peel back the comedy and there is some very real use of actual submarine tactics. Ribbon racks looked good, too- they had some good Navy consultants on the set, Village People notwithstanding.  Here’s what I saw:

-The taut string bows with the compression of the sub’s hull as it dives. This is quite true, and described to me by more than one of my fellow AW’s who cross-decked on a sub for a few days. I passed on the opportunity.

-“Not a diesel not a sub.”  BS comment. Every naval sub has a diesel engine, either as an auxiliary or prime mover, and the sub skipper would know this.

-Deceptive Lighting is an old tactic, not so useful these days of IR cameras that see in the dark. But a valid tactic nonetheless.

-Harbor Attack(s) go back to WW-II with U-Boats entering Scappa Flow and really hurting the Brits, for example. Ours entered Tokyo Bay to attack the Japanese fleet.

-P-3! Sub dives to go below the thermal layer to avoid P-3’s sonar. This is where subs want to be- on the opposite side of the layer from our sensors.

-Bottoming- another common tactic, in the right areas. Sit on the bottom, make popcorn and watch a movie while everyone goes nuts looking. Bastards.

-Deceptive Acoustics. Not quite the way depicted. Subs carry false targets that mimic their acoustic signature, to draw ASW folks off the scent.

-Breaking Exercise Rules. If I had a nickel every time THIS happened…

-P-3! Good to see the old girl flying. That’s all.

-Merchant Masking. (Sub hides in the merchant ship’s cavitation.) Ridiculous scene for so many reasons. The reality is subs will trail or otherwise use merchants to confuse the sonar picture. Saw this one often, and never got fooled.

-Star Wars. Politics at Flag level, who’da thunk it? *grin*

So there you are, and not a sub CO or XO in sight.

All I can say is, thanks, AW1Ed.

Category: Navy

Comments (12)

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  1. AW1Ed says:

    I’ll just get this out of the way.

  2. ChipNASA says:


    “I’ll just get this out of the way…

    Q: What’s long and hard and full of seamen?

  3. Thunderstixx says:

    Not to disparage your post, but in my eyes this is still one of the funniest movies about submarines.
    “Operation Petticoat”
    Starring Cary Grant and Tony Curtis along with Ramone, a pig, some goats and a Chief Petty Officer in the engine room with a hang up about womens clothes and a mechanic !!!
    As I reminded all my Uber customers during the snowpocalypse, “In Chaos, there is profit” !!!!!

  4. Went on a dime tour of a smoke boat when she was tied up over on pier 12 across from us since their was no room at the D & S piers near the pier 4 Geedunck stand. The stand had a juke box with a video screen mounted on top and for a 25 cent piece, you could watch Little Eva singing Locomotion. Rebel burgers and RC Cola you can’t beat. Also toured a Guppy boat at the Baltimore inner Harbor when we used to go down there for the Dennis Smith (ret FDNY) Firehouse magazine convention now in Tenn after the Baltimore riots.

  5. Sparks says:

    I can’t in good conscience say the Navy lends itself to the best humor. Because after the Army…I joined the Air Force.

  6. Milo Mindbender says:

    The boat used was parked in San Francisco harbor for years, I toured it a couple of times while passing through. Understand why they were called “pig boats” when you think of a 90 day combat tout in that small of a ship, before we got “UNREP” down to a science.

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