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America Promises to Come Back

by James John Tritten
Westport, CT  Greenwood Publishing Company, 1992
208pp. $45.00

Reviewed by Robin Pirie

It is tribute to the dizzying pace of events on the international scene that this exceedingly comprehensive and well-researched book, up-to-date as of mid-1992, already shows signs of being dated. For example, there is mention of neither Bosnia nor Serbia in the index.  There are two references to Yugoslavia, both in the context of speculation about a resurgence of Russian power.  And there is one reference to Somalia, but it is to the 1991 non combatant evacuation, Eastern Exit. What a difference a year makes! We should not criticize the author for not being clairvoyant.

This is a most interesting book, doing a fine job of giving us a picture of the way our national security strategy had started to evolve in response to the unforeseen, dramatic and revolutionary events of 1989-1992. It is exhaustively researched. For example, chapter one contains eight pages and has 83 footnotes. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by the wealth of sources. After all, when the chairmen of the Senate and House Armed Services committees start calling for new strategies and inventing their own, there is bound to be a stir of activity and speculation. In any case, Tritten traces the evolution of new security policy from President Bush’s August 1990 Aspen speech, (given on the day Iraq invaded Kuwait, and thus not accorded the attention it should have been given) to Chairman Powell’s Base Force concept, to the National Military Strategy of 1992. He discusses the Base Force at length, and relates it to ideas that emerged in 1992 concerning the realignment of the Unified and Specified Commands. These ideas, which appear to be an initiative of Chairman Powell, are still in play, although the Base Force, kept alive by the political imperatives of the 1992 election year, is a dead letter.

Following the opening chapters on the emergence of the new strategies, Tritten provides chapters on the two burning issues of 1991-1992: Whither NATO? and Will Russia Come Back? While he has some interesting things to say on both subjects, these chapters are perhaps the most outdated in the book. Once again, not the author’s fault. He couldn’t have foreseen the immense effect of Bosnia on Europe, NATO and the U.S. Nor the impact of the struggle between Boris Yeltsin and the Russian Parliament on the prospects for Russian armed forces.

Even without the benefit of foresight and access to the vigorous internal debates of late 1992 that led to the promulgation of “From the Sea”, Tritten hits a home run with his speculation on how the Navy and Marine Corps will be affected by the strategic changes in prospect. He says:

“The Navy of the future, and perhaps the Marine Corps, will be “enabling forces.” Without the need to engage major hostile forces at sea in most future contingency operations, the Navy’s role is to ensure the arrival of equipment and supplies, maintain blockades, ensure local and limited area sea control, and contrib-ute to the projection of military power ashore. The Marine Corps may serve in this capacity by its arrival as the first sustainable force while awaiting reinforcement by heavier ground and air forces.

The battle spaces for the Navy are shifting from the deep blue oceans to the littoral where the major missions involve the direct influencing of what happens ashore. The Navy cannot stay out of joint doctrine development any more than a future AIRLAND battle doctrine can ignore the contributions of the sea services.” Readers will have difficulty in finding a more succinct expression of the current strategic outlook for the Navy.

Perhaps the most interesting chapter in the book is entitled “Issues for Discussion”. In it Tritten speculates on the further evolution of the national strategy. He seems to think that the questions involved transcend purely military analyses, and thus will necessarily involve extensive resort to civilian experts and think tanks. His speculation on whether SDI nicely adumbrates Secretary Aspin’s recent statements. He wonders, further, about U.S. strategic targeting policy now that we are not dealing with a tightly integrated USSR. He points out, quite rightly, that a major challenge will be the reorganization and reorientation of the intelligence community to new dangers that will call for new sources and methods. Most significantly of all he wonders what it means to have eight to ten years of strategic warning of the emergence of a challenger to the U.S. for global supremacy. His concerns seem to be mainly over a resurgent Russia, but they are not misplaced in general. For example, ten years before Nazi armies marched into the Rhineland in defiance of the Treaty of Versailles, Hitler had only recently been released from jail, and was regarded as a bad political joke by informed observers.

Given the ravages that we see being wreaked on the defense budget, the possibility that the defense industrial base will be largely laid away, and the present spongy nature of the concept of reconstitution, we had best look to how we will deal with emerg-ing threats in the future. The idea that we should conduct ourselves in such a manner as to remove incentives to either friends or enemies to build up their armaments seems to have been discredited . Similarly the notion of armed forces as a general capability and insurance policy against an uncertain future seems to have given way to a flaky threat-based methodology that assumes strawman opponents and wildly optimistic logistical capabilities for own forces. It is true that global competition for supremacy is now focused on economic strength, but it is not true that military power is irrelevant either to sustaining the conditions for global growth and prosperity or to getting a seat at the table in regional councils that determine access and influence.

In his penultimate chapter, Tritten states four critical factors for success of future U.S. national security policies. First, Russia must follow a path toward becoming a democracy and liberal market economy, or at least remain passive on the international scene. Second, the U.S. intelligence community must respond to the challenge of the New World Order, dealing effectively with acute conditions that herald the emergence of regional threats, and also with chronic problems that may signal the emergence of a global challenger. Third, our allies should continue to support us, and Congress must refrain from raiding the defense budget for short term political gains. Fourth, U.S. industry must retain the ability to reconstitute. These seem like quite a tall order, especially the last two. But as suggestions for where to start in building security policies for the future, they aren’t bad, and the new administration could do worse than to take them seriously.

