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This was a fantastic series about U.S. Navy Submarines in WWII. It starred the regular TV actors of the the day and each episode was based on fact. Also the host often had the real people of the story on at the end of an episode to get their comments. It was great history and weekly entertainment. It really should be brought out on DVD both for those of us that remember it and to preserve television history itself. The combination of real footage and actors on the submarine set seemed pretty seamless to me but then I couldn't have been more than 6 or 7 years old when it was on TV. I just know that it is one of the shows I remember quite well from that period. It was entertaining but was obviously done more for telling the history than 'entertaining' people. For me that was more than enough.
I can vividly recall watching this series on Saturday nights during my early teen years. I'd lie on the carpet in our living room and marvel at the opening of each show when you'd see a vintage WWII submarine shooting almost straight up out of the water in what appeared to be an emergency surfacing exercise. The series dramatically chronicled the actions of the United States submarine service during the second World War. The story of a different submarine and it's heroic crew was featured each week and the actors always kept my young mind stimulated with their dramatic portrayals of early submariners. I'm sure the series has been off the air for about 50 years, but I still think about it whenever I reflect on my favorite viewing in the early years of B&W T.V.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In fairness to the Naval Academy, I received an email from a representative who informed me that a major studio who owns the rights to the series was attempting to retrieve the films from the academy. There seems to be an ongoing dispute of ownership which is not in the Naval Academy's power to resolve. The films were a gift from Admiral Dykers to the Academy. I don't know who the major studio is because the official from the academy did not say. Who knows where this story goes from here? It would be interesting to know which studio supposedly owns the copyrights to The Silent Service. An interesting mystery to say the least?
I did something for this title I never do. I gave it ten out of ten.
It's not that this series was that brilliant an example of television
art. It wasn't. It was a classic 1950's-vintage low-budget (very low
budget) B-grade syndicated half-hour black-and-white TV show of a kind
that has become practically non-existent on commercial TV for nearly
fifty years now. For a person looking at this for television art
perhaps its highest value is as an excellent example of what TV looked
like so often in the first decade of the medium.
No, the reason I gave it ten out of ten is that it is about as genuine a dramatized account of the American submarine effort in World War II as anybody is ever likely to make, and that effort, as the name of the series implies, has been generally unsung. The submarine force picked up the nickname "silent service" during the war (like with so many other things, the phrase was popularized if not actually coined by the news media of the day) because the submarine force officialdom as well as individual submariners simply would not talk publicly about what they were doing except on infrequent and carefully controlled occasions.
This originated not out of some social or organizational misanthropy or sense of elitism, but for security reasons. The story goes that early in the war the submarine service was as forthcoming as any other combat branch of the US armed forces, but that when too much information showed up in the media Japanese intelligence agents collected it and sent it to Japan, affording them a significant improvement in the tactics they used in hunting and sinking our submarines. Thus (and no pun intended), the force and its personnel promptly clammed up for the duration.
But by the 1950's there was no need to maintain that kind of secrecy and the story the submariners could not tell before could finally come out. It turned out that although the submarine force comprised only about 2% of the Navy's total personnel, acting alone it had sunk approximately 30% of all Japanese warships eliminated during the war. At the same time it was doing that, it also was responsible for over 50% of all Japanese commercial ships sunk during the war, totaling 6,000,000 tons of shipping, or the equivalent of the entire prewar Japanese merchant marine. No less a luminary than Fleet Admiral William F. "Bull" Halsey (who was a destroyer man and eventually gained his great fame as a naval aviation admiral, and was never a submariner), once stated: "(i)f I had to give credit to the instruments and machines that won us the war in the Pacific, I would rate them in this order: submarines first . . . " The cost had been high: 52 submarines lost, and about 20% of all submariners killed, the highest mortality rate of any combat branch of any of the services in the war. Neither the Marines nor the paratroopers nor the bomber crews nor any other community in the five services (the US Coast Guard included) had so oppressive a death rate.
Thus I give this series the highest possible IMDb rating for finally getting this out to the public, one submarine's story at a time for as long as its short run allowed, and moreover I especially laud this series for its decided LACK of Hollywood flair, at least in the earlier episodes. In the series description on the IMDb front page for this show it says its realism was enhanced by the usage of some actual wartime combat footage, but the truth is that what enhanced its realism is the fact that it was not made by the usual Hollywood glitz and glamor crowd but by an actual former submarine commander. This not only not only enhanced the realism of the story details and the action in general, but ensured that the factual content was as close to 100% accurate as time and resources constraints would allow, holding the dramatic license factor to a minimum, even if there was increasing amounts of the hokey melodrama thought necessary to make the show appealing to a general audience as the series production run went on over time. The use of then mostly-unknown actors (although many of them would become very well-known in years to follow, one of the fun things about this series) contributed to this tone, and, finally, the appearance of "special guests" who were the actual submarine officers involved in the event depicted, was invaluable. Would that there were more such patently ingenuous dramatizations of real-life naval or military operations as this.
