Considering that the use of naval mines dates back several centuries, along with the fact that mines were employed by U.S. forces in the Revolutionary War, Civil War, and World War I, it’s somewhat puzzling that the rating of Mineman (MN) was not established in the U.S. Navy until 1943. For some reason, the rating was disestablished in 1947, only to be re-established in 1948.
It was a prescient move in light of what transpired during the Korean War. Because of the paucity of ships in its Navy, North Korea relied heavily upon mine warfare to counter the United States’ substantial Naval superiority. Although the mines only sank four ships during the three-year conflict, they were far more effective at sending U.S. vessels to the bottom than any other methods employed by the North Koreans—which is another way of saying mines were the only weapon that sank any Navy ships during the war.
With the Navy focusing heavily on littoral combat operations, the role of Sailors in the MN rating becomes even more important. Laying mines is not only easier in littoral zones, but they also are more effective because of the smaller navigable areas in which Navy ships are likely to be operating.
As of May, 2016, around 840 men and women were serving as Minemen. The Navy is seeking to increase that number by just under eleven percent to 930, but Sailors seeking to serve in the MN rating should be aware that only highly qualified applicants will be considered.