A Submarine Story
By Captain Arthur Clark Bivens, USN(Ret.)
Gateway Press, Inc.
1001 calvert Street, Baltimore, MD 21202 1996
In relating his experiences in the U. S. Navy and the submarine service, Captain Bivens provides different things to different readers. To the submariner who served in our earlier, diesel electric submarines, and did make the transition to nuclear powered submarines, he provides insight into that transition. To the submariners of today, who serve in our latest nuclear powered submarines, he provides a history of those earlier boats and the early days of nuclear propulsion, which gives them a greater insight concerning the roots of today’s Submarine Force. To submariners of all ages, from the strictly diesel boat sailor to the strictly nuclear boat sailor, and including those who made the transition, he provides a wealth of experiences with which we all can identify in one way or another. To the non-submariner, Navy or civilian, be provides an understanding of submarines and submariners through the telling of bis submarine story.
It’s a good story. Captain Bivens tells it like it was, in a relaxed and forthright manner. He tells the story as if he· is sitting with you and a group of friends or fellow officers talking about the things that happened yesterday, or last week, or on the last patrol. You almost want to jump in with your own anecdote that comes to mind as you read the account of his experiences in QUlLLBACK, or SCAMP, or SAM HOUSTON, etc.
One of the main things that Captain Bivens emphasizes is the importance of strict adherence to procedures and clear communications. This emphasis on discipline and formality has always been the hallmark of submarine operations. He speaks of precise terminology, repeat back of orders, double checking of valve lineups, formal conduct by watch standers and thorough turnover by watch standers. These were important-no, essential, in the operation of diesel electric submarines and in the operation of nuclear powered submarines. Captain Bivens observes that these “good practices” were tightened up under Admiral Rickover’s influence in the nuclear boats. Included in this story are experiences indicative of the pressures to get the nuclear boats on the line, the interviews with Admiral Rickover, the sea trials, NTP’s and ORSEs, the SSBN trials, the new hull designs married to nuclear power, etc.
Through the relating of his personal experiences in the early days of nuclear submarines, in attack boats and SSBNs, Captain Bivens provides a clear picture of what it was like during that exciting period. He provides a comprehensive picture of nuclear submarine development and operations from the viewpoint of the junior officer as well as the commanding officer. From construction to operations to upkeeps and overhauls, in attack submarines and SSBNa, we are led through this period of chanae and challenge as Captain Bivens relates his experiences. Although the title of the book refers to ballistic missile submarines, and Captain Bivens describes these ships in some detail, the book is more about submarines in aeneral and the men who operate them. He pays tribute to the sailors who make up the crews . of these magnificent submarines, and the anonymous poem about the Navy wife in Chapter Six appropriately recognizes the part these heroic women play in the life of our Submarine Force.
I recommend this book to all of our members and for others who want to know about our submarines and how they got where they are today.