Contact Us   |    Join   |    Donate



Survival at the Dawn or the 21st Century
by Alvin and Heidi Toffler
Little, Brown, & Co., New York and Boston
302 pages, $22.95
ISBN 0-316-85024-1

Reviewed by Ralph Chatham

Sweeping generalizations about forces in history can lead to  monumental human catastrophe.  The danger appears when people start believing  the  intrinsic truth of an historical construct instead of seeing  it as  a framework  within which to organize apparently unrelated  facts.   Manifest Destiny of our American past, and the far more deadly mock scientific theories that justified the former Soviet Union, gave vast populations the unjustified  belief that  their  actions  were  sanctioned  by  some natural law of human history.  The Tofflers are not likely to gain a fanatical following, but we must tread with caution through their myriad of intriguing observations and slogans.

This far-ranging book begins and ends with a quote from Trotsky, “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” The authors do not approach their subject from either extreme; they steer a laudable course between the hawk and the dove. I cannot, however endorse the whole of their projected track. The text that resides near the twice quoted sentence is full of insights worthy of our critical attention; the middle, though more superficial, still forces one to think.

A sample of their early insights: “If war is too important to be left to generals, then it is also too important to be left to the ignorant.” The face of commerce and of war is changing at a rate far faster than our ability to internalize it. The Tofflers help their readers rise above ignorance of war in one sense, but their last few sobering chapters leave me concluding that war and its prevention must inevitably be left to the ignorant. War and the paths that lead to it have always been chaotic processes-tiny, unpredictable, unknowable conditions lead to enormous conse-quences. [“For want of a nail. .. a kingdom was lost.”] The world condition is, more often than not, unstable and this leads to an inability to predict the consequences of our most carefully thought-out actions. Regardless of how knowledgeable our leaders might be, they cannot avoid remaining ignorant. There are some things that can be confidently predicted, however. One of these is that rules of war and of peace that worked in the last age will not be particularly applicable to the information age.

The Toffiers are the authors of Future Shock. Over a decade ago, they also wrote TheThird Wave in which they contended that the world had for almost two centuries been divided into two cultures, an agricultural one and one based upon industria] mass production. The third wave of their title is an emerging new culture based upon information technology. As a central theme of War and Anti-War the authors try to hammer the notion of three cultural waves over the subject of war and its counters. It is not a perfect fit.

A culture’s methods of making weaJth, they say, are also their methods of making war. Stripped of the slogan format, this notion is not particularly profound. A civilization will make use of whatever tools are available in any of its endeavors including both war and commerce. Paraphrasing Norman Augustine (Augustine’s Laws) “If aJI you have is a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail.” Some of the tools of the second, the mass produc-tion, wave were invented for war, and later flowed to commerce, not the other way around. The same is true, in part, for the tools of their third, information, wave.

The important theme of the book, however, is that the changes in the tools of war are out-pacing changes in the tools of anti-war, by which they mean controlling and preventing war-not the anti-war of the protesting 1960s and ’70s. It is a vast theme; I find it hard to capture the breadth and flavor of a book with five full pages in its table of contents. Here is a small sampling of the 25 major chapter headings: Third Wave War, A Collision of War Forms, Niche Wars, Robot Wars, War Without Blood, The Knowledge Warriors, The Future of the Spy, Spin, The Zone of Illusion … Yet for aJl the breadth there is virtually no mention of naval war. Submarines, the thorough index claims, are mentioned nine times throughout the book, but a review of citations finds that most were cases where submarine was mentioned in a collective phrase like “aircraft, ships and submarines”. One citation was about nano-robots which would “operate like submarines in the bloodstream”. The ninth reference is to heat from “submarine volcanoes”.

The major failure of the book, however, is an attempt to squeeze the irregular shaped world into their three sided, cultural wave hypothesis. The reader would be better served without rigid insistence on that thesis. Nevertheless, the value of a grand-sweep-of-history theory is in how it sets a context for further thinking and provides a vocabulary with which to deal with complexity in the world. In that they have succeeded; their third wave thesis seems to have helped support the revolution in thinking in our Army over the last 15 years.

