RICKOVER AND THE NUCLEAR NAVY
(The Discipline of Technology) by Francis Duncan Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD 374 pages ISBN: 0-87021-236-2 Reviewed by CAPT WUJiam D. Roseborough, Jr., USN(Ret.)
What? Not another biography of the famous (or infamous) controversial Admiral? Hasn’t everything worth saying already been said in the numerous biographies already published?
The author claims that this current book is not a Rickover biography but is a history of nuclear power technology. While possibly true, it is so completely interlaced with the Admiral’s direction and control of the navy nuclear power program as well as insights into his personality and philosophies that it undoubtedly constitutes the most accurate biography to date. Unlike most previous Rickover biographies, based primarily on information and interviews provided by Rickover himself — or written over his objections – this one is based upon virtually unlimited access to documents and nuclear power personnel at every level of involvement over the 8-year period from 1974 to 1982. During this period, the author was in residence in an office supplied by Rickover in his headquarters. Admiral Rickover was clearly using a historian to do the definitive biography of himself, H. G. Rickover. At the same time he was ensuring that Duncan would know what the Admiral wanted him to know — and what he didn’t want Duncan to know.
This book, written by an Atomic Energy Commission historian, of 25 years experience, is essentially a sequel to his Nuclear Navy – 1946 to 1962. Duncan chose the point of departure for this book as the end of 1957, although there’s some overlap with Nuclear Navy for continuity and readability. The author felt that naval nuclear propulsion development had reached maturity at that point and was being succeeded by one of application. The history of three broad areas of application — submarines, surface ships, and power for electrical utilities are covered in eleven chapters.
The first chapter, titled “Common Denominators” and dealing with the LONG BEACH, NAUTILUS and Shippingport had only one common denominator — all three used pressurizedwater nuclear reactors. This chapter summarizes Rickover’s background, surveys the navy nuclear propulsion program and describes the political framework in which both Rickover and the program operated. An 8-page summary of the Admiral’s background listed three events which were crucial to his future career in both the Navy and in atomic energy. When, in early 1946, Rickover and four other naval officers plus two civilians were sent to Oak Ridge to determine the practicality of nuclear reactors for power generation, Rickover persuaded the AEC civilian project director to designate him as the senior naval officer in charge of the group with responsibility for preparing their periodic Navy fitness reports. From that point on, each in the group knew who was the “real” boss. Upon completion of their Oak Ridge assignment the group was ordered to BuShips for duty and became the nucleus of its nuclear power project.
In the newly formed AEC, although the Naval Reactors Branch was only one of six technical branches in the Reactors Development Division, Rickover got himself appointed head of the Naval Reactors Branch, thus planting his feet firmly in both BuShips and the AEC. Subsequently, he was able to play one against the other to get approval and funding for reactors. He was able to maintain the dual authority and to use it many times for the rest of his long career.
The third event, described by Duncan and amplified by Captain Ned Beach in his excellent Foreword to this book, was Rickover’s struggle against the Navy establishment to get promoted to rear admiral — in order to continue developing and controlling the nuclear power program. Using his influence with Congress and the press he was able to parlay his career up to the final rank of full admiral.
In Chapter two, the author traces the development of new nuclear propulsion plants. An improved version of the reactor in NAUTILUS, the Westinghouse SSW, with a longer core life and with the same horsepower, was instaJled in SKIPJACK — and eventually in 5 submarines of the SKIPJACK class, 14 THRESHERS, and 37 STURGEONs plus all 41 POLARIS ballistic missile submarines. The chapter also covers GE’s S6G reactor, installed in 48 LOS ANGELES class attack submarines, and the SSG installed in 12 OHIO class ballistic missile submarines. The author unfortunately credits SKIPJACK’s superior performance to its SSW power plant rather than its use in an advanced hull form. Duncan does footnote that a description of SKIPJACK’s hull could be found in Norman Palmar’s Atomic Subnuuines. In fact, the significantly increased speed of SKIPJACK stemmed from an optimum-shaped hydrodynamic hull and the utilization of a single centerline propeller.
