We watched my favorite submarine movie last night, The Hunt for Red October, with our daughter who was not born when the book and movie came out.
As my husband was serving on a nuclear submarine in the Atlantic Ocean at the time the book first appeared, he told her a story about the verisimilitude of that book and how it affected his life.
In a funny way, of course.
I’m not sure how long they had been underway in 1984, but it was shortly after the Naval Institute Press published their first ever novel.
The commanding officer (CO) of the boat got the first copy, in hardcover, which looked just like the photo.
One morning, the CO gathered the officers around the ward room table and began reviewing that day’s operations.
He hadn’t spoken long when the men began looking among themselves with furrowed brows.
Someone cleared his throat. “Sir?”
“Could you go over that again, please?”
The skipper stared at him, then passed his hand across his eyes. “Maybe those aren’t our orders. Maybe that was in the book last night.”
Eyebrows went up. What book was that?
Everyone volunteered to be the next person to read The Hunt for Red October!
We bought our hardback copy as soon as my husband returned and I peppered him with questions–here for the first time I could read a relative insider’s look at my husband’s job.
I’d been on his boats, of course, but always stopped to stare at the door leading to “back aft” where the reactor powered the boat through the water keeping America safe for democracy. We were never allowed in the engineering spaces.
The Hunt for Red October gave me a description of his experiences that, hard though it was, I cherished.
The book came in handy, too, the following Christmas when my mother-in-law came to spend the holidays.
She’d hoped to see her son for the first time in over a year, but the boat got a special mission just before the holiday, and he was off.
Her adorable grandsons and I tried to make up for the deficiency, but really, she was disappointed.
The problem for us was she didn’t understand submarine life.
As Christmas approached, she kept saying things like, “What time do you think he’ll call on Christmas day?”
“He won’t be calling on Christmas day.”
She couldn’t believe the United States Navy would be so cruel. “Surely, they’ll let him call.”
I tried to be gentle. “He’s sitting on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, Mary. There’s no way he can call.”
“Oh, they’ll pull into port.”
The toddlers watched, wondering, “Daddy?”
I had to be stern with them. “Daddy’s out to sea. He’s not coming home until January, remember?”
Every morning they scribbled a big X on a calendar. I’d marked the days on the calendar long past my husband’s anticipated return, to give them something to do and help understand time.
The four year-old turned the page and saw how many boxes it would be. He showed his grandmother.
She still had trouble believing it. “How could they not have a phone on the boat?”
I bought her a copy of The Hunt for Red October for Christmas.
She never asked foolish submarine questions again.
Side Note: be careful what you say to military kids. We know you don’t mean it, but you can make things challenging for the poor parent left behind.
The Hunt for Red October eventually became a movie we loved, of course, starting with the opening music:
My husband really likes this scene because when we saw it on the big screen, he could hear a familiar deep hum, which is the sound a submarine makes going through the water.
I love hearing the Soviet singers!
(When we lived in Seattle, Brad Eaton of KING-FM occasionally woke us up to this music!)
While there are many great scenes in the movie, my personal favorite is when the USS Dallas saves the day!
(Our next door neighbor served on the USS Dallas–it’s the first Los Angeles class submarine I ever toured. Coming from my husband’s tiny Skipjack class submarines, it felt gigantic–until he built a Trident!)
I love it when American submarines are heroes!
(You may be wondering what my husband’s favorite submarine movie is, since The Hunt for Red October is his second favorite.
The answer? Das Bot.)
The Hunt for Red October and one Navy family Click to Tweet
How a book nearly torpedoed a submarine operation. Click to Tweet
A Navy wife remembers The Hunt for Red October Click to Tweet