The authors started at the top in their personal rise from ignorance of war. They began by talking with Generals Don Morelli and Donn Starry as those innovators were changing the character of the Army by the introduction of maneuver warfare and the AirLand Battle. Morelli came to them after encountering their book on the third wave. The parallels between the Tomer’s thesis of three waves of civilization and the revolution the general was trying to inspire impressed Morelli to the point that he made The Third Wave required for his staff.

I make no claim to be an expert on AirLand warfare, although I was at the Defense Science Board as they cheered on Starry’s and Morelli’s efforts in the early ’80s. I found their discussions on the subject fascinating. Unfortunately, in among the well annotated, good and wholesome stuff I also encountered a mass of unsupported assertions and toss-off slogans. On subjects where I do have some detailed knowledge, there were far too many claims that made me cringe at the authors’ misapprehensions of technology. A few examples follow:

  • In the section on robotics in war they quote extensively from War Without Men by Steve Shaker and Alan Wise. The material upon which that book was based dates back to 1987 and in the changing world of information technology, that is old. Yet the Toffiers did not contact Shaker whose thinking had evolved considerably in the interim.
  • Their talks with and about the special forces suggest that the authors are not good at distinguishing between those who have great hopes for technology and those who understand what is real and possible.
  • They claim that the notion of chain of command hierarchy fur warfare came from the way wars were fought 1000 years ago. A short dip into 14th century history will quell any notions of a 1000 year old legacy of a chain of command.
  • Over and over when they describe the wonders of potential future technology, they ignore the costs thereof.
  • A curious lack: no mention of the National Training Center despite numerous, well indexed, references to simulation and training.
  • They assert that the notion of non-lethality is new, but tear gas and rubber bullets have been around for quite a few years now.
  • They point out that a change of the profundity of the infonna-tion revolution happens rarely in Why, then, do they believe they can predict the consequences of it.

Yet with so many diverse thoughts tumbling out at the reader at an extraordinary pace there are, of necessity, many true, or at least thought-provoking statements:

  • They quote a retired naval officer, Larry Seaquist, “I’ve never found anyone to respond to my challenge to name three technologies which are under the exclusive control of the U.S. There’s nothing left.”
  • “Our intellectual weapons for peacemaking are hopelessly out of date.”
  • There is the concept of demassification, which in an economic context describes the ability to manufacture exactly what and how many of something are required, rather than mass producing scads of one model (“any color so long as it is black”.) In a military context demassification can be seen in the contrast between saturation bombing with B-52s and the use of terrain-guided cruise missiles. The benefits of demassifica-tion in the logistic tail are large in either the commercial or military case.  Demassification works in propaganda as well as manufacturing and the implications for a fragmented civilization within America are frightening. Our junk mail already is precisely targeted. Soon Americans will be seeing only the news that fits their current way of thinking. No longer will we have to look at an opposing view in the Washington Post or on network television to get our news, our targeted television will pander only to our present prejudices. This has implications for whom our future military personnel will be and how they and the rest of the nation will view the armed forces. It will become easier and easier for first wave intellects in a third wave future to (temporarily) ignore war, to maintain the “still widely held liberal idea that nobody really wants war …that deep down, adversaries are mirror images of ourselves …that governments are inherently adverse to risk…that the global system is really rational”.
  • The third wave requires educated operators. The military, say the Tofflers, lead the way in education. What they miss, I think, is that an uneducated soldier can shoot a Stinger missile, or that even a poorly trained submarine crew can sink ships with a smart wake-following torpedo. The education will go into the hardware and software; the people can remain igno-rant.

If, in fact, the third wave requires a highly educated populace, America is in trouble. We, internally, will continue to divide into mutually incompatible and intolerant camps, one of which contains the consumers of video games, and one of which includes those who have some inkling how the games are written. If conflict among waves is inevitable, it will not only occur along national lines, but within them as well.