A 1961 document stated that reactor safety was the single over-riding design criteria, and against this standard Rickover tolerated no compromise. In the words of the author, “Rickover had not settled on the pressurized water concept or continued its development without keeping abreast of other concepts. He had developed two sodium-cooled reactors — SEA WOLF and its prototype plant — which proved inferior to the pressurized water approach for ship propulsion.” There were no reasons given for this statement, and it is apparent he accepted this statement made from someone above him — since there is no evidence that he interviewed anyone about this matter, including Dick Laning, the SEA WOLFs skipper. There were initial metallurgical difficulties encountered in the primary side of the nuclear plant, but SEA WOLF was operated for many months without requiring access to the reactor compartment’s shielded lower level. However, enough concern was created in Washington, so Rickover announced that the reactor would be replaced with a NAUTILUS type a~ the ship’s first overhaul. Rickover did try a turbo-electric drive system in TULLffiEE, to have a quieter propulsion system. But no more ships of her type were produced since the THRESHER’s characteristics far exceeded those of TULLIBEE. A natural circulating water reactor was tried in NARWHAL in order to reduce the noise produced by the main coolant reactor pumps.
Although many developments had shaped the U.S. post war submarine evolution, the author considered only two in his conclusion: pressurized water reactor technology; and Rickover. Reactor technology evolved in three phases: first, NAUTILUS and SEA WOLF demonstrated the feasibility of the technical concept; then in the STURGEON and POLARIS submarines, Rickover’s team provided only the nuclear reactors and stated that the characteristics of the submarines were largely determined by other groups; finally, he instigated and fought for the NARWHAL, the LOS ANGELES and the TRIDENT submarines, acting as the major force in getting these ships authorized and funded.
The TIIRESHER chapter is one of the most interesting parts of this book. Design and construction was assigned to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard — a departure from Electric Boat Company’s monopoly on nuclear submarine design. TIIRESHER was designed to incorporate: reduced machineryradiated noise; increased sonar capability and significantly greater depth. Her loss, two years after her initial sea trials was, in the investigation into her loss, credited to the unreliability of silver brazed pipe joints in the seawater systems for a submarine with a considerably greater operating depth than previous submarines, the inadequate discussions as to ship recovery procedures in case of flooding due to a piping failure; the failure to test the ballast tank blow system at deep submergence even though the blowing pressure had been increased from 3000 psi to 4500 psi; and the possible failure to maintain some degree of propulsion even though the reactor was scrammed. In effect, the vast amount of effort described by the author, for ascertaining the cause of the TIIRESHER’s loss, Jed to a belief that a silver brazed seawater line had ruptured at deep submergence, the water under high pressure had sprayed electrical controls for the reactor, the reactor had scrammed, propulsion power was lost and the blowing of the ballast tanks resulted in the high pressure air control valves acting like refrigeration expansion valves as the 4500 psi air expanded. This caused the moisture in the high pressure air to freeze and block the airflow to the ballast tanks. Subsequently, a major “Sub-Safe” program was initiated for all follow-on submarines of the THRESHER class which included better testing of joints for the sea water systems, better welds, redesign of the expansion valves and other damage control features. Although Admiral Rickover had stated that “his procedures for reactor plant operation were so rigid as to be a factor in the loss of the ship was an incomprehensible argument: he further stated that “for normal conditions, standard procedures were mandatory. In an emergency, the operator had to take whatever steps he thought necessary to save the ship.” He did however take action after 1HRESHER’s loss to reduce the time required to restart a nuclear plant.
The next three chapters deal with the political battle to get nuclear power surface ships into being. Initially Rickover had LONG BEACH, a cruiser, ENTERPRISE, an aircraft carrier, and the destroyer BAINBRIDGE authorized for construction. The Admiral’s argument was that installing nuclear power in surface ships was not much more costly (about 25% more) than using oil-fired engines. But rising costs during the construction of these three ships caused a reappraisal of Rickover’s “all nuclear powered navy, of major surface combatants.” The cost estimate for BAINBRIDGE rose to a figure more than three times as great.
