You are here:

Military History/Black Submariners in WWII


Vickie wrote at 2006-11-29 17:56:33
The WWII submarine the USS GRUNION had 2 black men on board. Cornelius Paul JR. and Herbert Arvan.

Both of these men died with their crewmates when the Grunion was lost in July, 1942.

rhonda wrote at 2006-11-29 18:02:17
Yes there were black submariners. there is a book out that I can't remember the dates in the title "Black submariners in the United States navy ......"  by Glenn A Knoblock   I got it on interlibrary loan and it was very interesting- unfortunately I wasn't able to read it all in the short time I had it. There are plenty of pics to show they were there. Unfortunately they were relegated to mess attendants and such in all aspects of the navy. But they got the foot in the door and eventually the navy was changed to what it is today.  

Safeman wrote at 2008-05-16 02:12:33
I believe you are incorrect. There were many Blacks that served on baord US submarines during WW2 as is mentioned in the book "Black Submariners in the US Navy". There was usually one or two assigned to a sub as they were assigned as stewards. I joined the submarine service in 1962 and up until that time, Blacks on board submarines were still relegated to the steward rating. The uniqueness of submarine life though, is such that even a steward has to qualify as a submariner and each man depends on the other. Even stewards were important members of the crew. I was one of the first allowed to go beyond the steward rating and served as an engineman.

wju wrote at 2008-10-04 03:41:03
If one looks at enough photos and paintings of submarines and the crews that served on them you will see some black sailors.  All submarine crewman were trained in multiple task.  One of the painting I have seen shows the deck gun being fired and one of the crewman is black.  Sometimes Philipinos served as stewards.

swellfella wrote at 2009-01-04 21:10:27
Hello John

I posed this question to Allexperts in 2006. I've since learned of the book: Black Submariners in the United States Navy 1940-1975 by Glenn Knoblock. Blacks did indeed serve in the submarine service in WWII.

Don wrote at 2010-03-04 00:05:20
i served on sub from 1960 until i got discharged,i was the only black on the USS Cusk SS348,and the USS BluebackSS581.i was a torpedoman,i was station in Pearl Harbor,i also lived in the same building the Barry Obama lived in,i use to take him and his mother,and grandfather down to the subs,there are pics of us in the Navy archives

Tom wrote at 2010-08-24 19:10:11
Actually, over 50 black men served aboard submarines in WWII and immediately after the war, but they were restricted to the Steward's Branch at the time:

Dr. Thomas Washington wrote at 2011-02-27 09:46:26
BLACK SUBMARINER   Dr. William A. Jackson was the first qualified African America to serve as a submarine medical officer in 1966.  He was the first African American submarine doctor in U.S. Navy History. He served aboard the U.S.S. George C. Marshall from 1968 to 1969.  He was the first black officer to receive a Golden Dolphin Award from the U.S. Navy.

Mike wrote at 2013-01-15 08:04:15
My Uncle served as a black submariner during world war two. I could remember as a child, viewing a picture of him with the submarine crew in my grand mothers living room (he was the only black guy in the picture).

RC wrote at 2015-03-09 20:43:22
There were many Black (African American Sailors) who served in the submarine force during WWII. Currently in print. Black Submariners In The United States Navy 1940-1975 by author, lecturer, and military historian Glenn A. Knoblock.  

Military History

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts




Retired US Navy, stationed 10 years in Hawaii. Study of the early years of the Pacific War 1941-42, including the attack on Pearl Harbor. Easy access to actual sites in and around Pearl Harbor. More limited knowledge of general WWII history in the Pacific.


I'm well-read in general WWII history, and spent a lot of off time exploring various military sites on O'ahu.

I hold a B.A degree from Chaminade University of Honolulu in Historical and Political Studies, Summa cum Laude, earned in 2002.

©2017 All rights reserved.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]