  • The concepts of disarmament and control of proliferation is based upon assumptions that already no longer obtain. Traditional diplomatic interactions with a nation are irrelevant when that nation is fragmenting.

Near the book’s close the authors take on a subject that does not fit neatly into the three waves thesis: the spread of nuclear weapons. Abandoning their prismatic framework, the authors

present a chilling picture of nuclear weapons no longer the exclusive property of nations but of Mafia families, Branch Davidians, warlords, Serbian nationalists, and even individuals. Nuclear weapons in the hands of poor people frighten me. Throughout the fragments of the Soviet Union people are just coming to realize how poor they are. Certainly by now someone somewhere in what is left of that vast empire has let cash overcome conscience and sold a few weapons to somebody else with a grudge against the United States. My personal nightmare is not only of the dead of the first city to be murdered by a nuclear terrorist, but for the civil liberties of the rest of us when a threat is made to repeat the performance. Civilization, whatever wave, is only a thin veneer over the barbarian (zeroth wave?) and I don’t think our Bill of Rights will stand in the face of a new, demassified, form of nuclear blackmail.

And finally, in the last three pages, they take on a concept I had been crying for throughout the first 250 pages: the notion of instability. Changes in the world culture do not necessarily lead to stable configurations, economically, socially, militarily. “Ethnic vendettas”, they point out “can lead to ethnic battles that generate ethnic wars larger than a given region can contain”. Many leaders (national, tribal, ethnic, religious, …)”are not risk adverse, but thrive on political risk ….What many policy pundits

still fail to appreciate is that when systems are “far from equilibri-um” they behave in bizarre ways that violate the usual rules.” The anti-warriors will have no way to predict the next catastrophe let alone recognize the symptoms that lead up to it.

The Toffiers point out the myth of interdependence, the fuzzy headed notion that nations which trade together stay together. England and Germany were each other’s biggest trading partners in 1914. “Our decision makers, except in the most immediate sense, no longer really understand what they are doing.” “Chance,” they claim “will play a bigger role.” Chance, I claim, has always played. The time constant for the response to govern-ment actions is and has been far too long for anyone to compre-hend the true results of those actions. What has changed is that actions which used to have unpredictable domestic consequences now will have unknowable international consequences. The waves may come and go, but people aren’t changing much. To use the Toffiers ” metaphor: Congress is a first wave institution (the word tribal comes to mind). Bureaucracies are second wave; the media is third wave. Not a one of them can predict the consequences of their actions.

With these sobering notions the book closes. There are no solutions. There are a few feeble notions like a call for the media to intrude, to mllSSi.fy where they are not demassifying. The Tofflers raise no plausible hope that the media can or will do so. They conclude: “We believe that the promise of the 21st century will swiftly evaporate if we continue using the intellectual weapons of yesterday.  “Given the reality of instability. it is hard to see how to prevent the evaporation even with intellectual weapons of tomorrow.

As I approached the book’s end, I had a feeling of being saturated, over·stuffed. Do not, however, let that sensation deter you from reading the last two major sections. The whole book is well worth the investment of reading it, but it must be taken with care. Pay attention to the warning labels. When the authors suggest that some technical notion might seem incredible, it probably isn’t credible.

The notion of matching anti-war approaches to war processes is profound (the engineer left in me is compelled to note that this is a case of matching impedances). Their recognition of changing and diverse warfare types is a valuable insight, and their three wave construct gives one a vocabulary with which to discuss it. Even so, they are too stuck upon their three wave theory of history. The view of everything reflected through the prism of three waves of civilization is both useful and irrelevant. The world is always more complicated than any metaphor we try to paste over it. It is a chaotic place, in the new mathematical sense that it is impossible to predict the consequences of our actions or inactions. Nevertheless, the central theme of the book is worth taking on board: the ways we fight wars are changing more rapidly than the ways we make peace.


by Captain William J. Rube, USN(Ret.)
Brassey’s USA1
April 1994, 310 pages $22.95
ISBN 0..02-881084-8

Reviewed by
VADM Jon L. Boyes,  USN(Rd.)

