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o Brooks Harral’s book review on German submarine losses in WWII — “630 at sea (generally with the entire crew)” .;_ makes one wonder whether the German boats weren’t faultily designed. The Germans lost more that 10 times as many subs operationally than the u.s. while only sinking a little over double the tonnage. Were the Allied ASW forces so much better than the Japanese ASW forces? I don’t think so. And don’t forget that the four German ace submariners were lost with their boats in a single convoy engagement in March 1941 — before the allied ASW forces in the Atlantic approximated 25 warships and 100 aircraft for every Nazi submarine at sea.

The movie Das Boot would indicate that the German submarine pressure hulls could withstand even greater depths than ours. That would make the Germans’ inner hulls tougher. So a best guess is that it was the double hulls of our boats that made them a lot tougher than the single hulled German Boats.

The Soviets build exclusively double hulled boats. We build single hull ones. Did the Soviets learn something from WWII experience which we have failed to take account of?



I have read with great interest the January 1984 edition of the “Submarine Review” and wholeheartedly support a broadening of discussion on submarine matters to the widest possible audience. I certainly feel that the experience gained by those who have fought a war in submarines should be passed on to the present generation of peacetime submariners. Two articles in this edition of the Review caught my imagination. The first was “RAY’s Fifth War Patrol” and the second was the review of the book “Submarine”.

Since the advent of the Nuclear Submarine, there is danger of the modern Submariner becoming so embroiled in the daily business of operating and running this complex machine that the basic principles of submarine warfare are pushed into second place. It is self evident that safety, especially Nuclear safety, is vital but it is only a means to an end, not an end in its own right. Likewise, although computers can do much to assist in calculating the fire control solution of a target, they are only an “aid”. The instinctive tactical knowledge of the Commanding Officer and his Command team is still going to prove the deciding factor between success and failure in war. This point was well illustrated in the stirring and well written account of USS RAY’s Fifth War Parol where, as the Commanding Officer and his team gained experience, so the success on patrol increased, making it “outstanding” despite “the shaky start”.

In the book review on “Submarine”, the author asks whether tactics involving a combination of diesel and Nuclear submarines are sound. The main advantage of the diesel boat is that when searching on main motors it is very quiet, making it virtually undetectable by a Nuclear submarine and also making it a very good listening platform especially when fitted with modern highly sophisticated sonars. Its disadvantage is its “short legs” and its limited ability to attack the long range contact using its own weapons. It does though, have the ability to operate in shallow water, making it ideal to place at choke points and port exits. The Nuclear submarine, in contrast, does radiate a detectable noise signature hampering its effective sonar search but does have “long legs”, and is fast and maneuverable making it ~n ideal vessel from which to attack enemy submarines. Therefore, a tactic of using a diesel boat to “vector” a Nuclear submarine onto contacts would seem to be both feasible and effective, making best use of the attributes of the two types of submarine. Modern communications certainly make the interchange required perfectly possible. “Submarine” suggests a good example of such coordination proving successful, albeit in a very particular environment.

May I take this opportunity of wishing “The Submarine League” all the best for the future. To be entitled to wear “Dolphins” signifies membership of a great international club.


  • It has become a cliche to hail the ascendancy of the submarine as the decisive new determinant of seapower. And so it is. But that simple assertion masks many dangers of complacency. Superiority is not automatically given nor indefinitely conferred; beneath our feet there is a dynamism at work that continually threatens to undermine the status quo.

The U.S. Navy’s current generation of nuclear submariners have had greatness, as it were, thrust upon them; . they have not seized it themselves. Had comparable leadership been manifest in regard to weapons, hull characteristics, and tactical understanding to that degree which their great and enduring mentor achieved in regard to propulsion, likely the Submarine Force would have run away with the world. Whether that necessary degree of professional independence was ever truly possible over those years-given circumstances is, of course, highly debatable. In any event, the Admiral was indeed the great banyan tree in whose shade little grew. And the result has been only a few classes of submarines, an absence of imaginative prototyping, and the creation of a curious hybrid bird of war, powerful in the thighs and skinny in the beak and talons. As one formidable submariner, Vice Admiral Eli T. Reich USN (Ret.), has put, “there is a tendency to forget that, in the end, it all comes down to placing an ordnance package alongside the other fellow . . .  and making sure that it explodes!”

News appearing elsewhere indicates that the Navy’s submarine community is henceforth going to be speaking out more publicly on its needs and challenges. Wisely done, this has to be to the good. The submariner’s silence, born of tradition and security, has not always served the best interests either of the Navy or the nation. As only one example-and there are many-it is to me a recurrent source of wonder that the submariners are so reticent in articulating the manifold advantages of putting a much greater percentage of U.s. strategic deterrent power to sea. No one knows better than the submariner that indeed he is, for practical purposes, invulnerable out in the oceans and, given the wish, can hide forever.

You would not know this from the stunning lack of public debate. Instead, the only sound we hear is of giant shovels out west digging holes in which to place more land-based missiles… all precisely located and each one another target amidst our homeland.

If The Submarine Review can create the dialogue and foster the knowledge that will enable the u.s. Navy to move faster towards realization of the full potential of the submarine, it will be fulfilling a needed and admirable function.


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