“SUBMARINERS OR NUKES”
LT Schmidt’s article “Submariners or Nukes” is “on the mark, but he writes as if the emphasis on engineering to the detriment of operations and tactics is new.
I am sure it still exists, but I’m equally certain that it is not new. In fact, this has been with us since before World War ll. Then, the annual competition in all phases of submarining was the big thing. Fuel consumption and other engineering aspects consumed an inordinate amount of time and effort. Torpedo firing occurred only periodically and involved but a small segment of the officers and crew, and played second fiddle.
Could it be that this attitude contributed to our inadequate weapons testing and woeful torpedo performance until World War II was well underway? In the post-war era, those of us dedicated to fire control, tactics, and torpedo performance were but a small percentage of the Force.
The engineering plant’s task is merely to put the ship in position to carry out its mission – weapon firing, or whatever else may be ordered.
Perhaps I can emphasize my concurrence with LT Schmidt by describing the attached sketch which is a portion of a clever TIGRONE cartoon summary of my year as COMSUBFLOT II/COMSUBRON 2 in New London in 1964. It suggests that the monthly tactical seminars were a smashing success with attendance off the chart.
These seminars brought COs, Execs, and Gunnery Officers together with Staff Officers and civilian fire control experts — from those companies actively engaged in performing research or providing hardware for the Force at that time. Each and every one, friends of mine from BuOrd days, was honored to be invited to a day with the users.
In sum, we had a problem of priorities in the late 30s, in the post-war era, in the 60s, and apparently in the 90s. Let’s not write the same tale at the tum of the century.
M. H. Rindskopf
OIC PCO School PH 1952 — OIC Sub School NL 1958
SCRAPPED SOVIET SUBS
The April SUBMARINE REVIEW had an item relative to the Soviets scrapping twelve of their old conventional submarines, (probably WHISKEYs) and “reducing” 26 more this year. I note that Jane’s Fighting Ships has in the past estimated that there are about 100 old submarines in a reserve status, manned by skeleton crews, usable in war after a short refitting. They are not counted as “operational.” Are the 38 obsolete worn-out subs, noted above, taken from this reserve fleet — thus not representing an actual drawdown of the Soviet’s operational submarine fleet? Or will Jane’s of 19901991 show the total Soviet operational submarine fleet as being less by 38 submarines than their latest figure, i.e. about 327 submarines instead of the 365 presently being used.
THE BRONZE STAR
[In reply to Bud Groner’s proposal in the Apri11990 SUBMARINE REVIEW:]
As someone who earned a Bronze Star for handling a leadership position on a Navy Cross war patrol, I was taken aback by the idea that all holders of Submarine Combat Pins be awarded Bronze Stars. Who will write the citations and what will they say – ‘Thanks for doing a good job 50 years ago and outliving your shipmates?”
There are still some of us who won our Bronze Stars the hard way — would you suggest we all be upgraded to Silver Stars, and my Silver Star to a Navy Cross? You cite the infantry precedent, but when did our submarining pride sink to using Army justification for what we do?
Fundamentally, campaign medals, group awards and individual honors are different things and should not be confused. I am proud of those I have in each category for my 13 war patrols. The Combat Pin has its own special significance as a group award, and should be treated as such. If people are unhappy with its physical form, they should move to establish a new medal, not preempt an old, well established one from the individual award category.
I feel that I must comment or respond to Captain Byron’s recent article on the use of a converted FBM in the low intensity combat environment.
While this is a novel approach to utilize a defense asset over a longer term than that anticipated as a missile boat, I can’t help but wonder about the cost factors and actual value derived from such an application. Okay, you have a situation where American or allied personnel or interests are being threatened in a foreign country. To use this converted boat on such a mission would entail extremely close-in support. How many skippers would be willing to sacrifice their boats to a reef? What about extraction if the mission fails? There are just too many variables to consider in such an operation. Further, consider the sheer size of even the older FBM boats? Their size would be “dead” give aways in water shallow enough to provide close in-shore operations. Harbor penetration … forget it! More than likely, just the perceived notion that the U.S. has converted one or more of its older FBM boats to such a use would be more than enough in terms of psychological orientation of a potential terrorist adversary.
Ronald L. Stem
Regarding the problem of nuclear deterrence in the Third World, rve got to say, at first I thought the idea was a bit wacky, but as I talked to some experts, there is definitely some merit to your idea.
The D-5 with one warhead may not be the best way to go. The Navy might need instead a new lightweight, single warhead missile. For high accuracy, we could recycle the Pershing II guidance packages, now in storage at the Pueblo arsenal. This is the only homing ballistic missile guidance package that I am aware of, featuring active radar guidance for the terminal stage of the flight. An accuracy (or CEP) of about 75 feet is theoretically possible, I am informed.
Such a weapon mounting a 1 kt warhead would, again, possess the theoretical attributes of a surgical weapon.
As a practical matter, I see a Navy so strapped for cash that the multimillion dollar development of a new missile is out of the question, especially given the immense difficulties surrounding other “theater” nuke systems, like the recently cancelled Lance follow-on and now the air-launched TASM missile that will come under very tough scrutiny.
I do, however, finally come down on the side of a nonnuclear response to the sinister machinations of Third World dictators.
