Is it true that some sailors and soldiers in the Navy can't swim?

Dan Kappes

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Sep 26, 2018
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I recently watched the 2001 movie Pearl Harbor, and during the scene when the USS Oklahoma capsizes, a sailor or soldier can be heard screaming, "I can't swim!"

Is it true that in the 1940s, some sailors and soldiers serving in the US Navy couldn't swim? This makes me wonder why they decided to work on a ship if they can't swim.

And are there still people serving in the Navy who can't swim?
 
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Rob Lawes

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Jun 13, 2012
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It is true that during the Second World War and for a time afterwards, there were sailors who couldn't swim serving in the British Royal Navy.

I joined the Navy in 1993 and had to undertake a variety of swimming tests involving various drills and life saving skills. Those who were weak swimmers had to attend additional fitness classes to improve their swimming skills.

Fortunately for me I passed them all first time.

You have to remember that certainly in Europe in WW2 people were volunteering to serve from all sorts of backgrounds and many of them couldn't swim. The Navy couldn't afford to pick and choose as they needed the manpower to go to sea.
 
Nov 14, 2005
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And are there still people serving in the Navy who can't swim?
I dont know how things are today but when I went thru bootcamp you didn't graduate if you couldn't pass the swim test. It wasn't just swimming it was also how to get thru water with oil or gas burning on it, demonstate that you could take your pants off and make a floatation device, basic life saving skills ect. They had special classes for what they called non-swimmers to bring them up to speed and pass the test. I saw a news segment the other day and they showed some sailors in their working uniforms...looked like army guys in fatigues. Hate to go over the side wearing that crap. What ever happened to bell bottom dungarees and denim shirts you could get out of fast if you had too? Of course its the US Navy. They seem to change uniforms every 6 months it seems.
 
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Nov 14, 2005
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You tie the ends of legs into a knot and then you either splash or blow air into them. They trap the air and make a life perserver. It works really well but you you have to keep reinflating it over time as air will leak out. But not that often that it doesnt keep you afloat so you can rest.