The last chapter of the book examines the question of whether it can be assumed that in spite of all the changes, it will be defense business as usual. He points out that given the dramatic declines in expected defense budgets, the services cannot afford to indulge in the kind of self-serving debates about which should get the lion’s share. Doing so, and peddling the phoney strategies that go along with such activity, Tritten feels, runs the risk of leaving us with emasculated, irrelevant forces, and setting the country on a course toward “splendid isolationism”. This is pretty strong stuff, but the author has done an impressive job of marshalling facts and arguments. Whether or not one agrees with his ultimate conclu-sions, there is a good deal to be learned from a careful reading of the book.


The Rickover Effect
How One Man Made a Difference

by Theodore Rockwell
Naval Institute Press
Annapolis, MD 1992
ISBN 1-55750·702-3


Reviewed by
CAPTWilliam R. Anderson, USN(Ret)

{Ed Note: Captain Bill Anderson commanded USS NAU71LUS (SSN 571) on its historic voyage to the North Pole in 1958.]

In the author’s own words, “This is the story of a man who I changed the world”.  Rockwell goes on to say, “He did most of it in about ten years, by the sheer force of his will and his wit…  And he did it as a low-level bureaucrat, with little power and authority other than what he had created himself.”

Ted Rockwell was a key member of the Rickover team. An outstanding engineer-scientist, he had one of the closest offices to HGR at old Main Navy. That helped because he wore out more than his share of linoleum responding to the multitude of summons from Dixie Davis, Rickover’s number one secretary, to “come up. ”

Rockwell was immensely respected by Rickover. The Admiral admired his technical competence as well as his good judgement and versatility in a host of other problem areas, including political. Because of this, and blessed with the ability to track and report events in detail, he was the ideal person to write this book.

Encouraged by a number of people to write the Rickover story, Rockwell at first set about doing it as a play in which all but the very central characters would not carry their real names. Why? Rockwell was sensitive to any hurt feelings of those staff or others who might feel offended by too little attention, or perhaps too much. Hearing from critics, be abandoned the play approach, applied a mid-course correction and landed right on target with this exceptional book.

The author’s sensitivity to human factors adds greatly to this book. For example, it relates how young HGR at age six had arrived in New York from Poland with his mother, the family having been called to join his father, an earlier immigrant.

Evidently, the ship’s purser of the crowded liner that had brought them pocketed or lost the money, the very last they had, to send a telegram to the father advising him to meet them at Ellis Island. In any event, they waited in desperation almost the full ten days they were allowed to await being claimed before the steamship company was obligated to return them to the port of departure.

Thus, The Rickover Effect is much more than the story of a great technological achievement. It is the story of a remarkable man and the many persons that were drawn into his sphere, and bow they interacted with him and each other. Further, it brings to light the very basic Rickover qualities that were the foundation for that success.

In deciding whether to weld or bolt the top of the reactor pressure vessel, Rickover opted to do both, saying on something so important he wanted to use both belt and suspenders. The author further explains by quoting Ed Kintner, another Rickover principal, “He had certain basic principles that be lived by and taught. Absolute technical honesty was one; he never tried to compromise with Nature.”

This philosophy is brought forth throughout the book and helps the reader to appreciate, for example, why the land-based prototypes were such a wise decision, and why the dual develop-ment approach was called for. the liquid sodium project represent-ed by SEAWOLF in addition to the pressurized water plant, represented by NAUTILUS and all subsequent. It also explains the great attention given to crew selection and training, to safety standards, and to guides and operating manuals. All of these facets are carefully detailed.

This is a very readable book. The writer has a fine ability to describe technical things in easily understood ways. Just a mundane example: his description of how a submarine head works does so in as few words as I have ever known to be used for that purpose.

Rockwell does an especially good job of telling about the many technical problems encountered-problems that could have caused a less focused and intent leader to be sidetracked. Not enough stainless steel existed in the entire country; Rickover cornered what there was. No industry produced the absolutely key metals, hafnium and zirconium. Rickover caused these industries to develop. Even the smallest components had to be designed from scratch.

The  author  also  recounts  quite well  the  famous Rickover interview procedure, if something so unpredictable and varied could be called a procedure. But what comes through Rockwell’s very thorough treatment of the selection process is that it just didn’t pay to try to fool HGR. As in technology, absolute honesty was best.

I do not want to leave the impression that this book is just a Rickover puff piece. Laudatory as it is of the man, by faithfulness to detail and fact it makes no pretense of biding those Rickover qualities that made him less than revered in some circles. After all, his ego was perhaps a bit too prominent; his repartee a bit too strong; his patience certainly thin. But the question, of course is, could be have succeeded as well or as quickly had these qualities been suppressed? Rockwell leaves it up to the reader to make this judgement. The material upon which the reader can base a conclusion is indeed rich.

