Skip to main content
The Silent Service
Related Content
The Silent Service

This exhibit on the submarine service in World War II was put together by Abbott Laboratories in 1943 to tour the United States as part of their contribution to the war effort. This introduction was written for the original exhibition. The captions to the paintings, with minor alterations, were those originally written by the artists themselves.



The American public has come to regard the submarine force of the United States Navy as the "Silent Service." In some respects, this definition is accurate.  It is true that, since the war began, news of the operations of U.S. submarines has been under specific restrictions. The usual communique from the Navy Department, concerning U.S. submarine activity, tells briefly of the amount of damage done to the enemy, and that is all.


But it is also true that the news policy of the Submarine Service is exactly the same as the policy of the U.S. Naval forces in general. Namely, to keep the American public as fully informed as is possible within the limits of national security.  That is why the submariners of the Navy are particularly proud of the paintings and drawings exhibited in these pages. They tell, we believe, a full and vivid story of our undersea Navy and they give expression to many ideas which mere words could not convey.


Have no doubt about the authenticity of this work. The artists who created it were, in fact, submariners themselves during the time of its creation. They ate, slept, and laughed with the submariners. They worked with the men and stood watches with the officers. They lived and cruised aboard our ships and shared in every submarine experience, short of actual combat with the enemy.


And that, unfortunately, is the point at which most submarine news stops, and silence begins.


For the submariner's battle area is the enemy's doorstep. In theory, and almost practically, our submarines are in contact with the enemy, from the time they leave their base until they return. At the present writing, the Navy Department has reported the sinking of 461 Japanese ships by our submarines, with an additional 150 possibly sunk or damaged. These are mortal blows to the enemy. And you can be sure he would spare nothing, and give much for the smallest facts of how our submarines operate and what their methods are.


Therefore, the graphic stories told by the drawings and paintings presented here are all the more remarkable. Here, in rich paintings is the colorful life of the men who wage their war close to the enemy but out of sight. Here, in fine detail, is a full and expressive story of the Silent Service.


F.A. Daubin, Rear Admiral, U.S.N.
Commander Submarines, Atlantic Fleet.