Naval Submarine League Symposium June 4, 1999
Admiral Smith, Admiral Long, Admiral Crowe, Admiral Trost, Admiral Chiles, Admiral Bowman, Admiral Clemins, fellow flags, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
Let me start by saying it’s an honor to be your guest speaker tonight, here among such a distinguished group from the ninety-nine-year history of the United States Submarine Force. It’s good to be back on the coast, where you almost smell and hear the sea. It’s tough being an old sea dog landlocked-actually aground-on the great land that is Nebraska. The only state in our Union where the third largest city is the football stadium on a Saturday.
Seriously, as many of you know, we recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of SUBDEVGRP 2 and SUBDEVRON 12. It was a memorable celebration which allowed us to pause and pay tribute to a very unique and historic organization that has played such a critical role in the legacy of our Submarine Force.
As I reviewed the history of our tactical development, I was reminded that the history of that command is a microcosm of the history of the Submarine Force-a history of challenge and uncertainty, resourcefulness and innovation, and most important, vision and renewal.
So, tonight I would like briefly to retrace some of our heritage, to illustrate how the Submarine Force has reinvented itself over time and adapted to a changing world.
Ninety-nine years have passed since the Navy officially entered the submarine business. We have come a long way since Lieutenant H.H. Caldwell commanded USS HOLLAND on her acceptance trials in October of 1900. Since then we have commissioned over 775 submarines, the last one being USS CONNECTICUT-just think about the changes from HOLLAND to CONNECTICUT about how far we’ve come. Throughout our history, one of the greatest strengths of the Submarine Force has been the innovation, initiative, and adaptability of its people.
Although the Submarine Force is nearing 100 years of age, I
believe most of us trace our roots from the war in the Pacific-a war in which the Submarine Force truly achieved an identity separate from the surface Navy. Prior to World War II, submariners were used as fleet auxiliaries-coastal raiders, radar picket ships, scouts, and pilot search and rescue vessels, and elements of the battleship screen. But, following the crippling attack on Pearl Harbor, it was the Submarine Force that took the war forward from the sea against the Japanese, even though before Pearl Harbor, submarines had never been envisioned or trained as a striking force. Our forebearers were forced to reinvent themselves … and they did a miraculous job.
I have a copy of a famous letter which hangs in my office as a reminder. In it, Admiral Nimitz wrote, “We shall never forget that it was our submarines that held the line against the enemy while our fleets replaced losses and repaired wounds.”
I don’t need to remind you, but what our submarines accomplished in the years of heroism and uncertainty following_ Pearl Harbor is an enviable record by any standard of measurement. A mere handful of submariners, less than two percent of the Navy, with a small force of boats, sank more than 55 percent of all Japanese shipping and nearly one-third of all Japanese combatants. As the historian Theodore Roscoe later wrote: ,,He who lived by the Samurai sword died by the submarine torpedo … the atomic bomb was the funeral pyre of an enemy who had been drowned.”
But that accomplishment was not without sacrifice-52 subs and more than 3500 men never returned from patrol. Their example of courage under fire following Pearl Harbor, of enduring fortitude, of invincible determination, of bitter sacrifice, and of ultimate, silent victory became our heritage-and they became the heroes upon whose shoulders we stand.
At the end of World War II, a second transformation took place. As the Navy downsized, the Submarine Force was in enormous tunnoil. Many aviators and surface sailors thought the Submarine Force no longer had a mission. Once again, our submarine leaders had to reinvent themselves. They made an historic decision to pursue an anti-submarine warfare role. Why did they do that? What gave our predecessors the foresight and courage to undertake ASW against an emerging Soviet submarine threat? After all, there were no significant submerged sub-on-sub encounters during the war. Why not exploit the successes of the war and continue to pursue anti-shipping as their main focus? I suspect that because we are an island nation with huge dependence on our sea lanes for commerce, the threat posed by a potential enemy’s submarine force was considerable. There had to be a counter to that threat and the Submarine Force was determined to develop it.
And once again they succeeded. Starting from scratch on ASW, they steadily and patiently developed into the world’s preeminent ASW force and, over the next four decades, set the standard for ASW.