The Admiral’s offensive with Congress to get more nuclear powered surface ships authorized, led him to urging Congress to resume the powers it had let slip to the Executive branch. He reminded the Rivers Committee that it was Congress who had forced the Navy into nuclear propulsion, and urged the Congress to take a strong stand and with-hold funds for certain other items. Was this insubordination?
Subsequent chapters deal with multilateral forces, the Shippingport nuclear power station, the nature of Rickover’s nuclear programs over the years, the effect of the Three Mile Island disaster, and a final chapter on “the Discipline of Technology.” As for helping other countries develop nuclear powered units in their navies, the Admiral played a major role in determining which nations could be helped. He seems to have rebuffed the French in their development of a nuclear submarine, but kept aware of the Frenchmen’s progress on their first and experimental submarine GYMNOTE — used for testing missiles designed for SSBNs. With the British, and the building of their first nuclear sub, DREADNAUGHT, Rickover imposed the restriction that there would be absolutely no changes in either the reactor or machinery plant without prior approval from his office. The reviewer of this book went to England to follow the progress on their nuclear submarines and was shown the prototype of a British designed reactor which closely followed U.S. technology as developed for NAUTILUS. In the course of discussions with the Admiralty’s officer responsible for shipbuilding, he asked me “How does one deal with that (blank-blank) Rickover?”
The Shippingport nuclear power station demonstrated three accomplishments: feasibility of the pressurized-water reactor for civilian electric power application; how pressurized-water reactors might be converted to breeder reactors; and how strict discipline must be used in the operation of civilian reactors to ensure safe and efficient operation.
His chapter on the nature of Rickover’s programs is titled ‘The Devil in the Details.” Whether “the Devil” refers to Rickover or as the author claims “hard work, ” is questionable. How he personally interviewed every candidate for his organization as well as the seagoing officers who served in his ships, how he demanded absolute loyalty and total dedication to his program, and how he insisted that once in his organization there could be no defections from it — or there would be no effort spared to ruin that person’s career if he 1uit the organization. But no one else in the nuclear program was as hardworking, as clever or as determined and ruthless as Rickover. Some promising navy careers were sacrificed by running afoul of Rickover — but his philosophy was that the end justifies the means and he lived it to the fullest extent.
The Three Mile Island disaster on 28 March 1979, illustrated Rickover’s procedures, training programs, and audits used to ensure safety – plus a highlighting of the reactor safeguards examination to constantly check the material condition of the propulsion plants and the training of crews. This caused differences in the Navy philosophy and that of the civilian nuclear power industry, which could account for the Three Mile Island incident. The final chapter attests to Rickover’s claim that his organization was an island of excellence in a sea of mediocrity. While not defining “the discipline of technology” per se, he described several aspects. It means that an organization must adapt to technology, not technology to the organization. It requires exhaustive testing of materials and components to determine the laws of nature. It requires thorough and deep consideration of the match between the product and its use — and intense analysis of the present and anticipated future conditions of operation. Most importantly, Rickover believed that the discipline of technology conferred upon an individual the greatest challenge of all — acceptance of responsibility. And that it was essential to the survival of society.
The value of this book, particularly for the serious student of naval engineering, is enhanced by the appendices, which include “Design and Engineering Principles” and “Reactor Plant Designations, Prototypes and Shipboard Plants.”The bibliography is also a valuable source document.
In summary, this book is authoritative, well written and should be of interest to naval history enthusiasts. It is an essential contribution to a more complete understanding of the background and achievements of the naval nuclear propulsion program — which is probably the most revolutionary change in the development of modem navies. As to its being the definitive biography of the man Rickover, it must be understood that at times the author’s statements tend to remind one somewhat of the interesting book, The Objective History of the CivU War from the South’s Point of View.
THE U-BOAT WAR IN THE ATLANTIC. 1939-1945
By Captain Gunter Hessler
Published by Her Majesty’s Stationery Office,
London ISBN 0-11-772603-6
Reviewed by Captain Charles Rush, USN(Ret.)
