Thus it is said that one who knows the enemy and knows himself will not be endangered in a hundred engagements. One who does not know the enemy but knows himself will sometimes be victorious, sometimes meet with defeat. One who knows neither the enemy or himself will invariably be defeated in every engagement.
-Sun nu The Art of War
The United States military is accustomed to training in preparation for the Russian threat. U.S. submarine crews have expected and anticipated the tactics of Russian submarine captains for over a quarter of a century. Today, with no Cold War, the U.S. is unsure of who the enemy is. Submarine crews must prepare for this by expecting the unexpected. It is essential that we know the enemy; even before we meet him. The only way U.S. submarine crews are going to prevail over those of foreign navies is if they never assume, and train for various scenarios. Submarine crews must never fall into the trap of making generalizations. In dealing with the Soviet threat submarine crews could assume that because all Soviet submarine captains were trained in the same manner. they would fight the same way. This may have been logical, but U.S. Submarine Forces may very likely face a different type of opponent in the future. This enemy may prey upon a weakness of making generalizations about our opponent by implementing unconventional methods of warfare. He may break in through our backdoor when we are expecting him to knock at the front. Every submarine captain in the enemy fleet could utilize different tactics and totally different methods of thinking to confuse us.
Warfare is the Way (Tao) of deception. Thus although [you are] capable, display incapability to them. When committed to employing your forces, feign inactivity. When [your objective] is nearby, make it appear as if distant,· when far away, create the illusion of being nearby.
Sun Tzu The Art of War
Submarines are fit for deceiving the enemy more than any other general warfare arm of the Navy. Deception involves attacking the enemy where they lean expect it. As Sun Tzu wrote, 11 Attack him where be is unprepared. appear where you are not expected” Submarines are extremely difficult to detect, and therefore not very susceptible to attack from the air, land, or above the sea. Submarines have the potential to fight unconventionally by penetrating deep into enemy waters without being detected. Submarines can function with little or no help from outside sources. Submarines have catastrophic havoc-wreaking capability. They can insert and attack where the enemy is least expecting them.
Deception is a warfare technique which should be employed to the fullest extent by the U.S. Navy; and even more specifically by the submarine fleet. One of the five missions of the U.S. Navy is the projection or power from sea to land. This mission is not in accordance with Sun Tzu’s belief that war is all about deception. In projecting power one may reveal the size of one’s forces as well as their location; making one vulnerable to attack by a smart enemy.
Knowing one’s enemy allows for the implementation of deception. If U.S. Submarine Forces were to realize an enemy’s weak point, they could exploit this knowledge to conquer them. There are other ways to win a war than sheer force. Maybe submarines could be used to feign the location of U.S. naval forces by transmitting false radar images to the screens of the enemy. The enemy would then deplete their weapons supply. thus allowing for a U.S. victory. When the enemy expects an attack from one place, attack at another. Submarines can accomplish this by positioning themselves at or near a target without detection. It is possible that if the U.S. were to increase the submarine fleet and decrease the amount of surface ships, the enemy would be led to underestimating the size and power of the U.S. naval forces; giving the U.S. an advantage. Measures such as these could lead to the saving of American lives during a time of war.
Thus the wise general will concentrate on securing provisions from the enemy. One bushel of the enemy’s foodstuffs is worth twenty of ours, one picul of his fodder is worth twenty of ours.
Sun Tzu The Art of War
The intricacy of the U.S. military’s method of packing and shipping supplies lends itself to sabotage. Supplies are packed in containers and marked with bar codes. Because of the immense size of the military, the process is computerized and planned down to a science. A bit of tampering could throw the whole system off. What if an enemy were to gain access to our shipping information and interfere with it? He could change the meaning of each barcode, change the final destination of the supplies, or booby-trap them. In the end this would cause mass confusion to U.S. forces.
Submarines have the potential to aid the U.S. in gathering important information concerning the location of enemy supplies. Covert insertions of special forces (SEALs) behind enemy lines has always been executed primarily by submarines. By utilizing submarines to insert SEALs with missions primarily concerned with locating enemy supplies, we can act in accordance with Sun Tzu’s teachings. By cataloging the location of provisions of potential enemies, we will have the edge in the time of war. We will be able to destroy or capture the enemies supplies. An army without supplies isn’t an army.
Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence. Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.
Sun Tzu The Art of War
Submarines can be used to wage psychological warfare. In doing so the enemy’s morale would break, allowing for a U.S. victory. Psychological warfare could be waged by various means. Periscopes could emit signals to jam radar, as well as interfere with enemy communication signals. U.S. Naval Intelligence could then tamper with and reroute the messages. This would lead to mass confusion among the enemy.
The enemy’s morale could also be broken by the implementation of highly unconventional submarine tactics by U.S. forces. If U.S. submarine tactics were highly unpredictable to the enemy, fear would prevent the enemy from challenging us. If our submarines appeared where the enemy least expected them, then the U.S. would win without fighting. Sun Tzu wrote, “Just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions. He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called a heaven born captain.” Sun Tzu reveals that tenants of unconventional warfare include adaption and flexibility. There cannot be set guidelines for submarine warfare. If the U.S. wants to reap the benefits of unconventional warfare, then a balance must be struck between structure and flexibility. There must be structure and discipline within the body of the army; yet commanders should be encouraged to develop unique strategies. Commanders shouldn’t be sent to a school which teaches specific submarine tactics, but to one which gives them ideas and encourages varied thought on tactics. This way U.S. Submarine Forces will act unconventionally, and gain the edge.
Winning a war without fighting has many advantages. Primarily, American lives can be saved. With no need to wage war, there will be no American casualties. By conquering without fighting, the enemy’s country and provisions are left intact. The U.S. could exploit the land by building bases on it; and use the provisions by adding them to U.S. supplies or selling them.
An 800-page history has been compiled called THE SEA FOX STORY. Seventy-five contributors send me write-ups and pictures covering the period 1944 to 1970.
This is a labor of love and I will make no profit. In fact I have spent over $1000 of my own money. I am a member of NSL and many contributors are members as well.
USS SEA FOX (1944-1970) – 800 pages of write-ups and pictures. A donation of $28 per copy to cover costs. Please contact:
Daniel E. Smith
101A Bobolink Way
Naples, FL 34105