"The Seahorse sank nineteen enemy ships during the four war patrols I was the skipper. The crew got the job done. I was merely the coordinator. They were brave and talented, and I never had to be reckless. I thought of the lives of those fine men, and frankly, I was aboard too."
As people across Europe and those other continents are almost-undoubtedly already semi-aware and wildly-apathetic about, this weekend is the BIG GAME of PROFESSIONAL U.S. AMERICAN SPORTS. It’s a red, white, and blue baby-back rib BBQ cook-out of freedom so thoroughly American that it’s the only professional sporting championship I can think of where the title of the game is so copyrighted to shit that you can’t even say the name of it in a commercial on the radio. I assume this is because Commissioner Roger Goodell will send a night-vision-equipped NFL Tactical Response Team of ex-Navy SEAL Super Bowl Assassins rappelling into your bathroom while you’re taking a shower and cut your balls off with an officially-licensed NFL Team Shop butterfly knife branded to look like a game-worn Peyton Manning jersey (that’s what I’d do if I was commish), but it’s possible that there’s too much risk of concussion for the SWAT guys so maybe he made that illegal and sends a Replacement Team of out-of-work janitors who slap out obscene six-figure fines instead.
Now the temptation here would be to go with one of the all-time great NFL badasses – a Lawrence Taylor, Jack Lambert, Earl Campbell motherfucker who dented helmets with his face and demolished his opponents like a vehicle-mounted pneumatic battering ram of human muscle punching through a rotting deer carcass – but as it turns out, one of the most badass American Football players (I’ll only do that for you once, foreign readers) in history is a collegiate All-American named Slade Cutter who never made it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Instead he was a little busy fighting World War II, receiving four Navy Crosses and two Silver Stars for slipping deep into enemy waters and torpedo-humping dozens of hardcore Imperial Japanese Navy shipping transports and troop carriers into seaborne gasoline fires as one of the most successful submarine commanders in U.S. Navy history.
Now, the first thing I want to mention here is that the man’s name is Slade Cutter. That’s some fucking We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese shit right there, and it’s not every day a badass real-life soldier comes along whose name is even more heart-stoppingly descriptive than the unmitigatedly-terrible things video game companies decide to name their protagonists in over-the-top FPSes (“in the gritty world of BLOOD STORM you play as Phoenix Bloodstorm, an ex-Special Forces agent haunted by his dark past…”). Slade Cutter is a Man’s name. A square-jawed man built like a brick wall who flattens Quarterbacks like flapjacks and makes out with their girlfriends while the stadium explodes behind him in slow motion. If that’s not enough, his middle name is Deville, so he could always bust that out at fancy 1930s parties when he was talking to hot girls with martinis and they’d immediately swoon out of their cocktail dresses and into his arms.
Cutter was born on an alfalfa farm in Oswego, Illinois in November 1911. His father had been righteously injured playing football as a young man, so while he was growing up Slade’s mom encouraged her boy not to get involved in the world of high-impact helmet-to-helmet contact. So instead of bodyslamming running backs on the field of battle, Slade Cutter learned how to play the flute instead. But before you say “what the fuck,” I should mention that this guy was so goddamn good at flauting that he won some major flute competition that was being judged by John Philips Sousa, the guy who wrote the Marine Corps March. If that doesn’t do it for you, this will – when Slade Cutter was admitted to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1931 he listed his vices as “Tobacco, Swearing, and Flute.”
Yeah, I play the flute. Fuck you. (takes huge drag on a fat Cuban cigar, blows smoke in reporter’s face)
Well as you can probably guess, 6’2”-tall, 215-pound men named Slade Cutter don’t exactly escape the attention of high school football coaches, and when Cutter was in HS he was approached by his school’s football coach – a guy named Paul Brown. Brown, if you’ve never heard of him, is so instrumental to the development of professional football that the Cleveland Browns are fucking named after him, which would be a little more significant if the Browns didn’t totally suck so bad (sorry, Clevelanders – you’re some of the best/worst football fans in the country, but I don’t think it’s exactly ground-breaking to suggest that the only real hope for your team not to gargle farm animal balls in the foreseeable future probably involves some kind of Otto Graham / Bernie Kozar voodoo Frankenstein shit). Brown convinced Cutter to overlook his dad’s crippling injuries and be a man about it, and by the time Cutter was at the Academy he was a world-class Tackle.
Playing OT and DT back in the days where football player were Real Men who played both sides of the ball in knee-deep snow uphill both ways and only called Timeout to rub some dirt on their shattered femurs, Slade Cutter was an All-American athlete for the Naval Academy, quickly becoming a national star for his ability to dominate opponents. His personal Football Waterloo came in the 1934 Army-Navy game, when he not only slogged through ankle-deep mud to shut out Army’s powerful offense but also accounted for all of Navy’s points when he kicked the game-winning Field Goal in front of 79,000 screaming fans (this was back when people still cared about the Army-Navy game), booting it through the uprights from 20 yards out to win the game 3-0 and mark the first time Navy had beaten Army in 13 years. Nowadays he’s in the College Football Hall of Fame.
