Fellow Flag Officers, distinguished guests, fellow submariners, ladies and gentlemen, and especially members of the Brigade of M idshipmcn, it’s a wonderful evening and I thank you for attending the Naval Academy’s Submarine Birthday Ball. Mimi and I arc delighted to be back here in Annapolis to celebrate our community’s 108th birthday!
We have a lot to be proud of over the history of the Submarine Force ….. and some of that history was made by the distinguished guests who arc here with us tonight….. I’ll speak to that in a moment but first I’d like to commend the USNA Birthday Ball Committee for putting together a truly first rate evening.
Tonight as we celebrate our United States Submarine Force heritage, our recent accomplishments, and we look forward to our promising future, I ask that each of you keep in mind all our Submariners who are at sea around the world.
I’ll make my remarks brief tonight. On the celebration of our I 08 year history, I will touch on the past, the present and the future of our force. First some sea stories from the past to illustrate our great heritage:
I consider the exploits of our submarine Sailors during World War II an important chapter in our heritage. Their victory cemented forever our Submarine Force’s warfighting ethos. It was a victory they purchased with their youth, their skill, their courage, and all too often with their lives.
We lost a WW II submarine legend this past year with the passing of Naval Academy graduate, recipient of four Navy Crosses and the Medal of Honor, Rear Admiral Eugene Fluckey. He was commissioned in June 1935 and established himself as one of our greatest submarine skippers as his boat, USS BARB (SS220), was credited with sinking 17 enemy ships during World War II.
Exemplifying what it means to be an academy graduate and a submarine officer, then-Commander Fluckey showed gallantry and courage on his 11th war patrol along the cast coast of China in January of 1945. After sinking a large enemy ammunition ship and damaging additional shipping during a running 2-hour night battle, he located a concentration of more than 30 enemy ships in the lower reaches of the secluded Nam Kwan Harbor.
Fully aware that a safe return would necessitate an hour’s run at foll speed through the uncharted, mined, and rock-obstructed waters, he bravely ordered, “Battle station- torpedoes!” In a daring penetration of the heavy enemy screen, and riding in only 30 feet of water, he launched BARB’s last forward torpedoes at a range of only 3,000 yards. Quickly reversing course and bringing the ship’s stern tubes to bear, he turned loose 4 more torpedoes into the enemy, obtaining 8 direct hits on 6 of the main targets. Clearing the treacherous area at high speed, he brought BARB through to safety and 4 days later sank another large freighter to complete a record of heroic combat achievement.
In another of the numerous heroic actions attributed to his crew, Fluckey sent a landing party- comprised of his own Sailors- ashore to attack a coastal railway line. The Sailors were able to destroy a 16-car train using explosives loaded into a large pickle can. As it turns out, this was the sole landing by U.S. military forces on the main Japanese home islands during World War II.
His courageous leadership and innovative tactics leaving the enemy baffled as to the direction of his next attack, lead others to nickname him the “Galloping Ghost of the China Coast”. Another one of my personal heroes, V ADM Charles A.
Lockwood, who commanded our Pacific Submarine Forces during WWII, reflected on the remarkable accomplishments of the submariners of that day when he said, “They were no supermen, nor were they endowed with any supernatural qualities of heroism. They were merely topnotch American lads, well trained, well treated, well anned and provided with superb ships.”
Those same qualities have been evident in submarine Sailors throughout our history.
Another chapter of our Submarine Force heritage was written during the Cold War when our Sailors continued to display exceptional professionalism and commitment to the mission. Many of these missions remain classified but arc just as important to our submarine legacy.
During that time, trailing Soviet ballistic missile submarines to monitor their activities, understand their operating patterns and , if necessary, prevent their attack on the United States was imperative. A particular trailing operation- given the code name Evening Star – began in March, 1978 when USS BATFISH, Jed by then
Commander Thomas Evans, intercepted a Yankee class SSBN in the Norwegian Sea.
BATFISH, had been sent out specifically to intercept the Soviet submarine as U.S. intelligence had been alerted to her probable departure from the Kola Peninsula by Norwegian intelligence activities and U.S. spy satellites. The trail was maintained by BATFISH for 44 continuous days, the longest trail of a Yankee conducted to that date by a U.S. submarine. They trailed at a certain critical distance- what Evans called getting tactical control- such that they could hear the Soviet submarine but the Soviet submarine could not hear them.
