Norman Polmar and K.J. Moore, the authors of Cold War Submarines which I reviewed for the October 2004 issue of this magazine, have provided a Ca1mte1poi11t (published in this issue) to my review of their book. Their counter is to two statements which they question. My response is in regards to those questions.
They first question my position that they exhibit an anti-Rickover bias which detracts from the objectivity of their conclusions about the development of US submarines during the Cold War. They maintain they ensured a balanced approach and got concurrence from several submarine officers, including Flags. I do not doubt that approach. It is always best to get outside review. Therefore; I tried to back up my initial qualitative opinion of bias, based on what I perceived to be a negative tone, or emotion of narrative, with a quantitative look at was written. Again, it is what one might expect from a good nuke. To the best of my accounting there are 43 separate index citations for Rickover. Almost all place him, or those he trained, on what is written to be the wrong side of the argument. As one can see, the rigor in the analysis rests on the validity of the assumptions; however, that is probably the point to the whole issue under discussion here. There seems to be plenty of people who believe that US submarines could have, and should have, been better if only their advice and belief schemes had been followed. That general school of naval philosophy probably was best expressed by Admiral Zumwalt when he wrote to the effect that everything wrong with the Navy can be summed up in one word-Rickover. As one review of his book illustrated, that comment did more harm to ADM Z’s reputation than ADM R’s. The mechanism here is the same.
All of that brings us to the second question raised by Norman and KJ. The review did not say that Rickover “always won the argument”. We all know better than to believe that. The authors cite several examples and others could cite several he should not have lost. That, in itself, would be an excellent subject for discussion. What I wrote is that it is very difficult to believe that Rickover was always wrong and yet always won. That’s the perception I was given by the ultimate conclusion of the Polmar/Moore book as to the relative value of US and Russian Cold War submarines. It was a quote from a Russian design engineer which the authors’ must have felt best expressed their summation of the subject:
“We had competition in submarine design.You (in Rickover) had Stalinism!”
(See page 334 in Chapter 20, Soviet versus U.S. Submarines)
I stand by the review. The authors’ obvious anti-Rickover bias degrades the objectivity of their observations and conclusions.