The reviewer approached this formidable book with some trepidation, but soon found that he could not put it down. It is a fascinating and illuminating history — the most definitive story of WW ll U-boats.
The book covers strategy, tactics, weapons, technology and intelligence. The subjects are integrated so skillfully that it reads like a Russian novel superimposed on a Greek tragedy. Although one knows the eventual outcome, there is a great element of suspense.
When the early U-boats lost the battle, would the new highspeed, long-endurance boats be ready in time to reverse the outcome and perhaps win the war? It was close.
The hero of the story is Karl Doenitz, who not only had to fight the Allied navies and air forces but also the German Naval Staff, whose desk-bound officers were years behind him in operational thinking.
One can glean many insights from this history; one is the importance of the deciphering of the German’s Ultra signals, which their cryptologists believed to be impossible. Now that Ultra has been declassified, it is evident there were many occurrences that at the time baffied the German high command.
At the outset of war, September 1, 1939, Germany had a paltry U-boat force ready: 24 coastal boats of 300-tons, 16 type VIIs of 770-tons, and 6 large Atlantic boats of about 1100-tons. Imagine in today’s world of 10,000-ton attack SSNs that in World War ll German submariners referred to an BOOton boat as “large”!
Recognizing the inadequacy of the U-boat situation, Doenitz urged a large-scale construction program to raise the U-boat strength to 300. Admiral Raeder, the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy agreed, but the captain assigned to supervise the program on the Naval Staff in Berlin had no executive authority, so the program was bogged down.
Under orders, the U-boats initially maintained strict observance of international regulations which set forth conditions under which merchant shipping could be attacked. No unescorted ship could be sunk without first being stopped for search, and the crews had to be treated humanitarily. Thus, the U-boats could not operate effectively in British coastal waters due to the high probability that they would be detected and attacked while following these procedures. And, when they did attack, they discovered that their torpedoes had a high percentage of failures; the magnetic pistols caused premature explosions, and the torpedoes ran deeper than set. These defects caused disastrous consequences with the loss of many boats.
Despite these difficulties, the Type Vile boat of 871 tons submerged, and 309 feet “diving depth,” carrying 14 torpedoes, proved most effective in attacks on convoys. She was easily handled, had almost 10,000 miles endurance, and had splendid resistance to depth charging.
Efforts of the Naval Staff to micro-manage U-boat operations by detaching them for secondary tasks were resisted by Doenitz. He also noted in his diary: “My problem is to fight the bad weather and ice, to tackle excessive dockyard time, to cope with inefficient torpedoes, and not least to wage war on Britain.” In fact, during the battle in 1940 for Norway, 26 attacks on British warships and 5 on transports resulted in no damage, due to faulty torpedoes. Doenitz summed it up, ” … peacetime procedure can only be described as criminal. In all the history of war I doubt whether men have ever bad to rely on such a useless weapon.”
Finally, in June 1940, improvements in the torpedo began to show results. Torpedo failures decreased, and the boats achieved a high rate of sinking. Also, arming of merchant ships and their offensive actions, such as ramming tactics, resulted in an order to the U-boats: “U-boats are permitted to attack without warning all ships identified as hostile.”
At the end of the first year of war, 28 U-boats had been lost, and 28 new boats had been commissioned. Then began what the U-boat commanders would later call the “happy time.” They felt invincible — sinking as many as 25 ships in a convoy, while enemy anti-submarine forces were weak and ineffective. Nevertheless, Doenitz warned his commanders, “The war will go on for many months. We are fighting the most powerful navy (the British) in the world.”
In early 1941, Great Britain got the convoy system into operation, so that it was necessary for Germany to make a transition to wolfpack tactics. The first boat in a “pack” that made contact became a shadower, while making frequent reports — a task that required skill, tenacity and nerve. Meanwhile, the rest of the pack were getting into position to attack. Experience showed that it was best to go in on the surface at night, using high speed to attack and evade. When the U-boats were in position, came the fateful message: “Attack when darkness falls.”
