The Mighty Viking

Conquering those things we must, one story at a time

We knew

We didn’t come here to die. We didn’t go down to the Sea to be killed by it.

But we knew. And still we went.

We knew the enemy, who wished to kill us, and rule our people. We knew the Sea, and its penchant for imposing death on the careless, the nonchalant, the clumsy and inexperienced.

We knew. And yet we went.

We knew we were hated by the enemy, who feared our silence. Our strength was in surprise, and stealth. Our weapons destroyed whole ships. We knew the Sea, and its cruel impartiality. There was no mercy to be found in the dark waters of the deep.

We knew, And yet we went.

We knew that our vessel was only as good as its builders, as its officers, and its crew. We knew humans could be fickle, awkward, often mistaken. We knew that courage – that one element that could in the moment of peril make the difference – was hard. We knew that the training, and practice, and dedication to our craft was not always enough in this hostile world we entered.

We knew. And yet we went.

We went, and we met the enemy. Sometimes in peacetime, other times in war, we went and kept the line of freedom strong. We met those who would exploit our weakness, and matched them. We met other country’s enemies, and fought them. We met our own enemies, and demanded respect. We met the Sea, in all its terror and splendor. We engaged, and either vanquished all of these, or died trying.

We knew. And yet we went.

We went to the Sea silently, unknown to most of the world, knowing that our work was best done in the shadows, in silence, without glory. Our stories were short: “We were never there. It never happened” was the uncomplicated version of “I can’t tell you without endangering my shipmates”. The cramped, isolated, unnatural submerged life – sometimes for months at a time – tore at our minds. It wore on our bodies. And we replenished ourselves with little more than the knowledge that the crew we served with shared the privation, a poor explanation we clung to when rational thought insisted we were insane.

We knew. And yet, we went.

And crew by crew as one, many of us died. Sometimes it was our own failure. Sometimes it was misfortune, an act of the Sea, a failed component, a miscalculation. What it was didn’t matter to the water that poured in and crushed our bodies.

So many of us no longer have a place among the living. But our Living, those we left behind, have their freedom, and that will have to be enough. It has been preserved by our fight.

We knew it had to be this way. And that’s why we went.

-Painting by John Groth/US Navy, a dramatization of the sinking of USS Squalus, in 1939


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