Thursday, November 13, 2008

Loose Lips Sink Ships

It's only the 13th of November and already I'm having a hard time writing a blog entry every day (hence yesterday's unusual entry). Today's entry has to do with an interesting moment in history when someone really should have just kept his mouth closed.

There is an old saying in the military; "Loose lips sink ships". The idea is that a sailor, because of drunkenness, bragging, or just plain carelessness, can inadvertently say something that gives the enemy sufficient information to stage successful attacks on Navy ships. This might be something about departure dates, ship capabilities or weaknesses, etc.

A horrendous example of loose lips came in June 1943 when Andrew J. May, a U. S. congressman and member of the House Military Affairs Committee, accidentally released confidential military information during a press conference. Up until that time, American submarines often survived Japanese depth charge attacks (depth charges are anti-submarine weapons designed to explode upon sinking to a predetermined depth). Being unaware of enemy submarines' capabilities, the Japanese navy had been setting its depth charges to explode at shallower depths than U. S. submarines were capable of reaching. The submarines were simply diving below the level of the depth charges and sneaking off when the coast was clear. Well, during the June 1943 press conference, the careless congressman revealed to reporters that American submarines had a high survival rate since the Japanese depth charges didn't go deep enough.

This fact leaked out to several newspapers and soon came to the attention of Japanese military intelligence. A short time later, Japanese depth charges were adjusted to explode at deeper depths and U. S. submarines lost their previous advantage. Vice Admiral Charles A. Lockwood would later estimate that May's loose lips had led to the sinking of approximately 10 submarines and killed 800 sailors.

With all the talking they do, it's a good thing that most politicians' words don't usually end up killing anybody.


  1. Yeah, politicians talk a lot these days, but sure don't say much. Unless it's empty promises.

  2. Yikes! I'm going to have to really watch what I say!!!



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