AARON THOMAS[Ed. Note: this is a follow-up on an anicle in the January 1989 issue of the REVIEW, “A SUBMARINE FAMILY NEEDS YOUR HELP.” Aaron, the 10 year old son of FTBCS(SS) and Mrs. Edward J. Thomas, has leukemia. Fifty-eight NSL members responded to the plea for blood donors to help this child in his battle with the dreaded disease.)
Good news about Aaron! He had a bone marrow biopsy in February. The report was negative, thus the remission continues.
Several organizations have been very kind to Aaron’s family. MAKE A WISH arranged for Aaron, his mother, brother and sister to fly to Disney World, Orlando, for several days of fun. SPECIAL LOVE gave the Thomas family a weekend of skiing in Pennsylvania and GRANT A WISH is scheduling a week sometime in the summer for the family to enjoy the beach at Atlantic City. This group owns a condominium there which they use to house families with ill children.
All of these organizations are maintained by donations. If anyone wishes to contact them or to mail a donation, their names, addresses, and phone numbers are given below:
MAKE A WISH, 10215 Fernwood Road, Bethesda, MD 20817 (301) 493-6777, Attn: Pat Fox
GRANT A WISH, P.O. Box 21211, Catonsville, MD 21228 (301) 242-1549
SPECIAL WVE, Box 3243, Winchester, VA 22601 (703) 667-3774, Attn: Dave Smith
THE VALLEJO WATERFRONT SHIP COMMITIEE
This letter is to advise you and the Naval Submarine League of a major project in progress here in Vallejo, California. After over twenty years of procrastination, the city is going ahead with a major redevelopment of the waterfront across the river from Mare Island Naval Shipyard. An excellent developer (David Martin, –rile Martin Group”) has been selected and work should start this year. A maritime theme is envisioned and I have been named chairman of a citizens committee, “‘The Vallejo Waterfront Ship Committee,” to secure from the Navy a historic ship that was built at Mare Island. This ship would be displayed on the waterfront as a monument to the contributions of Vallejo and Mare Island to the Navy and the Nation.
Our first priority is the USS MARIANO G. VALLEJO (SSBN 658), commissioned at Mare Island in 1966. I had the privilege to command the Gold Crew of that ship through new construction, shakedown and four deterrent patrols. I believe, as do most Vallejoans, that this ship is the crowning achievement of Mare Island in the over 500 ships built for our Navy since Mare Island’s inception in 1854. As far as we know, VALLEJO is not yet scheduled for deactivation although we would expect her to go out sometime this decade. It is our plan to persuade the Navy to deactivate the ship at Mare Island and then assist in her conversion to a monument as was done for USS NAUTILUS at Mare Island a few years ago. It is envisioned that the ship would be placed on the waterfront and then surrounded by concrete to provide a permanent resting place.
The NSL support, advice and comments would be highly valued. There is tremendous local enthusiasm for this project and I believe we can generate statewide and even nationwide support for this West Coast monument to our Navy.
Captain John K. Nunneley, USN(Ret.)
ONLY 3 SUBMARINE CAMPAIGNS?
I really must take issue with one point in Edward Beach’s article “lbe influence of Submarine upon Seapower” in the April 1990 edition of the REVIEW. In an otherwise interesting article he states that “twenty years later in World War Two there were essentially three submarine campaigns with three very different outcomes.” His statement refers to the campaigns waged by German U-boats in the Atlantic and by Japanese and American submarines in the Pacific.
To begin with, I would question the description of Japanese submarine activity during the Second World War as a “campaign.” Despite possessing a large submarine fleet, Japanese submariners accomplished little during the war being beset with restrictive orders and conflicting priorities. Japanese submarine thinking was dominated by the fleet submarine concept: the submarine was viewed as an integral part of the battle fleet — with operations in support of the Army, such as stores carrying, coming a close second. Despite representations by Japanese submariners, the destruction of commerce was regarded as a secondary priority: thus the extended American supply line from the west coast to the Pacific theatre of operations went almost unmolested. Lastly in a desperate attempt to stop the inexorable American advance, Japanese attention focused on midget submarines which soon, though not initially, developed into suicide weapons.
Meanwhile across on the other side of the world there was a submarine campaign which appears to have escaped Mt. Beach’s attention. In the Mediterranean a small force of British (including contributions from our Polish, Dutch and Free French allies) submarines, operating in waters which were heavily patrolled and extensively mined, succeeded in seriously interfering with Axis military operations in the desert by cutting their supply lines. All petrol for Rommel’s panzers had to come by sea and allied submarines exacted a heavy toll of this traffic. Lack of petrol stopped Rommel’s advance at Alam Haifa in 1942 and denied him freedom to manoeuvre at El Alamein. Rommel’s chief of staff was moved to say “we should have taken Alexandria and the Suez Canal if it had not been for the work of your submarines on our lines of communications.” This fulsome tribute is confirmed in the various official histories yet little public acknowledgement has been made to the submariners for their role in the desert victory. As Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, commander in chief Mediterranean, wrote to the Admiralty on 17 September 1941, “every submarine which could be spared was worth its weight in gold.” .
Paul Kemp MA