If you were to come back aboard ex-LEWIS AND CLARK this afternoon, you would see it as nothing more than a hulk – thousands of tons of steel laced with miles of pipe and wire – good for little other than the salvage value of the material itself; an inert, lifeless mass.
Go and look if you like, but, if you do, be sure you realize you will not be seeing the LEWIS AND CLARK we knew, my shipmates and L The LEWIS AND CLARK we remember is the one busily passing through the jetties at Charleston or by the sea buoy at Rota or the lower Clyde headed out on a run, rigging for dive, securing for sea. .
People – in this case dedicated, able-bodied men – make the difference between a lifeless hulk and a vital, useful instrument of national policy.
Plans and programs are the same way. Designing and building a submarine that can go anywhere in the world and back submerged and independent of the earth’s atmosphere; or fashioning a missile system that can deliver a ballistic payload with unbelievable accuracy from a totally submerged position at sea: these were idle dreams until incredible people led by the likes of Rickover and Raborn turned them into reality.
Those of us here today know, because we lived it, that during the latter half of the twentieth century a relatively small group of people sailing submarines, manning missile silos and flying airplanes, allowed the Untied States of America to use the nuclear paradox with remarkable effect and to the great benefit of the world at that time.
Perhaps my characterization is flawed, but I see it as a paradox that given the credible ability to deliver a nuclear attack, together with the national resolve to do so if necessary, the need will never exist. But regardless of what one calls the process, it worked. The totally unbelievable events surrounding the demise of communist totalitarianism offer overwhelming approbation to the policy of nuclear deterrence. Readiness, willingness, patience, and perseverance won the Cold War.
And we, my shipmates, were certainly among the warriors
making the greatest contribution. The long watches, the anxiety through emergencies, the training, the drills, the difficult repairs made at sea and out of touch, the long hours during refit and the rigorous examinations to assure our fitness; all of these things, which few other than we understood or knew about, made a tremendous contribution to the national policy of this country.
But, unfortunately, history will miss us. There will be no victory parade, neither will there be a wall with our names written on it. Few of us died in action, and for us to have told our story as we went along would have worked against our reliability and it would have violated the principle of reticence which we as submariners have always valued and respected.
No, we did not lay down our lives for our country, but we certainly laid down a good portion or them, you and I. When there were more lucrative things we might have done, things which would have kept us closer to our families, we chose instead to bring fine ships such as this to life and through doing so to allow our civilian leaders to count on the potentially devastating effect we could deliver.
It’s over, shipmates. The horror and total unacceptability of a global nuclear exchange finally wore down the hard liners on both sides who might once have ordered it. But as the crew marches off LEWIS AND CLARK this morning, relegating this once proud ship to the status of a hulk, let>s take a minute, you and I, and along with our families let’s remember our own collective personal contribution to the peaceful status our world enjoys today. It may be that we have given new meaning to the thought of giving one’s life for one’s country…the contribu-tion need not be terminal nor directly combative to be substan-tial.