Swimming During War Time And In Modern Times

Swimming During War Time And In Modern Times

According to The Billboard Magazine issue of April 25th 1942, Navy swim coach and professor Henry Ortland Jr. addressed the leading swim coaches of the era at the 1942 College Swimming Coaches Association meeting at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts that “the Japanese endurance swimmers were responsible for the reconstruction of the Singapore causeway which enabled them to take the city [during World War II]. The fall of Singapore and Hong Kong was due in no small measure to the swimming ability of the Japanese troops, who were able to effect landings by swimming ashore with full equipment.

As a result, the U.S. Navy changed its method of swimming instruction from stressing speed and form to teaching endurance and the ability to float for long periods of time in order that more lives might be saved in the event of emergencies at sea.”

Opinions expressed at the time addressed Coach Ortland’s perspective, “Could college coaches encourage endurance swim meets and support long-distance swimming [because] it is timely and, what’s more important – take it from the U.S. Navy [that] it is necessary.

Steven Munatones said of the Japanese swimmers, “Japanese history has described different kinds of swimming that were practice by samurai in eras long gone and by military personnel including shinden ryu (or marathon swimming), kankai ryu (ocean swimming), suifu ryu (river swimming or rapids swimming), as well as other methods that were based on the topography and waterways (e.g., coastline or mountain areas) where their soldiers and naval personnel needed to navigate. For example, if the samurai had to fight while wearing armor, they would study the kobori ryu (combative swimming) where the samurai would eggbeater (tread water) while keeping their upper body above water to fight with swords, fire arrows or guns while in or crossing a river. With that kind of history, it was no wonder that Coach Ortland knew what his own cadets would be facing in the Pacific theater.

Japanese history and real-world experience also taught modern-day channel swimmers in the Tsugaru Channel and Sado Channel that long pieces of cloth trailing or floating beneath humans out at sea are effective shark deterrents. Modern-day swimmers know them as swim streamers. While some marathon swimmers view the swim streamers as an unfair advantage and therefore define their swim as an assisted swim, considered to be something less worthy than an unassisted swim, fishermen and escort pilots in the Tsugaru Channel and Sado Channel know that sharks, including Great White Sharks occasionally take large [bite] chunks out of the tuna caught in their nets. They know the large sharks occupy their waters – and they understand that keeping their swimmers safe is their number one priority. I do not doubt the veracity and value of their opinions, advice and experiences.”

Swim streamer
Swim streamer in the Tsugaru Channel underneath Honoka Hasegawa

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Steven Munatones