Memorandum Number 68: FUTURE SUBMARINE WARFARE – 1923 (How America almost lost World War II before it even started) 2

In the final days of the Great War, Naval planners had seen first hand the devastation and destruction caused by the modern machines of war.

The submarine was an example of one of the most destructive. As plans were being made for the peace, decisions about the methods for maintaining that peace would have to be made. One of the grand ideas at the time was to limit the offensive powers of the world’s navies. In this rarely discussed report from 1923, the future of the American submarine force hung in the balance. One can only imagine how the world would look today if the planners had their way. The plucky little submarine fleet that survived the devastation at Pearl Harbor on December 7th may not have been available to punish the Japanese while the nation rebuilt.

These records are held in the Naval History and Heritage Command. I am grateful for their work in preserving these valuable lessons from the past.

Mister Mac

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NAVY DEPARTMENT OFFICE OF NAVAL INTELLIGENCE HISTORICAL SECTION

Publication Number 7

THE AMERICAN NAVAL PLANNING SECTION LONDON

Published under the direction of The Hon. EDWIN DENBY, Secretary of the Navy

WASHINGTON GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE| 1923

 

PREFACE.

____________

This monograph is virtually a reproduction of the formal records of the American Planning Section in London during the Great War, presented in numbered memoranda from 1 to 71, inclusive. Memoranda Nos. 21 and 67 have been omitted as being inappropriate for publication at this time.

Before December, 1917, all strategic planning for the American Navy was done by a section of the Office of Naval Operations in Washington. Admiral Suns urged the need of a Planning Section at his headquarters in London, where comprehensive and timely information was more available; not only of the activities of American Forces, but of the Allied Navies and of the enemy.

A visit to England during November, 1917, by Admiral Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, coincided with a reorganization of the British Admiralty, which included, as a result of war experience, magnification of the function of strategic planning by their War Staff. Decision was then reached to form an American Planning Section at the London headquarters of the Commander, U. S. Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, with the idea of cooperating more closely with the British and other Allied plan makers. Up to that time the naval strategy of the Allies often appeared to lack coordination and to be formulated primarily by men so burdened with pressing administrative details as to prevent them from giving due attention to broad plans. It was intended that the new arrangements should correct these defects.

The function of the Planning Section corresponded closely to that of similar units of organization in large businesses and in armies. Its work was removed from current administration, yet necessarily required constant information of the progress of events. It comprehended a broad survey of the course of the war as a whole, as well as a more detailed consideration of the important lesser aspects.

From an examination of these records of the American London Planning Section, together with its history contained in Memorandum No. 71, prepared soon after the conclusion of the war, it is evident that the influence of the Section upon the general naval campaign was constructive, comprehensive, and important.

  1. W. Knox, Captain (Retired), U. S. Navy, Officer in Charge, Office of Naval Records and Library; and Historical Section

 

 

Memorandum Number 68:

FUTURE SUBMARINE WARFARE.

(Undated.)

_____________

General situation: International naval situation as at present.

Required: Estimate of the situation as to future submarine warfare with relation to—

(a) National interests.

(b) World interests.

Solution.

As a result of the manner in which the Central Empires have conducted submarine operations, there exists throughout the world a public sentiment favorable to the abolition of submarine warfare and the destruction of all existing vessels of this type.

It is our purpose to examine the question of a future policy in regard to submarines, both from the point of view of world interest and national interest, and to determine the attitude which the United States should adopt toward the abolition of submarine warfare.

Theoretically the submarine is a valuable weapon of war with a large field of legitimate activity. There appears no cause for its condemnation on the ground that it has been the most powerful weapon of our adversaries, or that it has been used in violation of existing international law. The same reasons might be adduced for discarding the use of guns because they have been used to project poison-gas shells and other projectiles that cause unnecessary suffering.

It is necessary then to examine the actual methods employed by the Central Empires in submarine warfare to discover how far the successful use of submarines is dependent inherently on their employment in a manner inconsistent with the conduct of civilized warfare. If it appears that their efficiency is largely dependent on their illegitimate use in disregard of the laws of humanity, in violation of neutral rights, or in derogation of a sound policy for the world at large, it is safe to assume that in any war the temptation to employ submarines in their most efficient manner may prove too strong for a belligerent threatened with defeat, and that therefore the moral and material interests of humanity would be improved by the elimination altogether of the subsurface vessel.

CONDITIONS GOVERNING SUBMARINE ATTACK.

The weapons of the submarine are the torpedo and the gun. In order to maintain the water-tight integrity of its hull, it is essential that the submarine be protected as far as possible from gunfire. There is thus imposed upon the vessel the necessity of submerged attack against all craft possessing guns of equal or superior range. To make a successful submerged attack it is considered essential to get within ranges of 1,000 yards—preferably 300 yards. To approach within such ranges demands the utmost secrecy. Furthermore, the safety of the submarine precludes the possibility of demanding surrender at anything but a distance that would permit the most valuable prizes to escape by utilizing their superior speed. Owing to the impossibility of always determining the hostile or neutral character of a vessel by its flag or general appearance, there will frequently exist a doubt in the mind of the submarine commander, with a strong tendency to resolve the doubt in favor of aggression. Having torpedoed a vessel, there remains no means under the average conditions of providing for the surrender of the crew or its removal to a place of safety. The security of the submarine at such close quarters requires its continued submergence until the menace to its safety is removed by the sinking of the attacked vessel. Such has been the practical operation of submarine warfare.

