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Ambassador Linton F. Brooks is the Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the Undersecretary of Energy for Nuclear Security. The NNSA includes 3 7, 000 federal, military, and contractor personnel who cany out the national security responsibilities of the Department of Energy, including maintaining the U.S. nuclear weapons program, providing naval nuclear propulsion, and promoting non-proliferation. Since leaving FRANKLIN in 1974, Ambassador Brooks has served as Commanding Officer, USS WHALE (SSN-637), Assistant Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Chief U.S. Negotiator for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, Director of Arms Control for the National Security Council and in a number of Navy and Defense Department assignments.

September 11, 2004

Good Evening Shipmates. Thank you for having me speak to you tonight. When the organizing committee asked me to speak, I had a natural question. What should I speak about? I first thought about just telling sea stories, but I was an exec, and XOs are not people who tell sea stories, they’re people you tell sea stories about. Besides, my sea stories cover only two of FRANKLIN’s 28 years. So instead of trying to help us remember what we did, I thought I’d try to look back a little bit from the perspective of today and ask what it all meant.

FRANKLIN made 69 patrols-close to 14 years under water-spread out over almost 30 years. She patrolled in the Atlantic, in the Pacific, and the Mediterranean. She carried Polaris, Poseidon and Trident missiles. She was, in many ways, the most complex self-contained entity ever devised by human beings. But, so what? It was all so long ago. I stepped off FRANKLIN and saw her for the last time 30 years ago. For some of you, it’s been even longer. For most in the room it has been at least 20 years and there is no one for whom it has been less than a decade. So why, after all this time, does it matter what FRANKLIN did and what we did when we served in her?

First of all, of course, it matters because of the people. Most of life-at least most of the important parts-is about people. We’re here tonight not because of any fascination with technology or any nostalgia for maintaining alert or because we want to rhapsodize over the glories of the Reactor Plant Manual. We’re here for each other, for our shipmates. Shipmate is a wonderful word. It refers to people who are thrown together by duty but bound together by shared experience and common affection. So first and foremost, we’re here to celebrate our shipmates, the friends of our youth.

Many of my shipmates are in the room tonight. Many others are gone. I served under three Commanding Officers. Two are dead. One -Jack Darby-died as a Commander of the Pacific Fleet Submarine Force. The one living Commanding Officer is John Leonard, sitting over there with his honor restored by a country that, as Churchill says, always does the right thing, but only after it has exhausted all other possibilities. So one reason we are here is for our shipmates.

A second reason we’re here is because going to sea is an intense experience that’s hard to forget. Going to sea is different and it always has been. That’s why there are lots of ship reunions and not very many Pentagon office reunions or SUBASE machine shop reunions.

We’re also here because there is something in all of us that makes us want to preserve the past. We see evidence of this desire to remember our roots all around us. From biographies of the founding fathers to histories of the Submarine Force, books to help us remember the past are always popular and special.

In 1984, George Orwell’s frightening vision of totalitarian future, a Party slogan was “Whoever controls the present, controls the past. Whoever controls the past controls the future.” That nightmarish slogan embodies a fundamental truth. The past has made us who we are today, both as individuals and as a nation. The past shapes the future. But as free people we don’t seek to control the past but to preserve it so it can help us to understand who we are. That’s why it’s important to remember the Cold War history of SSBNs and our part in it.

But I think we’re here for a fourth reason, one that may be the most important of all, even if we don’t recognize it all the time. Human beings need to know that their lives have meaning. We’re here because at some level we know that what we did mattered deeply, then and now. And that’s what I want to talk to you about tonight.

At one level, what we did was pretty mundane. We got on a bus, then we got on a plane, then we had a turnover, then we went to sea where we spent a couple of months trying to make sure nothing happened. Then we had another turnover, got on another plane, got on another bus, and came home. Our wives turned to each other for support, took care of things that we couldn’t deal with because we weren’t there, took pictures of milestones that we missed because we were at sea, waited to meet us when we got off the bus, put up with our inclination to immediately try to take charge-as if things hadn’t been running perfectly well while we were gone-watched the off-crew period fly by, kissed us goodbye, and watched us get back on the bus and then did it all again and again and again.

And while we were gone, what did we do? Nothing very glamorous. We fixed lube oil pumps; we cooked meals and maintained communications; we trained a lot; we kept a propulsion plant running and a weapons system ready; we watched a few good movies and a lot of bad ones; we tracked contacts and monitored atmosphere quality and did pape i work. At a human level, it was a routine, if somewhat odd, existence. We just got on a bus and went off to do our routine and repetitious job.