It became apparent to Doenitz that the U-boats needed long-range reconnaissance to detect the convoys, and he got a decision from Hitler to allocate some long-range aircraft to the U-boat command.
Fortunately for the British, the number of operational Uboats did not begin to increase until February 1941. By that time the strengthened British anti-submarine forces had forced the U-boats to move from the English coast westward into the Atlantic, where ship traffic was less concentrated. Thus the lack of U-boats prevented them from delivering a knockout blow early in the war.
Increasing demands by higher authority for the use of Uboats for secondary tasks continued to dilute Doenitz’ efforts to sink ships bound for Britain. In 1941 and 1942, U-boats were diverted for use as weather stations, escorts for surface ships, reconnaissance for surface ship sorties that never happened, and Arctic missions.
Not until January, 1943, when Doenitz became Commanderin-Chief of the Navy, was he able to prevent this dispersion of his U-boat forces. But by that time he had to face even graver problems. British successes in the North Africa campaign made it necessary for the U-boats to concentrate in the Gibraltar area. They intercepted a hugh British convoy headed for the Strait. Despite a flat calm sea — the U-boats pressed their attack, sinking a carrier and two other ships in the convoy. But they lost five U-boats. Further heavy losses were taken by boats attempting to break into the Mediterranean, and those that made it found themselves in a trap. They could not return.
With Pearl Harbor, the U.S. merchant marine shipbuilding capabilities were made available to Britain. Within 5 weeks after U.S. entry into the War, U-boats had begun their operations off the east coast of the United States. Targets were so numerous between New York and Cape Hatteras that the U-boats encountered more targets than they could attack. American defenses were negligible. Navigation buoys and beacons were still lighted, and many merchant ships ran undarkened and used their radios carelessly. At times as many as seven U-boats operated off Hatteras, sinking targets at will.
But within six months the Americans had improved their anti-submarine forces sufficiently to drive the U-boats from the U.S. coast. The U-boats were then redeployed to the Caribbean, where they destroyed many ships, mostly tankers — sending over a million tons of shipping to the bottom before a convoy system came into force. In September of 1942, most of the U-boats were pulled back to the crucial battle for control of the mid-Atlantic.
Radar equipped Allied aircraft, however, had by now a radius of action of 800 miles, while surface antisubmarine forces were equipped with radar and improved echo-ranging sonar. The freedom of U-boats to use high speed on the surface to close a ship could no longer be relied upon. Therefore, to regain the initiative, Doenitz recommended rapid large-scale construction of high submerged speed, snorkel boats and Walter Type U-boats, which used hydrogen peroxide in their propulsion cycle.
Moreover, the tanker sinking in the Caribbean had affected Allied convoys. To save fuel they were all routed close to the great circle track across the Atlantic, and escorts had to frequently leave their convoy due to a shortage of fuel. The U-boat packs then ravaged some of these convoys, but in November the boats were recalled to the Gibraltar area to oppose the Allied landings in North Africa.
To illustrate the gems of information in this book, I’ve taken a few from a single page on the last half of 1942’s U-boat war:
• “The utmost priority must be applied to the development of an effective anti-destroyer torpedo, for without such a weapon the future of U-boat operations is in jeopardy.”
•”The possibility of firing rockets from submerged U-boats against attacking destroyers, was explored.”
• “An asdic decoy was produced by the autumn. It was a cylinder of 15 em diameter, containing a substance which on contact with sea water would discharge large quantities of gas. On being pursued, the U-boat would discharge 3 such cylinders to provide false echoes.”
•”The best protection against depth charges was to dive deeply. For the new boats of Type VIIC the standard resistance was 200 meters which meant they could dive down to 300 meters without harm.” • “The pressure hull had been strengthened so much that the displacement increased nearly 250 tons.”
• “Compared with WW I we have the bubble-free discharge and the trackless run which, however, reduced torpedo speeds to 30 knots.”
• “Yet the depth-keeping and detonation qualities of the torpedoes have not reached the level attained in 1918.”