LEGITIMATE USE OF SUBMARINES.

The legitimate use of submarines may be considered to be confined to the following:

(1) Independent attack on unsupported combatant vessels of the enemy.

Comment: The submarine has an undoubted right to attack without warning an enemy man-of-war or any vessel engaged in military operations and not entitled to immunity as a hospital ship, cartel ship, etc.

It is repugnant to the standards of civilized humanity to deliberately plan warfare with the intention of giving no quarter in battle. Hence if such an attack is made and the enemy vessel surrendered, provision should be made for the safety of the lives of the prisoners either on their own vessel or in the ship’s boats if in safe waters.

A torpedo attack usually results in the sinking of a vessel. If we imagine this vessel to be a transport loaded with troops, it would be obviously impossible for the submarine to take them on board or to insure any degree of safety to those who might be successfully embarked on the high seas in the ship’s boats.

It may be argued that a similar result might follow an action between surface ships, but it is desired to point out that the rescue of the surrendered or drowning should be the normal procedure and not the exception, as would be the case in unrestricted submarine warfare.

While submarines might be built of sufficient size and equipped in a manner that would permit their operations to conform to the rules adopted for surface craft, it is certain that such vessels would be seriously handicapped by such requirements, and it is not reasonable to suppose that they would be adopted.

(2) Independent attack on combatant enemy vessels capable of rendering mutual support.

Comment: In this case attack without warning would be justifiable. Destructions might be continued until the enemy surrendered, when humanity would require that a vessel be spared to care for the surviving crews. Unless we imagine a submarine large enough to carry prize crews to take possession of surrendered vessels, it is not reasonable to suppose that any combatant vessel would be spared.

(3) Attack, in support of surface vessels, on enemy combatant forces.

Comment: This is a purely legitimate use of the submarine which, however, has had no exemplification in the present war. Great Britain has fast submarines designed to operate with the fleet, but there is no reason to suppose that they might not be diverted to other uses not so legitimate.

(4) Capture or destruction of enemy merchant vessels.

Comment: It must be expected that the merchant vessels of belligerents will arm for defense. This is an ancient right, founded on that of self-preservation and as sound in principle as the right of a citizen to keep and bear arms. Such vessels are nevertheless noncombatants and must be regarded as such, since they are denied the right of taking the offensive.

Since, however, it would be too late for a vessel to defend herself after being torpedoed by a submarine, it is necessary for her to forestall attack as soon as the intention of the submarine can be determined. Under such conditions (which must obtain in unrestricted submarine warfare) a submarine appearing in any quarter from which an attack was possible must expect resistance from the threatened vessel.

In order to make certain that a prize shall not escape attack, the submarine, if inferior in speed and gun power, must make a submerged attack with torpedoes. He is thereby precluded from—

(a) Visit and search to determine identity as well us origin and ownership of cargo.

(b) Summoning the vessel to surrender.

(c) Taking possession of the vessel.

(d) Providing for the safety of passengers or crew.

The inhuman character of this form of warfare has led to forms of reprisals on submarines, such as the use of mystery ships, that react to make the crews of submarines still more brutal, so that no attempt is made to save life, but the submarine continues its submerged attack until the merchant vessel is sunk. Instances of submarines firing on boats filled with passengers are cited and of crews deliberately drowned after being placed on the deck of the submarine.

(5) Capture or destruction of neutral merchant vessels.

Comment: Capture of neutral merchant vessels under conditions

and restrictions imposed by international law is justifiable. Destruction after capture is contrary to international law and can not be justified in any circumstances.

The right of neutral vessels to arm for self-defense dates from the days of piracy, and it can not be denied that the same right still exists to take measures for self-preservation against a belligerent who chooses to operate in defiance of international law against friend and foe alike.

If we admit the right of neutral merchant ships to arm for self-defense, the same set of conditions arise that makes it impossible for the submarine to efficiently wage war on commerce within the bounds of international law. Nor is it apparent that any change in international law could be made that would satisfy the just claims of neutrals to the free use of the high seas for their persons or their goods that would not at the same time seriously hamper the success of the submarine. The difficulty lies in the necessity of secrecy and suddenness of attack to prevent the escape of fast merchant vessels. This is obviously inconsistent with any attempt at visit and search, which in all cases would be necessary if only to establish identity.

(6) All operations of war permitted to surface vessels.

Comment: The necessity of preserving hull integrity and the limited number of guns that can be carried by a submarine restrict sharply its employment in surface operations. Such operations, while legitimate, offer but a small field of activity; illegitimate use of submarines.

The illegitimate employment of submarines by the Central Empires in the present war consisted of—

(1) Attack without warning on enemy merchant vessels.

(2) Attack without warning on neutral merchant vessels.

(3) Attack without warning on enemy hospital ships.

(4) Sinking of enemy merchant ships without visit or search.

(5) Sinking of neutral merchant vessels without visit or search.

(6) The abandonment, without regard to safety, of passengers and crews of vessels sunk.

(7) The planting of unproclaimed mine fields outside of enemy territorial waters.

Submarine operations in the present war may be considered as typical of what may be expected in future wars, when success is dependent on the result of a war on commerce.

There is high authority for the statement that prominent naval officials of at least one of the Allies are of the opinion that the unrestricted submarine warfare conducted by Germany was justifiable, and that with the exception of its more barbarous features its adoption by this ally might be expected under similar circumstances.

It is of interest to note the several phases of submarine operations in the present war as illustrating the tendency to develop maximum efficiency regardless of legal restrictions.