Because of our predecessors’ foresight we can claim enormous credit for our role in helping win the Cold War. Our attack submarines went forward from the sea and, over many years of silent warfare, quietly drove the Soviet submarine force back into their bastions. Only this time it was a quiet, undersea war and no shots or torpedoes were fired. But it was a war nonetheless. They were a formidable opponent and an intense, sustained effort was required.
As the Soviets made their submarines quieter, we developed even quieter submarines and improved our sensors. When they went faster and deeper, we built better torpedoes. When they deployed to the Arctic, the Mediterranean, or off our coasts, we hounded them. The U.S. Submarine Force was always able to hold the edge over a much larger Soviet submarine inventory, a fact not lost on Communist leadership, which poured a substantial amount of national treasury into their submarine force.
In the early days of the Cold War, two other historic transformations occurred within the Submarine Force. First, we transitioned from diesel submarines to nuclear powered ones-from ships that were tied to the surface through battery capacity and air to those limited only by food supplies and human endurance. And second, we developed the ballistic missile submarine. When the Soviets launched Sputnik in October 1957 and our Nation was panicked over the apparent missile gap, our Submarine Force was called upon again-this time to accelerate development of a ballistic missile submarine. Many people believed ballistic missiles were too large and dangerous for submarines-a submerged ballistic submarine was pure science fiction. But a handful of visionary, innovative people thought otherwise. A little more than three years later, GEORGE WASHINGTON went to sea on its first strategic deterrent patrol-the first of almost 3500 patrols to date.
This achievement was remarkable–completed five years ahead of schedule and incorporating into a single weapon system many of the great scientific developments which have so revolutionized warfare-the nuclear warhead, the ballistic missile, nuclear propulsion, inertial guidance for navigation. We built 41 FBM submarines in 71/2 years-an interesting comparison to today’s construction rates and a remarkable statement about what our country can do when it sets its mind to it.
Without fanfare and recognition, our ballistic missile submarines patrolled the oceans of the Cold War in silent vigil undetected and invulnerable, ready to strike, to deter our adversaries and reassure our allies-and just as quietly they set the standard for strategic deterrence and became the preeminent leg of our strategic deterrent triad-our ultimate insurance policy.
As Colin Powell said, ” … the Cold War was won especially by … America’s blue and gold crews manning America’s nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine fleet … no one … has done more to prevent conflict-no one has made a greater sacrifice for the cause of Peace. .. than … America’s proud missile submarine family. You stand tall among all our heroes of the Cold War.”
In the end, our Submarine Force-both attack and ballistic missile submarines-helped drive the Soviets not just into their bastions, but into bankruptcy.
There are many symbolic parallels between our submarine operations in World War II and those of the Cold War. Considering their small size, the valiant submariners of World War II were probably the most highly decorated force of that war-7 Congressional Medals of Honor, countless Silver Stars, 49 Presidential Unit Commendations, 53 Navy Unit Commendations … The list goes on. And I would venture a guess that the submariners of the Cold War years are the most highly decorated force of that peacetime era. World War II produced many submarine heroes. The Cold War produced many unsung ones. Jim Calvert certainly qualifies as both and I salute the Submarine League for recognizing him tonight.
And like their World War II predecessors, the spirit, the sacrifice, and the strength of character of our post World War II submarine families have been a hallmark. If our submariners were often alone in their confined work, they were never alone in their sacrifice. That unique set of sacrifices was shared with our families-long, difficult separations frequently without communication-no messages, no phone calls, and no letters-for months on end; missed births and birthdays, anniversaries and graduations.
It was not until well after World War II that the history of submarine operations in that war was written. For good reasons, the history of submarine operations during the Cold War must go largely untold. And from my perspective, books like Blind Man’s Bluff don’t come close. But it is a history that some day should be written.
Today, like the aftermath of Pearl Harbor and the end of World War II, we face a similar challenge. The world has changed dramatically since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The predictable, monolithic world we once faced has now been replaced by a world of uncertainty-uncertainty in the hills of the Balkans, the streets of Somalia, the deserts of Iraq, and the bunkers of North Korea. I recently read a parable which I think describes the situation in a world of accelerating change and uncertainty in which we, the Submarine Force, find ourselves.
Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed … and every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. The truth is it doesn’t matter whether we are a lion or a gazelle. .. when the sun comes up, we’d better be running.