•The destructive effect of the warhead when used with the impact pistol is insufficient, as shown by many cases of freighters needing more than one torpedo to sink them.” “In order to sink 404 ships, the boats needed 806 torpedo hits.”
• “To conceal this new device (the F.A.T. torpedo) from the enemy it was used only at night, because of its conspicuous bubble track. It needed an accurate range, so that after the requisite straight run, the loop run would cover both sides of the targel” (Its range was 12,500 meters at 30 knots.)
Despite continued U-boat success in the Mediterranean and the North Atlantic, Hitler and the Supreme Command failed to realize that U-boat operations were more damaging to the enemy for the effort involved than any other type of warfare. Doenitz, on the other hand, was more determined than ever to develop the U-boat into the paramount weapon. He became Cin-C of the Navy in 1943, when the tide was running swiftly against Germany, and immediately started actions to reverse the Allies’ momentum. U-boats were fitted with radar; F.A. T. circling torpedoes reached bases at a rate of 100 per month; and Oak boats were armed with A/A guns. The latter, effective against a single aircraft, failed to cope with multiple attacking planes and had to be abandoned. A better submarine became the only possible solution to winning the sea battle.
A few notes from mid-1943 to illuminate the story:
• In mid-October 2 U-boats returned from the Indian Ocean having spent 31 weeks and 29 weeks continuously at sea -being refueled and resupplied with torpedoes and stores at sea by “milch cows”.
• Between July 23 and 3 August 22 U-boats were lost in the Atlantic. It was felt that radiations from their Metox radar ~ intercept receivers were being picked up by the Allies’ aircraft at great ranges.
• The quadruple 20 mm gun mounts allowed the U-boats to stay on the surface and fight it out with attacking aircraft – but the 40 mm gun was being produced to better kill the aircraft. A “flak boat” recorded an action: “Two of my 2 em guns have been shot out of action. 11 members of the gun crew were wounded … decided to dive.”
• The electric, acoustic-homing torpedo, the G7s arrived in the fleet in October 1943.
• In May ’43 Hitler approved a program to build 40 subs a month.
The arrival on the scene of numbers of Allied escort carriers which provided continuous air cover for the convoys nailed the lid shut on the conventional U-boat. For an interim time the schnorkel, an air tube that permitted diesel boats to charge batteries without bringing the hull of the boat to the surface, brought some relief for the old boats; but it was a stopgap, not a solution. The Germans’ Atlantic campaign collapsed and they abandoned the North Atlantic battleground. Then, unable to stop the Allies’ Normandy landings, the U-boats lost their Brittany bases and withdrew to the fjords of Norway.
However, the U-boat navy prepared to stage a dramatic comeback, for they had one more chance to wrest control of the seas from the surface and air forces. In 1943, contracts bad been placed for 360 Type XXI and 208 Type XXIII highsubmerged-speed “Electro” boats. The Type XXI was a streamlined 819-ton submarine with very powerful batteries and a schnorkel. The boat was designed for a maximum submerged speed of 18 knots, or a speed of 12 to 14 knots for ten hours. This would allow the boat to gain a good attack position while submerged. The Type XXIII was a small schnorkel boat of 300 tons and a submerged speed of 12 knots, designed for work in the North Sea and shallow water areas.
Speer, the Armament Minister, promised completion of the first Type XXI by April 1944 and a total of 30 by July 1944; he promised the first XXIII boat by February 1944, and 19 more beginning in April 1944.
Despite subsequent delays, 120 Type XXI and 61 Type XXIll U-boats were completed and commissioned before the capitulation in early May 1945.
Sea trials showed that these U-boats were excellent submarines. The XXI could fire a “programmed spread” of six “Lut” torpedoes in less than a minute. The torpedoes spread out fanwise until they reached the convoy track, then began running in loops. The theoretical probability of 95 to 99 percent hits was achieved on firing trials.