The first phase consisted of submarine attacks on combatant vessels. With the abandonment of the Declaration of London and the inauguration of a general blockade, there entered a second phase, a measure of retaliation, which was distinguished by the destruction without warning of enemy merchant vessels. The protests of neutrals and the fear of drawing the United States into the war induced for a time the exception of enemy passenger vessels; but, on the other hand, destruction without warning was gradually extended to apply to enemy and neutral cargo vessels alike.

It became apparent at last that the only hope of ending the war was by a food blockade of Great Britain. In this situation the Central Empires declared for unrestricted warfare and established prescribed zones that pretended to exclude all vessels from the high seas within certain areas contiguous to the territory of the Allied Powers. Any vessel whatever entering these areas was liable to destruction without warning.

NATIONAL INTEREST AS AFFECTED BY SUBMARINES.

Considering submarine warfare from the standpoint of national interest, let us examine the advantages and disadvantages to be derived from its use by each of the Great Powers.

Great Britain is the greatest naval power as well as the greatest mercantile power in the world. Her existence depends on control of her sea communications. In a naval war conducted by surface craft alone she can by maintaining a large margin of strength above her probable adversaries hope to maintain her position indefinitely. In a naval war involving subsurface craft no amount of naval superiority in any class of vessel can prevent the destruction of her shipping, or, as in the present war, relieve her from the menace of starvation by blockade.

The submarines of Germany almost accomplished their purpose, although the German surface fleet was but a fraction of the united strength of the United States and the Allies, and this in the face of over 4,000 special craft, as well as mines, aircraft, and every device known to science, employed against them.

In spite of the fact that Great Britain has a large flotilla of submarines and has developed a special type for use in fleet action, her naval strength would be greatly increased by the abolition of submarine warfare, and it can be confidently expected that she would favor such a policy.

France is a continental nation ranking fourth in naval strength and merchant marine. She is directly dependent on neither for existence. Except in a world war she might expect to be supplied through her neighbors. In a war with Great Britain, submarine warfare would seem to be to her advantage. She would have little to lose and much to gain. The present war has shown, however, that submarines have little success against combatant vessels, so that, as considered heretofore, important results could be gained only by unrestricted operations against merchant shipping. Aside from any question of legality or morality involved, there is in the destruction of merchant shipping an economic loss to the world that affects all nations, whether belligerent or neutral. This phase of the subject will be discussed later. In a naval war against powers other than Great Britain, there is little that France could accomplish with submarines that could not be done with surface craft.

Italy, while not an insular nation, is dependent largely on sea-borne commerce. Her Navy and merchant marine occupy fifth place among the Great Powers. Her commerce would be largely at the mercy of any enemy in the Mediterranean. During the present war her commerce was driven from the Adriatic, and in spite of the assistance of the Allies she had great difficulty in maintaining herself. With naval operations confined to surface craft she would have been much better off. In addition to the objections to submarine warfare it should be remembered that it is a highly organized and specialized form of warfare requiring technical labor for construction, and for operation expert training, great skill, and considerable endurance to insure success. These requirements are to be found in but few countries. The Germans have set a standard of efficiency for the submarine weapon that we can expect to see but rarely attained. Italy’s strength would not be relatively improved by the continuation of submarine warfare.

Germany and Austria can not expect to be in a financial condition that will permit for at least a generation to come any attempt to revive their naval strength. Considering the fate of their existing submarines, it is safe to exclude the Central Empires from present consideration. They would probably gladly agree to abolish any form of warfare in the future. Should they eventually regain their military strength there is every reason why they should never again be trusted with the submarine weapon.

Japan is an insular nation that occupies in the Pacific a position similar to that of Great Britain in the Atlantic. She stands third in naval and mercantile strength. She has a growing fleet and a rapidly increasing merchant marine. Her only potential enemy is the United States, from whom she can expect no aggression. If, unfortunately, war should come, her position would be very favorable for submarine operations against our communications with the Philippines.

On the other hand, our submarines based on the Philippines and Guam would be within striking distance of her coasts and would be a grave threat to the commerce on which her existence depends. With submarine abolished, her surface craft could probably accomplish lawfully all and more than could submarines.

Japan has but few submarines, and these of but little efficiency, which would seem to indicate that she is in agreement with this view.

Like other nations with ambitions to be powerful commercially on the sea, she has much to lose and little to gain by submarine warfare.

Small nations, with relatively large merchant fleets, such as Holland, Norway, and Sweden, have neither the military strength to withstand the invasion of a great power, nor the means to conduct an aggressive war against a small power. In either case they could expect heavy uncompensated loss from submarines.

Small nations with little or no merchant shipping of their own might selfishly benefit by submarines in a war against a maritime power. If their submarine warfare was confined to legitimate operations against combatant vessels they would be of value in repelling invasion, but it cannot be expected that they would bring about victory against a powerful nation, and in addition to the danger of their submarines being used illegally there could be no equitable means provided of granting their use to one nation and not to another.

The United States is the second naval and mercantile power in the world. Our continental coasts lie across the ocean from any formidable enemy. No foreign invasion of our continental territory is possible, nor do we contemplate aggression against any power. Nevertheless the large merchant marine that we are building may be exposed to submarine attack in any part of the world. Such an aggression by any small or irresponsible power might cause us losses both in property and national prestige out of all proportion to the size of the offending power.

In a war with Great Britain submarines would serve a purpose in preventing the blockade and bombardment of our coasts, but the same results could be accomplished by surface craft and mobile coast-defense guns.

