‘We have been hit by a fish!’ Lest we forget the great submarine vs. swordfish battle of 1967

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Marvin McCamis, Valentine Wilson, and Edward Zarudzki comprised a three-man crew operating the Navy-owned deep-sea submersible ALVIN (DSV-2) in July 1967 when they were attacked by an unusual enemy.

“We have been hit by a fish!” one of the sub’s pilots shouted.

At a depth of approximately 2,000 feet off the coast of Florida, the research submersible, best known for exploring the wreck of the HMS Titanic, was conducting an up-close investigation of a curious coral specimen when it was suddenly blindsided by an aggravated swordfish (no relation to the catastrophic John Travolta and Halle Berry disaster of 2001).

The scraping noise bewildered the crew, each believing the sound to be the result of drifting or a depth miscalculation. Looking out the porthole, however, they saw the sub was stationary.

“The co-pilot who was watching out through the starboard porthole … recoiled from it,” Zarudzki recalled in a written statement. “Outside the starboard porthole I saw a large fish, apparently captive, violently trying to disengage itself and in the process tearing some of the skin and flesh [from] its back.”

Thanks to ALVIN’s curvaceous disposition, the blow delivered by the swordfish glanced from its intended target before becoming wedged in a crevice between the upper and lower sections of the sub’s fiberglass hull.

Never having been briefed on what to do in the event of encountering a kamikaze swordfish, the crew launched into a quick conference to ensure there were no leaks or debilitating damage. When they discovered there was, in fact, a minor — albeit unthreatening — leak, the team opted to surface.

As the sub ascended from the watery depths, “the pilot requested the swimmers who attach the mooring lines to ALVIN to throw a noose around the fish’s tail, securing it to the [ship],” Zarudzki’s account read. “The submarine was then guided onto the cradle and hoisted aboard the catamaran mother ship.”

There, the crew came face-to-face with their sabre-snouted foe, a 196-pound catch measuring 8 feet long that the crew surmised had rammed ALVIN after the sub startled it from its deep-sea vibe sesh.

The now-surfaced fish fought violently, severing its own sword before being hoisted by its tail aboard the catamaran.

It took the crew two hours to separate fish from sub. Afterward, it was “dressed aboard and over 100 lbs. of steak was deep frozen,” Zarudski wrote.

“The following day delicious steaks were enjoyed by the crew.”

Mariner myth suggests it was this very incident that yielded the old seaman’s proverb, “I love the fishes ‘cause they’re so delicious. Gotta go fishin’. I could eat them everyday, and my mom says that’s OK.”

Remember that? Pepperidge Farm remembers.

Observation Post is the Military Times one-stop shop for all things off-duty. Stories may reflect author observations.

J.D. Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.



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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.