During that period, the Yankee traveled almost 9,000 nautical miles, including a 19·day alert phase, much of it some 1,600 nautical miles from the U.S. coastline. Information regarding this patrol was not released to the public for another two decades. There are numerous other examples of cold-war era heroism and commitment to mission that remain highly classified to this day. Some of these missions were executed by the distinguished guests here with
Many analysts believe that the Soviets’ knowledge that we were tracking their ballistic missile submarines with impunity, Jed them to a very expensive submarine design and construction program to silence their boats. It is also believed that that effort contributed to the decline of other branches of the Soviet Union’s military and the
entire Soviet economy through the budget drain that effort created. And that leads me to the present. As it was during WWII, and the Cold War, the cornerstone of our Force is our people. In fact, that has been true throughout our I 08 year history. I have always been proud to be a Submariner, but as Commander Submarine Forces, I am reminded daily of the remarkable caliber and commitment of my fellow submarine Sailors.
They are talented, highly motivated and have chosen to serve their nation on the world’s finest submarines. Interacting with submariners is clearly the best part of my job! Our submarines are in very high demand today, and it’s my job to ensure the crews will be ready to perform any mission tasking while deployed forward. Day-in and day-out, our crews gather intelligence and they shape the environment to help avert and deter conflict. Yet they stand ready to engage quickly and decisively, if
Currently, our force has 70 submarines, made up of SSNs, SSBNs, and SSGNs, that play a significant role in providing forward deployed, decisive maritime power. Today, we have 31 submarines underway with 11 SSNs and I SSGN on deployment and 7 SSBNs at sea providing strategic deterrence.
All together at this moment there arc about almost 5000 submariners underway standing the watch for our nation. USS HAW All, the nation’s newest Virginia-class submarine, is in the SOUTHCOM area of responsibility helping to counter the illicit trafficking of narcotics.
MONTPELIER and NORFOLK arc deployed to the CENTCOM area of responsibility helping to provide the conditions for security and stability in those waters. USS DALLAS is underway in the Mediterranean Sea after participating in NATO’s “Operation Active Endeavor,” and helping to detect and respond to terrorists and other transnational threats.
Our first SSGN, USS OHIO, is in the Western Pacific after participating in the bi-national exercise Key Resolve/Foal Eagle and conducting the first foreign port visit for an SSGN in Pusan, Republic of Korea.
The future of our force is bright and filled with opportunity. We are adding even more capability to the fleet as we look forward to the commissioning of USS NORTH CAROLINA next month and USS NEW HAMPSHIRE in October. These will be the fourth and fifth Virginia class submarines to join the fleet. Two ships of that class, VIRGINIA and, as I just mentioned, HAW All, have already deployed to support Combatant Commander requirements. We are about to double the build rate for VIRGINIA class submarines to two ships per year and later this year we plan to award the contract for construction of the next 8 ships of that class. Additionally, we just completed bringing four guided missile submarines online with the final conversion and return to service of USS GEORGIA a little more than a week ago. We arc also beginning the research and development effort for the next generation of Sea Based Strategic Deterrent that will replace our 14 Ohio Class SSBNs when they begin to retire nineteen years from now.
To all you future submariners in the room, your future is indeed bright and exciting. I welcome you to our elite force. Everyday 1 sec the wonderful force you are joining. Our submarines will remain in high demand and with our ongoing modernization and construction programs we will remain the most modem force in the world. To borrow the words of ADM Lockwood , you will be the next generation of top-notch American lads, well trained, well treated, well armed and provided with superb ships. You will write the next chapter of our history. Your leadership will be vital and I encourage you to do great things. This nation and these times will require yet another generation of heroes. Let your conduct define you and your generation. Prove yourself worthy and lead your people to accomplish great goals.
So, once again, Happy Birthday Submarine Force. Our 108- year history is something we can all be proud of. Today we are the finest, most capable Submarine Force the world has ever known and our future is indeed bright and exciting. God bless the Submarine Force, our great Navy and the United States of America. Thank you for attending this celebration and have a wonderful evening.