This is a unique book.  It stresses the impact of submarine  warfare on the men who manned the boats in World War D.   Less  emphasized  were the  results  achieved  in the submarine  patrols  described.    As  Tom  Clancy  notes  in  his Foreword, the book tells what it was like to fight in the boats in the real war, not what was done.

The book is the author’s observations of the men who served with him on eight war patrols, in the three types of boats em-ployed by the U.S. in wwn. The crews vary from the hardbit-ten, career, China Station men of the S-hoats, to the college-type, duration of the war men of the newest fleet units; while their experiences in the war patrols described encompass almost every mission which U.S . submarines accomplished in the Pacific War. Thus the book, as Tom Clancy notes, presents a broad picture for today’s reader of what the war-thing (the submarine war) was all about and creates an understanding of “our fathers and grandfa-thers as young men-who they were and what they did”. (Hence, women may probably like this book as much as men.)

The format of the book is unlike that of other submarine accounts in that each chapter represents a single patrol which begins with leaving port and ends with the submarine’s return at the end of the patrol. Matters which might influence what happens are introduced as flashbacks, while effects and results of the patrol are summarized. Thus the book has little extraneous detail and encompasses the battle that was fought in each individu-al war patrol. Like John Keegan’s description of the battle of Agincourt in his book The Face of Battle, the submarine battles pictured involve: the nature of the men who fight the battles, the factors influencing the conduct of the battle, the strategy and tactics employed, and finally, how the battle with its accepted results is likely to live in history.

There’s a lot of humor in this book, which only reflects the good, relaxed fun enjoyed by submariners while practicing their profession-even under adverse circumstances. The author finds tiny details, important since they lend an added appreciation of why a crew of all volunteers, with an attitude of it can’t happen to me, think that the best place to be ln war is in the boats.

Of particular interest are the contrasting styles of the five successful skippers represented in these eight patrols; as well as the conflicts between officers due to, in great part, the stresses created by their wartime activities.

The SubVets ofWWII will rediscover why they count their war days as the best days of their lives. The submariners who have come along since can learn precious lessons of war which might be repeated as long as submarines continue to be viable instru-ments of national security. And all those who are submarine buffs can relish these battles because of their colorful descriptions. Additionally, it’s a book that may easily become a military classic for future readers.


by The High Command of the German Navy
New Edition 1943
Thomas Publications
P.O. Box 3031
Gettysburg, PA 17325
ISBN 0-939631-21-Q

Reviewed  by
CAPT W.J. Rube,  USN(Ret.)

Recalling  that  U-Boats  sank  2,775  Allied  ships  of  14.5 million tons plus  175  warships  in WWII,  it  is of great nterest to read how it was done.  Some of the principles and rules for submarine warfare seem to be German professional secrets. At least they were innovations to me, despite my considerable submarine war experience. Thus, Submarine League readers should find this book of great interest and very intriguing.

When this handbook was first issued in 1942 the average age of a U-Boat skipper was about 23 years and his submarine experience was little more than a year. The need for this book was great, to provide doctrine for getting best results in the Gennan’s anti-merchant ship campaign. By focussing only on sinking merchant ships, the handbook is clear-cut and unequivocal.

Sampling the wisdom in this book, we find under “Essential Characteristics of the Submarine”: the strength of the submarine is its invisibility; its invisibility serves both as a means of attack, and as a means of protection; its seaworthiness is unlimited; the enemy thinks it is everywhere (its ubiquitousness); its power is greater than surface ships no matter how big-because the power of surface warships is applied in a different way; its low speed is its chief weakness; its vulnerability is great; but its weaknesses can be offset by clever tactics, unscrupulous use, and obstinate persistence-even when the chances of success seem slender; the commander of a submarine is entirely independent and free to make his own decisions; if a submarine is increased in size to make it multi-purpose, its fighting power as a merchant ship sinker is proportionately reduced; etc.

