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I have studied carefully the writings of Bud Kauderer and George Emery in the October 1994 and other SUBMARINE REVIEWS. I offer the following scribblings to you and to all others intensely interested in the future of submarines. I intend to gunshot these observations, comments and recommendations to various leaders of the Naval Submarine League for their consideration.

The submarine community is superb in analytical assessment and in strategic insight. The quality of our SLBM and attack SSN systems is accepted. Our weaknesses lie in defining the threat and in building an effective political consensus; you don’t sell the steak, you must sell the sizzle.

With regard to the threat, we have limited our visions to the currently popular forward presence and regional conflict. There is no serious discussion of the current status of the Russian submarine force and its threat to sea control 10-20 years hence, given the current geo-political situation in Central and Eastern Europe and in the former Soviet Union. I find the CSIS study particularly deficient in this respect. Consider the following:

In 1919 Germany was defeated, disarmed and hungry. Russia was in ruin and convulsion and falling into the grip of the Communist Party. The victorious Allies had grave internal difficulties. “Peace in our time” was declared. Diplomacy, consensus and the ill-fated League of Nations were to be the tools of foreign policy rather than strong leadership, military, economic and moral strength, and common sense.

The German Fleet was sunk at Scapa Flow; her Army disbanded; her officer corps reduced to a tithe; submarines were forbidden and the German Navy reduced to a handful of ships under ten thousand tons. The British and French governments began acting ad hoc from crisis to crisis and from one election to another. The government of our United States and our people completely abdicated our leadership role in favor of the League of Nations.

Scarcely 20 years later Hitler moved into the Rhineland, Austria and Czechoslovakia. With the 1938 spectacle of Chamberlain and Munich came the greatest tragedy of our century-World War II with its estimated fifty million deaths and inestimable destruction of national wealth and treasure. In matters naval, the Battle of the Atlantic and the Pacific campaigns are stark witness to the build-up of German and Japanese naval strength in that short interval and to their almost successful effort in wresting sea control from the Allies.

Much of the tragic-comic actions of diplomats and our political masters is being replayed in the Bosnian situation today. Incidentally, if you would like a sad, sarcastic chuckle of here we go again, research the Bosnia dispute of 1908 and the assassination of the Duke of Sarajevo as the triggering events of World War I-the seed com for World War II.

The point of all this historical meandering is that the current and potential strength of the Russian submarine force and the principle of sea control in the early part of the on-rushing 21st century deserve far greater weight in any political-strategic risk assessment than currently being given, particularly in any long range discussion of the submarine and larger nuclear warship industrial base.

Shifting to the real world of our political masters, two recent statements need to be read and re-read, studied and re-studied, state and restated.

  • “the understanding that most defense policy is made not on the basis of analytic assessments or strategic insight, but evolves from the process of building an effective political consensus” (top para., preface p. vi of CSIS study on attack SSN).
  • Bud Kauderer’s conclusion in his p.4 From the President in the October 1994 SUBMARINE REVIEW. His exhortation was “Take off the gloves, men. It’s a jungle out there. The Marquis of Queensbury rules are N/A. Support your local submariner!”

Bud Kauderer is right on. But he needs help. On a short term basis people like each of us need to be contacting our federal senators and representatives to make our case. Immediate propriety should be given to those on the authorization and appropriation committees but none should be neglected in a longer range effort to build an effective political consensus for the years to come. In Southern California, for instance, Bob Doman of the Orange County area will be a loud and influential voice on the rejuvenated House Armed Service Committee. The American Security Council’s 1994 National Security Voting Index rates him at a 100 on their ten major issues. They rate eight other Southern California representatives at 100, another at 90 (Kim), and another at 70 (Rohrabacher). With all the retired and civilian submarine community talent we have in the area, we should be able to find one leader to target each of these representatives and others for a plain old lobbying campaign. We could do the same for the Northwest. Three of us retired rear admirals made a small but significant contribution to the swing of Washington State from eight Democrats and one Republican to six Republicans and three Democrats, the largest swing in the country. My goal was to UNSEATUNSOELD. We did. Skip Leuschner, a former carrier skipper, spent the last two years on the Internet organizing opposition to Tom Foley. The papers are giving him credit for being a major voice in Foley’s defeat. Skip is not in Foley’s Congressional District.

The harsh truth is that most of us dislike becoming involved in the messiness of the political process. But it is absolutely essential to build an effective political consensus for the submarine and larger nuclear warship industrial base argument. California representatives, in particular, should be sensitive to the industrial base argument.


I am a submarine officer and Submarine League member currently serving as a Federal Executive Fellow at the Hoover Institution and working on a research project on conceptual/doctrinal innovation in the U.S. military. One of the case studies is the development of ASW capabilities by the U.S. Submarine Force during the period 1945-1969. I have reviewed records held by COMSUBDEVRON TWELVE (formerly COMSUBDEVGRU TWO) and interviewed a few submariner officers involved in the early days of submarine ASW. Please contact me if you have unclassified documents, know the whereabouts of unclassified documents, have a story to tell, can recommend people to interview, or can help in any way concerning the following:

  • How the Submarine Force initially became involved in ASW
  • Design and operation of SSKs (Kl class)
  • Design and operation of fleet Guppy conversion to SSK role
  • ASW operations by early SSNs
  • Development of early submarine sonars through BQQ-2
  • Early development of ASW tactics
  • Early submarine quieting programs.

CDR Wayne A. Thornton, USN
Hoover Institution
Stanford University
Stanford, CA 94305-6010
(415) 725-8694)

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