But we did a good deal more than that. We won the Cold War. You, me, our shipmates who aren’t with us tonight, our counterparts on other FBMs, we won the Cold War. Not by ourselves, of course, but without us, it might have come out differently. We preserved the peace for decades until the inherent contradictions of communism caught up with the Soviet Union and drove it into the dustbin of history. That’s a pretty impressive achievement. The first great philosopher of war, SunTzu, wrote 2,500 years ago “to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To win without fighting is the acme of skill.” That’s what we did. We won without fighting.

Let me take you back to the world that FRANKLIN inhabited. It started years before she was even thought of. In 1946, in a small midwestem city named Fulton, Missouri, Winston Churchill sent a sobering message to the world. He said:

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, a11 iron curtain has descended across the continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of central and Eastern Europe …. All these famous cities … lie i11 what I must call the Soviet sphere.

Churchill’s speech gave a name to an oppression that would lead America and its allies to spend trillions of dollars to prevent aggression and preserve peace, a peace that was built on the bedrock of the American nuclear deterrent.

The Cold War became more than a slogan when a barbed wire fence and later a wall divided a city and imprisoned its people. The Berlin Wall was one terrifying embodiment of Cold War. There were many others, but the most frightening symbol was nuclear confrontation, which reached its peak 42 years ago next month.

At 8:45 a.m., October 16, 1962, President John F. Kennedy received an assessment from the Central Intelligence Agency that Soviet missiles were in Cuba. The President went before the American people and said, “I call upon Chairman Khrushchev to halt and eliminate this clandestine, reckless and provocative threat to world peace …. He has an opportunity now to move the world back from the abyss of destruction.” The following days were filled with fear. We all know now just how close the world came to the brink of nuclear confrontation. But catastrophe was averted. And seven months later, on May 25, 1963, FRANKLIN’s keel was laid.

FRANKLIN was born of the marriage of three great ideas, ideas we’ve lived with for all our life, so we sometimes forget how radical they were. The first was that nuclear power could be used to propel a submarine. Three weeks from now we will celebrate the 50’h anniversary of the commissioning of NAUTILUS, the world’s first nuclear submarine. Without nuclear power there would have been no SSBN 640.

The second idea was a ballistic missile could be carried on such a submarine and that the country could make a nuclear warhead small enough to be delivered by such a ballistic missile. It is easy to forget what a monumentally difficult task this was.

Those two technical tasks were solved. They enabled a third great idea, a conceptual and strategic innovation. Starting with Albert Wohlsteter’s 1959 article, “The Delicate Bounce of Terror,” the United States gradually formed a theory of stable nuclear deterrence. The theory was very simple. If America had enough capability to devastate the Soviet Union, and if that capability could survive a Soviet first strike-either by being at sea, by being airborne, or by launching under attack-then major war between the superpowers became essentially impossible. Crucial to the success of that theory was the existence of an invulnerable and capable component called the ballistic missile submarine. That was FRANKLIN and her sisters.

The first decade of FRANKLIN’s life saw America deepen its involvement in Vietnam, argue over the relation between that war and what seemed like the implacable spread of international communism, watch as society was wrenched apart by a conflict that almost destroyed the army, which a handful of brilliant officers would spend the coming decades rebuilding. Throughout this period, FRANKLIN made patrols, starting with her departure on her first one on May 6, 1966. Month after month, year after year, we took FRANKLIN to sea, standing watch and making expansion of the conflict unthinkable.

The second ten years of FRANKLIN’s life-starting in the early seventies-brought great technological and political change. Missiles with multiple warheads meant that American retaliation was assured regardless of what the Soviets did or did not do with ballistic missile defense. Serious efforts were made to contain the so-called arms race through formal arms control. And Franklin made patrols, helping to guarantee that no side could gain a nuclear advantage over the other, and thus making arms control possible.

The final decade of Franklin’s life saw the major defense build-up of the Reagan years, the deployment of new weapons to Europe-Ground Launch Cruise Missiles and Pershing 2 missiles-and their subsequent elimination through the first successful treaty to actually reduce arms. And FRANKLIN made patrols, ensuring that even though the conventional wisdom was that NA TO forces could not prevail against the Soviet juggernaut, war remained unthinkable.

By now the Cold War had become an integral part of who we were as a people. And then, in a three-year frenzy it ended.

In 1989, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev told the peoples of Eastern Europe they had the right to choose their own future. The Polish Communist government began talks on how to shift to democracy. Other states followed. And then came the historical moment that many see as the true end of the Cold War and the Iron Curtain.

