While researching the USS Sam Houston SSBN 609, I ran across a pamphlet that was used to introduce the public to the Polaris missile program. The pamphlet was published when the program was about half way towards completion. The goal was to have all 41 of the boats launched and operational by 1967.
That was an incredible goal. With very limited technological advantages compared to today, they were moving forward with a program that was both aggressive and challenging. Keep in mind that at the same time, the country was becoming more and more entangled in South East Asia, a rapidly changing global picture that included troubles in the Middle East, and our own country’s promise to have a man on the moon by the end of the decade. In other words, there were a lot of competing priorities for a limited amount of resources.
I credit the success of the Polaris program to the leadership of the Navy. Men like Rickover who saw that this leg of the strategic triad was critical to countering a growing Soviet threat made this goal a reality. Ultimately, the Polaris program gave way to Trident but their contribution to world peace is nothing short of incredible. And we did it without ever having to fire a shot in anger.
5 thoughts on “Polaris – the US Navy’s Fleet Ballistic Missile Weapons System”
The last picture is the USS SAM HOUSTON SSBN 609
Thanks Doc. It kind of makes sense since the Houston archives was where I found the document
My first boat was the USS George Washington SSBN 598 Gold.
1st Boat: SSR-272 Redfin
2nd Boat: SS-408 Sennet
3rd Boat: SSBN-611 John Marshall
4th Boat: SSBN-644 Lewis and
Clark Plank Owner.
5th Boat: SSR573- Salmon
In your post you observed, “I credit the success of the Polaris program to the leadership of the Navy. Men like Rickover who saw that this leg of the strategic triad was critical to countering a growing Soviet threat made this goal a reality.” While Adm Rickover, head of the Naval Reactors, was a forceful supporter of the Polaris program, he was not directli involved in it’s actual development. That effort was led by Adm “Red” Raborn and the Navy’s Special Projects Office. Adm Raborn had a very different style that Adm Rickover, but accomplished similarly almost impossible technical development in an incredibly short period of time. The book POLARIS by Barr and Howard (1960, sadly out of print), covers this development in detail.