The chief reason why the United States should not build submarines is that public opinion would never permit their use in the same manner as that of our adversaries. Their chief use would be in the destruction of enemy merchant shipping. This the national conscience would not permit, certainly not after the German manner, while our probable adversaries would likely not be controlled by any such restrictions.

With a surface fleet second to none, the United States is in a position to vindicate its policies in every part of the world. With submarines in existence no strength in surface craft can ever insure a like security.

EFFECT OF ABOLITION OF SUBMARINES ON NAVAL STRENGTH.

If we reckon naval strength in terms of dreadnoughts and battle cruisers, and exclude Russia and the Central Powers, we observe that the naval strength of the Great Powers follows closely the strength of their merchant marine and is not dependent on submarines.

Naval strength. Capital ships. Merchant tonnage (approximate). Submarines.
1. Great Britain 43 15,000,000 168
2. United States 17 5,000,000 108
3. Japan 9 1,700,000 19
4. France 7 1,500,000 55
5. Italy 5 1,000,000 6

Small powers with negligible navies are—

Merchant tonnage.
Norway 1,300,000
Holland 800,000
Sweden 700,000

We conclude that the abolition of submarines would not practically alter the standing in relative remaining naval strength of any of the Great Powers.

DESTRUCTION OF MERCHANT SHIPPING AN ECONOMIC LOSS TO THE WORLD.

It is to the interest of the world at large that the evils of war be confined to the nations participating in it.

The economic interdependence of every part of the modem world makes it impossible for one country to suffer loss without in a measure affecting all. But the vital indispensable necessity to the welfare of the world is merchant shipping, the common carrier of the world that provides the sole means of interchange of products on which civilized existence has come to depend.

International law for the present has not progressed sufficiently far to forbid the destruction of belligerent merchant vessels under certain prescribed circumstances. It does forbid the sinking of neutrals.

We believe that the destruction of any merchant ships employed as common carriers is contrary to a sound world policy and should be forbidden.

As a result of the present war the world at large has been subjected to a loss of 13,000,000 tons of merchant shipping; 2,000,000 tons of this was the property of neutrals.

The loss of cargoes has impoverished the world and subjected many of the neutrals to hardships greater than those endured by some of the belligerents.

The tonnage sunk represents a direct economic loss falling upon the people of the world, whether belligerent or neutral.

EFFECT OF ABOLITION OF SUBMARINES ON REDUCTION OF ARMAMENTS.

The abolition of submarine warfare would be a great step in the reduction of armaments. In addition such a reduction would carry with it the elimination of all special types of craft that are necessary only in antisubmarine warfare.

If all distinctly antisubmarine craft were dispensed with and torpedo vessels reduced to a proportion of six destroyers for each dreadnought or battle cruiser, the following reduction could be accomplished in vessels already built:

Great Britain:
Submarines 168
Destroyers 167
Torpedo boats 96
Patrol boats 63
Sloops 12
Patrol gunboats 26
Armed whalers 19
Motor launches 540
Submarine depot ships 13
United States:
Submarines 108
Destroyers 70
Torpedo boats 17
Submarine depot ships 3
Converted yachts (?) 53
Submarine chasers 300

 

Japan:
Submarines 19
Destroyers 13
Torpedo boats 24
Submarine depot ships 4
France:
Submarines 62
Destroyers 50
Torpedo boats 121
Special gunboats (?) 10
Sloops 9
Dispatch vessels 10
Submarine chasers 50
Italy:
Submarines 56
Destroyers 22
Torpedo boats 65
Submarine depot ships 1
Motor launches 147

 

In addition to the foregoing there could be a reduction in minesweeping vessels, aircraft, repairs, and supply vessels, as well as elimination of special nets, mines, and devices used against submarines.

CONCLUSIONS.

We recommend—

1. That an international agreement be concluded to abolish submarine warfare.

2. That to insure against violations of this agreement all sub-surface vessels of every class whatsoever now built or building be destroyed, and that none hereafter be constructed.

3. That no merchant vessel shall hereafter be destroyed by belligerent action.

4. That merchant vessels which under present rules would be subject to destruction may be sent into a neutral port and interned in the same manner as combatant vessels.

 

 

 

The Cost of Freedom – Letter to the Editor Pittsburgh Post Gazette 2

The Cost of Freedom

To the Editor

Pittsburgh has long been a source of the materials and equipment necessary for our national defense.

The propulsion equipment for submarines and aircraft carriers comes from manufacturers in the Steel Valley as it has for generations. A strong fleet ensures freedom of the seas and guarantees the level of commerce needed to ensure a robust economy.

In critical global areas, freedom is being challenged. China’s influence in the Southwester Pacific is already being felt by our trading partners. A resurgent Russian naval influence is the result of their leaders trying to regain what they lost at the end of the Cold War. The re-appearance of Russian surveillance ships near America’s submarine bases is definitely a concern for a Navy that is already resource strapped with existing obligations in the prolonged conflicts in the Middle East.

As Congress prepares its budgets, sensible but strong support for the re-building of our fleet must be supported by all citizens. Our submarine forces need new boats to answer the gap left by an aging fleet. Boats that were built in the 1980’s are being retired faster than our ability to build replacements. Even some of the mighty Ohio class submarines are older than thirty five years old. A replacement must be built as soon as possible to ensure our strategic abilities.

It is time for congress to act. I urge all Pittsburghers (and Americans ) to contact your Senators and Representatives and support the rebuilding of America’s sea services.