On November 9’~, 1989, a mid-level bureaucrat in East Germany prematurely announced to journalists that the ban on travel to the west would be lifted immediately. The East German government had meant for the announcement to be made the next day and that it would be done in a phased approach. That November 911 announcement led to a flooding of West Berliners to the Brandenburg Gate. They began to demolish the Wall and in days it had fallen completely.

In the Soviet Union, Gorbachev unleashed forces he could not control. His lifting of some internal controls led Soviet citizens to call for an end to the Communist Party’s stranglehold on political power. In a stunningly short time, the Communist Party-a political organization that had ruled since the October Revolution of 1917-fell.

The 15 constituent Republics of the Soviet Union move quickly to gain their independence. Finally, at Minsk on December 8, 1991, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine moved to dissolve the Soviet Union. In an act that symbolized the irrelevance of the Soviet system, those three states informed President George Bush of their action before telling Gorbachev what they had done.

And on Christmas Day in 1991, the Soviet Union, that great experiment in communist totalitarianism, went into the dustbin of history where it belonged. The Cold War was over. Eleven months later, on November 19, 1992, FRANKLIN returned from her last patrol. And then in November of 1993, she was decommissioned. I have a picture of her being towed up the Hood Canal, that ship I still think of as new and pristine and a marvel of technology.

FRANKLIN’s life matched almost exactly the period from the greatest crisis of the Cold War to the ultimate triumph of freedom. Why was it only a Cold War? Why, when the West was faced with an expansionist power with a messianic ideology, did global war never break out? I suggest it was because the American nuclear deterrent made global war unthinkable.

The Cold War wasn’t peace. In Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Africa, and Central America huge numbers perished. But the apocalypse never came. We don’t know why it never came. The nature of deterrence is that you can never prove that it worked, only that it failed. But I believe that nuclear deterrence played a major role and I know that all of us in this room played a major part in that deterrence.

The end of the Cold War, of course, did not mean the end of history. FRANKLIN’s watch, which began shortly after the most terrifying crisis of the Cold War, came to its close shortly after the Cold War ended in triumph, not just for America but for all humanity. But the legacy that we built continues today. As we sit here reminiscing others are at sea standing watch. There aren’t as many of them. Fourteen Trident submarines have replaced the 41 for Freedom. And the patrols have more flexibility now because the threat is not immediate.

But deterrence still matters. Deterrence isn’t just a nuclear concept; it’s a concept as old as conflict itself. But now, the country practices a new and more complex kind of deterrence. Indeed, I spend part of my current professional life trying to understand how our nuclear policy should adapt to the post-Cold War world. That world is very different. On this somber anniversary of the terrorist attack on America everyone in this room understands that the world remains a dangerous place. But make no mistake, the threat of annihilation of civilization that we lived with, and that we held at bay, has been all but eliminated, and we did that.

So, that’s one look at what we did and what it meant. I said at the beginning that one reason we were here was because at some level we know that we all were part of something important. I hope I’ve helped remind you what it was.

There’s one last thought I’d like to leave with you. We were, all of us, extraordinarily lucky. Not everybody gets to make a difference, but we did. Not everybody gets work with shipmates on whom our very lives depended and to know that we were in good hands, but we did. Not everybody gets to work with exciting technology, but we did. And, above all, not everybody gets to know they did something in the service of the greatest country in the history of the world, but we did. Perhaps that’s what it all meant.

Thank you for letting me talk to you tonight. God bless you all, God bless our successors on patrol tonight, and, above all, God bless America.


There is a new Naval historical journal. The Journal of Australian Naval History (JANH), published by the Naval Historical Socialy of Australia twice yearly. The JANH will provide a new standard for Australian naval research. It will also act as a research centre, clearing house and pince for collaborative research, including international collaborative research. The Society will also act to preserve diaries, Naval ephemera, other items and private records as they arc uncovered. The JANH is ensuring high quality by refereeing articles This is an ambitious undertaking. It is intended to develop the Journal along the lines of the renowned Warship International; very high quality naval and maritime historical articles in a format lacking academic dryness, but of a similar standard. The President of the Naval Historical Society, Mr. Bob Nicholls, and the JANH Sceretary, Captain Inn Pfennigwerth RAN (retd), have marshalled many of The naval historians in Australia behind the JANH. It is a worthy effort, and deserves to succeed, for too much of Australia’s naval and maritime history is under-researched.

The League supports this effort. Subscription costs arc (Australian) $40 per annum. Contact the Secretary Captain Pfennigwerth RAN (retd) on 61-2-4981 5551, or concerning submission of papers, and The Secretary, Naval Historical Society, The Boatshed, Building 25, Garden Island, NSW 2011, or, to subscribe.

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