This is a good book for many persons. I think first of the Navy men, particularly submariners, who will find this a very excellent part of the history of our service. I think too of the engineers who will be inspired by a man who bad the courage to face engineering problems squarely, without compromise or equivocation. I also think of business and engineering and really all sorts of students, who will learn how one man went about creating his own road in the face of seemingly overwhelming obstacles and with little support except that which he orchestrated himself.

Rockwell brings in a number of dividends. One is his first hand observations of the strange atmosphere at Oak Ridge during the dawn of the atomic era. Another is his very excellent time line of key dates inside the front and rear covers that add to the understanding of the sequence of events surrounding the Rickover projects. Another is his description of the noise and seeming confusion of the shipyard where a massive mix of materials, technology and talent interact to build a modern nuclear subma-rine. Another dividend and a favorite is the section where Rockwell tells of a Pacific war patrol experience as related by Jim Calvert.

“This insider’s closeup of this very complex individual”, as Admiral James D. Watkins describes the book in his Foreword, not only contains a lot of interesting dividends, it will pay dividends to all who choose to enjoy it.

MacArthur’S ULTRA:  Codebreaking
and the War Against Japan 1942-1945

by Edward Drea
University Press of Kansas, 1992

Reviewed by Presscott Palmer

It  has  been  generally  recognized  that almost  all  submarine  damage to Japanese shipping in the Southwest Pacific area was useful  support  to  the  island-hopping  campaign  of General MacArthur’s  forces.   It  has  remained,  however,  for  the book MacArthur’s ULTRA;  CodebreakinK and the War Aeainst Japan. 1942-1945, by Edward Drea, to delineate just how specifically and effectively SUBPAC’s submarines were focussed on interdiction of  Japanese  attempts  to  cope  with  MacArthur’s  amphibious landings.    It  thus  identifies  another  dimension  to  submarine exploitation of ULTRA intelligence, so interestingly set forth by John Alden in THE SUBMARINE REVIEW of Aprill992. Previous books on the U.S. Submarine Force exploitation of communications intelligence generally have been content with showing how the boats were deployed to their kills from decryp-tion of Japanese routing instructions. The importance of the amphibious support role has been little recognized or emphasized.

Drea’s aim is somewhat different. First, he describes how the communication intelligence was obtained. Then, he proceeds to show how this intelligence was used to serve the amphibious campaign from Australia to the Philippines.

General MacArthur and his staff are shown using ULTRA to determine the most propitious strategic moves up the island chains. Based on what could be determined about the deployment, strength, and timing of Japanese ground, air, and naval forces, (including shipping) Japanese strength was avoided and wealcnesses were exploited.

The same approach was followed by MacArthur’s air com-mander, General Kenney, who astutely used ULTRA in the deployment of his land-based air forces (extremely marginal in strength, early on.) Then, once strategically well-situated, this air power also employed ULTRA, repeatedly, to surprise Japanese Army air power, particularly on the ground.

Lastly, and this was where submarines entered the picture, ULTRA enabled American air and submarines, time and again, to help interdict the Japanese shipping that sought to throw troops, equipment, and supplies at the landings of MacArthur’s forces . The American expeditionary forces needed the support of those submarines and like Willy Sutton hitting banks because that’s where the money was, the landings were where the Japanese sent shipping, destruction of which contributed to the strangulation of the Empire. It was sort of the obverse of the Atlantic ASW strategy of deploying ASW forces to convoy routes, the better to kill U-boats.

It seems to the reviewer that Drea’s excellent book makes evident this submarine aspect of SOWESPAC amphibious strategy precisely because its focus is J1Q1 on submarine operations. As the eponymous title might suggest, MacArtbur’s ULTRA details the intense, two-year effort needed to penetrate the major Japanese Army code (untouched at outbreak of war); the interim exploita-tion of call-signs, direction-finding, shipping and lesser codes; and most especially (from earliest days) MacArthur’s use of Navy-supplied decryptions of Imperial Navy messages (ever-useful in an amphibious arena.)

MacArthur’s American, Australian, and British cryptanalysts (initially at Melbourne), called the Central Bureau, worked closely with the U.S . Army Security Agency (ASA) at Arlington Hall, Virginia. In close mail and radio coordination they doggedly proceeded from success with lesser Japanese systems, crypto errors, and captured coding material assiduously collected from jungles and sea-floor. Breakthrough finally was achieved in early 1944, from a buried cypher library unearthed by Australian mine-detectors at Sio, in New Guinea.

Connoisseurs of MacArthur’s generalship and the competence of his staff will have a field day second-guessing the use, niisuse, and even non-use of intelligence set-forth in MacArthur’s ULTRA. Revisionist historians will have difficulty disputing the need to drop the atomic bombs after reading what ULTRA revealed about the herculean effort to ready Kyushu for the anticipated American invasion.

This well-written book is a must for both the serious student of the Pacific war Oand, sea, air, and intelligence) as well as the casual reader of naval and military history. Perhaps it will even move some submariner to pursue in greater detail the submarine contribution to interdiction of Japanese Army operations. It all left this old battleship sailor wondering if maybe the Army didn’t owe some overdue battle stars to the boats and the crews involved.

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