This is a critical time in our history and your support is needed now. This is the Cost of Freedom.

Robert “Bob” MacPherson

USNL Pittsburgh Council President (2017-2019)

Mister Mac

It was never easy 3

It was never easy

On the day I retired from the Navy, my crew presented me with a shadow box. That box sits on my desk and I look at it from time to time when I am not typing stories or checking out the latest on the Internet. It’s a nice box with beveled edges, a glass cover that has kept the dirt at bay for many years and a deep blue velvet background. The display is a chronology of my service from the time I enlisted until the day I retired. All of the achievements of my career are visible and each remind me about the one thing that all military people know and understand. It was never easy.

The Oath

I took my first oath at the age of seventeen with my proud parents standing by. Like my father before me and his father too, I chose the Navy. I wanted adventure and travel and the recruiter had promised me that and much more. The Navy would give me the chance to grow and learn many things. I would get to travel to exotic parts around the world and experience so many things that I would never find in the Monongahela Valley where I grew up. He said that many sailors found time to achieve a college degree and if they worked hard, they could someday be a leader and maybe even an officer. But he was an honest man and added this stern warning: “It won’t be easy”.

Taking the oath of enlistment at such an early age was actually very easy. I guess in retrospect, the oath was just a step you had to take on the journey to where you wanted to be. Up until the moment I took it, I will confess that I did not think about what I was doing too much. But in the moments leading up to raising my hand and repeating it, the gravity of it came over me. For the next six years, I was going to be committed to doing whatever it was the Officers and Chiefs appointed over me would tell me to do. There were no half measures in making that commitment. If I failed, I would disappoint my parents, my friends, and myself. I remember a small moment of panic as I realize that I didn’t really know what was ahead. What seemed like such a simple step became a really big thing in that moment.

They lined us up in that room in the Federal Building in Pittsburgh. Stand at attention and raise your right hand.

“I, (state your name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

And just like that, I took an oath that would change my life forever.

On either side of the shadow box are little brass plaques that say when and where I was stationed. Looking at them now, they seem pretty cold and sterile. There are twelve of them that represent the twenty plus years of active and reserve service. Interestingly enough, one of my commands is missing. When I look at them, I see something more than just brass. I see the sacrifices, the endless days at sea, the loneliness and the danger that many of them represented. A number of training commands, five submarines, one drydock and one submarine tender. They all have one thing in common: none of them ended up being very easy.

The ranks and awards make up the middle section of the box. Candidly, some took longer to achieve than I would have liked. For the longest time, I was convinced that the Navy would come to its senses and do things my way. Then, after a series of faltering steps, a wise Chief let me know in no uncertain terms that the Navy had done quite well for over two hundred years and if I really learned to accept that, I might make progress a little faster.

Starting over is never easy

I am lucky that I was able to completely reboot my career but as I have probably already indicated, it wasn’t easy. I learned that the oath really meant what it said. I also learned that in addition to the oath, there needed to be a strong willingness to sacrifice. I looked at those around me and saw many people who were giving their all to the service they chose. Don’t get me wrong. There were others who bitched, moaned and whined (BMW) every field day and duty day. The difference was, I decided not to be one of them. I took ever collateral duty I could, worked more hours than ever before in my life, learned new skills and polished up the old ones. No challenge was too great and I humbled myself as much as I could to achieve them.

During all of that time and ever since, I learned something about the men and women I served with. They all took the same oath. They learned what sacrifice was and learned to work together to achieve common goals. These are my brothers and sisters who share a devotion to their country and to the promises they made. Some fell along the way and some could not live up to their pledge. But on the whole, the people who I look back on now in my life with the most respect are the ones who discovered that even though it was not easy, you lived up to your oath. Even when the storms at sea knocked you about, you stayed the course. Even when it meant a ton of self-sacrifice, you honored your promise.

It is fitting that shadow box reflects the ranks in an ascending order to show the progression of growth. The ribbons are not as plentiful as some I have seen on current sailors and officers chests. But each one is a testament to the teamwork and shared sacrifices of my many shipmates. The dolphins represent membership in a unique brotherhood (that now includes a sisterhood).

The most dominant feature is the folded flag at the base.

This particular flag flew on a summer’s day over my last ship, the USS Hunley. If any of my previous commands had ever given me a hope that this one would be easy, that hope was dashed immediately. But with the help of my many shipmates (Chiefs, Officers and Sailors), we overcame some very large challenges together.

The flag at the base is a constant reminder that when you take that oath, there is something much bigger at stake than the temporary loss of some of your personal freedoms. It is the flag we all sailed under, protected with our service, and still honor today. I see the world around me now and worry that many people do not understand what it means to be counted upon. I see people too easily taking oaths or promises and just walking away with little to no remorse. I watch people who don’t get their way rioting in the street and refusing to commit any form of self-sacrifice.

But there is still time. We as a country can still turn the ship around. There are still many young men and women who have already raised their hands and taken that same oath. They need our prayers and our support. If you are not already a member of one of the many organizations that veterans have open to them, time to step up and do so.

I would just offer one word of advice:

It won’t be easy. But it will be worth it.

Mister Mac

Boom Reply

One of the early posts from the Blog.

theleansubmariner

Submarines operate for extended periods of time under the ocean. This ability gives them the advantage of stealth in performing her missions. Since even the most modern submarine requires people to operate it, providing the basics of life while submerged has always been a challenge.

sub duty

Think about those World War 2 movies where the Destroyer had forced the U-boat to the bottom. The destroyer captain could be patient since all he had to do was ride around on top and wait for the air on the inside of the submarine to become so horrible it could no longer sustain life. At some point, the boat would have to come to the surface.