Concurrently with the high-priority work on the “Electro” boats, the Germans built six Walter hydrogen peroxide boats, which attained submerged speeds of 23-25 knots. On 26 May 1944, contracts were placed for 100 Walter boats capable of making 25 knots for 10 to 12 hours.
While these building programs were turning out new-design boats, the older U-boats equipped with schnorkel were sinking ships in the shallow coastal waters off England. But from January, 1945, until termination of the war on May 9th of that year, the Germans lost 75 of the older boats.
In the last weeks of the war, eight of the small, fast type XXlll boats made patrols off the coast of England and sank six ships.
None of the new U-boats was lost in action. However, 111 of them were scuttled a few days before the surrender.
Doenitz and his U-boat sailors fought with incredible courage; 28,000 of them lost their lives in the battle. The reviewer, a wartime submariner, has some understanding of what they endured. Had their leader, Doenitz, been given a free hand sooner, they should have prevailed.
It is well to remember that although the early surface dependent U-boats were eventually defeated, the precursors of the “true submarine” which went to sea after the war was lost were not. As the introduction to the English Version of this history points out: ” … the submarine persists as a dangerous weapon which others — having learned the lessons — may one day use as instruments for world domination.”
SUBMARINE VERSUS SUBMARINE: THE TACTICS AND TECHNOLOGY OF UNDERWATER CONFRONTATION
By Richard Compton-Hall
David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1988
Reviewed by Tim Crabtree
The latest book written by the Director of the Royal Navy Submarine Museum at Portsmouth, England, should be a part of every naval library. If it isn’t, Submarine Versus Submarine is still a jolly pulse-throbbing read. It is written through an experienced submariner’s eyes mainly from a Soviet perspective. This is an important and creative feature of this book. The book’s introduction contains an open note to Admiral of the Fleet, V. N. Chemavin, and General of the Army, P.l. lvashutin, requesting how their interpretation of submarine warfare would differ from the author’s. He’s interested in knowing this; so am I.
The author makes quite clear in the introduction, that there has only been one sinking of a submerged submarine by another submerged submarine, that of U-864 by HMS VENTURER on 9 February 1945. Annoyingly, occasional clerical errors interrupt the readers’ comprehension of the submarine tactics suggested by Compton-Hall. But this should not be a put-off from the creative interplay between submarines which are outlined.
This is a reference volume which should be useful reading for submariners and on the book shelves of their boats.
It is a book to be quoted from, especially in THE SUBMARINE REVIEW, but it should be recognized that the author has a subscription. He has given information on how to join the Naval Submarine League in the book’s acknowledgements. This may explain the increase in the Submarine League’s foreign membership in a year’s time, from 39 to 52. Hopefully more than 13 people have read the book!
In 192 pages, profusely illustrated with photos, diagrams and double-page paintings, the author has divided his book into two parts: the first being an explanation of submarine ASW mechanics; the second taking the reader through scenarios submariners may find themselves facing in future combat. While the entire book is stimulating, the scenarios of underseas battles are the most thought provoking.
Part one, “Understanding the Technology,” is divided into twelve chapters: the Soviet threat; submarine construction; propulsion, speed and endurance; sound, sonar and nonacoustic indicators; secondary sensors; navigation and communications; submarine ASW weapon systems; submarine launched missiles; operations under the Arctic ice; reemergence of midget submarines; self-defence; and a summation containing random thoughts not easily fitted in other chapters called “Powerful Forces, Practical Problems.”
In the midget submarine chapter, unsurprisingly, ComptonHall states the case for Maritalia’s gaseous storage toroidal anaerobic Diesel submarine designed by another Submarine League member, Signor G. G. Santi.
The author slips in a couple of his own sea stories. My favorite is his tale of when he was skipper of HMS SPRINGER in 1957. Then, he deliberately rammed his boat into a sonar ball being dunked by a helicopter. Luckily the helicopter wasn’t pulled into the sea; nor was the author court martialled. But he came pretty close. It makes one wonder how the author would have done during the Second World War but such speculation must be tempered by the strong antiwar theme to this book, especially when ICBMs and SLCMs are discussed.
