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Lessons Learned Under the Sea

By Shanice Casimiro

When David “Dave” Davis Jr. ’82 first saw the 1958 film Run Silent, Run Deep starring Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster as World War II submarine officers, he immediately knew he wanted to become a submariner.

A Newark native, he joined the Navy while still in high school and went on to attend the Basic Enlisted Submarine School in New London, Connecticut. He was assigned to the USS Cavalla, the WWII submarine that famously sunk the Shokaku, a Japanese aircraft carrier that took part in the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Davis had the unique pleasure of being aboard the Cavalla when it made its 5,000th dive — an accomplishment, he says, “no modern-day submarines will ever reach.”

Davis credits his faculty adviser at the Stillman School of Business, the late Professor Stanley Kosakowski, for developing his attention to detail and perseverance — skills that proved essential to his 30-year Navy career as a senior chief radioman, and now, in his work as a funeral director.

New Jersey runs deep in the history of the U.S. submarine force, which was founded in 1900 when the Navy commissioned its first submarine, designed by John Philip Holland, an Irish-born resident of Paterson. The only current American veterans organization exclusively representing submariners — the United States Submarine Veterans, Inc. (USSVI) — was chartered in 1964 in Orange, New Jersey. (An earlier organization, the Submarine Veterans of World War II, Inc., was disbanded due to declining membership.)

Davis was recently promoted to base commander of USSVI’s local chapter — New Jersey North Base — and was inducted to the organization’s Holland Club, which honors 50-year submarine service veterans. “I am excited about embracing the camaraderie of other former undersea warriors,” he says of his new leadership role. “We all have something in common, the love of submarining and country.”

Submarine duty is considered highly dangerous, demanding utmost patriotism, adaptability, trust-
worthiness and vigilance. Submariners are said to be part of the “Silent Service,” so named because of a submarine’s quiet, undetected prowess and the classified nature of the military assignments. As Davis puts it, “There is room for everything onboard a submarine except a mistake.”

Submariners do have access to books, television, cards and videogames aboard their crafts, for when they have breaks — but these moments are rare. In Davis’s words, “You never knew if the next ‘Emergency Action’ message one receives is a ‘drill’ or orders to launch missiles upon an adversary.”

Now the president and CEO of David Davis Jr. & Sons Funeral Home, Davis has faced the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that it has been difficult to deal with the sheer number of deaths and the disruption to funeral services such as embalming and public viewings.

But he has adapted to the circumstances in order to deliver quality service, just as he learned to do in the Navy.

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