When the idea of using nuclear submarines as launching platforms became a reality, something different needed to be done. So the Treadwell corporation proposed building a new type of “Oxygen Generator” that would ensure a high rate of…

View original post 1,465 more words

90 Days to nowhere… Submarine Documentary 1977 4

488101_417741151652089_799546593_n

Another great video from a bygone era. The 41 for Freedom Boats were still in their glory and the USS Ohio was going through its growing pains at the shipyard at Electric Boat. While the patrol cycle is sometimes given short shrift by non-boomer sailors, it had a unique purpose and involved a large number of men in both operations and support.  The operations tempo and the transition to the newer subs is very nicely described here:

http://fas.org/blogs/security/2009/03/usssbn/

But for a closer look at what it was like to be a seventies boomer sailor, click on this link:

 

As veterans day once more approaches, I am reminded how great a price was paid by so many men and women in my lifetime alone to preserve the peace. I salute you all.

Mister Mac

How the US Navy almost missed “The Boat” 1

Holland and Amphitrite

Prior to World War 1, the General Board of the United States Navy was the primary instrument used for directing the strategic future of the U. S. Navy. This General Board had been instituted in 1900 as a way to provide expert advice to the Secretary of the Navy and was made up of nine admirals nearing the end of their time in service. The Navy leadership had already discounted, “by doctrine and experience” the need or importance of building submarines. Even the emphasis on the future use of submarines was questioned. In a report to Secretary Josephus Daniels in 1915, the General Board stated:

“The deeds of submarines have been so spectacular that in default of engagements between the main fleets undue weight has been attached to them… To hastily formed public opinion, it seemed that the submarines were accomplishing great military results because little else of importance occurred in the maritime war to attract public attention. Yet at the present time, when the allies have learned in great measure to protect their commerce, as they learned a few months earlier to protect their cruisers from the submarine menace, it is apparent that the submarine is not an instrument fitted to dominate naval warfare…

The submarine is a most useful auxiliary whose importance will no doubt increase, but at the present there is no evidence that it will become supreme.”

In 1915, the Office of Chief of Naval Operations was created and the General Board’s influence started a slow but steady decline in influence. It was eventually dissolved in 1951. Coincidently, the USS Nautilus was first authorized in August of 1951.

Mister Mac

Failure is not an option Reply

failure is not an option

The nature of submarine warfare has always been filled with an equal mix of adventure, bravery and precision. The adventure starts the minute the boat becomes free from the pier. Gliding along on the surface of any of the rivers and bodies of waters they sail from is only the first part of the journey. In the early days, the noise of the gasoline or diesel engines coupled with the ever present smoke seemed to push the little craft towards her destiny. Later nuclear submarines were quieter but the wake of a passing sub was still enough of an indication that an adventure was about to begin.

As the submarine cleared the channel and reached the dive point, all hands felt the tension as the boat was rigged for its dive. Preliminary preparations were in place and the final actions just needed to be completed as the submarine transformed from a clumsy surface dweller to a steely eyed killer of the deep.  One thing that was the constant throughout the entire evolution though… failure is not an option. The equipment, the men, the boat itself must perform as flawlessly as possible in order for the mission to be complete. Failure in any one of these could be catastrophic for the crew.

The level of detail in planning and preparation before the boat even hits the water starts a life long journey of excellence that is the hallmark for a modern submarine. After all, this boat will be operating independently for most of its life with only the skills of the builders and the operators separating the crew from certain death. The qualification program is hard and the ongoing training is comprehensive. But it is the steel inside each and every qualified submariner that defines the toughness of the submarine service. They must train their minds to live in a confined space with others and think at least two steps ahead at all times. They anticipate the problems they hope will never come and even in their sleep they remain vigilant for the sounds that indicate a change… ventilation shifts, motors changing ion intensity, even the 400 cycle hum. All of these could indicate a problem that will need answering as quickly as possible.

Submariners of all generations share one thing in common whether they served on an old S boat, Fleet Boat, Guppy, Fast Attack or Boomer. They all understand that at any given moment, the only thing that stands between failure and success is a qualified submariner who has made the ultimate promise to themselves and their shipmates; Failure is not an option. Not on my watch.

Mister Mac

theleansubmariner

Ohio at Bangor 2

Gunfighters on the Java Sea – May 28 1945 2

Japara MapI have been chronicling the actions of the US Forces in the Pacific fleet for a number of months and in doing so have found some really great stories with a lot of detail about how the war was progressing in mid 1945. One of those stories started with a small footnote about a wolf pack operation in the Java Sea conducted by the submarines USS Blueback (SS-326) (Balao-class submarine – commissioned 1944) and USS Lamprey (SS-372) (Balao-class submarine – commissioned 1944) as they battled the Japanese submarine chaser Ch.1 in a surface gunnery action off Japara, N.E.I., 06°28’S, 110°37’E.

 

 

Sub chaser

 

What I like most about these stories is the human face they put on the war’s prosecution. The Blueback’s war patrol records and deck logs have been preserved and I was able to trace the action in the words and sometimes very interesting thoughts of her skipper M.K. Clementson Cdr. USN. one small example came in his final report where he spoke about crewmembers who were departing before the mission began. While reading the original report, I was a bit confused for a few moments about the upcoming re-assignment of Lt. James Mercer who had completed 13 war patrols.