Let’s also sample the handbook’s instructions to U-Boat commanders for producing successful submarine operations: do not see danger everywhere; the precondition of success is surprise; he who wants to be victorious at sea must always attack; the successful tactician must be thoroughly familiar with his basic weapon, the torpedo; do not overestimate the enemy; difficult situations can be mastered if the commander acts cleverly and coolly, and the crew remains steadfast; when on the surface one should never see more of the enemy than the tops of his masts; because of possible oil leaks, the sub should not remain in the location of where it submerged; do not let the difficulties wear you down; better to destroy little than to damage much; etc.

There’s lots more in specific chapters: the fundamental rules for making a submerged torpedo attack; the rules for a night surprise attack; how to deal with convoys; the various methods used for firing torpedoes; defensive actions when pursued by the enemy; the submarine for mine laying; the submarine as a gunnery vessel; how to counter enemy air activity; submarine communications; how to sink a steamer with high explosive cartridges.

Sinking ships using torpedoes can be expected in the future. So this handbook should keep alive the doctrines for what some might consider to be a dying art-the art of submarining. You don’t read this book, you study it to improve your performance with computer war games, and to understand how today’s tactics for the use of nuclear submarines, employing a highly sophisticated torpedo or guided missile, can benefit from this historical document.


[We routinely will publish short anecdotes of general interest to Members, as space and mtllerialpermit. Members are encourared to submit their anecdotes at any time.· if not used in the SUBMA-RINE REVIEW, they will be considered for use in the next issue of the NSL Fact and Sea Story Book.]

Mistaken Identity

In early 1954, I was serving onboard USS SEA OWL (SS 405), having graduated from Sub School in December 1953. We were School Boat in the local New London Op-Areas, and I was the ship’s OOD.

I turned the bridge over to the student OOD, and as I proceed-ed below he shouted, “Clear the bridge! Clear the bridge!” and hit the diving alarm as was expected of him. I bounded down the ladder into the Control Room and moved away from the diving stand so the student OOD/Diving Officer could assume the dive. I was still the ship’s Diving Officer.

The senior Sub School rider was standing next to me inboard of the ladder. He looked at me and asked rather sharply ifl were the Diving Officer. I answered “Yes, sir” . His mental image of my face (from a couple of months ago) compelled him to say, “Well, get over there and take the dive!”

Just then, the student Diving Officer bounded down the ladder and started giving the expected orders: “All ahead two-thirds! Shut bow buoyancy vent!, etc.”

Dick Boyle

Quick Reovery

We were conducting Barrier Operations in the vicinity of the GI-UK Gap aboard USS TIJSK (SS 426) in the late 1950s. We had been tracking a possible fishing trawler on sonar for some time when the Conning Officer decided to proceed to periscope depth for a visual observation. He set Condition Baker in preparation for coming to periscope depth. This included, among other things, shutting the lower Conning Tower hatch (between the Conning Tower and the Control Room). Periscope observation revealed the fishing trawler was in fact a Soviet AGI, fairly close aboard. The Conning Officer passed the word over the lMC

“Captain to the Conn, Captain to the Conn” which was the prescribed procedure for emergency situations requiring the Commanding Officer’s presence in the Conning Tower.

The CO (now a retired flag officer) charged through the pitch dark Control Room, leaped for the ladder to ascend into the Conning Tower, and smartly smashed his head against the batch which was shut in response to the setting of O:Jndition Baker. The impact of the blow literally drove him back down onto his lcnees on the Control Room deck whereby, in his obviously confused state, be charged back up the ladder only to repeat his previous encounter with the closed hatch. As he picked himself up off the Control Room deck for the second time in about 10 seconds, he turned to the Diving Officer and with a slight smile on his face, calmly said, “Better open that hatch Mister before I batter it down. ”

LCDR Thomas L. Harold, USN(Ret.)


Naval Submarine League

© 2022 Naval Submarine League