Part two, “Action and Faction”, comprises ten chapters putting forth scenarios dealing with Soviet SSK tactics (to appreciate and develop our own tactics a recognition of how the Soviets are likely to fight with their submarine is necessary); Soviet SSN tactics; non-aligned submarines armed with nuclear SLCMs used as blackmail tools; submarine pirates; covert intelligence gathering; midget marauders; skirmishing in the Pacific; Arctic operations; NATO submarine operations within Soviet waters; ending with a sobering two-page chapter entitled “1be Survivors.” (In the aftermath of a massive nuclear exchange, submarines, the author feels, will be the only meaningful fighting unit at sea.)
Submarine Versus Subnuuine is an important book making well the case for all subs, both “big’uns ‘n little’uns”. And it is a prophecy for our politicians if they ever intend to take us into another World War.
ALBACORE· A NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK STATUS TO BE CELEBRATED
ALBACORE has been designated as a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service of the Department of the Interior. This prestigious status will be celebrated at a ceremony on Sunday, 6 May, at 2:00 P.M., commemorating the 5th anniversary of the ship’s landing at Albacore Park. Dignitaries from the Department of the Interior, State Government, City Government and the U.S. Submarine Community are expected to participate.
In achieving National Historic Landmark status, ALBACORE joins NAUTILUS, now on display in Groton, Connecticut. This status is well deserved by both ships as indeed they form the roots of our modem submarine fleet. NAUTILUS, of course, was the first ship in the world to be propelled by nuclear power. The unqualified success of its nuclear power system forever lifted restrictions on submerged speeds and endurance of submarines. However, it’s hull shape and other characteristics did not promote achieving high submerged speeds. Attainment of these very high speeds as well as safe and effective control during submerged operations was the basic mission of the experimental diesel-powered submarine ALBACORE. It’s design was the first to employ a near ideal streamlined hull form with center line, counter rotating propellers to maximize propulsion efficiency, and control surfaces configured and located so as to ensure safe and effective maneuvering at high speeds. ALBACORE underwent five major alterations during its operating life to ensure attainment of these vital operating characteristics. It was, in it’s day, the fastest and most maneuverable submarine in the world. Lessons learned in the operating experiences of both ALBACORE and NAUTILUS are now incorporated into the designs of today’s ballistic and fast attack submarines enabling them to form the most effective undersea fleet in existence.
ALBACORE was built at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and launched in August of 1953. The skill and dedication of many people in the New Hampshire – Maine seacoast area brought this fine ship into being. Today’s residents of this area may be justifiably proud of ALBACORE’s achievements and the recognition it is now receiving. They and others interested are cordially invited to attend and celebrate ALBACORE’s new status at this event.
THE SUBMARINE REVIEW
THE SUBMARINE REVIEW is a quarterly publication of the Submarine League. It is a forum for discussion of submarine matters. Not only are the ideas of its members to be reflected in the REVIEW, but those of others as well, who are interested in submarines and submarining.
Articles for this publication will be accepted on any subject closely related to submarine matters. Their length should be a maximum of about 2500 words. The content of articles is of first importance in their selection for the REVIEW. Editing of articles for clarity may be necessary, since important ideas should be readily understood by the readers of the REVIEW.
A stipend of up to $200.00 will be paid for each major article published. Annually, three articles are selected for special recognition and an honorarium of up to $400.00 will be awarded to the authors.
The views expressed by the authors are their own and are not to be construed to be those of the Naval Submarine League. In those instances where the NSL has taken and published an official position or view, specific reference to that fact will accompany the article.
Articles should be submitted to the Editor, SUBMARINE REVIEW, P.O. Box 1146, Annandale, VA 22003.
Comments on articles and brief discussion items are welcomed to make the SUBMARINE REVIEW a dynamic reflection of the League’s interest in submarines. The success of this magazine is up to those persons who have such a dedicated interest in submarines that they want to keep alive the submarine past, help with present submarine problems and be influential in guiding the future of submarines in the U.S. Navy.