Lt. James Mercer departing

By this time in the war, many of the submarine skippers were modifying their deck guns to suit the missions they would be conducting. During his refit in Perth AU prior to commencing the third war patrol, Clementson and his crew rearranged the location and firing support devices for much of his topside weaponry. The hope was that with an increased capacity to conduct surface operations, they would be able to have more flexibility in attacking the dwindling enemy surface fleet and merchant fleet. During the third war patrol, Blueback would get credit for sinking one patrol boat using surface tactics.

Night Action – Java Sea

This story occurs on May 28th in the Java Sea. While the world and most of the military was still focused on the continuing battle of Okinawa, patrols by the US Submarine force continued all across the pacific. The boats that had been rushed into service during the previous few years had finally started overcoming the torpedo problems of the early years. Success after success had started piling up and even though submarine losses also took their toll, new fleet boats were adding to the overall efforts in ways never before imagined. At 0355 on the morning of the 28th, Blueback had just completed a secret mission and was beginning her patrol. She sighted what she thought was a Jap destroyer at 0510 and sent a report to the Wolf Pack she was operating with.

From that moment on, she would join with the Lamprey in a running torpedo and gun battle in the Java Sea.

The Balao  submarine classs was made up of 120 boats and those were typically armed with the following weapons:

10 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes
(six forward, four aft)
24 torpedoes
1 × 5-inch (127 mm) / 25 caliber deck gun (which replaced the 4-inch 102mm gun installed at the beginning of their service)
Bofors 40 mm and Oerlikon 20 mm cannon

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During her overhaul prior to WP 3, the guns on the Blueback were modified as follows: the twin 20 MM was moved from the cigarette deck to the main deck forward and a second 40mm was installed on the cigarette deck. They also installed specially braced mountings for twin 50 caliber machine guns and twin 30 caliber machine guns on the bridge. In short, the Blueback was loaded for bear and was ready to take on any targets she would encounter on the surface.

Wolf Pack – American Style

German submarines are well known for Wolf Pack tactics that resulted in horrific losses. Not as well known are the Wolf Packs that the US Forces operated in during the Pacific campaign. Starting with the coordinated attacks of the USS Cero, many combined operations were mounted. At first, there was a reluctance among the individual skippers to advocate for this type of operation. But some, including Captain Swede Momsen saw the need for new tactics in this war . USS Cero cleared New London 17 August 1943 for Pacific waters, and on 26 September sailed from Pearl Harbor, bound for the East China and Yellow Seas on her first war patrol. This patrol was also the first American wolfpack, comprising Cero, Shad (SS-235), and Grayback (SS-208), commanded from Cero by Captain Swede” Momsen.

Torpedo Attack

At 0843, the Blueback submerged and began a day long track and search pattern looking for the contact the had sighted at 0520 and at 1910 sighted a submarine that was identified as the USS Lamprey. At 1954, she surfaced and  communicated with Lamprey using blinker lights. At that time Blueback was informed about the three targets in the Japara anchorage. Plans were then exchanged for the hunt. At 2010, there was a radar contact which the skipper verified was not a submarine. The contact was at approximately 12,000 yards and zig zagging.

From the action report:

“Can just barely get in a night tracking surface approach before the just rising full moon gets too high. Tracking 10 knots, base course 090 true. Am convinced this is our OOD. Will have enough moon before shooting to make certain it is not a submarine.”

One of the greatest fears of submarine commanders concerning the Wolf Pack approach was in not shooting a fellow American submariner in the heat of the battle. Our technology in weapons firing and ship identification was pretty basic during that war so this was a real concern.

At 2033, confident of his target, Blueback headed in at flank speed.

At 2102, Blueback slowed to 2/3 speed. He received a message from the HMS THOROUGH giving his position and stating that a patrol craft has been patrolling in the area all day. Target was not THOROUGH. Target definitely not submarine. (Note: HMS Thorough was a British T class submarine that served in the Far East for much of her wartime career, where she sank twenty seven Japanese sailing vessels, seven coasters, a small Japanese vessel, a Japanese barge, a small Japanese gunboat, a Japanese trawler, and the Malaysian sailing vessel Palange)

At 2107, with confidence that the vessel was not a submarine, Blueback fired five MK 18-2 torpedoes forward. Torpedo run was 3000 yards.  At 2109, the skipper turned the boat and fired 2 MK-14-3A torpedoes aft, torpedo run 2200 yards. All missed and as a good close broadside view of the target was obtained, it was discovered that this was not a destroyer but a patrol boat.  Blueback headed away at 19 knots. The patrol boat headed away from a torpedo that broached just ahead of him.

Blueback’s skipper made a note in the log:

“Made mental note to always use binocular formula hereafter in an attempt to avoid such costly errors in the future. Even with grim visions of my income tax soaring to the stratosphere. Won’t be able to look a taxpayer in the eye.”

At this point he slows the ship and manned the 5″ and two 40mm gins and informed Lamprey who was 9-10,000 yards to the northwest.

Open Fire

At 2135, Blueback opened fire and immediately got some hits. These hits resulted in a small fire being started on the patrol ship’s forward action station. He commenced returning fire , too accurately according to reports with 25mm explosive shells.

at 2140, Blueback laid a smoke screen and opened range. The moon was brilliant by that time and very low. Blueback was heading into the moon and was weaving to each side trying to distribute the smoke in any direction but true west. The target’s gunfire was on them every time they emerges from either side of the narrow screen.