An all-around physical badass, Slade Cutter was also a two-time Intercollegiate Boxing Champ, rearranging the faces of Division I fighters back in the days when boxing looked a lot more like MMA without all the “sweaty guys rolling around on the ground together” action and fighting gloves were basically one step away from being Tong Po’s broken glass hand wraps from Kickboxer. When he graduated in 1935 Slade was approached by a couple fighting promoters who wanted to turn him into a badass pro boxer, but Slade Cutter turned down a life of money, booze, fame, women, and face punches to serve his country on a battleship – joining up at a time in American history where it was looking increasingly likely that we were going to be at war with Germany and/or Japan very very soon. He went into the Navy’s still-developing submarine program shortly afterwards, entering sub school in 1938 and going through it with flying colors.
He was second-in-command of the submarine USS Pompano on war patrol in Japanese waters just eleven days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Playing Riker to Captain Lew Park’s Jean-Luc Picard, Slade Cutter kicked ass off the coasts of Tokyo Harbor and Okinawa during his first two patrols with Pompano. Park, an ultra-aggressive sub commander who ordered his officers to calculate firing trajectories in their head to save time lining up shots, taught Cutter the importance of going totally balls-out and aggressively maim the unsuspecting enemy at close range like you’re delivering a vicious blind-side crown-of-the-helmet hit on a defenseless receiver while he’s out of bounds after the play is over and has already gone home to have dinner with his family. Park and Cutter attacked early, often, and at close range, and they also attempted the first “Down the Throat” attack in U.S. Naval history, unleashing a technique that’s just as badass as it sounds – you line your sub up nose-to-nose with a depth-charge-toting enemy destroyer like you’re gonna play a nice round of chicken, then you give ‘em double-tube torpedos right in their fucking faces at point-blank range.
During two patrols in 1942 Pompano harassed enemy convoys delivering much-needed supplies to Japanese troops fighting on the Pacific Islands, and also survived almost being destroyed twice – once when they had to evade U.S. dive bombers that had mistakenly identified Pompano as a Japanese sub, and once when an enemy torpedo rocked Cutter’s engines so bad that half the sub was flooded and the water pressure almost crushed the boat up like a ball of tin foil. For his actions ballnocking the Japanese fleet from below, Cutter received two Silver Stars – one for each tour.
what’s big and black and full of seamen
In 1943 Slade Cutter was reassigned to Executive Officer of the USS Sea Horse, a Balao-Class submarine equipped with 4 torpedo tubes in the stern, 6 in the bow, a 5-inch deck gun, and two 20mm anti-aircraft machine guns. On his first patrol Cutter’s bullshit commanding offer was way too pussy in not ramming torpedoes down the hatches of Japanese shipping, and on the lone occasion that idiot actually found his balls and attacked he missed his target and got his fuel lines ruptured by enemy depth charges. So in October of ’43 the Navy was like, “fuck this guy, you’re out,” and yanked the starter and put SLADE CUTTER in there to run the first-team offense.
It was kind of like Tom Brady coming in for Drew Bledsoe and beating the Greatest Show on Turf in the Super Bowl. On his first patrol as Commanding Officer of the USS Sea Horse, Slade Cutter went right off the coast of mainland Japan, surfaced, sunk three trawlers with his deck gun, then charged into a 17-ship convoy, slipped past their destroy escort, and lit up a couple troop and supply transports with his torpedoes. By the time he ran out of torpedoes and had to return and resupply, he’d single-handedly sunk 9 enemy ships and destroyed 48,000 tons of Japanese war materials.
For the next year, Slade Cutter did everything he could to keep the Japanese from bringing men and supplies to the front lines. Waiting patiently far below the ocean surface, he followed enemy convoys, calmly waiting for the right opportunity to strike. Once he had his chance, he didn’t hesitate – he charged in, took his shots, then ran like hell as a sea of depth charges exploded around him, each one capable of blasting him to pieces. Blunt, straightforward, and loved by his men, Cutter repeatedly struck hard, even as the Japanese continually intensified their anti-sub defenses.
On his second patrol, Cutter chased a convoy 80 miles over three days, snuck in, hit them hard, sank two, and survived a depth charge attack. On his third patrol, he discovered a ridiculously-huge convoy of two Japanese supersize battleships and five aircraft carriers sent to stop Americans at Saipan, radioed to Admiral Spruance what was going on, and resulting U.S. sneak attack – dubbed the “Marianas Turkey Shoot” – sank three enemy aircraft carriers.
All told, Slade Cutter would lead four patrols as commander of Sea Horse. He accounted for 21 enemy ship kills, and is credited with destroying 142,300 tons of enemy war material, both numbers being only behind Mush Morton and Dick O’Kane in terms of submarine victories by U.S. ships in World War II. He ended the war with four Navy Crosses – one for each tour commanding Sea Horse – and two Silver Stars, one for each tour with Pompano. Literally every single time this man left port, he returned home with one of the three highest awards for bravery offered by the U.S. Navy.
After the war, Cutter commanded a heavy cruiser that served as the flagship of the U.S. Second Fleet, and later became Athletic Director of the Naval Academy. He died of heart failure in 2005 at the age of 93.