UNITED STATES AND ALLIED SUBMARINE SUCCESSES IN THE PACIFIC AND FAR EAST DURING WORLD WAR II
by John D. Alden and Craig R. McDonald McFarland & Co., Jefferson, N.C.
SUBMARINE OPERATIONAL EFFECTIVENESS IN THE 20TH CENTURY
by John F. 0 ‘Connell iUniverse Inc., New York, Bloomington
Both books are factual and the research done for each is impressive. Each could serve as a first step for looking into specific facets of submarine history. In the case of John Alden’s book any meaningful treatment of the 1941-45 Pacific War would have to recognize the data he has amassed. The case for having Jack O’Connell’s book on your self is more general in that it covers the overall development of military submarines, and their usefulness, in the period from 1900 to 1939.
More important, by far, than just reading each author’s presentation are the lessons-to-be-learned for the present and future generations of the submarine community. For instance, in an article published in the April 2010 issue of THE SUBMARINE REVIEW, John Alden provided an overview of his work, which led to the book reviewed here. He described a data base on which he had worked for years, continually improving the basic 1945 ComSubPac results as new information was developed. In that article John Alden summed up his work as:
Allowing for probably minor inaccuracies in the data, it appears that about 43% of U.S. torpedo attacks succeeded in hitting their targets while 57% missed.”
That is; 43% hit the target, not necessarily sank the target; and that is for 14,748 torpedoes fired. At the least, the numbers testify to the difficulty of submarine warfare and the attendant problems in assessing success. It would seem more important, however, for current submariners of all stripes to look deeply into the meaning of that statistic for today’s circumstances of much lower force levels and weapon inventories.
The book about submarine operational effectiveness offers many opportunities to look for insights into the generation of submarine requirements. Unfortunately, suspicions are frequently raised that the requirements process consisted more of what could be done rather than what should be done. Of particular interest is Jack O’Connell’s short description of the discussion amongst USN submarine officers in the twenties, concurrent with the building of the “S” boats, and the subsequent spiral development of the Fleet boats. Real interest in specific operational characteristics was responsible for giving the US Navy the submarines to fight World War II. An interesting tangent in O’Connell’s research is the development, then abandonment, of very large submarines during the inter-war period. The Royal Navy built the 361 feet long, 3700 ton submerged displacement, HMS X-1. It was commissioned in I 925 and placed in reserve five years later. During those years France started construction of SURCOUF, a 360 feet long, heavily armed boat with a submerged displacement of 4300 tons. She lasted until 1942. Both examples of long-range commerce raiding capability were evidently lost on the Germans.
United States and Allied Submarine Successes in the Pacific and Far East During World War II
Most of John Alden’s book, 32 I pages out of 34 7, consists of the tabulated results of 4845 submarine attacks. Those 4845 attacks are defined as only those for which success was originally claimed or were later determined to be successful. In his preface to this, his fourth and most complete, edition, Alden puts his work in context with:
“Although the major outcomes of the submarine campaign are well known, and many accounts have been published extolling the exploits of individual submarines, no definitive record of our submarines’ successes has yet been compiled”
The first 26 pages describe the evolution of his data base and the organization of each of the attack reports. Since his data base started with the Force Commander’s Submarine Operations Research Group (SORG) wartime assessments, perhaps one lesson-to-be-learned has to do with ensuring the completeness of input to tactical analyses and the integrity itself of those results. The USN’s Submarine Force has a tremendous advantage in this respect with the long experience and expertise of the Submarine Development Squadron.
In addition to the SORG data, which was modified by the declassification of ULTRA data, information was gathered on submarine attacks made by British and Dutch submarines. The collection of data from Japanese sources is a story in itself, but obviously has been very useful in making the final assessments. Another interesting tangent is John Alden’s comparison of the SORG originated success results and those of JANA C (Joint Army-Navy Assessment Committee). It offers a lesson-to-be-leamed in knowing the basis of data, which can be quoted in a manner negative to one’s interests.
The data listing those 4845 submarine attacks deserve some in-depth analysis to at least determine if there are lessons-to-be-learned beyond the obvious problems with defective torpedoes (and why that took so long to identify from the tactical analysis being done) and the inherent difficulty of undersea warfare in which so little of the big picture tactical situation is actually known.