At 2143, Lamprey opened fire with her 5′ gun but in the words of the Blueback CO “The silly target didn’t know enough to shoot at him.” Then Blueback opened range to 6500 yards and headed to join the Lamprey. The target was making radical maneuvers and returning fire on both Lamprey and Blueback by this time with four guns. The Lamprey skipper reported that “his aim was not very good”. Lamprey expended 40 rounds of 5″ ammunition and recorded two sure hits.

At 2200, Blueback fired a few more rounds of 5″ at his gun flashes but when he ceased firing, there was no more point of aim. Blueback decided to call it a draw (except that Blueback was not hit thanks to the smoke screen.) Lamprey made the same decision at 2209 and the engagement was completed. Blueback’s skipper records in his log that better night sights and star shells would have helped considerable to eliminate “this boil on the heel”.

Lessons learned from the action that night:

1. Get and keep the TARGET up moon,

2. Concentrate forces on initial attack.

At 2207, Blueback set course for new area, 3 engines… At 2339, Lamprey departed for her new patrol area in the Karimata Strait.

The CH-1 would survive the rest of the war but had one more brush with the American submarine fleet.  On the 16th of July 1945: West of Surabaya, Java, she was escorting gunboat NANKAI (ex-Dutch minelayer REGULUS) when they were attacked by LCDR William H. Hazzard’s  USS BLENNY (SS-324). Hazzard fires a total of 12 torpedoes in a night surface radar attack and claims four hits that sink NANKAI at 05-26S, 110-33E. At about 0700, Hazzard finds and shells CH-1 with his 5-inch deck gun. BLENNY gets two hits that set CH-1 on fire at 05-16S, 110-17E.

http://www.combinedfleet.com/CH-1_t.htm

Despite two attacks, CH-1 survives the war and is finally scuttled by the Royal Navy in Singapore in 1946.

Both Blueback and Lamprey also survive the war. Guns would be removed from the decks of post war submarines for a host of reasons. Submarines evolved through technology to be more effective under the water during all modes of warfare and a deck gun was no longer needed or practical. One of the many enemies a submarine fought was the airplane and post war development of antisubmarine air forces increased the danger of being on the surface for any period of time. But having those guns on board WW2 boats was a critical factor during the early months and years where the unreliable torpedo corrupted the ultimate mission of a submarine. The other factor of not wasting a torpedo on smaller craft played a key role as well

Seventy years has passed since that night action on the Java Sea. The bravery of those men on both sides under some very difficult conditions is a testament to the strength found in men who are committed to a cause.

Mister Mac

By the way, come to Pittsburgh this September 7-13 and celebrate the heroes of the US Navy submarine forces.

USSVU National Convention web site:     http://www.ussviconventionsteelcity2015.org/

1 USSVI-Pittsburgh Convention-Large

 

 

 

 

Happy 115th Birthday to the United States Navy Submarine Force 3

Of the things I have done in my life, being privileged to be a Submariner is the one thing that stands out the most.

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Looking back in the mirror of over forty years, what made being a submariner so special was a combination of men, machines, methods and materials (as well as the environment we lived in).

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The men were bold and adventurous. In order to surrender your personal freedom and commit part of your life to operating in a steel tube (often for months at a time), you had to have a great sense of boldness. These are the men that forty years later I still call brothers. The shared sacrifice we made cemented that bond. They were the embodiment of trust and loyalty. They still are.

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The machines were part of this experience too. The ones we rode on are all special to us since they took us into the unknown and brought us safely home in most cases. Whether they were named after fish, men, cities or states, they were our boats. Some rode to glory in a haze of diesel exhaust and some silently lurked beneath the surface on an invisible field of power. What made them common was the pressure that pushed against their hulls when they were sent into danger.

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The methods evolved with the technology. The little pigboats that felt almost tethered to the shore were replaced by sleek combat vessels. Despite the horrific loss of 52 of them during World War 2, they emerged with more enemy tonnage sunk per capita than any other combat vessels. Post war, they ran picket duty against the new threat and became platforms for exotic missiles with a powerful projection. These warriors were at the front line of the Cold and Gulf Wars and although their stories will never be fully known, influenced the shape of the world for decades.

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Since Holland’s little boat first broke the surface, the materials have adapted for each new mission. Stronger, quieter, more adaptable to depths unfathomable in the old days, these boats are powerful voices in a world of threats.

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The environment continues to challenge our boats. Sea mountains, hurricanes, typhoons and classified threats to submarine operations will always be the wild cards that increase the risk. Any person who has ridden a submarine into the unknown without being able to see what is ahead knows what it feels like to commit your life to something greater than themselves. But our boats and our people continue to fight them and overcome the odds in the very face of the unknown.

 

Someday we will all stand and have to take account for our lives. On that day, I hope to still be wearing my dolphins. That is a sure way for St. Peter to know that I once did my time in hell and I am ready to come home.

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To my Submariner comrades, I wish you all a Happy Birthday

Mister Mac

The Ultimate Stealth Submarine Reply

With shrinking budgets and caps on military spending, its important to remember that submarines represent one of the most survivable elements in modern sea warfare. The increasing flexibility to meet emerging threats as well as long established threats adds value to this resource.

Make no mistake: the threats from external forces will not go away anytime soon. In many cases, it is increasing. Desiring peace without the will to preserve it ensures that there will be no peace at all. These platforms provide us with the way to preserve that peace and ensure our freedoms for a long time to come.

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Enjoy!

Mister Mac