With the demise of the Russian submarine threat, some critics say we have no role in meeting the future regional threats or crises. We have raised a whole generation of self-anointed defense experts who suffer from a false impression that submarines only exist to fight other submarines-a job no longer in great demand, though still necessary. Once again, we are the victims of our own success. We find ourselves in a struggle for relevance. As we drawdown to fewer and fewer boats, we are being stretched thin and in danger of becoming a mile wide and an inch deep. If some people are intent upon making us a leaner force, our job is to make us a meaner one.
Today we are adapting to a profoundly changed environment. We have come full circle, back to a multi mission platform with a wide range of roles and missions-not just ASW, our core competency-but intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, strike warfare, special warfare, mine warfare-both independently and as a member of our battlegroups.
And under the guidance of our great submarine team; many of whom have spoken to you during the past two days, we’ve charted a course, in conjunction with studies done by the National Academy of Sciences, the Defense Science Board, Andy Marshall’s Office of Net Assessment, and others to create a vision of the Submarine Force and undersea warfare 30-50 years hence-a vision reflected in the design and multi-mission capability of the new attack submarine. A vision which foresees a profound shift in the size and look of our Navy of the future, with increased emphasis on stealth.
In an age of overhead surveillance and precision munitions’ where if you can be detected you can be tracked, and if you can be tracked, you can be targeted, submarines are the only naval platforms that can prepare and shape the battlespace without provocation-the onJy naval platforms capable of waging guerrilla warfare-choosing the time, place, and method of engagement while maintaining the tactical initiative and the element of surprise.
Submarines have the potential to alter the shape of our maritime strategy and force structure by employing their intrinsic attributes in innovative and cost effective ways. The concept of converting Trident submarines to deliver special forces and strike missiles ashore-a submerged arsenal shiiris but one example. The attributes of stealth, agility, endurance, versatility, survivability, and lethality enable our submarines to conduct missions and tasks well beyond traditional ASW. These attributes correlate well with our national military strategy and with the four concepts of precision engagement, full-dimensional protection, dominant maneuver and focused logistics identified in Joint vision 2010.
Today, I believe the Submarine Force is answering our Nation’s call as well as it’s ever been answered. We’ve developed our own corollary-“Forward … From Under the Sea.” On any given day nearly 50 percent of our operational attack submarines are at sea and nearly 50 percent of those are forward deployed.
When you talk about forward presence and conventional deterrence, the Submarine Force represents nearly a third of the Navy’s combatant ships with less than 10 percent of the people and 10 percent of the Navy’s budget. When you talk about strategic deterrence, over half the Nation’s strategic arsenal is at sea in our
ballistic missile submarines, at a cost of less than 35 percent of the strategic budget. Now that’s a bargain, that’s leverage, and that’s relevance.
In closing, innovation and adaptation have been the cornerstone of our Submarine Force over the last ninety-nine years. People like the men and women in this room are what defines the Submarine Force-not the steel hulls we operate-but the highly trained, talented, and dedicated sailors who comprise the Force-people like the Force Master Chiefs and COs you heard from in this symposium, and the sailors you recognized at lunch. We have the best trained, best prepared and most capable sailors in the world. For us, this is not only a time of great change, but a time of great opportunity. We reinvented ourselves following Pearl Harbor. We reinvented ourselves during the Cold War. And history finds us reinventing ourselves now. I’m confident that the vision, passion, innovation, and cohesiveness which have served us so well during the past ninety-nine years will help us chart a course well into the next century.
Thanks and God bless for all the great work you do in support of our Submarine Force.
Diving into Dolphin History
The Dolphin Scholarship Foundation is announcing its tribute to the first 100 years of the Submarine Force by publishing Diving /1110 Dolphin History. This historic publication will feature: recipes and ship’s seals from the 105 submarine crews operating in the fleet; selected recipes from vintage Submarine Officers’ Wives’ Club Cookbooks; and artwork especially designed by Dan Price of EMt Lyme, CT.
The book is $20.90 ($20 + VA sales tax), plus $2.SO for shipping and handling. Make checks payable to DSF Centennial Cookbook. Send payment to:
DSF Centennial Cookbook
5040 Virginia Beach Blvd., Suite 104-A
Virginia Beach, VA 23462
(757) 671-3330 (fax)