Submarine Operational Effectiveness in the 201h Centurv Part One (1900-1939)
Jack O’Connell’s book on the overall survey of submarine operational effectiveness prior to World War II is organized for easy reference. It is divided into chronological parts with each
submarine significant part subdivided by nation. The first four eras of submarine interest are the earliest days with the invention of Whitehead’s torpedo and Holland’s submarine, the pre-WW I build up of the major submarine forces, the operations of Allied submarines in WW I, and the operations of German and Austro-Hungarian submarines in that war. A separate part is given over to a commentary on the effectiveness of submarines in WW I, with particular emphasis on the German campaign. Part six deals with the inter-war period of the twenties and thirties and lists both the International Naval Arms Limitation conferences and the individual efforts of the nations building submarines during that period. A special section about submarine involvement in the Spanish Civil War rounds out the chronological treatment.
Jack ends the period with a count of submarines in each of the major fleets at the time of the Gennan attack on Poland to start WW II in September 1939. Knowing what the next several years held for those navies, that count may well be a surprise to the modern reader and to that extent at least is one good reason to go over just what led up to the situation on 9/1/1939:
INTERNATIONAL SUBMARINE RACES
11th International Submarine Races to be Held at Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock from June 27 to July 1 Teams invited to compete in human-powered design event
BETHESDA, MD. (April 21, 2011)-The Foundation for Undersea Research and Education (FURE) and Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division (NSWCCD) announced that the 11th International Submarine Races (ISR), a biennial engineering design competition, is scheduled for the week of June 27.
“The Carderock Division is proud to host the 2011 ISR at our David Taylor Model Basin facility,” said Carderock Division Commander Capt. Chris Meyer. “We are thrilled to be a part of such an exciting event that puts engineering skills learned in the classroom and in the Jab to a practical test. We know all participants are hard at work on this year’s designs, and we all look forward to seeing the innovative approaches they will bring to this year’s competition.
One-and two-person teams from high schools, colleges, universities, and private groups are invited to participate in this weeklong contest. The ISR has been in existence since 1989, and has been conducted at the U.S. Navy’s test tank, at Carderock, since 1995. This biennial event features races that test the creative skills of young engineering students throughout the world. Teams, wearing scuba gear, contend their submarine designed vessels along an underwater 100-meter measured course in Carderock’s model basin.
FURE President Nancy R. Hussey said, “We are extremely appreciative and grateful to the U. S. Navy for its continuing support, without which this event would be impossible. Our all-volunteer organization looks forward to working with the teams, our Navy colleagues and our sponsors to make the 20 l I competition a great success.
“The purpose of the sub races is to provide an educational opportunity for aspiring young engineers. Their participation in the design, construction, and operation of a human-powered submarine offers real-time application of theoretical knowledge, hands-on creativity, problem solving and teamwork skill opportunities,” said Hussey. “The sub race engineering design competition is an investment in the future of our young people, not only to help them compete in the global technology economy, but to provide a better trained and experienced resource pool of bright and industrious students to help the defense industry and the government fill future national needs.
“The ISR experience increases their value to potential employers. Studies show that students who can put their classroom skills to practical use fare far better in the post-college job market,” Hussey added.
The 2011 Platinum JSR sponsors to date are the General Dynamics Electric Boat Corporation and the Oceanic Engineering Society of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The Marine Technology Society has joined the races this year as a Gold sponsor. Many other Silver as well as in-kind sponsors, also contribute.
The 11th ISR Web site, www.isrsubrace.org, contains frequently updated information. Contestant inquiries should be addressed to the ISR Contestant Liaison and Head Judge, Claude Brancart, at (207) 729-7873 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Organizations or individuals interested in sponsorship, contact Dave McGee al email@example.com or (703) 347-4713, or Nancy Hussey at firstname.lastname@example.org. (843)278-1474 or (843) 830-5008 (cell)). The JSR orga11ization is an all volunteer event; individuals interested in becoming volunteers, contact the JSR Volunteer Coordinator, Sue Peterson, at event must register with NSWCCD Public Affairs Office at CRDIVPA email@example.com.