NOTE: unaccountably, IMDb still won't let posters use the correct "box" brackets used in normal writing in appropriate places, and I am forced to use normally inappropriate parentheses in their place out of necessity. It is regrettable that the programmers who do this site force this kind of illiteracy on their audience. I was never a C-student in language arts classes and I don't appreciate being made to look like one through no fault of my own. Maybe these people need to be sent back to junior high school to repeat their seventh-grade English classes.
The thing that everyone remembers about the show was the opening
credits with a film of the USS Pickerel, a late WWII diesel-electric
boat, doing an emergency surface from 250 feet. How many of us young
boys used to mimic that action at the City Park swimming pool! I wonder
how many future submariners were inspired by this TV show, which was
partially funded by the taxpayers (by virtue of the loaner submarine
and crew provided by the Navy for some filming). I've spoken with a few
veterans of the U.S. submarine service in WWII about sub movies and TV.
Of all, they pick this TV series as head and shoulders above all
This series, plus Whirlybirds, Sea Hunt, Science Fiction Theater, and Range Rider were the prime time TV shows I couldn't miss. Add Saturday morning Mr. Wizard, Fury, and Sky King, and that is my entire recollection of TV from the 50's.
Clear the bridge. Dive, dive!
In response to the poster who asked what major studio owned the show, I am guessing it would be NBC, as California National Productions was run out of the West Coast division of NBC. That said, many California National shows are starting to fall into public domain use; such as many episodes of the William Bendix version of "Life of Riley", "Adventures of Hiram Holliday", and others. I would suspect, based on that, that the "major studio" who is trying to get their hands on the films would be a DVD distributor who wants to release the show. I say more power to them. "The Silent Service" was a great show, I used to stay up very late during the summertime when I was in grade school in the 60s to watch reruns of the show on a local independent station.
This series (which I found on YouTube) was well-done with its weaving
of real WW2 action footage with scenes filmed onboard the loaner
submarine they used. It makes you appreciate the valor of those who
chose the silent service: cramped, dank, hot quarters; enduring
unrelenting depth charge attacks; going without decent air and
electricity; and paying the ultimate price of going down with all hands
(over 50 boats did so in WW2). To think that men clamoured to be part
of this elite service, knowing the dangers involved is a testimony to
the backbone that once was present in our men and our culture. Having
been done in the 50s, this series shows a military in which ladies
provide a supporting role and men provide the combat presence. How
refreshing to look back on a time when our society and military were
more in sync with the Creators order.
Being a child of the 50s and a son of a WW2 combat veteran, I am proud to see what our military once stood for. Well done and a tribute to better times and a stronger nation.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As a seven year old boy in 1957, I was captivated by this series - so much so that I enlisted in the Navy when I turned 18 while still in High School. I enlisted under the 120 day delay program and also volunteered for submarine duty. In June, four days after graduating from High School I was on my way to boot camp at Great Lakes, Illinois designated for the advanced electronics field. This was less than a month after the USS Scorpion was lost. My parents were not pleased, but supportive. I had high scores on my hearing tests and was designated a Sonar Tecnician striker (Leonard Nemoy was a Sonarman in two of the episodes). I spent 20+ years riding the "boats" and loved every minute of it!!! All because of this fantastic series. Please, someone, put this series on DVD...it will sell like "hot cakes"... RG, STSCS(SS) USN Ret.
RATING: A+, Four Stars(****), Don't Miss!! EX-Cellent!!
Tuesday evenings in 1957-59 were the nights for our Boy Scout Troop meetings held at St.Theodore's Church Basement. It was the same evening as RED SKELTON, GARRY MOORE and for a couple of years, that little syndicated half-hour, THE SILENT SERVICE. It was bad enough to miss RED, but a series depicting real life occurrences from World War II, never! The Serieswas Emceed by the series Producer, Rear Admiral Thomas M. Dykers, USN (Ret.). He would be joined by a member of the real crew, be he an Officer or Enlisted Man and the 2 would have a short discussion at the conclusion of the story. Admiral Dykers also did the introduction, but did it solo.
