When my wife and I retired for the second time, we decided to move to Williamsburg, Virginia. There were a number of great reasons for this but among them was the absolute requirement for access to a major university. William & Mary fit the bill. Once here, I found that the college had an adult continuing education program called The Christopher Wren Association. Currently it teaches about 70 courses to about 1600 students in addition to sponsoring a number of other programs and activities. Many universities have similar programs. I started attending courses each semester.
After about two years several people suggested that there would be significant interest in a course about submarine history if I would put one together. I did so and it was surprisingly easy. I was amazed at the interest it generated. The first time I taught it I had l 00 students. I taught again and had l 00 more. The third time I had about 70. At that point I decided to wait a year or two before I taught it again. The course is pretty straightforward. It’s a six hour lesson (given in three two hour classes). The first hour is pre-First World War with some specifics on TURTLE, HUNLEY, and HOLLAND. The second discusses the German U-Boat campaign in the First World War with an emphasis on how close it came to driving England out of the war. I then tum to the German U-Boat campaign in the Second World War with an emphasis on how it came nowhere near driving England out of the war despite what one repeatedly hears on the History Channel. I then discuss the American campaign against Japan, undoubtedly the most successful major use of submarines in history. Then I discuss the Cold War. This section takes about I ‘h hours and covers the development of the nuclear submarine, SSBNs including MAD, deterrence, how the two sides operated, etc., and SSNs discussing special operations (that can be discussed), Soviet operations, and other mission areas that developed (strike, special forces, etc.). Finally, I talk a little about the current force and make an unabashedly partisan pitch for the future need for submarines.
The reception this course received was to say the least gratifying. People really got into the topic. Of special interest was the Cold War section. I have now been asked to speak on this specific subject (Submarine Cold War operations) to four different local groups and I have happily agreed. For a longer speaking request I just give the entire Cold War section. If they are looking for a shorter presentation (which has only happened once) I take out the SSBN section and just discuss SSNs with a short SSBN overview. The whole thing is on Power Point so changes are easy.
I decided to write this experience up because a number of readers will be retired submariners with a wealth of knowledge and experience. I encourage you to consider doing something similar where you live. Not only is it good for the force (let’s face it, our story is a very positive one worth getting out to the general public at every opportunity) but it is also great fun.
One final thought. If you do see an opportunity to do something like this and would like a head start, I would be happy to provide my course materials, the whole course or any portion thereof.
CAPT Charles J. Beers, Sr., USN (Ret)
RADM John Lewis Butts, USN (Rel)
CAPT James B. Campbell, USN (Rel)
CAPT Charles Stuart “Chuck” Carlisle, USN (Ret)
CAPT Bennie L. “Jim” Flitcher, III, USN (Ret)
CAPT John J. Hinchey, USN (Rel)
CDR William B. Humphrey, USN (Ret)
CDR William H. Leisk, Jr., USN (Ret)
CAPT Sanford N. (Sandy) Levey, USN (Ret)
CAPT Willis A. Matson, USN (Ret)
CAPT Gordon R. Stone, USN (Ret)