When most people look back at the fifties, it was a mixture of many different themes.
On the one hand, we had the growth of the so called middle class into suburbia as returning GI’s and their counterparts in the other services came home as victors to a nation ready to grow. Home ownership became rampant, babies were popping up all over the place and America was on the rise in so many ways.
Disneyland led to an ever growing entertainment industry that celebrated our success and sometimes excess.
People from all over the world still clamor to come here and be a part of the grand experiment.
Beneath all the growth and success though was the gnawing reality that there were forces in the world who resented our lifestyle and wanted to see us destroyed.
The leadership in the Soviet Union and in Communist China saw us as an ever present threat. After all, we represented an engine of growth that was fueled by freedom and liberties that were a real threat to a state sponsored form of control. How could you subjugate the people’s of the Soviet block and others around the world if they had this shining beacon of freedom to admire from afar.
Maybe its just me but it seems that on the whole, mankind just does better when he is not controlled by an overreaching and all powerful government. I know there are a lot of people who would say that government is necessary but I would argue that it is only really needed as a way to support individual freedoms and counter everything else that would destroy our freedoms.
That’s where strategic deterrence played a pretty key role.
Once Sputnik was launched and the word was out about the Soviets capability to launch nuclear tipped missiles in an intercontinental theater, the fear factor for many around the world was acutely raised. While we had our own missiles and planes that could do the same, a newer platform was needed quickly that could prove to be the wild card.
41 for Freedom
Polaris filled that role nicely followed by Poseidon and Trident. Our marriage of nuclear power to submarines was enhanced with the capabilities of an underwater launching platform. The George Washington truly filled the role of her motto: Primus in Pace (First in Peace).
Thirty years after the first patrol, the bad guys still had not launched a missile attack on this country.
More than 3500 patrols were made during that time which were part of an effort to convince the other guy that we were so hard to fund and stop that it would be mutually assured destruction if he ever launched first. I have to believe in my heart of hearts that the continued presence of our strategic forces still has some effect.
It took a tremendous amount of sacrifice to assure anyone who would attack us that there would be an unbelievable price to pay for breaking the peace. While outbreaks still happened around the globe in a much smaller way, the people of America could sleep relatively well at night knowing that we had the strongest most capable deterrent that the world had ever known. Coupled with our fast attack fleet, the chances we would be hit in a strategic Pearl Harbor were significantly lessened by the existence of something no one really wanted to think about.
What made deterrence work?
That could be argued for years but from my view there were three key things that made it the force that it was.
1. We had the right resources for the task
2. We maintained a high state of readiness that never waivered. No weather event, no political event, no social event could shake the ability to deliver what would be an indescribable outcome
3. We had the will to deliver it and the bad guys knew it.
If you want to protect a nation, you need all three. It is foolish and childlike to think that evil men with evil intent will not try and destroy what is still the best system on earth. The bad people subjugate their people with fear and threats. They point to us as the Great Satan and highlight our every flaw for one reason only – to keep their own people under the impression that their system is superior.
If you want to protect the helpless, you must have a force that is dedicated and committed to doing so every single day. Relying on our fellow man’s adherence to laws or “doing the right thing because it’s the right thing” is a fools errand and will cause heartache every single time.