So, Scout Troop 483's meetings were usually over by 9 P.M., sharp. (If we weren't, we were subject to the wrath of Mr. Enn, the psychotic, megalomaniac building Janitor. Mr. Enn would come in and start turning out the hall's lights at 9:00 PM, whether or not that we were still there!) Well, we were out by (9:00 PM!)and on our way home. Our house lie about 7 blocks away, hmmm, THE SILENT SERVICE came on at 9:30 over Channel 5! So there was time to make a quick stop at Jim's Grill on 63rd Street & Hermitage. Here we had a choice of hamburgers, hot dogs, hot tamales, malts, etc., all the usual stuff.
But c'mon now! this was Jim's! As often as not we would get his specialty of the house, The Juice Bun! A Juice Bun was a cutting of French Bread (Gonella Brand locally), sliced open but leaving the bread joined, like a hot dog bun. Then the inside was coated with a generous amount of the house special BBQ sauce!! Ummm-ummm! And it could be taken as a go along, carry-out to be eaten while in transit to Home and THE SILENT SERVICE, remember? So, we would be home in plenty of time for the half hour program of the day. They would take the true stories of various crews of subs and dramatize them. The individual shows were always full of interest and some excitement as our submarine members of "the Silent Service" conducted their missions vs. the Axis Powers' Navies and shipping. Most episodes were set in the Pacific and the War against Imperial Japan.
One episode was devoted to the U.S.S. Silversides a World War II Sub, by then de-commissioned. It was moored right here in Chicago being docked in the waters at the Old Naval Armory.
It was great to have here, as it not only was seen as a symbol of our Nation's Navy with its Strength & Freedom, and as a Symbol of our Freedom, but it was open for tours for gratis! Our Scout Group did the tour at least once! As the song goes, "Dragons live forever, but not so Little Boys!", and the years soon slipped away, with our having many more interests and not thinking about The Navy, The Silversides or THE SILENT SERVICE. During that stretch of years of about 2 decades in length, the Silversides was sold by Uncle Sam to a private company. What next? But it was good news, at least temporarily, as the Company purchasing the Sub turned it into a Privately Owned Museum, open to the public for tours, all for a small donation.
This was indeed good news for Chicago and Her Visitors; as we already had the captured World War II German U Boat, the U 505 on display in the Lakefront at The Museum of Science and Industry! Now, with the Silversides Museum, we had 2 Subs, one Amewrican/Allied and the other German/Axis! It was like bringing the World to our own doorsteps! It was too good to be true, and was not to last! Somewhere, along about ca. 1984-5 a decision was made in Chicago City Council to charge the small,independent non-profit Silversides Museum a mooring fee, like one that the Rich Folk paid for their Yachts. This was a hardship that would break the Sikversides people.
Then came the day when a ship sailed into the harbor around Navy Pier*, where the Silversides was moored. The ship hooked up a tow line ti Her, and promptly pulled her out to relocation quarters in Muskegeon, Michigan. Our Silversides was gone, but not totally, being right across this Inland Sea of Great Lakes, Michigan branch.** Too bad that the ^%$#*&@'s in City Hall, Mayor Harold Washington, Alderman Vrydolyak, Alderman Burke, Alderman Pucinski and Alderman Mell, etc., etc., didn't just listen to the Boys of Chicago!!
NOTE:* Navy Pier is an Exposition Centre owned and operated in the Public Interest. It hosts various events, e.g., The Flower Show, The Leatherworks Show, Hobbis Show, etc., as well as permanent attractions like the Great Amusement Park with the Super-Tall Ferrous Wheel, which has become Navy Piers Symbol. Don't confuse this with the now defunct Naval Armory, a U.S.Naval Reserve Training Facility.
NOTE:** Even though some idiot insisted on collecting the Fee from The Silversides people, no one said anything about the Free Ride that one Columbia Yacht Club has (still to this day)in docking its huge Yacht/Meeting Facility, ironically almost directly adjacent to where the Silversides had been, at The Old Naval Armory!
My father, Capt Harley K. Nauman, was featured on one of the silent
service episodes. I was very young and don't remember much more. My
father was captain on the Steckleback and the Salmon during WWII. Any
information on the episode he was in and where I can get a copy of it
would be very helpful. My fathers year of birth was 1910, he graduated
from the Naval Academy in 1934 and retired from the Navy in 1964 with
the rank of Rear Admiral. I don't have much more information but can
contact my sister with questions you may have. Thanks in advance for
BILL BUEHLER California
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