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Paul Benton Paul Benton
Paul Benton
(back to Life on a Submarine)

I grew up on a submarine. When you're 18 years old and you go to a submarine and you stay there around these people who are frankly war heroes, probably your own personal heroes, it certainly does change your outlook. Of course, I was having such a good time that life was great anyway. If I had had my foot in a bucket of icewater, it still would have been great.

But there was a lot of camaraderie and tradition in the submarine force, there were hardships to share. It's like a brotherhood on the boat, on all naval vessels really, but submariners are closer fraternally because of their utter dependence on one another professionally, and because their living space is tighter. On a large ship, you have several different divisions. For instance, on aircraft carriers, men know their division, but rarely do they know anyone else other than casually by sight or have any interaction with them. Maybe they see a cook in the messline whom they know or can recognize later, but there is little interaction. In a submarine you are very close, you only have 100 men aboard. You know everybody.

Paul Benton Paul Benton in his submarine days.

Everything was exciting, everything was fun, no matter what it was. As a matter of fact, the Navy was fun. I can't remember exactly when, but somewhere along the line it stopped being fun. Maybe when I turned 40 it stopped being fun, I don't know. But before that it was always fun. Everything—going overseas, submarine duty—it was always a good time. Of course, there is the danger, but that is part of it. Why would I have gone unless there was some danger, some adventure to it? I could have stayed home and read about it.

—Paul Benton served in the Navy for 25 years, from 1956 to 1980. He was an engineer on submarines from 1957 to 1964, including stints on the USS Rasher (SSR-269), a diesel-powered sub, and two nuclear submarines, the USS Halibut (SSGN-587) and the USS Triton (SSN-586), the only U.S. Navy SSN built with two nuclear reactors. He lives near Richmond, Virginia.

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