Today I would like to share with you my personal thoughts on my profession as a naval officer and, in particular, as a submariner. One definition of a profession is “a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation.” The uniqueness of the high tech world of undersea warfare involving nuclear powered submarines certainly fits that definition well.
My roots stem from the formative years in a wonderful place called Bremerton, Washington; a Navy town where family friends and friendliness abound. I began my naval service on a destroyer, which was a great way to start. I was then lucky enough to become part of the early days of nuclear propulsion in our submarine force. In those days I was not smart enough to understand what this relatively new aspect of the Navy encom-passed. Admiral Rickover had told me to work harder, my neck was too thick and I needed to lose ten pounds, and I was int
Although I was aware of some of my father’s experiences in command of the submarine PICKEREL in World War II, as a young LT(jg), I did not understand that this chosen field of endeavor was the beginning of an historic change in naval warfare.
CAPT Ned Beach, a WWII veteran and pioneer in nuclear submarines said it best: “Having made twelve war patrols in diesel submarines in the Pacific and experienced all their limitations, including being virtually stationary during depth charge attack, to me the prospect of a nuclear engine that could drive a submarine fast enough and long enough to overtake, or escape from, any surface ship then in existence was breathtaking. What could we not have done with such a submarine during the war!”
My first 20 years were spent mostly at sea. Joan raised our wonderful children and I went to sea. Although the technology leap over that period was remarkable, it was the people, the shipmates over those decades that made a difference. My early expectations of exciting submarine operations, new challenges and opportunities were all true. And on top of that it was great fun!
It is difficult to describe the inner feelings of a submarine crew. During the past six years I have written a congratulatory letter to each officer who qualified in submarines.
I said, “As a submariner, your contributions to our nation’s security are magnified by the immense capability of the submarines in which you will continue to serve.
As a first string player in this unique profession of submarining, you are part of a team that exudes confidence, does exciting and challenging things, and has fun along the way. Those dolphins on your chest symbolize the type of person who makes things happen and enjoys new goals and challenges. The personal satisfaction which you will gain as a submariner will be an uplifting experience that will last you a lifetime.”
That is the way I feel about this profession. That is the way it has been for me and many of my contemporaries. That inner feeing about submarining was generated over many years at sea with super leaders. I was blessed to have skippers such as Buzz Cobean and Jack McNish on HALIBUT and Bob Dickieson and Mike Leddick on KAMEHAMEHA, and Executive Officers such as Arne Johnson, Bob Bell and Dick Lewis. All were the type of leaders who would assign a task, point you in the right direction, and Jet you get the job done.
I look to those new generations of young submariners like Butch Howard, Jeff Durand, and Dan Bacon to keep intact that tradition of high spirit and true professionalism in our great submarine force. But my reflections of submarining need to go beyond the camaraderie of a team living in a steel tube for months at a time.
In a speech, in 1970, entitled An Effective National Defense-Why?, Admiral Rickover reminded us that, unfortunately, few people study history; which accounts for the truism that history repeats itself. He said,
“Today it is fashionable to advocate a reduction in defense and to use the money saved for domestic purposes. Those who do so do not test their theories or their deductions by events.”
If we look at the history of the submarine force and its role in national defense since the early 1900s, one fact becomes evident.
The utility of the submarine has consistently been underestimated . Twice in this century the submarine has been a significant factor in world conflicts. Time and again the submarine has proven its worth, not only because of its stealth and multi-mission capability, but also because of its rapid adaptability. During the past few decades, because our maritime strategy was to fight forward and to contain the threat against our ability to resupply
Europe we, in submarines, focused primarily on anti-submarine warfare. We were also called upon to make important non-ASW contributions, such as reconnaissance in nearly every international crisis over the years.
Today we have shifted our focus from readiness for global warfare to regional crisis response in littoral warfare, in support of our new strategy … From the Sea.
It is important to realize that the nuclear powered submarine has consistent) y adapted to the changing world situation and has consistently proven to be an invaluable asset in meeting the challenges of a changing world order.
Our strategy for employment or naval forces in the ruture can be summed up as conventional deterrence, ensuring that an adversary in some region understands that the costs and risks of a specific course of action outweigh its benefits. The nuclear submarine is a key player in conventional deterrence. Although expensive to build, and we are working hard on reducing costs, with relatively small crews, they are cost effective to operate. Considering what a few attack submarines can do on their own, especially with cruise missiles, they are one of the bargains in the defense budget.
Deployed covertly there is no need to justify each move with world opinion, the nuclear submarine is essentially invulnerable on station, reducing escalation risk and risk to the crew, and of course, a nuclear submarine requires no foreign bases, no escorts, no air cover and no replenishment.
Smaller countries, such as Iran, seek submarines because they provide more capability for the money invested. In the future, as in the past, submarines will count as power and influence in the chancellories of the world.
Through my experience, we have always been able to keep a superior U.S. Submarine Force…the best! The best in the world! I To ensure a credible conventional deterrent posture in the future, we will need to maintain that edge.
Today there are about 200 ships at sea, including over 24 submarines. Our all-American blue jackets are at sea, deployed in all oceans of the world supporting our national security objectives. We know there will be fewer ships at sea in the years ahead . As Admiral Rickover lamented 23 years ago, the question remains: “How far will we reduce our defense capability?” In my business, I submit that force structure is not the question. The fundamental issue is whether or not this country will maintain the industrial capability and technology to build nuclear powered submarines! Based on my admittedly parochial view of history, a strong nuclear powered submarine force, with advanced technology, is essential to our nation’s security. I have been asked on countless occasions: How do we solve this dilemma? I believe construction or submarines at a slow production rate is the only way to ensure we retain the capability and experience to build in the future. If you stop for a decade or so, you will lose a vital element of our defense posture.
Today our strategy, … From the Sea states: The free nations of the world claim pre-eminent control of the seas and ensure freedom of commercial maritime passage. History indicates the reality of today can change radically in the future.
In that same speech in 1970, Admiral Rickover said the bearer of bad news is always punished. In ancient times, he might be put to death. Today he becomes controversial and unpopular. Fortunately, we have had leaders such as Admirals Rickover and Bruce DeMars who were willing to step forward and state their candid views based on logic and reason.
Their leadership and that of Admirals Kinnard McKee, Bob Long, Jim Watkins, Carl Trost, Frank Kelso, Dennis Wilkinson, Lando Zech, Chuck Griffiths, Bud Kauderer, AI Baciocco, Ken Carr, Ron Thunman and Dan Cooper have forged the solid foundation of my business of nuclear submarining, and improved every aspect of it over the years.
They were all willing to voice their opinions, some of which were not popular at the time. I am most indebted to all of these naval heroes for their guidance and support.
On a beautiful September morning at Groton, CT on the deck of USS PENNSYLVANIA during its commissioning, Secretary Larry Garrett answered those questions on the profession of nuclear submarining that I have posed: What has it been all about? And what does it mean for the future? He was talking about strategic deterrence, yet for some reason I translated his words into the meaning, the essence of our Navy and submarine force. He said that deterrence works; it is the sturdy bedrock of our national defense.
It is a strategy that has enabled mankind to avoid another world war and get on with the business of living.
The idea that those sailors on USS PENNSYLVANIA and other Navy ships at sea, then and now are engaged in the noble cause of allowing us, the people of this great country, to get on with the business of living, summarizes my adventure, my profession. I am proud to have been a part of that cause.