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The Naval-Industrial Complex and
American Construction 1940-1961

by Gary E. Weir
Naval Historical Center, Washington, DC
314 pages, ISBN 0·16-038258-0

Reviewed by
RADM Malcolm MacKinnon,  Ill,  USN(Ret.)

This book is an exceJlent example of the merits of the study T of history,  even  history  that  is  relatively  recent.   The problems facing the U.S. Navy, particularly the Submarine Force, today warrant a careful examination of the period immediately following World War II.

There are remarkable parallels in such areas as threat and mission analyses, industrial base preservation, conversion to peace~riven economy, privatization of public facilities, and judicious application of significantly reduced budgets, particularly in investment in technology. As the author puts it, “Would the coalition of the Navy, industry, and science, forged in war, find a peacetime role?”

As all of us Submarine Leaguers know, the submarine emerged from World War II as one of the most effective weapons systems in our arsenal. Similarly and indisputedly, the submarine emerged from the Cold War as the principal element that brought the Soviet Union to its knees. It is as unthinkable now as it was 50 years ago that this remarkable weapons system could be put on a shelf, decommissioned in large numbers, that the shipyards that built and maintained it could be facing closure, and that the engineers and scientists who provided the technology and designed it could be forced to direct their skills elsewhere.

Of course, there are vast differences between the situation 50 years ago and the present one. World War II took us out of an economic depression and lasted four years. The Cold War started in earnest when the Soviet Union detonated their first fission bomb and lasted until dissolution of the Evil Empire in 1991, over 40 years. The nation was 100 percent single·minded in World War II; during the Cold War, we were far from that. Technology and its effects were simpler, more clear cut and easier to focus on in 1945. The German snorkel and Type XXI came to us as war prizes and the resources to exploit them were made available. The lapse between the end of World War II and the start of the Cold War was a few years, at best. Now, the same few years after the end of the Cold War, no comparable threat to our national security has emerged. No impetus has been provided to renew our efforts in submarine design and development.

Nonetheless, the situations described in For&ed in War have applicability and I whole heartedly recommend this book as required reading for all those interested in the future of submarines and submarining.

As a retired Engineering Duty Officer who spent the bulk of my 35 years of service involved in the design, construction, and maintenance of submarines, I found this book absolutely fascinat-ing. Its pages are full of my mentors and former colleagues and bosses. Dr. Weir did a great job culling available archives and records as well as interviewing available sources.

This book is a perfect companion piece to Hewlett and Duncan’s Nuclear Navy. 1946-1962 and to Duncan’s Rickover and the Nuclear Navy: The Discipline of Technology, concerning itself as it does with the technical aspects of the submarine apart from the reactor plant. Forged in War fills a long existing vacuum by relating the story of submarine development largely from outside the reactor plant.

I was also fascinated with the accounts (really ED sea stories) of the engineering problems recounted by the author. The failure of condensate piping during the first ever hot ops on NAUTILUS and its aftermath was an account I must have heard hundreds of times during my career in efforts to hammer the lessons learned into my meager brain. The lessons were: (1) the importance of hot ops and any test program, and (2) material control-seamless pipe was called out by spec; welded pipe was installed and failed. The evolution of the designs of ALBACORE, NAUTILUS, SKATE, SEAWOLF, and GEORGE WASHINGTON was also recounted accurately and with the proper recognition of the key individuals: Andy McKee (father of the fleet boat and former Chief Engineer of EB), Don Kern (my former boss as Submarine Type Desk Officer, BuShips, in the mid-60s), Harry Jackson {the current dean of submarine designers), Henry Nardone (ex-ED and longtime Project Engineer, EB, NAUTILUS to SEAWOLF II), Eddie Arentzen (my boss at MIT and preliminary designer of SKIPJACK), Jack Leonard (longtime Head of Nuclear Engineer-ing, EB), Russ Brown (longtime and key EB Naval Architect and Engineer), Red Raborn (first Head, Special Projects Office), Levering Smith (first Technical Director, SPO, later Head), and John Craven (former Chief Scientist, SPO).

The involvement of the scientific community over the years was also comprehensively treated. From the invention of the BT during World War II to the solution of the problem of depth control when launching a Polaris missile at low speed, Dr. Weir spent a great deal of effort pouring through archival reports and conducting interviews where possible. He was fortunate to interview Allyn Vine, the inventor of the BT and father of ALVIN, before he died. Dr. Weir leaves no doubt of the importance of the contributions of the scientific community to the successful evolution of submarine design and tactics. This gives reason to ponder about the direction submarine research and technology will take once the draw-down, restructuring and prioritizing are finished. We can only hope that the necessary resources are applied and the proper technologies nurtured.

As one reads of the evolution of the modern submarine, from ALBACORE and NAUTILUS to SKIPJACK, GEORGE WASH-INGTON and beyond, there is a message that, in my opinion, must be listened to. We have no alternative today but to espouse and provide funding for a continual design team effort, separate from and beyond the new attack submarine (NAS or NSSN). We must be prepared to justify the funding of periodic prototypes like ALBACORE, NAUTILUS, TULLIBEE, SKIPJACK, JACK, and NARWHAL. Unless we do, our design capability will wither and die, to say nothing of our industrial base of builders and suppliers. Missions change and technology advances. Without a central continual conceptual design effort, we will have no critical mass, no way to continually be able to articulate our submarine needs. In this era of heavy competition for meager defense dollars, we have no alternative or the submarine will become what it was to the navies of the world in 1904, an expensive toy .

Today’s naval warfare and research and development planners had best heed the message in Forged in War: … “the principle of building pre-prototype and experimental

ships on a continuing basis must have acceptance in order to fully exploit militarily what a rapidly unfolding technology has to offer and permit ship design and construction to keep abreast of the advances … ”


by Norman Polmar, Mark Warren and Eric Wertheim
Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland
307 pages, $23.95, ISBN 1-55750-680-9

Reviewed by Jim Hay

The age of jointness is upon us and we have to converse T with our newly siamesed brothers-in-arm  in the several dialects of a supposedly common language.  To that end, Norman Polmar and his two collaborators, last summer’s interns at the  Naval  Institute, have produced  a reference compendium designed to answer the “what is he talking about?” question that all of us have from time to time when the in-talk gets thick with jargon.

Submariners more accustomed to speaking only to others of their ilk can find help in a range from Al (Staff Officer for Administration-USAF) and A-109 (the OMB Circular) to Yak (Soviet-Russian aircraft designation) and YOYO (You’re On Your Own-Slang). For those outside the dolphin circle who might wish to understand those on the inside, there are ORSE (Operational Reactor Safeguard Examination-USN), SLOT (Submarine Launched One-way Transmitter-AN/BRT-1), and SOAC (Subma-rine Officer Advanced Course-USN).

The list of abbreviations makes up the bulk of the book, but there are also helpful chapters which explain, and list, Aircraft Designations, Aviation Unit Designations, Military Ranks, Missile and Rocket Designations, and Ship Designations.

On a much more personal level for Submarine Leaguers, the front page carries just the following:

Dedicated to Patricia Lee Lewis
Submariner par Excellence


Naval Submarine League

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